Loving Oneness Now

AGGRESSION, FEAR, ANGER, DOMINANCE

[Page E03]

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AN INTRODUCTORY PERSONAL NOTE ON FEAR AND ANGER

Fear, in all its emotional forms, is just a silly habit we have generated which we think protects us, but which does not.

On past occasions, I have realized that all the anxieties, worries and fears that I have experienced throughout my life have been completely wasted energy, and that I could have done all the things I have done in my life much more effectively without the emotion of fear. Fear and stress (stress is a form of fear) only befuddle our minds and reduces us to an animal-like auto-reaction which rarely solves the problem.

Anger is only the flip side of fear. When we are angry and dominant, the fear has not disappeared. Our fear has only temporarily gone underground in a fight or flight reversal in which fight is now dominant. For example, we may be hitting someone in anger, but that other person only has to pull out a knife or gun and the reverse flip then occurs, and we immediately become afraid.

Anyway, in fact, there is no danger out there because the danger is only in our minds. We generate (manifest) the life we experience, and if it is not in our minds it does not happen to us. As A Course In Miracles says, "Nothing happens by chance or accident," even though we believe it does.

"Know this (fearful, dangerous or damaging experience or event) need not be." (ACIM)

Raj Excerpt -- Ashland, Oregon--1989:   Either you are locked into hell, locked into suffering, or you're not. And if you are not, then you had best get about the business of discovering how to become free from your suffering, whether anyone else changes or not. It is a hard thing to swallow, but there are no innocent victims. You either attract your negative experiences out of fear or fascination, but you invite them.

My own life, this time around, is an excellent example of what does NOT happen. In this lifetime, I have never been robbed, never been in a fight or even slapped (since I was 14), never lost a wallet or anything of value, never had a serious accident, never broken a bone, never had a serious illness (since I was 14), never been arrested, and never spent even an hour in a cell. Yet I have fought in a war, skied, climbed mountains, scuba dived, owned two motor-cycles, driven cars since I was 17, flown "millions" of miles, traveled all over the world, been through the eye of Hurricane Andrew, experienced several minor earthquakes and have literally been through major sea storms in the Atlantic, Pacific and Mediterranean. Why has nothing injured me? I did not need any of these environmental experiences this time around!  Did I have psychological issues? Yes. But physical / environmental issues? No!

With respect to my own experience in child rearing and child therapy (as a parent, school teacher and clinical psychologist) I would only say I have helped "raise" of my own children, and I worked for many years on the classroom floor of schools for severely emotionally disturbed students of all ages. Some were on locked adolescent or children's wards in psychiatric hospitals. Also for decades I have worked individually with emotional disturbed children and teens, often along with their parents. I have done psycho-spiritual therapy with many adults as well (see: G07).

 

THE TRANSFORMATIONAL POSITIVE GROWTH OF AGGRESSION FROM BIRTH THROUGH ADULTHOOD

CONVENTIONAL VIEWS ABOUT PERSONAL AGGRESSION

Most of us tend to think of aggression as an inherited negative emotion. We believe this innate aggression needs to be eliminated from the human race through repression or punishment. But repression and punishment are forms of aggression, and therefore we are endeavoring to use aggression to eliminate aggression. This aggressive punishment to prevent aggression comes from adults and is directed toward children who, in their turn, will become adults who will then dish out aggressive punishment to their children to prevent aggression. Thus it becomes obvious that aggression cannot be used to eliminate aggression in this circular way.  It reminds me of the story of the mother who, while spanking her young child for swearing, was saying, "I will teach you not to swear and not to hit people you little bastard."

Still others believe that aggression is not inherited with our DNA; they believe all aggression is learned. These people think aggression can be eliminated by what psychologists call "behavioral conditioning." Conditioning theory states that positive reinforcements, popularly called "rewards," are given by adults for non-aggressive, friendly behaviors during infancy and childhood. This is usually combined with an "ignoring" or "time-out" conditioning tactic by adults whenever "negative" aggression (such as temper tantrums or attacking behaviors) are displayed by the child. However, "negative reinforcement" is just a euphemism for "punishment" however mild that punishment may be. Even ignoring behavior (a popular "negative reinforcer") is an emotional rejection and therefore a punishment of sorts. Therefore we are back with the circular belief that aggression can be used to eliminate aggression.

All of these popular traditional views (even the modern "behavioral conditioning" ones) never regard aggression as having any redeeming value and limit its definition to negative pain-causing behaviors on the part of the perpetrator. But is there another more valuable way to look at aggression as a broad generic idea. Such a blanket concept would incorporate a wider definition and a more developmental approach to an important range of human behavior. By way of example we do not limit our definition of the hunger drive (as a generic concept) to voraciousness, gluttony, pigging-out, or eating only basic potatoes! We all agree there are more refined forms of hunger and eating. Similarly, we do not limit our understanding (definition) of the human sex drive to unloving lust, rape and swinging from the chandeliers! On the contrary we also include tender sexual love-making and gentle romanticism under the umbrella of the "sex drive."

Why should aggression be the only human drive to be considered totally negative, only crude, and deserving of complete elimination from our lives? I strongly suggest these traditional beliefs and definitions of aggression are incorrect and that we need a wider developmental or maturational growth viewpoint. By definition this umbrella of aggression-as-a-drive would include higher more mature refined forms of aggression such as determination, competitiveness, boldness, courage, will-power, steadfastness, etc. Even some dictionary definitions of "aggression" include some of these "refined" forms/words.

I realize that (for most of us) this calls for a considerable shift in our old ways of defining and thinking about aggression but that is precisely the purpose of this article; it is to bring about a fresh, wider definition to the words and concepts popularly associated with "aggression."    

