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The very substance of violent action is ruled by
the means-end category, whose chief characteristic,
if applied to human affairs, has always been that the end
is in danger of being overwhelmed by the means
it justifies and which are needed to reach it.
                         Hannah Arendt
                      On Violence

Predatorial Violence

On this page:
Self-Defense vs. Emotional Revenge | Predatorial Violence Is Usually Provoked | Provoking Predatorial Violence To Whom It May Concern | Handling Predatorial Violence

On the Criminal Violence page we made this important distinction: With Criminal violence, the danger goes away once the goal is achieved. With predatorial violence your victimization is the goal.

While an ugly mix does exist, understanding this basic concept is critical.

When discussing the kinds of violence a common question is 'what if he still attacks me?'. This is usually based on not understanding how one's own actions can turn all the other kinds into predatorial violence. Putting it bluntly, when faced with other types of violence, don't piss him off so he'll switch to predatorial.

On this Web site we've mentioned on multiple occasions that most of what people consider 'self-defense,' isn't. In fact, this whole section about the kinds of Violence shows how violence can be used to achieve different ends. Ends -- that while important to the individual -- aren't self defense.

Another point we've made elsewhere is how politically correct thinking demands that the only 'acceptable' use of force is for self-defense. And how that dictate has really muddied the waters; because -- since nobody wants to admit that what they are training for isn't self-defense -- instructors claim what they are teaching is self-defense. When, in fact, it is everything but SD. The problem is those who have learned that fighting system believe it is SD and will attack accordingly.

But all of this just lends support to a fundamental reason why most people who believe that they are 'defending themselves' are, in truth, attacking...

And if you attack someone -- through whatever means -- what is going to be coming back at you is going to be predatorial violence. He now means to punish you.

Self-Defense vs. Emotional Revenge
The raw truth is although the person justifies his or her actions as 'self-defense,' an overwhelming majority violence is really about one thing. It's about getting revenge for being emotionally hurt.

Upon reading that statement, you may ask yourself "What does this have to do with predatorial violence?" The answer is "EVERYTHING!!!" In fact, it is this component that makes it predatorial, because as we've said before "the person is coming for YOU!" In his mind, you've done something that has made it personal. As such, he's coming for payback.

And sad to say, although the egregious affront can be entirely inside his head, most of the time, it's got a basis in reality. In other words, if you are on the receiving end of predatorial violence, usually you really did do something to piss him off.

Upon hearing this, many people will go into defensive blaming. There are several variations of this:
   1) I didn't know it was an offense, so I should not be held accountable.
   2) I didn't mean to offend, so I should not be held accountable.    3) I was emotional myself, so I should not be held accountable.    4) He hurt my feelings first, so I should not be held accountable.    5) I was exercising my 'rights,' so I should not be physically attacked.    6) Even if I did something wrong, I don't deserve to be attacked
   7) Well, even if I did hurt him HE doesn't have the right to physically
       attack me.

The sad thing about it is, the people who say these kinds of things are usually the ones who are themselves the first to verbally attack others to avenge any emotional hurt offered them. Like the individual who physically assaults others, these people are just as fast to go on the offensive when emotionally hurt and threatened -- except they use verbal and emotional violence. In fact, it is this very response that has provoked the physical response.

What people like this don't realize is, although not physical, such a reaction is a kind of violence. And the old saw is true; Violence attracts violence. Often their verbal/emotional violence creates a retaliatory physical violence. This kind of thinking that can be best summed up as: It's okay when I do it to others, but it is wrong when someone does it to me -- especially if they use a level of violence beyond what I prefer to use.

We tell you this because it is EXACTLY the same kind of self-rationalizing, self-serving thinking the person using predatorial violence is using, except his reaction to being emotionally hurt is physically assaulting you. And in mind, yes you do deserve to be physically assaulted over the wrong you have done to him.

It is critical to realize that no matter how self-absorbed and self-justifying you are, the violent person is more so. And he is willing to take his retaliations over unacceptable behavior to far greater extremes than you would ever dream -- and at an astounding speed.

