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Since the end of human action, as distinct from
the end products of fabrication can never
be reliably predicted, the means used to achieve
political goals are more often than not of greater
relevance to the future world than the intended goals.
                      Hannah Arendt
                On Violence

When It All Gets Mixed And Mushed

On this page:
Hybrid Violence | Stress Violence | Pouring Gasoline Onto The Fire

On the Kinds of Violence pages we have created a model to explain different reasons why violence occurs. One of the problems of creating any model is that, by nature, models do not encompass all the details of reality. They can't. In order to be 100% accurate, the model would have to be as large and complex as the subject itself. In which case, it would no longer be a model -- but the subject. So any model designed to explain a subject is going to fall short.

That's why any model
   a) is, at best, a rule of thumb.    b) needs to be patched, tweaked and adjusted to apply to differing 
      real life situations.

This really applies to models of human behavior. Human behavior and motivations are very seldom simple -- and almost never only about one thing.

While we're on the subject, behavior is often based on unconscious, subconscious and biological imperatives and neurological dictates. In other words, while we may think we're in control, a lot of the time, we're a passenger in our own bus, not the driver. For example the emotional parts of our brain are active -- with very little neo-cortex activity -- and yet we'll believe that we're still being rational. (Ever told someone to calm down and get a screamed "I AM CALM!' response?). When you add in societal conditioning, personality types and circumstances, it gets all kinds of complicated.

This is why we say 'models are limited.' Even the best model can't cover all the territory.

But you always have the person who wants the map to be the territory. They believe whatever model they adopt is everything they need to know. More specifically, they want to model to be the whole of the subject. (In Emotional Vampires: Dealing With People Who Drain You Dry, Albert Bernstein describes paranoids as someone who wants the entire universe to fit nice and neatly into their own little box). It it easy to think of 'religious fanatic' in this context, but religion isn't the only area that this kind of thinking crops up. This kind of thinking can be applied any subject.

Unfortunately life doesn't come in nice, neat -- and most of all simple -- packages. These people tend to be scary because they ignore the vast complexity of possibilities to cling to their cherished beliefs. Where this comes home to roost is their own behaviors and motivations(1). If such a person refuses to examine his/her own motivations, you can bet or she isn't going to be very good at understanding others.

We tell you this because a basic truth exists about this subject that people who are looking for easy answers DON'T want to hear. That is: YOUR words and actions are going to have a major influence on whether or not a conflict changes from being about one thing to being a complex hybrid of violence.

Not to put too fine of a point on it, but these people can piss off the Good Humor Man.

The violence model we have presented is NOT for the person who is seeking the ultimate answer about the 'best' way to handle violence. There is no such critter. Nor is this model for academics or psychologists, the kinds of violence model is for the person who is about to bleed. It's a fast, down and dirty, way to not only try to find a way to de-escalate the situation, but to adjudge when de-escalation just won't work.

And then to be able to explain why that was the right choice.

The bit about the limits of models may not sound germane to the topic at hand, but if you find yourself looking into the eyes of a fanatic over a weapon, it becomes REALLY important. Whether he has the weapon or you do, that desire for black and white answers has a lot to do with what will happen.

We gave you a four part model. But if you go out expecting everything to fit nice and neatly into those four categories, you're going to be in for some unpleasant surprises.

There are also four different types of violence, which adds additional layers onto the original categories. Because, now instead of just four different possible categories, you're looking at 16 basic variations from the start.

This doesn't even take into account how goals and motivations can change and mutate during the event itself. And then, on top of everything else, there are situations where you have a nasty blend of factors that are driving the situation from the beginning. And this with just two simple models of four categories each.

The mixing, shifting and mutating of these basic categories is what we are going to be addressing on this page. Because that is usually what you are going to run into out there.

Hybrid Violence
Whether you call it a blend or a mutt (a canine of mixed and uncertain ancestry) hybrid violence is a reality. Knowing this also brings with it the understanding that a violent situation can be about all kinds of things -- not only at the same time, but these change as the situation progresses.

From the beginning it can be a mix of criminal and predatory. Or it can be territorial/ predatorial that mutates into criminal. Another extremely common mutation is that it starts as behavioral correcting violence that turns into punishing you (predatorial) for 'disrespecting' him. Or, it can be just because he had a bad day at work and is looking to beat someone up. In the last case, it will start out under the guise of another kind, but it has been predatorial all along.

This is why we say: It is critical to recognize that a situation can start out as one type, but morph into another.

Because the way you handle one type of violence is NOT how you handle another. In fact, a response that works with one will cause another to explode. You not only need to accurately asses the original parameters, but you need to change your tactics as/if the situation changes.

But let's throw the 'wildcard' into an already complicated situation. The transition between different kinds of violence is often based on the interaction of the the parties. It ISN'T just what is going on inside his head, it's just as much about what you do!" It might not have started out as predatorial, but after what you just called him, it is now!

The sad thing is that most of these kinds of situations are usually caused by the person, who is being offered territorial or behavior correcting violence, either trying to save face or warn the other guy off from continuing aggression.