Note that most human aggression, even in its refined forms, is activated through frustrations arising from problems or conflicts with other people or perceived external circumstances. To a degree, aggression (in the sense of a general drive with developmental phases) is inherited, but I am saying that it is also amenable to learning and more importantly to maturational growth. Thus I am saying that three factors considerably influence our aggression drive:

1.   inherited factors (DNA),

2.   behavioral learning factors (e.g., family, school, society),

3.   maturational growth factors (babyhood, infancy, puberty, adolescence, early

      adulthood, middle life, later-life).

These three factors, which are interlaced into the growth of aggression, (a) vary in their contributions at various developmental age levels, and (b) vary in their interactive influences on each other at each of those levels. [Those readers who require evidence for the heritability of the aggressive drive are referred to twin studies research on this topic.]

By analogy, if a pea is planted in sunny, fertile ground and (1) we choose a good DNA variety; (2) we prop it up with sticks, water it, fertilize it; and (3) if we do not cramp its natural maximal growth with coverings or pruning, then as a result of all three factors, that pea will grow and develop with a high yield of fat, luscious pea pods. Even a "poor" DNA variety if carefully nurtured will give a fair yield.  

Please note that the practical theory outlined below is a very oversimplified, skeletal account of a much more complex psychological and sociological theory which integrates genetics, evolution, behavioral learning, cultural environments, development and individual differences. Therefore please bear with me gently during the introductory-level discussion outlined in this paper.

RE-DEFINING AGGRESSION AS A PROBLEM-SOLVING HUMAN DRIVE

This problem solving developmental viewpoint sees the term "aggression" as a much broader term than limiting it (as many people do) to violence of one kind or another. This new way of looking at and defining aggression would see crude physical "violence" and verbal "abuse" as only the beginning stages of a lifelong growth process. Thus when aggression is not blocked by punishment or (in some cases) neglect, it can grow and branch out into many successive higher maturational stages or phases, each of which will be described in more detail below.

All these life-growth phases (when not blocked off by the Parental Authority System) are aimed at problem solving, especially in terms of human interactions, relationships and needs. It is important to understand that I am speaking in terms of a motivational and emotional drive here, and not about the "intellectual" or "reasoning" aspects of problem-solving—even though they may be also involved.

By way of an introductory summary statement about the nature of these motivational growth stages of aggression as a problem solving drive I have given each successive stage (or maturational phase, or level) of the forms of aggression a handy three or four word label:

 

  1. Mindless frenzy level (wild rage, berserk, frenetic violence, lashes out blindly, shrieks, as a way of solving problems and conflicts; this matures into…)
  2. Temper tantrum level (physical force and violent actions, furious attack, angry screaming, etc., as a way of solving problems and conflicts; this matures into…)
  3. Abusive verbal anger level (includes physical gestures, strong verbal abuse and verbal bullying as a way of solving problems and conflicts; this matures into…)
  4. Heated argument level (irate, loud-voiced, nagging, illogical, name-calling bluster as a way of solving problems and conflicts; this matures into…) 
  5. Vehement discussion level (quarrelsome, badgering, dogmatic, dominant point-making as a way of solving problems and conflicts; this matures into…)
  6. Determined compromise level (self-interest in getting a "manageable advantageous compromise" or "best deal" as a way of solving problems and conflicts; this matures into…)
  7. Firm resolution settlement level (drive to seek for "best-for-all" very fair and equitable solutions as a way of solving problems and conflicts; this matures into…)
  8. Benign counter-action level (causing beneficial change for all concerned by active humane interventions as a way of solving problems and conflicts; at this level only kindly pressure is used to bring about change; this matures into…)
  9. Dedicated compassionate prevention level (permanent transformational loving solutions as a way of solving problems and conflicts; this is the highest level of maturation)

Now let us examine each of these aggressive drive problem solving maturational stages or phases in turn, from:

         (a) a description of the human developmental age-related phase 

[see below (1a) , (2a), through (9a)]

(b) pathological effects of repression through punishment and conditioning

        [see below (1b), (2b), through (9b)]

(c) the tribal, clan, international and social pathological equivalent

[see below (1c), (2c), through (9c)]

 

I will also briefly suggest better ways to handle the developing of more mature problem solving aggression in both:

 

(d) infant, childhood and teenage management by wise parents, etc.

[see below (1d) , (2d), through (9d)]

(e) adult and teenage therapy, family and group therapy, and counseling 

[see below (1e) , (2e), through (9e)]

 

Important Note: Please understand that for almost all newborn humans most of the following developmental levels of aggressive problem solving will successively and automatically transform themselves upward as a growth process from birth to middle age if they are not blocked, repressed or hindered by trauma, neglect, or negative discouragement (e.g., nagging, yelling) by parents, care-givers, older children, teachers, relatives or other untoward events. Note, too, that benign, happy and insightful nurturing, participation, and gentle teaching by those adults or others is essential, and will definitely facilitate this natural beneficial upward maturational growth through the various levels of aggressive problem solving discussed below. The changes into and out of each of the phases are usually quite gradual; one will usually merge slowly into the next level up without any sudden threshold phase shift between the levels.

  

1. MINDLESS FRENZY LEVEL OF AGGRESSIVE PROBLEM SOLVING

    (From birth through 1 year approximately)

(1a) Developmental age-related phase: After a baby is born it has no language skills and it is almost motorically helpless. Thus, when it is frustrated in some way such as being very thirsty, its only recourse to attract attention and solve the problem is to cry out loudly and thrash its limbs around. Some may say it is a bit much to call this "blind rage" but next time you see such a frustrated baby notice the closed eyes, the clenched fists, the red contorted face, the limb movements, and the vocal cries—which may even develop into shrieks.

