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Diagnosis of Meanness's picture

Diagnosis of Meanness?

My Initial Question

While growing up in a society that values relationships between humans so greatly, people are educated to be “nice” and to have “morality”. Social etiquette and good behavior is emphasized in both family households as well as school. By habitually accepting these beliefs and performing these manners, people grow up to be moral, well-behaved adults. On the other hand, whenever people go against these beliefs of morality, they sense a feeling of guilt. There is emotional regret, which generally triggers an apologetic response.

My curiosity, however, always responded to the opposite end of the spectrum of morality and niceness. What about the mean people? What makes people mean? Does meanness come from the I-function or is it a disorder? Just like many people can be diagnosed as being depressed, is it possible to diagnose someone as being “mean”?

“Meanness” is mostly encountered in society in the form of bullying. Everyone experiences both being bullied and being the bully in different parts of their life. However, what is it that causes this behavior without a sense of guilt or regret? Also, what is the relation between a bully and his/her I-function?

Meanness as a defensive response of the Brain

According to an article by Horacio Sanchez, meanness and the action of bullying is actually a survival response triggered by the amygdala, which is part of the limbic system of the brain. The amygdala is an input/output box, which perceives danger and transfers that stimulus as a threat so that the proper chemical response is released. The cortex of the brain is responsible for reasoning and rationalizing and usually most input signals to the brain are filtered through the cortex so that a reasonable chemical response can be properly executed. However, when the brain perceives the presence of danger, there is no time for the brain to rationalize and reason through. Thus, the amygdala blocks input through the cortex and releases a survival response of chemicals which although may be quicker in response and probably more effective in responding to the threat, it may not be the most ideal response to the possibilities of input.

In this case, when one is constantly facing a situation where they are exposed to a lot of violence, abuse and danger, the amygdala responds more quickly to every threat that is portrayed to that individual. This can result in a “hypersensitive limbic system” which is when the amygdala triggers a response to even the smallest detections of stress. Bullies and those who perform “mean” actions, usually have a hypersensitive limbic system and often feel insecure and not accepted in a group atmosphere. To compensate for that, they bully others to gain a sense of acceptance so that they can compensate for their insecurities. (Sanchez)

Bullies and their I-Functions

In the Sanchez article, the neurobiological and chemical responsive aspect of bullying is portrayed, but the relationship of that and the I-function is not clear. The I-function cannot control the amygdala’s manipulation of the cortex or the chemical response to danger perception. The actual execution of “mean” actions, however is effected by the I-function.

In this situation, the I-function is highly influenced by the chemical response and combinations in the nervous system, resulting in actions that are abrupt and not rational versus actions that are well thought through. Thus, the bathing waters and chemicals of the channels in the nervous system tweak the actual consciousness of the I-function, resulting in a skewed, contaminated sense of response to different inputs, causing people to respond in mean, irrational ways to different scenarios.

My Opinion: Meanness can be diagnosed and cured!

To this, I feel that meanness can be diagnosed, especially since the actions are dependant on the chemical levels that control the I-function. By prescribing drugs and medication that can change the bathing waters of the brain channels in the nervous system, a person’s I-function can come back to normal levels so that they have the capability to assess an input and use their rational response mechanism in the cortex. Thus, I believe that bullying and being a mean, cynical individual is a form of anxiety disorder and can be cured.

*Work Cited

Understanding the Mind of a Bully, Web document by Horacio Sanchez


Serendip Visitor's picture

Diagnosis of meanness


Paul Grobstein's picture

the meaning of meanness

Interesting issue. You seem to suggest that one can't be rationally mean? I wonder. And would you consider maternal aggression meanness?