Reread that last, long and clumsy sentence. It contains some very important concepts. It tells you about several 'crossroads' where things can go wrong. Most especially, it introduces you to the danger about a threat display done at the wrong time.

And that is one of the absolute BEST ways to get attacked.

what you do to keep something you fear from happening is what causes it to happen. It can become a self-fulfilling prophecy because YOU MAKE IT HAPPEN!

Realize that this is a very emotional situation for BOTH parties. What's more is both parties are hypersensitive for signs that his strategy isn't working. And both parties are equally scared of that happening (2). This is why understanding de-escalation is just as important as knowing how to physically engage with the appropriate level of force. With the wrong action or word choice you can cause one kind of violence to mutate into another.

The sad thing is that most of these actions are based in the person's imagination. That is to say he isn't reacting to what is happening in the actual situation, but is instead reacting to half-formed, fears/thoughts. A fear flits across his mind of 'what if he ...?'  and takes measures to prevent that imagined danger. Except in doing so, the soon-to-be victim crosses the line and violates the social accord that would have kept him from being attacked.

Remember, most violence is based in trying to get someone to change his/her behavior (usually 'stop doing something.') or to change an unacceptable situation. These fear based actions, to YOU seem like a good way to keep the situation for getting worse. But to HIM, it looks like you are refusing the offer of 'stop doing this and it won't get violent.'

This is an example of why the kind of violence can change in the middle of a situation. It also explains why from the very beginning it can be a hybrid mix of all kinds of different motivations.

Stress Violence
It is a simple truth: When the economy is bad, crime goes up.

On the surface one would think: Economic hard times = more robberies and burglaries. But that isn't the whole picture. In fact, that's just a small percentage of bad economy = more crimes. While 'for-profit crimes' (what we call criminal violence) do go up, what goes through the roof are behaviors -- that while illegal -- are not necessarily criminal in intent.

In these economic hard times, you're going to see a lot more of what we call 'stress violence.'

Violence becomes more common as people's stress levels go up. Fights, homicides, rapes, drunk driving, road rage, assaults, domestic violence, ALL escalate as people with poor coping skills come under greater stress. And economic hard times are very stressful.

Stress violence -- while it doesn't exactly fit the four kinds of violence model -- can result from any of the reasons given in that model (territorial, behavior correction, predatorial and criminal). Those four categories are primarily external manifestations of violence (how and over what violence happens). But it doesn't explain why it happens.

While 'stress' is a nice catch all phrase, that doesn't totally cover it, either. To fully understand stress violence, you must also understand the types of violence. These four types (fear, frenzy, tantrum and criminal) are more about a person's internal motivations. This is what is internally driving the external manifestations of violence (kinds of violence).

What does all this mean?

Simply stated, you're going to see a lot more s**t happening.

By this, we don't mean just on the news. I'm talking about YOU witnessing fights in gas stations, road rage incidents, hearing your neighbors in a screaming fight and other such behaviors. The list of possibilities is endless.

Worse, you'll be finding yourself facing a snarling person over a small issue. At other times, that snarling person is going to be you.

All of this will occur as people, unaccustomed to economic hard times, start suffering. And they're going to share their pain by acting out. Even if you don't see screaming incidents in the supermarket check out line or find yourself embroiled in the same, you're going to be seeing a lot more surliness, angry people and conflict.

Welcome to the wonderful world of stress violence.

The roots of stress violence are deep within our psyches, and how we define ourselves and the world. By this, we mean our egos. Not in the sense of how 'big an ego' someone has, but our core beliefs and how we cope with life. If our coping skills and core beliefs (about life, the universe and everything) aren't up to the problems and pressures we face ... well ... we tend to misbehave.

There are those who are just incapable of functioning well, even in the best of times (our prisons are full of them). And most 'normal' people don't know how to function in extraordinary circumstances. Someone who can function in 'good times' will often find him- or herself lost and stressed in hard times. They just don't know what to do or how to handle the stresses of changing circumstances. When that happens, they act out.

Stress violence tends to be a good news/bad news thing. The good news is that, with a little patience, understanding and compassion, such a person can be de-escalated. Basically that's because most people aren't intending to be violent. What they seek more is validation, understanding and compassion about their problems.

Consequently, if someone starts going off on you, you're more likely to calm the situation down if you try to help the person. In short, help reduce his or her stress -- while maintaining your own boundaries.

The bad news, however, is that we humans tend to be emotional animals. Emotions are very much a survival trait (along with imagination) that replaces extreme instincts (e.g., migration, hibernation, etc).

We are wired to react to the emotions of others.

Once again, this is a great survival trait. In the same way a flock of bird will take flight at the warning call of one of its members, even if all the birds haven't seen the exact threat, humans react to emotions.

You wouldn't be here today if your ancestors didn't react emotionally to the terror and anger of others. For example, if that ancestor didn't -- without question -- join the person he or she saw running in terror, the leopard would have eaten your forefather.

The downside of that is that when confronted by a strong emotion, your limbic system kicks in and you tend to respond in kind.