(1b) Pathological effects of punishment: These "rageful" expressions by babies, if actively hindered or blocked in this expression of aggression by parents or others, grow up into adulthood trying to problem solve most of their frustrations through rage. By definition these blocked babies are not allowed to develop upward to more mature ways of aggressive problem solving.

The most severe pathology occurs when the baby's rage is physically punished. Such a physically punished infant may grow up through childhood, adolescence and adulthood with a distorted negative aggressive drive resulting in cruelty, torture, sadism and similar pathological behaviors. Some babies, if predisposed, may become psychotic. For the perpetrator (i.e., the baby when older or grown up) these are distorted problem solving acts, even if only to "let off the steam" of a very deep emotional hate. Note that, while specific cruel behaviors can also be learned later, such learning usually falls on the earlier ground of having been abused during babyhood.

(1c) Tribal, clan, international and social situations: In tribal, international and social situations this first infantile phase of problem solving aggression is reflected in berserk wars, mindless destruction of the "enemy" and frenzied murderous assaults. Such events have occurred in almost every war when mindless rage took over. The idea in mindless adult wars is to solve the problem by killing off the frustrators. In these types of wars, which are almost always initiated by the aggressors, wanton slaughter, cruelty and rape are common. There are many examples in human history down to the present time. Tribes, societies, cultures or groups (e.g., some gangs) which inflict mindless, murderous destruction on others usually have societal traditions of punishing and repressing aggression during babyhood.  

(1d) Healthy childhood management: Clearly, at this babyhood stage, it is best not to let the frustration occur in the first place. To achieve this it is wise to accompany regular demand feeding and all other infant situations with loving interaction. When appropriate this interaction can be enjoyably playful. Cuddling, smiling, chatting, breast-feeding, and sharing most activities are all excellent. Bare skin contact is also very beneficial. From mid-pregnancy onward, pleasant appropriate stimulation with music, and (later) a wide variety of toys, instruments and objects using all the baby's senses and faculties is strongly recommended. Mutual adult-baby participation is very important.

(1e) Adult and teen therapy: Individual people who use frenzied rage or cruelty as a personal method of problem solving (because they have become stuck there during babyhood by neglect, repression and/or punishment of baby rage) can, in combination with extensive, highly specialized, compassion-based therapy, mature to use higher-level, more effective methods of problem solving. Such expert therapy is usually long-term--and, I admit, it is hard to find. These unfortunate individuals usually finish up in prison or psychiatric units. Our society should provide free early childhood parenting "hands-on" courses for all new parents. At the least all high schools should include such courses in their curricula.

2. TEMPER TANTRUM LEVEL OF AGGRESSIVE PROBLEM SOLVING

    (2 through 5 years approximately)

(2a) Developmental age-related phase: As psychologically healthy infants get a little older they usually move into the temper tantrum phase of aggression which is more "mature" than the earlier relatively helpless baby stage. In terms of motor functions these infants can now walk, and move their bodies, limbs and faces with more precision. However, even though they can think and talk to a limited extent, their reasoning and verbal skills are still very undeveloped. Therefore, when frustrated their only recourse is to express their anger in physical ways such as stamping, hitting, kicking, jumping up and down or rolling on the ground, etc. They will also scream and may use simple (learned) verbal abuse such as, "I hate you." These behaviors are a direct attempt to problem-solve their immediate frustration in order to get what they want, such as food, attention, a toy, etc. Any verbal components are usually confined to shouts, wails, screams and one or two word "comments" or demands. From the child's standpoint the problem is "solved" when the parent, caregiver or other child "gives in," backs down, or moves away. 

(2b) Pathological effects of punishment: When these behaviors (as described in 2a) are actively punished they become "locked in," making temper tantrums the main method of problem solving during childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Some aggression-repressed people thus have adult temper tantrums all their lives. Physical punishment, including spanking, of an infant's temper tantrums is very damaging and confusing because an "adult tantrum" (the spanking) is being used to crush a child's tantrum. This is, to say the least, totally illogical from every point of view.

(2c) Tribal, clan, international and social situations: In tribal, international and social situations this temper tantrum phase is reflected in "hot" wars in which the objective is to kill off the perceived enemy (or the key leaders and their supporters) as a solution to the problem.  This is still largely a reactive motivational and emotional method of aggressive problem solving and any "reasoning" that enters the process is used only to find the most effective means of attack, killing and winning. Almost all armed forces, gangs, terrorists, and other militia operate mostly on the temper tantrum hot war method of problem solving however "cool" and lethally efficient they and their weapons may appear to be. Verbal interactions in a hot war are usually confined to noisy demands, threats and curses. Hot wars may include episodes of frenzied killing as outlined in 1c. Note that even when a country is at peace with other countries the essential purpose of the military is to conduct a hot war, even when it functions as a "defensive" deterrent.

(2d) Healthy childhood management: Those infants going through a temper tantrum phase need patient, non-angry parents and kindly care-givers who will gently defuse the tantrum and patiently train the children in how to state their frustrating problem verbally. These wise adults will also discuss (in simple language) with the children the valid reasons for the frustration, as well as ways to resolve the problem on the spot, or the reasons for waiting until later, or for saying why no gratification is possible. The idea behind this approach is to move into calm verbal discussions of problems and to train the child in those verbal skills. Of course, if the child's "need" is a harmless or valid one, it should be satisfied before the frustration begins; the infant's "need" should not be regarded as a challenge of wills. These healthy nurturing policies move the child smoothly up the developmental problem solving ladder to its higher more verbal levels.

