Why People Throw Their Friends Under The Bus

There is a video on the internet showing two girls walking along the road.  From the body language, it is clear to see that they are close friends, as they walk and talk casually as BFF’s do.  In the next moment, however, a bus travels along the road in the opposite direction, when friend no.1. has the sudden compulsion to forcefully shove her mate sideways across the path, to land within inches under the wheels of the bus.  It was a near miss that made every viewer gasp. 

In less fatal manoeuvres, I’ve seen lads pull their friend’s shorts down for moments of public humiliation. I’ve known girls to lift up their friend’s skirts and tops to reveal to any viewer all that is preciously private and off limits.  I’ve seen people so precarious with their friend’s personal safety and wellbeing, that I suspect they are secretly harbouring deep-seated resentment toward them.   When questioned, all those exhibiting this kind of behaviour give the same response – ‘that they are only joking’.   But many a true feeling is revealed in the guise of just having a laugh, and there is nothing funny about hurting anyone, let alone ones buddy.  So why do people throw their friends under the bus?

In search of an explanation for this shocking behaviour you may use your frontal cortex, the area of the brain that applies rational reason – and therefore fails to explain irrational acts.  To see what is really going on here, we need to look at the unconscious part of the mind and the powerful forces that move people.  Wherein we always find the real reason why people behave as they do.

It is true that ‘actions speak louder than words’.  If we asked friend no.1. to explain she would probably say that she loved her near-death friend, that she had no intention of harming and certainly not killing her.  Friend no. 2. would be justifiably suspicious, spun into the shock of disbelief, confusion and profound mistrust.  When studying body language, however, the general name given to all the micro-behaviours that reveal true intention, we are provided with a clear and unambiguous direct window into the real motivations for human behaviour.

There are a variety of reasons why people throw their friends under the bus – literally or metaphorically.  At the everyday end, friend no. 1 types are harbouring feelings of not being good enough, that parts of their own identity are inadequate or fake.  In spontaneous moments they are trigger-happy to desperately grasp the opportunity to humiliate or offend their friend, in favour of the irresistible prize of albeit temporary social approval.  Such are the mechanisms of shallow personalities that succumb to impulses to easily put their friend down in a futile and distasteful attempt to put themselves up.  Desperate for scraps of attention to pacify a relentless and burning desire for any flicker of affection or approval.   In muddier psychological waters, are the tentacles of jealousy, unresolved childhood wounds, and an inability to manage their own bipolar forces.

Friends like these can be thoughtlessly hurtful, always protesting that they didn’t mean to cause harm, that they were only having a laugh … that you need to lighten up!   But people who throw others under a bus, whether actual or metaphorical are dangerous.  In the very depths of their unconscious is revealed an inability to manage the impulsive tensions in their own mind, and maintain central control in the throws of extreme internal anxiety.  With a mind that consciously or unconsciously intends to project its own insecurities out onto others; in jokes, in words, in subtler forms, but always in observable behaviours, only one consideration remains – With friends like that, who needs enemies?

Carole Sawo