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'Conflict Communications and violence' Podcast/interview of Marc MacYoung by Kris  Wilder



If nations desire peace,
they should avoid pin-pricks
that precede cannon shot
                     Napoleon Bonaparte

The Biggest Pre-Attack Indicator Of Them All

On this page:

People are always asking me about pre-attack indicators. How do you know when you're about to be attacked? How do you tell the difference between  threat displays and pre-assault indicators? What do your look for?

 Here is the #1 pre-attack indicator: YOU'RE BEING AN ASSHOLE!

With that simple line, I figured out something that has been bothering me for years. Something it took our work on Conflict Communications for me to put into perspective.

When it comes to violence, there has always been something about Gavin DeBecker's approach that bothered me. From the perspective of someone being 'victimized' by an asocial predator, DeBecker makes sense. People knew something was wrong, but they didn't want to appear rude. They allowed the bad guy to develop the situation, and bad things happened.

OK, no problem, no disagreement. Seen it happen.

Except I've been in a lot violence in my life and I've seen a whole lot more. That's why I can say with confidence that like 1970s porn -- where an incredibly hot chick just decides to jump some stranger's bones -- the 'victim' model isn't how things usually happen.

Yes, there is one-sided predation out there. But, like the difference between porn and the real world, there's a reality gap between the victim model and how most violence happens. By most, I mean an overwhelming majority.

So forget the 'porn equivalent' fantasies about how violence happens. It's not just going to jump out at you. In order for violence to happen it's more of a process. Things are interactive, slower to develop and there are all kinds of things you can do to prevent it from occurring. (It's a lot like sex in that regard). For situations to escalate to physical violence, the behaviors are almost always consciously participatory and antagonistic.

When it comes to violence, I have seen this participatory process -- not just more, but a thunderin' herd more times than asocial process predation. Or even asocial resource predation. Most violence is less about being a 'victim' than it is being on the losing side of a fight.

If you're looking to keep from getting a busted jaw or shot in the face, you might want to shift your attention from the minority to the overwhelming majority of why assaults happen. Because what I am about to tell you is the fastest way to turn a situation, much less an argument, into physical violence.

And just so you're aware how important this is: Knowing this information will do wonders for keeping you from going to prison for 'defending yourself.'

Let's start with something I noticed back in the day when screwing up meant I'd be spitting blood. It's something that just whizzes past most people's self-awareness; not only in application, but in training, too. That is to say it's a bit of 'situational awareness' that is NOT in most training(1).

That is: An overwhelming majority of violence comes with instructions on how to avoid it.

This isn't in some kind of obscure coded lingo. The directions are pretty straightforward and understandable. This applies to both social and asocial violence.(2)

A resource predator (mugger) who sticks a gun in your face and says, "Gimme your wallet, or I'll blow your head off" is telling you how to keep from getting shot. Give him your wallet. Not too hard to figure out.(3)

Someone who says, "Shut up or I'll kick your ass'" is giving you instructions on how NOT to be assaulted.

He is not, I repeat NOT, asking you to comment about his testicles on his mother's chin. Nor is someone who tells you, "You better leave" interested in hearing a dissertation on your right to be there or you questioning him about who he thinks he is to tell you to leave -- or, of course, his sexual practices with his mother. While we're at it, the mugger with the gun isn't interested in your sharing your opinions with him, either.

(Keep this in mind. There will be a test later. A test, if you fail, will mean you're going to end up bleeding.)

Take a good hard look at your reactions. Nothing I mentioned above is within the conditions set to avoid violence. Come to think of it, they're deliberate violations of those standards -- as well as being emotional, hostile and insulting. And these to a person who just told you what will happen if you don't change your behavior.

Not too smart is it?

But here's the problem. How do you tell people who pride themselves on being intelligent, self-aware, sophisticated, educated and in control of themselves that they're acting like pissed off monkeys?

And furthermore, how do you let them know that in tense situations this pissed-off monkey will take control of their consciousness and behavior at the worst possible time?  And that -- no matter how smart or in control of yourself you think you are (sitting in comfort while reading this) -- you'll do this exact kind of emotional monkey brain behavior when you find yourself in a situation where the monkey feels threatened?

Rory Miller likes to say, "If you think you are in control of yourself, you won't feel the need to exercise self-control." For once, I'm going to be more laconic and say, "We all get stupid when the monkey takes over."