(2e) Adult and teen therapy: Teenagers and adults who have been punished for temper tantrums as small children and who have been "locked into" this bull-dozing, angry, motivational-emotional approach to problem solving can (usually during sophisticated therapy) learn that there are higher-level verbal ways of discussing the range of possible solutions to their frustrations. The angry approach, while it is gently discouraged, is not forcefully condemned; rather, it is gradually laid aside in favor of these superior, more effective aggressive problem solving methods involving verbal communication (for descriptions of these see 4d, 5d, 6d, etc.) Usually the client has to move up through each aggressive problem solving level, although the upward transition process for some stages may be fairly brief.  Note that it is extremely difficult for the individual teenager or adult who is locked into this temper tantrum phase of aggressive problem solving to extricate themselves from it without some form of therapy or serious help. Some people may benefit from support group therapy if the professional leader is conversant with the contents of this Website Page.

However, it is very important for therapists and parents to realize that, while teaching improved verbal communication skills is an essential part of the growth process, their acquisition will be a waste of time unless the aggressive problem solving drive is encouraged to grow, and enabled to mature to higher levels. An angry person cannot communicate effectively no matter how many communication skills he or she has learned. All anger or other forms of aggression must be processed through the Ego-dismantling Method from the bottom up in order to transform them to higher maturational levels (see G04).


3. ABUSIVE VERBAL ANGER LEVEL OF AGGRESSIVE PROBLEM SOLVING   

    (6 through 10 years approximately)

(3a) Developmental age-related phase: Children who do not become stuck at the temper tantrum stage (through being punished, traumatized and repressed by parents and care-givers) and who continue moving up the developmental ladder of aggressive problem-solving with minimal or no positive training, gradually shift their angry interactions from physical displays to verbal abuse as they become more linguistically competent. However, during this middle childhood phase, true reasoning and logical argument are almost always non-existent in personal relationship situations. Such children are seen as angry, defiant, perhaps "loud-mouthed kids" who may also use a variety of negative gestures alongside their verbal abuse. The more verbally talented children may be both quite fluent and quite competent at selecting the words they know will hurt their perceived protagonists most. Frustration is still the trigger for this verbal problem solving aggression. During this phase the aggressive problem solving, angry verbal abuse is often seen during interactions between peers. The problem is "solved" when the other guy, group, or parent gives in, backs down, or moves away. Thus intimidation is a frequent motive in these confrontations.

(3b) Pathological effects of punishment: When these verbally abusive problem solving behaviors are verbally or physically punished, they become "locked into" the children's limited repertoire ensuring that aggressive verbal abuse becomes their main mode of problem solving in later childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Even though the fear of punishment may normally prevent the children from expressing themselves in abusive ways within the family, it will burst through in times of severe angry frustration—both inside and outside the family. Later, in adulthood, some of the latter group may appear calm and reasonable people until the problem solving angry verbal abuse breaks through the inner dam of repressive fear. Timid people may resort to an inner verbal abuse of themselves, or silently, of others. Muttering is included here.

(3c) Tribal, clan, international and social situations: In tribal, international and social situations, this aggressive verbal abuse phase is reflected in the "cold" war during which the objective is to dominate and intimidate the perceived enemy with verbal threats, name-calling, angry displays, "disinformation," "brinkmanship" events, non-negotiable demands, and slanderous propaganda. Any modicum of reasoning that may enter this process is used for the purposes of cunning, and for conning the perceived adversary into a one-way favorable solution to the frustrating issue in contention. Note that a cold war may regress into a hot war if some triggering provocation sparks one of the protagonists into firing the first shots. On the other hand, sustained mediated negotiations may move the cold war "enemies" up to the next level (see 4c).

(3d) Healthy childhood management: To allow the child to progress through this verbal abuse stage smoothly wise parents will encourage politeness ("We do not speak in that noisy way in our family…") and then gently ask these children to rephrase their requests in reasonable language; ("So, even though I realize you are very upset, please tell me all about your problem clearly and politely"). The emphasis here is on understandable communication, during which the child is given a free and fair hearing. Verbal abuse between siblings and friends should be counteracted in a similar positive way, preferably with helpful adult mediation. Of course there should be no double standards here, and if parents are always polite, truthful and quiet-spoken the children will usually develop that way as well, in spite of peer and authority patterns of verbal abuse at school and outside the home. All too often, parents, sports clubs, coaches, and some teachers utilize verbal abuse as a macho way of instruction and some encourage their young charges to think and act the same way, such as (this is a polite version), "Go out on the field today and kick the hell out of the other team."

(3e) Adult and teen therapy: Teenagers or adults who are locked into angry verbal abuse as a way of problem solving can be retrained in an environment where politeness and reasonable discussion are habitually used, but, unfortunately, patterns of verbal abuse on everyone's part are so widespread in schools, clubs, institutions and even many families, that polite, quiet environments are hard to find. Cognitive therapy can sometimes help, as will family or group therapies, especially if they are accompanied by an extensive retraining in verbal communication and friendly interactive social skills. Note that the core of therapy at this angry verbal abuse level is to mature the client's aggressive problem solving by emphasizing that clear communication and discussion are more efficient ways of solving problems. Therapy must also aim at eliminating any fears of punishment, including implied therapist disapproval. All anger or other forms of aggression must be processed through the Ego-dismantling Method from the bottom up in order to transform them to higher maturational levels (see G04).

These therapy-related themes and techniques are continued below in (4e), (5e) and (6e).

