Causes of Self-Destructive Attempts at Toughness

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Re: Causes of Self-Destructive Attempts at Toughness

Post Number:#16  Postby Wilson » April 2nd, 2015, 5:06 pm

While Scott correctly points out that many tough guys are acting out because of needing to make themselves feel better about themselves, I think there are some who are indeed strong and tough and enjoy dominating others. We all naturally want to feel better than average; that's inherent in our DNA, and drives many of us to work hard and innovate and do great things for ourselves and incidentally for humankind.

See, many people who are successful in life also take pleasure in lording it over subordinates. Cruel bosses are a chiche, and in many cases that's not so much because of inferiority complexes and weaknesses but because of the exhilaration they feel by grinding the peons under their heels.
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Re: Causes of Self-Destructive Attempts at Toughness



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Re: Causes of Self-Destructive Attempts at Toughness

Post Number:#17  Postby Greta » April 2nd, 2015, 6:09 pm

At its core "acting tough" is display behaviour:

1. to appear strong (and a worthy mate) or to intimidate competitive peers , and

2. to scare away threats and to manipulate the exploitable.

The above covers humans and other animals.
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Re: Causes of Self-Destructive Attempts at Toughness

Post Number:#18  Postby Gamnot » April 2nd, 2015, 7:04 pm

The personality theorist; Alfred Adler worked on this very problem. He coined the terms inferiority complex and superiority complex and the two combined in the phrase; inferiority-superiority complex. When you use the term macho want-a-be that is basically what you are talking about. As every mountain has roots, every superiority complex has as a root an inferiority complex. Another factor to consider is the Q2 personality factor that was used by the trait psychologist; Raymond Cattell. There is a continuum between overly strong group adherence at one end and with the tendency toward self-sufficiency at the other. Those who are impoverished in a sense of belonging might have the tendency to over compensate by associating with other macho want-a-be's in order to obtain the sense of belonging that they cannot obtain otherwise. It is easier to be a bully than to develop the competence to interact with people on a higher level. The psychological theorist; Karen Horny stressed the three modes of human interaction: 1. moving against 2. Moving toward 3. Moving away from. When confronted with a malignant aggressor who is in a moving against mode it takes competence and courage not to over-react and become destructive yourself. Moving toward the malignant aggressor could result in sadomasochistic structuring which would give fuel to the aggressive person.
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Re: Causes of Self-Destructive Attempts at Toughness

Post Number:#19  Postby Atreyu » April 10th, 2015, 4:04 am

My view is that self-pity is the driving force behind so called "tough" or "macho" behavior...
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Re: Causes of Self-Destructive Attempts at Toughness

Post Number:#20  Postby LaVie » April 27th, 2015, 1:10 pm

I think there's another way we can look at it, too. Some societies used to have brawls and fights just for fun. Perhaps proving toughness is just a part of humans' natural drive for dominance, similar to other apes? Getting that sense of dominance gives a sense of elation, or fun. Kinda like when an athlete wins a competition, or when you beat a video game. Sounds simple, but perhaps humanity is more simple than we'd like to believe?
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Re: Causes of Self-Destructive Attempts at Toughness

Post Number:#21  Postby Belinda » April 28th, 2015, 3:25 pm

Lavie, I used to enjoy playing squash but the game was spoiled when the other person wanted to start scoring.
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Re: Causes of Self-Destructive Attempts at Toughness

Post Number:#22  Postby LuckyR » May 21st, 2015, 3:12 pm

Well, the OP is about psudo tough guys acting tough and failing. In other words bluffing. Bluffing is a perfectly reasonable technique for the weak to survive. True they run the risk of being called out and suffering because of it, but then they have a chance of being picked on if they act weak.

In my experience physical toughness is limited by physicality, but mental and especially emotional toughness can be accomplished (for the purposes of this discussion) by average folks. So the best adaptation for the physically weak is NOT to bluff physical toughness, but to develop true mental or emotional toughness.
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Re: Causes of Self-Destructive Attempts at Toughness

Post Number:#23  Postby Harbal » May 21st, 2015, 4:47 pm

LaVie wrote:Sounds simple, but perhaps humanity is more simple than we'd like to believe?

Certain sections of it really do seem to be.
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Re: Causes of Self-Destructive Attempts at Toughness

Post Number:#24  Postby Eagle » May 27th, 2015, 5:59 pm

LuckyR wrote:Well, the OP is about psudo tough guys acting tough and failing. In other words bluffing. Bluffing is a perfectly reasonable technique for the weak to survive. True they run the risk of being called out and suffering because of it, but then they have a chance of being picked on if they act weak.

In my experience physical toughness is limited by physicality, but mental and especially emotional toughness can be accomplished (for the purposes of this discussion) by average folks. So the best adaptation for the physically weak is NOT to bluff physical toughness, but to develop true mental or emotional toughness.


Thank you for the insightful comments. I feel that we have to deal with a lot of challenges, and cultivating that resilience can really help us survive and even thrive.

Mental toughness seems like an extension of physical toughness, which has in many (but not all) modern contexts replaced its function. Surely a lot of relics from our time as primarily physical beasts remain in our behavior.

People who act tough often have inaccurate perceptions, of themselves and others. They may falsely believe that showing aggression will get them respect and other desired outcomes, and then fail to do so.

Maybe we can show people more benevolent ways of acting.
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Re: Causes of Self-Destructive Attempts at Toughness

Post Number:#25  Postby LuckyR » June 24th, 2015, 5:40 pm

Eagle wrote:
LuckyR wrote:Well, the OP is about psudo tough guys acting tough and failing. In other words bluffing. Bluffing is a perfectly reasonable technique for the weak to survive. True they run the risk of being called out and suffering because of it, but then they have a chance of being picked on if they act weak.