A good layman's explanation of this process is found in Peyton Quinn's book Freedom From Fear and Rory Miller's Meditations on Violence. Rory talks about what he calls the "monkey dance." (His accurate summation is: "You don't control the monkey dance, it controls you.") An equally good source is Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence. These three books are MUST reads for anyone whose job it is to confront violence. And they certainly wouldn't hurt folks who want less stress in their lives either ... because you never know when you're causing this same reaction in someone else.

The bottom line is the more you understand your own reactions, emotions and are able to monitor what is going on inside of you, the less likely you are to get caught up in a monkey dance of emotion with someone. Stress violence happens when everyone's limbic systems decide to get together and go monkey poo.

Pouring Gasoline Onto The Fire
We started this page with a discussion about people who want to make the map the territory. Often such people want to dismiss the complexities of violence and revert to what we call 'talisman thinking.'

Talisman thinking is the belief that all you need to know about something can fit very conveniently into a box. The common explanation of talisman thinking is the idea that vampires are afraid of crosses. Therefore all you have to do  is hold up a talisman (the cross) and you'll be safe. Obviously 'undead' blood sucking vampires aren't real, so this theory cannot be tested(3).

However, still using that analogy we do like to point out an important wrinkle in talisman thinking. In the movie Fright Night, a TV host encounters a vampire and bravely holds up a cross. The vampire calmly reaches up and takes the cross from his hand and crushes it with the statement "You have to have faith in order for that to work."

All too often we encounter people (and worse yet training) who embrace talisman thinking. Their talismans vary from person to person, but what remains consistent is their simplistic belief: If they have A, then complex issues will simply resolve themselves. (We call this same line of thought when applied to behavior "Magical Thinking"). When it comes to self-defense, talisman thinking goes: All I have to do is brandish a weapon and the threat will go away.

It doesn't quite work that way.

This is commonly misinterpreted as "If you have a weapon and don't know how to use it it can be taken away from you."

The reality of it is -- if you're in a monkey dance ... and you brandish a weapon as a threat display ... and the other person's limbic system is also all a flutter ... that talisman isn't going to have the desired effect.

In fact, odds are good that it's only going to make matter worse. That's because the person in an emotional state doesn't see a threat, what he/she (locked in an adrenal/emotional condition) is an escalation. A raising of the poker pot if you will. Locked into such an emotional spiral you will commonly hear comments like -- perhaps the stupidest last words ever spoken -- "You ain't got the guts!" or "What are you going to do shoot me?"

In these circumstances the answer is usually to act.

Unfortunately, the person saying those words might just be you. Equally problematic is if it you holding the weapon, because despite the absolute tsunami of emotion you had when you pulled the trigger, stabbed or struck, you've just broken the law.

This is why we have such a hard time with what is being taught as 'self-defense' out there. Most of it is designed to pander to your emotions and pre-existing beliefs, NOT to teach you actual self-defense. In fact, many of them actually encourage monkey dance thinkng.

Which is not only going to get you worked up, but get your opponent worked up too.

A common premise of this kind of inferior training is the assumption that any threat of violence is predatorial and therefore inescapable. The common reaction to this is to initiate the physical violence, even when it could have been avoided. In short, the person, believing that any situation will become violent, goes on the offensive. This is a common reaction -- especially among individuals trained in self-proclaimed combative, reality based self-defense or many women's self-defense programs.

Unfortunately, this often results in a person over reacting to conflicts (non-predatorial situations) so they become the aggressors. The problem with this is two fold. First it makes them overly aggressive and difficult for normal people to deal with. To the point that it is often not worth dealing with them at all. The simple truth is, however, that most of the people they are being aggressive with aren't interested in fighting. Flushed with perceived success, these people embrace this strategy more and more frequently. In time these people become themselves, if not predators, then bullies.

There is another downside to this however. And that is when these people do meet someone who is competent in predatorial violence, they are still not prepared. Often they are there to 'fight' and 'win' while the predatorial violent person is looking for an overwhelming use of force. Remember the predator is there to punish and hurt you for your offense against him -- and he is willing to use whatever level of force

vachss child beating

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1)The most obvious example of this is the sadist/abuser who hides behind his or her religion to beat 'the devil out of the child.' However, this kind of self-rationalizing behavior is extremely common to ALL kinds of people. By assigning a single motivation to a behavior, they deny all other factors -- especially 'unacceptable' ones. Return to Text

2) It is not an exaggeration that Marc has been in situations where the narrowing of someone's eyes at the wrong moment can get people killed, THAT is how importwhat you do can effect a situation is. Giving the wrong signal at the wrong time -- even if you meant it as something -- can have devestaing consequences R eturn to Text

3) We of course aren't talking about the subset of the Gothic community who deem themselves Vampires. To the best of our knowledge they bleed like normal folks and don't have physiological sunlight issues. Although, in those cases, we do tend to wonder about the version of reality they live in.
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The Missing Link: Self-Protection Through Awareness, Avoidance and De-Escalation
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Do You See What I am Saying? Reading Body Language
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