 

4. HEATED ARGUMENT LEVEL OF AGGRESSIVE PROBLEM SOLVING 

    (11 through 14 years approximately)

(4a) Developmental age-related phase: The heated argument level is really just a more verbally competent elevation of the verbal abuse phase, and is seen most commonly (as a developmental pattern) among younger teenagers. At this heated argument stage these young protagonists are still angry, loud-voiced, mildly abusive and obviously frustrated; they are also verbally argumentative and will use these linguistic skills solely to "solve" their perceived problem to their own entire advantage. Because little or no logical reasoning enters into these angry heated arguments, their only purpose is to intimidate and browbeat their adversary into agreeing to "solve" the problem in their favor.  If they fail to "get their way" they may drop back into angry verbal abuse before leaving the confrontation abruptly.

(4b) Pathological effects of punishment: Punishment for heated angry arguments (which can easily regress to the verbal abuse level) will never eradicate them, but only exacerbate this pattern of aggressive problem solving behavior. One variation of the heated argument level of problem solving (especially those stuck at this age through punishment) is to whine, nag, grumble and grouse until the adversary gives in by being emotionally worn down.

(4c) Tribal, clan, international and social situations: In tribal, international and social situations I call this heated argument level "First Level (Illogical) Conferencing" because history shows us that when adversarial groups first decide (or are persuaded) to attempt to find a non-war solution to their problems both sides are very liable to indulge in non-negotiable demands, posturing, blaming accusations, table-thumping and milder abusive language. Neither side seeks any compromise and third-party suggested solutions are studiously ignored. Usually it is third-party mediation which brings the two sides to the table. First Level (Illogical) Conferencing is, however, a desirable step-up from a cold war.

(4d) Healthy childhood (young teenage) management: To allow young teenagers to progress through this heated argument phase parents and adults in the situation have to ease themselves out of any authoritarian posturing and antagonistic distancing. Instead, every effort should be made to engage in genuine communication, part of which is to truly explore the problems being voiced by means of detailed discussions aimed at finding a reasonable solution or compromise. This usually entails all concerned in a mutual examination of all the consequences and possible outcomes to the presenting problem, including future long and short term goals. (Note: One cannot have valid short-term goals without a valid long-term goal.) Another important factor in this approach is a complete openness of discussion without any embarrassment, hidden agendas or condescension. The idea is not to crush the angry or irritable emotions but to gradually shift them up to the next vehement level of discussion and then keep them moving up to even higher levels of genuine communication.

(4e) Adult and teen therapy: Older teenage and adult therapy at this heated argument level is much the same as for the abusive verbal anger developmental level. The aim of individual, family or group therapy is to train the participants in genuine communication and discussion skills (often by example) while easing them out of angry verbal, often irrational arguing. The therapist needs to point out frequently that antagonistic, dogmatic point-making usually achieves the opposite effect to finding a favorable solution, because it just riles everyone so they become more entrenched and adamant in their positions. Another parallel approach is to train clients to think through the conflict situation or problem to a desired plausible solution and then to work out valid debating points before beginning the discussion. All anger or other forms of aggression must be processed through the Ego-dismantling Method* from the bottom up in order to transform them to higher maturational levels (see G04).

The purpose here, as always, is to move the client steadily up the developmental ladder of aggressive problem solving to higher and higher levels of problem solving through effective communication. These therapy-related themes and techniques are continued below in (5e).        

 

5. VEHEMENT DISCUSSION LEVEL OF AGGRESSIVE PROBLEM SOLVING

    (Older teenagers 15 through 17 approximately)

(5a) Developmental age-related phase: Most older teenagers and most adults become stuck at this fifth phase of aggressive problem solving, which is a definite step-up from the (fourth phase) heated argument level. Vehement discussion is primarily concerned with the sole need to "win" the discussion by dominant point-making, strategies, polemics and the use of clichés. Winning is a competitive outcome founded on coercing the competition to capitulate, no matter how "refined" that coercive aggression may be. Thus any emotional, deviant or illogical device will be employed in order to "win" the discussion, including sarcasm, verbal tricks, pseudo-logic, changing the subject, manipulating statistics, belittling the opponent, evasion and lying. All of these tactics contain motivational aggression of one kind or another.

Vehemence is just a more sophisticated "refined" form of aggression. In vehement discussions there is still no attempt to find any genuine or compromise solutions. "Winning" at all costs is the only way such protagonists will consider their problem favorably solved. Most members of political parties and governments are competent in vehement discussion skills, but the practice also abounds in education, business, science, litigation and religion (see 5c).

(5b) Pathological effects of punishment: Formal punishment of older teenagers for this vehement discussion level of aggressive problem solving is usually not a consideration, or indeed possible, but sometimes parents will attempt a mild punishment for "disrespect" or "bad language." All too often these attempts at verbal discipline by parents and teachers are loaded with guilt-making statements or unenforceable threats. Sometimes, with teenagers, heavy guilt-making will only work as a detrimental aggressive discipline if it has been consistently used since early childhood; in such cases the result is always pathological. Parent-induced guilt and/or shame is a heavy burden for anyone to carry in adult life.

Most often the parent or adult involved will end the vehement discussion unilaterally with a command or declaration, or the teenager will leave the scene angrily and abruptly because the discussion has degenerated one level down (into an abusive heated argument) and is then terminated. It is worth pointing out here that the parent or adult involved in such disciplinary punishment is often also developmentally stuck at this vehement discussion level of aggressive problem solving.