Predatorial Violence Is Usually Provoked
Someone involved in predatorial violence has decided an offense against them warrants a physical retaliation. We'd like you to realize several key points here
      1) Self-defense is the defense of your physical body from immediate
           threat.       2) Striking out for someone over an emotional 'hurt' is not only NOT
           self-defense, but it often isn't even emotional defense.
      3) We say #2  because since the pain has already been 'inflicted' (see
           point#4) this is an act of revenge, not prevention.       4) Despite what you may think, emotional hurt mostly arises from what
           you think about yourself. This means the only person who has any
           control over your self-esteem is you(1).       5) This internal emotional tidal wave, while overwhelming within the 
           person feeling it, has caused no physical harm to the person, nor will
           further emotional hurt.
      6) Anger -- not fear of another attack -- over this emotional injury
           is usually the source of the retaliatory offensive.

Recognize that anyone can be provoked to having an outburst. With normal people there's usually a legitimate reason for them to get this upset (e.g., you've been in a minor car accident with them). Usually though normal people limit themselves to harsh words and, in extreme cases, screaming, yelling and threat displays. Whereas, the habitually neurotic tend to have this sort of response for far less legitimate reasons. They will commonly respond to perceived offenses, threats to their self-esteem and emotional injury with verbal and emotional violence. We tell you this because predatorial violence is often this kind of behavior ... on steroids.

This is someone who not only believes the emotional injury you have caused them warrants punishment and revenge, but is willing to act on that belief. The emotional pain you have caused them (or the wrong you have done to them) warrants your physical suffering! This goes beyond behavior correcting violence and into abuse, injury and often death.

What's more, most violent people commonly have the lowest self-esteem imaginable. Except unlike many people with the same ailment, instead of passively sitting around and feeling miserable, they actively go out and seek to bolster their self-esteem through violent acts. They build their self-respect by physically assaulting others. What's more, is these people don't just limit themselves to taking deep emotional hurt from those who they share their lives with. They can be mortally offended (and the mortality will be yours) over the smallest bit of rudeness. In his world a minor act of disrespect -- as small and trivial as not looking at him will speaking to him is a sign of disrespect -- is perceived as a challenge to his manhood and an insult worthy of an abusive beating, permanent injury and possibly death(2).

Provoking Predatorial Violence
Of all the kinds of violence, predatorial violence is the hardest to de-escalate. That's because once the affront or wrong is 'given' (whether legitimate or not) the person is actively seeking to punish you for your transgressions. As such, there are NO acceptable behavioral modifications you can do to defuse the situation. He is looking to inflict pain, not correct your behavior, drive you away or get you to give him what he wants. He is going to make you pay for 'the wrong' you have done to him.

Often predatorial violence arises from some kind of conflict. Unfortunately, in the midst an an emotionally charged confrontation or an attempt convince someone that you are not safe to attack, it is easy to cross the line and provoke the very thing you fear. This is usually because you really did give him reason to attack. Often the behaviors described in the link above will cause an individual who did not wish to fight to decide he has no choice but to engage in physical violence. It is not just anger that motivates him in these circumstances, in certain circles an individual must engage in violence if you do not allow him a face saving exit. In these cases, then there is complex mix of motivations that go into the predatorial violence.

In many cases predatorial violence is in retaliation of legitimately bad behavior on the part of the so-called 'victim.' This behavior on the part of the 'victims' seems to come in three basic forms.

The first is people who are involved in lifestyles where violence is common, but who decide -- for whatever reason -- they can get away with violating the rules of conduct. Violence occurs when the party they have wronged retaliates. Interestingly enough this form of violence is more readily accepted as a part of life by the so-called 'victim' than the other two. Since violence is part of life there is less denial and more preparation for when it does happen.

The second form happens when individuals from certain social backgrounds (where physical violence is not common) have the mistaken belief that they should be able to say or do anything and not be physically attacked for their actions. They believe this even though they know what they are doing is wrong and in violation of 'the rules.' There exists an odd assumption that even though they are breaking certain rules (usually for their own profit), the rules that protect them from violence should magically stay in place. When this assumption is proven to be false they are quite often shocked and traumatized to a far greater degree than the first group -- partly because they did not expect and therefore were not prepared for violence. Examples of this kind of bad behavior are having an affair with another man's wife, getting involved with dangerous people, causing damage to another person's property or reputation. The raw truth is that these kind of things happen -- a lot. And this kind of bad behavior is the source of a great deal of violence.