The hardest part is recognizing our behavior for what it is. While there are several strategies we can follow when the monkey takes command, they ALL feel like the absolute, 100 percent right thing to do -- including being an aggressive, obnoxious asshole

There's an analogy that works here. Recognizing when you're being an asshole is like seeing the back of your own head. You can see it in others, but it takes specialized steps to see it in yourself.

I'm not talking about the trendy, pseudo-self-aware admission that you can be an asshole. I'm talking about being so self-righteous and certain of both what you are doing and what effect it will have -- you actively misinterpret the fact the dude is getting ready to throw you down the stairs.

Let me restress that point.

It's not that you don't see it or choose to ignore it. You see it AND you react to it. But your reaction is in the suave, sophisticated and educated terms of: Fuck this other monkey! He thinks his dick is big enough to tell me what to do? I'll show his punk ass where it's at! My dick is way bigger!

And this, let me tell you, really sounds silly coming from a woman ...

But that is, in essence, the core of the message. Coming  from either sex, it's immature, insecure, hostile and aggressive. And yet this is how the monkey views being challenged or threatened.

It doesn't hear the instructions on how to avoid violence as ... well ... instructions on how to avoid violence. It hears them as a challenge and threat to its status, self-esteem and as allowing him-or-herself to be bullied by an asshole. It tries to return the favor by engaging in the SAME behavior.

Except unlike the other guy (who is a complete asshole), your monkey will tell you YOUR behavior is perfectly justified and warranted. This is particularly ironic because in the classic game of 'escalato,' your monkey is going to raise the stakes by becoming even more insulting, obnoxious and threatening.

I've had to pull many a person off from eating someone's face while thinking to myself (about the other guy), "Where are you from that you DON'T expect to get assaulted for saying (or doing) what you just did?"

One of my favorite examples is when I talk about 'developing attack range' as being a serious pre-attack indicator. Oh, everyone now knows to look for the other guy trying to develop range in preparation for launching an attack. See how smart and aware they are? Well, yeah -- except who developed attack range by stepping up into the other dude's face and snarling a threat? It was them! They threw out the 'I'm about to attack you' signals by developing attack range. Then they got punched for it.

And then they blame the other person for going ape shit on them.

Yeah ... right ...

Let me get this straight. Despite the fact you developed attack range, got up in someone's face and threatened him -- that person is supposed to use his psychic abilities to know you weren't really going to attack him? It's all the other guy's fault. More than that, I am supposed to accept the rationalizations that the only reasons you engaged in these behaviors was because you were afraid, felt threatened and your feelings were hurt?

Guess what? The cop ain't gonna buy it, either.

Yet, this is what happens when the monkey takes over. You can talk about situational awareness all you want as though it is some kind of external standard of danger -- which technically it can be -- but a far more important form of 'situational awareness' is recognizing when there are two assholes involved in the situation. And you're one of them.

Do NOT presuppose you're being a good guy. Because when your monkey brain hijacks you and turns you into one of two assholes it is not self-defense, it is a participatory fight.

In the grip of your Monkey, you have zero situational awareness. Anger is going to blind you to warning signals and indicators FAR better than anything Gavin deBecker told you about your gift of fear.



Return to top

1) Which is kind of ironic when you think about how many instructors tout their emphasis on 'situational awareness' Return to Text

2) Read Rory Miller's version, not the macho bastardization out there. Read about  it in either in the books "Facing Violence" or "Meditations On Violence"  Most violence, social or asocial is NOT lethal -- nor is it meant to be. Yet the macho fantasy version will tell you they're preparing you for lethal combat, Return to Text

3) Criminal Psych Lesson 101: The criminal knows using the threat of violence to rob you is MORE effective than the use of violence. Strong arm robberies (no weapon, just a number of them looming over you) is hard to prosecute. You say they robbed you. They say they asked for money and you gave it to them. Not a lot of interest by the police to investigate or the DA to prosecute. Upgrade that to threatening you with a weapon. Now there is more interest by the police and DA -- and stiffer penalities. Upgrade again, this time you are injured. Now the police really take an interest and start looking for the robber(s). If you get killed? Now the heat is really on AND the penalties are far, far more harsh. Therefore, it is in the criminal's best interest to use the lowest level of force possible to achieve his goals. It's not always this simple and a lot of things can go wrong to make things worse -- like you pissing him off. Return to Text

Defeating The Victim's Consciousness

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