(5c) Tribal, clan, international and social situations: In tribal, international and social situations I call this vehement discussion phase the "Second Level of (Illogical) Conferencing." Those involved in these "problem solving" discussions have no genuine interest in reaching any agreement or any compromise solution; only a one hundred percent victory is entertained as a possible outcome by either group. Very frequently the conference is seen by both sides only as a platform for propaganda for their point of view in the hope that other peripheral groups or countries will be persuaded to come around to their way of thinking, thus increasing the pressure on their adversaries to "surrender the field unconditionally." Any verbal interaction in this Second Level (Illogical) Conferencing is confined to dogmatic point-making, prevarications, disparaging accusations, appeals to history, non-negotiable demands and the like. Angry verbal exchanges, epithets and stock phrases abound. Propaganda and public relations experts, and speech writers are often employed to sharpen and manipulate the words of their bosses and leaders.   

Third-party mediators, if present, make little or no headway with suggested solutions and possible compromises. The most obvious realistic solutions are always emotionally rejected by all protagonists as untenable, usually because they are perceived to involve a significant loss of territory, pride, power, and/or money—many of which are usually "lost" anyway as long as the disagreement continues.

(5d) Healthy teenage management: As recommended in (4d) above, the adults involved must ease themselves out of any authoritarian role because these older teenagers need to start taking over their own lives. Note that any development enhancing training (excluding professional counseling and therapy) that has not been accomplished in the family by age 16 will not succeed after 16, therefore it is useless trying. All a parent or teacher can hope for is that these older teenagers will want to seek the advice and kindly input from experienced adults. Every effort must be made by parents, teachers, and therapists to engage these teenagers in genuine communication, and to teach the teenagers involved that, even though excited emotional involvement is all right, they need to learn the skills of mature open discussion, especially in terms of understanding their goals and of seeking the best solutions to their current conflict. Older teenagers have to be allowed to learn how to direct their own lives and how to arrive at their own best solutions if they are to become wise and happy adults. One useful family practice with such older teenagers is to have a standing agreement with them that parental advice will be given when it is asked for, but that the decision to act on that advice always belongs to the teenager involved.

(5e) Adult and teen therapy: Many teenagers, and sometimes willing adults (in individual or group classes, or therapy) can acquire the necessary communication skills of listening, compromise, and of coming to understand others' points of view. Many courses now exist for training mediators, counselors and therapists in teaching families, groups of students, patients or workers these superior communication skills. In effect what such mediators, counselors and therapists are doing is moving their clients higher up the aggressive problem solving ladder to more developmentally mature level. Even at this level (#5) all anger or other forms of aggression must be processed through the Ego-dismantling Method (see G04) from the bottom up in order to transform them to higher maturational levels (see also 4e above). For an excellent example of older teenage classroom "therapy" see the true-life movie "Freedom Writers" with Hilary Swank as the teacher.

6. DETERMINED COMPROMISE COMMUNICATION LEVEL OF AGGRESSIVE

    PROBLEM SOLVING (Older teenagers 18+ and young adult)

(6a) Developmental age-related phase: At this older teenage and young adult maturational level the motivation of aggression in problem solving has taken a subtle but significant shift away from "getting one's own way" as a solution, to a determination (a higher form of the aggressive drive) to find a valid compromise solution which is both possible and reasonably favorable to all concerned. Most people do not think of determination as a refined form of aggression (for problem solving) and are rather surprised to hear that it often is.

I would like to reiterate, that the whole point of my practical theory (here, on this Website Page) is that human aggression can mature "vertically" (as we grow up from babyhood through adulthood) through a series of developmental levels from frenzied rage to ever more refined forms of aggressive problem solving all the way up the growth ladder to dedication and compassionate problem/conflict prevention.

Most of us would agree that many of our drives and their concomitant emotions can mature (if we enable them to do so) in refined ways as we get older—emotions such as affection. We often call these refined emotions "feelings." But for traditional reasons we have tended to think of aggression as a "sinful" anomaly basically different from our other drives and emotions. Once we realize that aggression can be thought of as a generic category of emotional/drive growth which includes nine maturational sub-categories as upward developmental levels, we can also realize the paramount importance of not repressing the early stages, but rather the need to encourage and train the upward trend all through childhood and adolescence.

The determined compromise level of mature problem solving is still aggressive. This fact can be seen in the dictionary definition of determination which uses such refined aggression words as "courageous, strong, unwavering and firm."

(6b) Pathological effects of punishment: The only time this reasonably mature form of aggressive problem solving would be punished is when the parent or teacher involved is stuck at an even lower level of aggressive problem solving (#1-5) than the student. When the student legitimately attempts to enter into a determined compromise level discussion with such an adult and is rudely rebuffed or treated to a round of sarcasm, the effect on the emerging maturity of the student can be crushing, yet this practice of authoritarian domination is widespread in homes, schools and colleges. This has to stop if the human race is ever going to rise out of its current conflict-ridden state and move up the developmental ladder to higher forms of refined aggressive problem solving.

(6c) Tribal, clan, international and social situations: In these situations the determined compromise level of aggressive problem solving means that the parties concerned are determined to seek solutions to their mutual conflicts and problems. They hope to find a valid compromise solution which is both possible and reasonably favorable to all concerned. At this developmental level, which I call the "Third Level of Conferencing," there is an effort to find "real" compromises and while some logical communication usually occurs, quite often the self-interests of the participants impede progress and may sabotage hopes of success. A third party mediator may be helpful if the parties are not too far apart and if they do not have conflicting non-negotiable demands.

This "Third Level of Conferencing" is never entirely free of irritable tensions, angry point-making, and accusations that place the blame squarely on the other side. Not infrequently this level of conferencing degenerates into "Second Level Conferencing."

