Crybullies: Bullies Who Victimize by Playing the Victim

By Rachel Puryear

When most of us think of bullies, we tend to visualize someone powerful and tough. We imagine a bully getting their way through intimidation, and well-founded threats of harm.

We tend to think of male bullies as big and strong, and relying on their ability to beat people up in order to get their way.

We tend to think of female bullies as “mean girl” types. While they are probably less likely to use physical force than their male counterparts, they are likely more skilled in emotional manipulation, and in turning other people against the victim.

Certainly, there are many bullies who fit the above descriptions, and those types inflict a lot of damage.

However, there is also another type of bully, one which is more subtle – but is nonetheless insidious, destructive, and mercenary. One who not only harms without remorse or pity, but who leaves their victims feeling as though they themselves are the ones in the wrong, and feeling accordingly ashamed. Or, at least, the crybully has made others around the victim believe that the victim is the one in the wrong.

I’m talking about none other than the crybully – a type of bully who victimizes others by themselves playing the victim.

Crying emoji isolated on white background, dramatic with waterfalls of tears.

Why is the crybully so dangerous? Because crybullies exploit the most prosocial of human traits; such as compassion, empathy, a desire to alleviate the suffering of others, and so forth. Meanwhile, the crybully themselves shows none of these prosocial traits to others.

So, how does a crybully harm their victims? A crybully will insist that they are the one being victimized when they do not get their way. They do this to make others feel guilty and sympathize with the crybully, and also to rally onlookers to make anyone not giving the crybully their way feel ashamed and embarrassed. According to the crybully, anyone who doesn’t do what the crybully wants is just mean and selfish – no matter how unreasonable or one-sided the crybully is behaving.

Crybully tactics are also a big form of gaslighting and emotional manipulation.

Most, if not all other people, have dealt with a crybully before. It’s never fun – in fact, these are some of the most heinous and vicious people you can deal with, because at first they can appear so vulnerable and sympathetic. But make no mistake – they will take without remorse and give nothing back even when they easily could, and they will not show a shred of the empathy they demand from others.

Nonetheless, many people do not recognize a crybully for what they are, unless they learn to spot them. In particular, empathic people (those who have not yet learned better) can get ensnared by a crybully, because empathic people have a lot of empathy for such a crybully to exploit. Therefore, it is essential for people generally – but especially for empathic people – to learn to recognize a crybully when they see one.

Empathic people can learn to identify those who would exploit their empathetic nature, and resist such people. Given the level of subtlety and contextual emotional manipulation involved in this type of emotional abuse, however, this is usually best demonstrated through multiple examples. Therefore, this post is intended to introduce the concept – but future posts will tell real-life stories, and provide examples in order to help empathic people better identify – and free themselves from – crybullies and emotional manipulators who would exploit their empathy and compassion.


Thank you, dear readers, for reading, following, and sharing. Here’s to honoring your own empathy, while not letting others exploit it – and to honoring your own boundaries. If you enjoyed this content and want to see more of it, please hit “like” and subscribe, if you have not done so already. xoxo

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