A subset of this is a person from a higher social class who has unwisely entered a high risk situation. Often in these cases the person is not doing anything wrong per se, but has found him or herself in the presence of dangerous people -- perhaps even someone with criminal intent. Feeling threatened by the presence of the other(s) that person attempts a threat display in an attempt to warn off the threat. In doing so the person inadvertently behaves in an insulting and challenging manner and provokes an attack. For example someone behaving this way changes what was originally just a robbery into a predatorial, punishing attack. Another common example is a female involved in a sexual situation that is going too fast for her comfort, ineffectively strikes the male to get him to stop, now you have a date rape. That slap made it personal.

The third form is very much a part of the first two and yet, in many cases it is distinct enough  to warrant its own category. And that is when in the middle on an angry or emotional event the person says or does something that cause severe emotional injury to the other person. It doesn't matter that normally the person wouldn't say that. It doesn't matter that the person doesn't really believe it either. What matters is -- with the intent to hurt -- the person lashes out in anger and emotion and emotionally injures the other person. And given the circumstances, it is just too much for the other person to allow to happen without avenging it.

In case you hadn't noticed, the best way to avoid predatorial violence is not to provoke it. Because once it has been provoked ... well, we said it at the beginning of this section:
    Of all the kinds of violence, predatorial violence is the hardest to
    de-escalate. That's because once the affront or wrong is given
    (whether legitimate or not) the person is actively seeking to punish
    you for your transgressions. As such, there are NO acceptable
    behavioral modifications you can do to defuse the situation.

To Whom It May Concern
Throughout this site and this page, we've said over and over predatorial violence is oriented on you. However, now we're going to have to talk about the semi-exception, and this is the abuser, tantrum thrower and the habitually violent. While they are targeting YOU, you are just a proxy for their anger at the world.

There is a legal term "mens rea" it means "guilty mind" It comes from the Latin "Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea," which means "The act does not make a person guilty unless the mind is also guilty" Legally speaking you are not guilty of murder unless you intended to murder the person who's death you caused. For example if while driving within the law, you accidentally hit someone who is jay walking and kill him, that death is not normally considered murder. However, if you did intent to kill him (for say, sleeping with your wife), you were racing on the streets at 100 mph or you were driving drunk(3) then mens rea would be applicable -- and the charges would be more severe.

In many cases of predatorial violence the mens rea is directed at a specific person. However, this type of character is -- as Massad Ayoob put it -- "a case of mens rea addressed 'to whom it may concern'(4)" Although this condition is not exactly legally recognized, it is a very real state of mind among the habitually violent.

This kind of predator is looking for a volunteer to take his anger out on. And if you give him the slightest 'excuse' you're going to be that volunteer.

You are not the source of their chronic anger and rage, but you are very much the temporary target of it. When dealing with these kinds, anything you say or do can -- and will -- be intentionally misinterpreted as an insult. In short, they are looking for an excuse to go off(5). And not matter how illogical, unrealistic and false it might be, that's what he's going to use to justify his violence.

This kind of predatorial violence is unique in that while it is aimed at you for the moment, it could just as well be aimed at anyone else. And over anything. Any affront or injury the person believes he has suffered (and he DOES convince himself that he is the wronged party) is an excuse and self-rationalization to attack. Any annoyance is justification to explode. Any sign of fear (including trying to prove to him that you aren't afraid) or weakness (including trying to show that you're too dangerous to attack) is viewed as an opportunity to act out. In that case, the predator will make up an insult or slight -- just to justify going off.

These kind of people use violence as a form of self-regulating pressure relief valve. They are so filled with hate and rage at the world in general (and themselves), that they are looking for someone to take it out on to keep from exploding. Basically this person is a full pot on the stove that the slightest increase in temperature will cause him to boil over. It is these acts of punishing and degrading violence that make such a person feel
  a) powerful
  b) self-righteous
  c) relieved of self-loathing
  d) relieved of that intense internal pressure of anger, hatred and frustration
      that the world doesn't 'behave the way they want it to' they are eternally
      trapped in. By making others crawl, by hurting others, by exerting force over others, they not only reinforce their world view but they 'self-medicate' so their dysfunctional psychology can keep on functioning another few days without having to change(6).