This "Third Level of Conferencing" is often scuttled before it starts by either or both of the two sides insisting on pre-conference agreements and actions such as, "You have to hand over your arms and then we'll talk." Incidentally, it is usually the side that has the most armaments (often a government) that makes this kind of pre-conference demand, one which prevents any kind of conference from even starting. Any success at this "Third Level of Conferencing" usually depends on each party receiving an "equivalency" of benefits and recognitions from the proposed agreement, e.g., "You give me recognition and a peace treaty and we will give you land and guarantees."

(6d) Healthy young adult management: At this sixth level of aggressive problem solving, all a parent or teacher can hope for is that these older teenagers and young adults (18+) will want to seek the advice and kindly input from mature adults. As mentioned above (in 5d) every effort must be made by parents, teachers, and therapists to engage these young people in genuine communication and to teach those involved that, even though enthusiastic emotional involvement is all right, they need to learn the skills of mature open discussion, especially in terms of understanding their goals (as well as the positions of others), and of seeking the best solutions to their current conflict. Older teenagers and young adults have to be allowed to learn how to direct their own lives and come to their own best solutions if they are to become wise and happy adults.

(6e) Adult and teen therapy: Often older teenagers and willing adults can acquire, in group classes or therapy, the necessary communication skills of listening, compromise, and of coming to understand the points of view of others. It is worth repeating here that many courses now exist for training mediators, counselors and therapists in how to teach families, groups of students, patients or workers these superior communication skills. In effect, what such mediators, counselors and therapists are doing is moving their clients higher up the aggressive problem solving ladder to a more developmentally mature level. But even at this level, any residual anger or other forms of aggression such as irritability must be processed through the Ego-dismantling Method (see G04) from the bottom up in order to transform them to higher maturational levels.

 

7. FIRM RESOLUTION SETTLEMENT LEVEL OF AGGRESSIVE PROBLEM

    SOLVING (Older teenagers (18+) and all adults)

(7a) Developmental age-related phase: At this older teenage and adult maturational phase of the motivation of aggression in problem solving, the participants in the conflict are firmly resolved to find a valid settlement through negotiation, discussion and compromise. Note that being firmly resolute about a permanent mature problem solving policy (and method) is a very refined form of aggression. This firm resolution settlement is the next level up the growth ladder from (sixth level) determined compromise, one which usually involves sincere communication. Both parties desire a best-for-all outcome which is fair and honest. Resolute means steadfast, persevering, tenacious and gutsy, and these are all words for refined levels of aggression. In democratic countries the firm resolution settlement level of aggressive problem solving frequently enlists the help of mediators, counselors, attorneys and the like, often in an "official" setting such as a court, but unfortunately not all courts operate at the firm resolution settlement level! (see 7c).

(7b) Pathological effects of "punishment:" The word "punishment" is a little out of place here, but we will keep it for the sake of consistency. The only time this mature form of aggressive problem solving would be "punished" is when the final agreement the contesting parties have reached and mutually agreed to is overturned by some higher authority—who may be on a lower developmental level than the parties involved. For example, a dominant parent may undermine an agreement reached by other members of the family, a miffed CEO may overturn the considered arbitration agreement of two groups of employees, and a President may veto, on the basis of his personal beliefs, a bill passed by both houses of Congress (see 7c).

(7c) Tribal, clan, international and social situations: In these tribal. international and social situations many of the processes for aggressive problem solving at this firm resolution level have been institutionalized. Thus we have many, many organizations whose main jobs are problem solving—organizations such as parliaments, governments, courts, boards, arbitration tribunals, commissions, committees, juries, councils, and even the United Nations Organization.

(7d) Healthy adult management: This is not really applicable at this level. All a parent or teacher can hope for is that these older teenagers and young adults (all 18+) will want to seek the advice and kindly input from mature adults, preferably ones who are experienced in the aspects of everyday life that are in contention.

(7e) Adult therapy: Because the participants at the firm resolution settlement level are (by definition) already at a mature stage of adult development there is no real need for therapy as traditionally understood. However, not all therapy is concerned with immature individuals; some mature people enter specialized "therapy" to become wiser and even more mature, and in these cases we tend to call such "therapists" gurus or teachers—and not only the spiritual kind. Psychospiritual therapists and counselors can also assist clients in this high endeavor. More and more mature people around the world now feel strongly they have limiting ego-aspects they would prefer to relinquish. Some, perhaps, would like to enhance inner potentials of which they are only dimly aware, qualities such as joy and peacefulness.

 

8. BENIGN COUNTER-ACTION LEVEL OF AGGRESSIVE PROBLEM SOLVING

    (Mature adult level)

(8a) Developmental age-related phase: It is quite possible for mature adults to reach this level of aggressive problem solving where the objective is to problem solve conflicts and correct perceived areas of distress by becoming involved in a counteractive movement, either as a sole crusader or by joining a concerned group. Examples would be those people who "fight" disease, poverty, hunger, injustice, cruelty, ignorance, pollution, lack of freedom, etc. The list of benign counteractive crusades and causes is very long. Note that this benign counter-active level of aggressive problem solving does not include individuals or groups who use lower level aggressive tactics in their fight, such as blocking highways, spiking trees, opening dams and the like; however, please also note that in saying this I am in no way commenting on the correctness or incorrectness of such policies or actions. Another point to be made here is that I have not included "fighting" crime, terrorism, drug-trafficking, or most political activities in the list of benign counter-active causes. Benign counter-active causes, by definition, must be peaceful, healing and "do no harm"—even to the "opposition (see also 8c).

It is important to realize that there is often a polarization of the contending parties involved and this factor is brought out in the next section (8b). Polarized conflicts are often seen by both sides as a battle between "good" and "evil," each believing the other is "evil." Although I have been (to some extent) discussing group action in this section, remember that it is always an individual person who joins any given group because of his or her inner convictions, interests and level of aggressive problem solving maturity.