In my experience physical toughness is limited by physicality, but mental and especially emotional toughness can be accomplished (for the purposes of this discussion) by average folks. So the best adaptation for the physically weak is NOT to bluff physical toughness, but to develop true mental or emotional toughness.


Thank you for the insightful comments. I feel that we have to deal with a lot of challenges, and cultivating that resilience can really help us survive and even thrive.

Mental toughness seems like an extension of physical toughness, which has in many (but not all) modern contexts replaced its function. Surely a lot of relics from our time as primarily physical beasts remain in our behavior.

People who act tough often have inaccurate perceptions, of themselves and others. They may falsely believe that showing aggression will get them respect and other desired outcomes, and then fail to do so.

Maybe we can show people more benevolent ways of acting.


I believe we are mixing definitions. For example, if a guy is physically imposing and displays an aggressive attitude yet does not actually perform any physical violence, is this guy physically tough? Well there is not enough information, he could be physically tough or he could be bluffing physical toughness. His ability to bluff is enhanced because many equate size with toughness, though the two are unrelated.

OTOH, what is mental toughness? Is it having the savvy to bluff physical toughness well? Is it doing what it takes to avoid conflict and survive in a physically hostile environment with little physicality? Or is it psyching one's self up to maximize one's limited physicality to actually prevail in a physical contest? Perhaps it is sticking with a physical conflict ignoring pain, and winning a possibly Pyrrhic victory on the physical battlefield, while at a physical disadvantage. Perhaps it is being smart enough to bring a gun to a knife fight.
"As usual... it depends."
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Re: Causes of Self-Destructive Attempts at Toughness

Post Number:#26  Postby Mikel » July 25th, 2015, 12:32 am

I always noticed that the school yard bullies were never good at their studies. They earned lower grades when they actually bothered showing up to school, and they usually came from the poorer sections of town. I never saw a kid who did well in school bullying anyone. Could it be (as I believe it is) that since the bullying kids aren't as smart as other kids, maybe deep down they know it, and try to use the idea of overcompensation for their mental failings? I know of at least two bullies that act exactly the same now (30 years after graduating high school) as they did in school, mouthy and arrogant little jerks that have never managed to hold any kind of simple menial job for very long. In school, they were always making fun of the kids that did well, maybe trying to belittle their brain power because of their lack of brain power. Does anybody else agree with me, and do you know any folks like I'm describing? I'd almost bet that you do!!
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Re: Causes of Self-Destructive Attempts at Toughness

Post Number:#27  Postby LuckyR » August 12th, 2015, 7:38 pm

Mikel wrote:I always noticed that the school yard bullies were never good at their studies. They earned lower grades when they actually bothered showing up to school, and they usually came from the poorer sections of town. I never saw a kid who did well in school bullying anyone. Could it be (as I believe it is) that since the bullying kids aren't as smart as other kids, maybe deep down they know it, and try to use the idea of overcompensation for their mental failings? I know of at least two bullies that act exactly the same now (30 years after graduating high school) as they did in school, mouthy and arrogant little jerks that have never managed to hold any kind of simple menial job for very long. In school, they were always making fun of the kids that did well, maybe trying to belittle their brain power because of their lack of brain power. Does anybody else agree with me, and do you know any folks like I'm describing? I'd almost bet that you do!!



Something tells me that the Duke lacrosse team had perfectly fine grades...
"As usual... it depends."
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Re: Causes of Self-Destructive Attempts at Toughness

Post Number:#28  Postby Mikel » August 13th, 2015, 9:16 pm

You have a really good point, my friend.... I was mainly speaking from my personal experience, but yeah, I guess screwed up people can be lurking in unexpected places sometimes.....
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Re: Causes of Self-Destructive Attempts at Toughness

Post Number:#29  Postby Berthold » December 9th, 2015, 8:32 am

If growing up during the Apartheid era has anything to go by, for the vast majority of us white males were forced to believe that boys liked cars and bikes, excelled at rugby, and asserted themselves using intimidation and brute force. Hierarchies were fostered on the basis of physical aggression. For the majority of us physical abuse by our fathers was viewed as discipline and from an early age we perceived the merits of this behaviour, namely that it commanded respect and gained power and any overt displays of fear or sadness were perceived as weaknesses. Not only did it teach us this but that anger and frustration due to the abuse we received could be taken out on others. Consider this a confounding variable to your analysis.
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Re: Causes of Self-Destructive Attempts at Toughness

Post Number:#30  Postby LuckyR » December 9th, 2015, 4:28 pm

Berthold wrote:If growing up during the Apartheid era has anything to go by, for the vast majority of us white males were forced to believe that boys liked cars and bikes, excelled at rugby, and asserted themselves using intimidation and brute force. Hierarchies were fostered on the basis of physical aggression. For the majority of us physical abuse by our fathers was viewed as discipline and from an early age we perceived the merits of this behaviour, namely that it commanded respect and gained power and any overt displays of fear or sadness were perceived as weaknesses. Not only did it teach us this but that anger and frustration due to the abuse we received could be taken out on others. Consider this a confounding variable to your analysis.


Boys being "tested" by their fathers in the ways you describe is way, way older and more ubiquitous than Apartheid. In fact if you look at it historically, you would be statistically accurate to call that sort of thing "normal" and recent advances in this area a mere blip on the radar screen of history.
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