You will really see this kind of behavior among spousal abusers and child beaters. These are individuals who are so full of hate and bile about all the people they cannot attack, that they come home and vent their spleen on helpless victims. Face it, there is very little legitimate damage a child could do to an adult's self-esteem to warrant a full scale predatorial attack that child abusers regularly unleash on innocent children.

Here's an interesting point, however, all but the most insane know that violence is wrong. And this is the key to getting this kind of predatorial violence to pass you by. Notice we didn't say 'stop' predatorial violence, we said make it 'pass you by.' Understanding that HE knows it is wrong, explains why he is looking for an excuse -- no matter how small or trivial that excuse is. That excuse is his GO switch. And once triggered he WILL attack.

This is why when you are attempting to deescalate this type you must be extremely well versed in boundaries, the difference between assertive and aggressive, calm and you must NOT try to posture. You CANNOT let your adrenal state, anger or fear override your dealings with these people. IF you do, YOU WILL BE ATTACKED!

And when we say attacked, we are NOT talking about a fight. Such a person has no interest in fighting you. His intention is victimization. Some punish, some torture, some rape, some just kill outright. What they all have in common is that they want to unleash an unreasonable amount of violence on you with the ferocity and destruction of a dam bursting.

The one consistent factor in these kinds of attacks however, is the victim's fear of violence. You cannot deescalate this kind of predatorial violence (tantrum type of violence) if you are afraid of violence. We're not talking about He-Man huffing and puffing or threatening to kick someone's butt ... we're talking about the willingness to kill or die right there -- maybe both(8).

It has been our experience that the combination of awareness of when you are dealing with this kind violence, calm prepardness for it going physical and knowledge of de-escalation strategies are the most reliable means for dealing with this version of predatorial violence. And even then, it often goes physical.

Handling Predatorial Violence
In describing the different kinds of violence we tell people to 'look for the out.'  The reason we have to say this is because of how often people ignore the 'offered chance' to prevent the situation from becoming physically violent. You must be in control of yourself enough to be able to recognize the option that will allow for violence to be avoided.

Don't let your own internal beliefs, fears, anger, fantasies, low self-esteem or adrenalin dictate your reactions. These are monkey brain (limbic system) and lizard brain (cerebral cortex) reactions that will feed into the escalation of the violence cycle. The reason we say you must remain in control of yourself is because if you are allowing your emotions to run the show you will not see the out that is being offered. To a scared monkey brain ALL violence looks predatorial -- whether it is or not!

A common misconception of the monkey brain is that if you run you will be chased. As such the monkey brain believes that the only way to be safe is to 'drive' the threat away. This is not only a false belief, but it also is a significant factor in causing another kind of violence to turn predatorial.

For example, an individual offering you a chance to leave 'his' territory is giving you the means to prevent violence. So too is the person who is telling you to change your behavior. If you calmly accept the offer and communicate to him that you are taking the non-violent option, then the odds are good that the situation will end there. With a criminal who gets the drop on you, you are not the goal, he wants a desired goal (cash, car or jewelry) and then he is out of there.

However, if you choose to argue with him your 'right' to be there, if your emotions take over, if your pride kicks in or you become stubborn, if you insult him or challenge him -- even if you are planning to leave or change your behavior, then YOU will have made it personal. You will have given him cause to become predatorial. It will shift from the original kind of threatened violence to punishing you for your additional offense against him.

We tell you this because this happens a LOT. In an emotionally charged conflict you have two active limbic systems (read screaming monkey brains) yours and his. You're both having an intense emotional reaction, except he is willing to engage in, not only in physical violence, but
   a) to a far greater degree and
   b) will do so much faster than you.

This is especially true if you are accustomed to emotional and verbal violence and threat displays instead of physical conflict. That is how 'civilized people' engage in conflict. Realize though, in certain circles, this kind of behavior is not the maxium level that a confrontation can reach, but rather the precursor to physical violence. As such, your emotionally charged behavior will not only be looked upon as a challenge and insult, but also that you are working your way up to attack him. That will give him extra imperative to ferociously attack you now.

