I have written about this before – violence and peoples’ attitudes towards it. I will continue to write about it, because it bothers me a lot and I am trying to understand and/or come up with solutions.
I have mentioned that I used to teach anger management. I taught that in inpatient and outpatient places, mostly because the higher-ups decided that this had to be a weekly thing. I never did get a straight answer when I asked why this was mandatory.
It’s not a bad thing to learn to identify your triggers and learn to control your behavior when angry. In fact, it’s something that I think all adults should aspire to do, and to teach their children how to do this, too.
But there are some problems with this simple idea, the idea that one ought to control oneself and not harm others, and a major one is…
…people will not admit that they can control it.
“He/she made me…”
“I wasn’t thinking…”
“I was out of control…”
None of these things are true, actually. People say them because they think those are good excuses to behave violently.
And that’s the key stumbling block to teaching anger management. If people will not admit that they are solely responsible for their violent behavior, no amount of group/individual therapy, classes, or workbooks are going to make any difference.
Why do they think like this?
Family, friends, social media, the media in general…all promote this idea of violence as a necessary part of life.
And it feels as if, sometimes when someone is angry, that they aren’t thinking. They are, of course – you can’t blink an eye without an actual command from your brain (which I characterize as “thought”, because technically it is) – but what’s happening is they are not consciously aware of what they’re thinking.
I think that, in reality, people who are violent actually DO consciously think things, they just won’t admit it. Consider this evidence…
Someone hits another person and then runs away when he/she hears the police are coming.
Someone gets into a fight and responds to commands from bystanders (“hit him again” and so on), and later asks to see the video of it recorded on someone’s phone so he/she can post it on Facebook.
Someone hits his partner but makes sure the blows fall on places that won’t show when clothed.
Are you actually going to tell me all these people weren’t thinking at the time they were involved in violent acts?
Of course not. When I put it that way, it’s clear that all those people engaged in violence knew perfectly well what they were doing.
Because…if you can stop or leave when the police arrive, you’re in control of yourself.
If you remember the fight being recorded by your friend, you are consciously aware of what’s going on.
If you know where to hit so the bruises won’t show, how much more in control can you be?
Still…people will just not admit that they are the ones who are responsible for their own violence. People are loathe to do that. And, in a way, that’s kind of a positive thing.
Think about it. If you cannot admit you are the cause of the violence, might it be because you think what you did is wrong? And that other people will judge you to be a “bad person”?
Well, that’s the good news.
The bad news is, there are entire segments of the population where violence is becoming more acceptable. So that reluctance to admit you are violent may become a thing of the past.
Aside #1: It won’t become a thing of the past in psychiatric hospitals or outpatient clinics, because the counselor doesn’t want to hear anything that isn’t the “right” thing to say regarding anger. Otherwise the patient/client could be stuck there a lot longer.
The thing is, not doing something because you might get caught/punished/condemned for it is not a very effective way to control your actions. And it’s not a very evolved way of thinking, either, but we won’t address that (much) today.
If fear of being caught and punished was such a good deterrant, then most of our laws would be so effective that the jails would be empty. Clearly this is not the case.
My opinion about what’s at the bottom of all this is…entitlement.
Aside #2: No, not “entitlements” as in “food stamps”.
Entitlement, according to the Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary is “the condition of having the right to have, do, or get something; the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges).”
I had a psychology professor once who stated that people become violent when something or someone is blocking their goals. I contend that he didn’t look deep enough into that.
Again, entitlement. “I deserve to get my goals met.”
In the case of people reacting with violence to such minor behavior as a “dirty look” or a perceived insult of some kind, the thinking is, “I deserve to control how you act around me.”
So, in a weird way, it’s still about control…even as people state that they were out of control when they hit someone.
“She looked at me funny so I hit her.” I heard that a lot when I taught anger management.
“Why would that bother you, though?” I would ask.
“I know she was thinking bad things about me, I could see it on her face, and she doesn’t have the right to do that.”
So, the entitled attitude is that you have the right to control what other people think about you. Or about your mama, your partner, your kids…
So there’s that. And then there’s an unfortunate twist on that way of thinking…