That last section was oriented on showing you just how much control you have over whether or not violence becomes predatorial. Your actions will have significant influence on what happens -- including whether you are attacked at all. Therefore if you abdicate control over your emotions, then you will be participating in the creation and escalation of the predatorial violence being directed towards you.

We are constantly asked however, when confronted by another kind of violence "What if...?"  What if one kind of situation turns predatorial?

Now there is nothing wrong with a well thought out 'what if' strategy. In fact, that kind of thinking is instrumental for first responders because it not only develops, but maintains, a tactical mindset. What is important to understand however, is that tactical what if thinking is strongly influenced by reality, more specifically feasible possibilities. Known factors, realistic scenarios and functional limitations are put on the 'what if' questions. For example, what if a terrorist organization were to explode a dirty bomb in a major city what plans are possible with the available resources  vs. what if aliens came down and attacked the planet with death rays?

While that sounds silly, we used that example for a specific reason. 'What if'  planning has to be based on realistic assessment of the problem, the resources available and how things tend to work in real life. The simple fact is while many people worry about 'what if the person gives me a choice and then changes his mind?' a HUGE contributing factor to him changing his mind is THEIR behavior.

Can a situation that is one kind of potential violence turn predatorial just because he 'changes his mind?'  And changes his mind without provocation? You betcha. That is a possibility. You can do everything right and it still goes sideways. The raw truth is there are just some people out there who will go off no matter what you do.


In an overwhelming majority of situations that become violent either
a) It was predatorial all along
b) The victim did something to turn another kind of violence predatorial.

Once you understand that the question of "What if he follows me?" takes on an entirely different connotation.

A key point to understand about violence that is predatorial (from the beginning) is that such a person seldom -- if ever -- gives you the chance to withdraw. In fact, he is actively trying to trap you. He wants you there so he can abuse you, rape you or kill you. So the odds of him offering you a chance to leave or correct your behavior to avoid violence are very slim. There is no "leaver or get beat up" his intention is to beat you from the start.

Now the intended victim might be desperately trying to find a 'reasonable' way to avoid physical conflict. And he/she may offer to leave, change behaviors, apologize or make amends for any wrongs ... but that is the victim's idea, not the predator's. Often people seeking to avoid violence aren't actually telling themselves that it is another kind of violence instead of predatorial, but in their desperation to avoid violence the end effect is the same. It was always predatorial, but they wanted to believe otherwise. Because after all, 'there's always a way to avoid having to become violent isn't there?"

Wanna bet? When facing predatorial violence, about the only way to prevent it -- and I know this sounds like a contradiction -- is, in fact, to be willing to engage in more extreme violence than the predator the moment it is revealed for what it is. This is not to say that you have to draw your pistols and start shooting the moment someone looks at you cross-eyed. It does however, mean that the best way to stop a predator from becoming violence is to let him know that you'll draw and fire just as fast as he will ... and that's because you know what he is. And quite frankly, sometimes it works, sometimes you do have to draw and fire. But if you don't recognize predatorial violence for what it is -- when it is happening -- then you will be incapable of de-escalating it using this means(9).

This brings us to option B.

In many years of security work, Marc sums up number of experiences where after breaking up a fight, he's ask "What happened here?" The ensuing (condensed) conversation went something like this...     "He just hit me" self-proclaimed victim.     "Why'd he hit you?" Marc.     "No reason, he just attacked me!" self-proclaimed victim.     "People don't 'just' attack someone for no reason ... what did you do?"
    "I didn't do anything!" self-proclaimed victim.     "Okay. What did you say just before he hit you?" Marc.     "All I said is that his mother &^%$## donkeys." self-proclaimed victim.

Around this time Marc would start rubbing his forehead against the oncoming headache. "All he said was?" While this example is an exaggeration, it is an exaggeration of a very real mindset and the resulting behaviors. Behaviors that often leads to predatorial violence.

It is appalling the number of times that the words and actions of the 'self-proclaimed victim' showed not only an astounding lack of common sense, but also was just downright wrong. We're not just talking rude, obnoxious or insulting behavior, but also wrong, selfish, hurtful, dangerous and often illegal behavior. Face it, sleeping with another man's wife or ripping him off in a drug deal is a great way to make violence predatorial. That person is coming after you personally for what you have done. The raw truth is that most predatorial violence is based in this kind of behavior.

Now amazing as this may seem, the best way to avoid predatorial violence is NOT to engage in any behaviors that would give people reason to want to assault you.

If you refuse to accept that advice, then you'd better be ready to kill over your actions. That's because sooner or later, you're going to cross someone who has decided that killing you for what you have done is appropriate behavior. And that really applies if you decide to go playing in less than civilized circles.     

 Return to top

1) Many people upon hearing this statement will retort regarding the words of another being mean and hurtful. This makes the other person the source of the pain and hurt they feel. The fact is this attitude is abdicating personal power. There is an old psychology maxim common to therapy "Nobody can make you feel bad except yourself."  This  statement is based in the fact that it is you and you alone who decides to 'take delivery' of such words. Granted that verbal attacks can be painful, especially when they come from someone who we are intimate with or otherwise share our lives with. But that 'power' to hurt comes from the relationship that we have with the person and a violation of trust. The exact same words would NOT have the same effect from a total stranger. In fact, many people would not accept delivery at all coming from a total stranger, such an 'attack' would be rebuffed and quickly forgotten as a minor incident.
To further argue the not only personal and subjective nature of emotional hurt caused by words, but the limited nature of that hurt, we use the 'grenade example.'  If you are standing in a group and someone directs mean and spiteful words at another person you will not be physically damaged. While you may feel socially uncomfortable, odds are you would not be emotionally hurt either. Whereas, if someone threw a grenade into the group in hopes of killing a specific person, then the resulting explosion would physically injure not only the target, but everyone else in the group. And they would have no choice or control over that injury. If words really were as unstoppable, all-powerful and hurtful as some people claim they are, then like a grenade, by your proximity you'd be injured by their use even if you were not the target of them. This demonstrates that the power of words does not come from the person using them, but by the person accepting those words to be "true."  Return to Text

2) A very good representation of this is found in the movie "American Me" with Edward James Olmos. Although a movie recreation, we know of at least three different events where a busy store clerk was either assaulted or nearly assaulted for not looking at an ex-convict while telling the con he'd be with him in a minute. We also know of many incidents where a waiter, waitress or fast food attendant has been savaged over getting an order wrong and then getting defensive when the convict gets obnoxious over the percieved insult. Return to Text

3) Generally mens rea is defined in four basic categories, Intention (purpose), Knowledge, Recklessness (or Willful Blindness) and Negligence. The driving drunk is you intentionally got drunk and recklessly drove in that condition knowing that it was illegal. The same applies to street racing. An example of negligence is if you were knowingly driving with bad brakes. Wikipedia has a good layman's introduction to the subject. Return to Text

4) Mas was probably spoofing the old quote "It's not the bullet with your name on it that's the problem. It's the one addressed to whom it may concern" This quote is attributed to a Belfast resident during the hieght of the 'troubles.' Return to Text

5) In the book "A Professional's Guide to Ending Violence Quickly" we talk about the Four Types of Violence, these are the Tantrum Types. Return to Text

6) It's no small job to deny the whole of existence to maintain your world view. In fact, maintaining such egotistical, self-righteous, blind ignorance is a full time job. Every bit of contrary information must be summarily rejected or ignored and the self-righteous anger to maintain that process takes its toll on the person. Return to Text

8) This is the fundamental flaw of most Reality Based Self-Defense and scenario based training programs. While they put it differently, the simple truth is that they are training people to expect to 'win' during violence. Intrinsic to their approach is the ignoring the fact that you might only might not win, but knowing that you could die, you still have to 'go for it.' Accepting this grim truth is instrumental for being able to convince this kind of predator that if he attacks, he's going down ... alone or with you. Return to Text

9) Amazingly enough -- and provided you didn't go our and maliciously cause the person injury -- the combination of this attitude AND the willingness to sincerley apologize for any perceived insult or harm, can and does bring an end to many predatorial violence situations. It does this by allowing the individual a face saving exit. If you really don't want to do the paperwork of having to kill someone, we suggest you look into this option. Return to Text

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