(8b) Pathological effects of "punishment:" Once again, although the word "punishment" is somewhat inappropriate here, we will keep it for reasons of consistency. "Reactive thwarting" or "nullification" would be more accurate terms, because usually the benign counter-action itself sparks a "back-lash" by those whose interests in maintaining the status quo are threatened. Sometimes the thwarting or nullification is the result of "official" or court decisions after a specific case has been brought by either side to the government or court system. In such cases the side that loses the "fight" is usually depressed and has to retrench. But the wider "battle" between the adversaries almost always continues. Note here that many historical issues were once considered worth crushing by established "authorities"--including votes for women, civil rights, environmental concerns, free education for all minors, religious freedom, child employment laws, workplace safety, minimum wages, old age pensions, family abuse laws, and so on and on.

(8c) Tribal, clan, international and social situations: In tribal, international and social situations the groups involved in benign counter-action policies and practices are frequently institutionalized as groups, especially when the issues are relatively non-controversial. Well known examples in a variety of fields would be the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Christian Children's Fund (CCF), the Sierra Club, Amnesty International, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Peace Corps, the Literacy Volunteers of America (LVA), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Red Cross. Many similar organizations abound around the world.

(8d) Healthy teenage and adult management: The term "management" is not really applicable at this level. However, it should be pointed out that educational policies in schools, in colleges and on the internet that make young people and adults aware of benign counter-action organizations, their objectives and their work, may encourage participation in the groups that interest them, even if it only as a dues-paying member. 

(8e) Adult therapy: Because the participants at the benign counter-action level of aggressive problem solving are already at a mature stage of adult development there is no real need for therapy as traditionally understood. Even so, because not all therapy is concerned with immature individuals some mature people may ask for counseling in order to discover which of the numerous benign counter-action niches is a best fit. In this respect many people tend to champion causes that embrace the kinds of problems from which they themselves have suffered at some time in their lives. In adulthood, their choice is often determined by a serious illness or disability they have experienced, such as breast cancer, AIDS, addictions, or a spinal injury.

 

9. DEDICATED COMPASSIONATE PREVENTION LEVEL OF AGGRESSIVE

    PROBLEM SOLVING (Highest level of mature adult development)

(9a) Developmental age-related phase: At the dedicated compassionate prevention level of aggressive problem solving the emphasis (of those rare individuals who achieve it) is not only to eradicate the long-term psychological and social root causes of conflict, but also to bring about an upward shift in all our minds by raising them to new highly compassionate world-view based on the oneness of the human race. Many of the world's great spiritual and philosophical teachers operated on this dedicated compassionate prevention level of aggressive problem solving. Each of these human teachers had dedication, courage, and loving perseverance, all of which are very, very refined forms of aggression. At this level of human functioning there is no ego operating in the wholly compassionate individual.

(9b) Pathological effects of "punishment:" Although this word is still not very appropriate we will keep it for consistency. The only "punishment" received by some great spiritual and philosophical teachers has been condemnation and physical execution by their Governing Authorities who were afraid the teachings would undermine their authority over the population. Socrates (see D5) and Jesus (see D1) are two obvious examples. However, "sacrifice" of this nature is by no means essential to such leaders; for example, the Buddha died a natural death in his eighties (see D2).

(9c) Tribal, clan, international and social situations: One might say that dedicated compassionate prevention with transformational solutions to humanity's problems and conflicts has almost never occurred at an overall tribal or national level, although one possible exception might be King Asoka of India after his own spiritual transformation on a battleground of slaughter, an event that occurred around 300 BC. Asoka promptly established a peaceful Kingdom founded on compassion, true justice, righteousness, religious tolerance and happiness for all. Many modern countries and organized groups give constitutional lip-service to these principles while, in fact, ego-conflicts, inequities and injustices abound.

Many tribal, social and group problems occur because, over time, an organization that was originally dedicated to compassionate transformational solutions, is soon taken over by leaders whose egos operate on a lower level of aggressive problem solving thus causing the groups to similarly regress. Such organizations inevitably splinter into conflicting ego-cliques, sects or factions, as the Vision of the original Compassionate founder becomes distorted and selectively misinterpreted.

(9d) Healthy adult management: Not applicable at this level.

(9e) Adult "therapy:" Interest in philosophical, psychological and spiritual teachings has increased steadily since the mid-twentieth century and there is now a vast literature on these subjects. There are also numerous dedicated groups out there with the purpose of "raising human consciousness" to the level of desiring compassionate prevention solutions for all our individual and group problems and conflicts.

Not all of these spiritual writings and groups are recent because there have been a few enlightened individuals in different places in the world in almost every generation. Of course, there have been many imposters as well, but my emphasis here is on the genuine ones of whom it has been said, "It is by their fruits that you will know them." And there are a few groups who have managed to adhere fairly  closely to the original tenets of their enlightened founders.

 

THE IMPLICATIONS…

For the individual: Those of us who are already teenagers or adults can determine to examine our own egos as honestly as possible in order to discover where any blocks exist in our own minds, blocks to the on-going maturation of our aggressive problem solving drive. As self-responsible individuals, each of us must start moving ourselves up the growth ladder by unblocking our minds first, and by not being concerned with unblocking those around us unless (a) they ask, and (b) we have the therapeutic skills to help them. We can keep moving up through all the maturational levels if that is our firm intent. Some of us may need to seek therapy while others of us may accomplish much growth on our own through reading, insightful journaling, ego-dismantling (see G04) and meditation (see G01). The adoption and dedicated practice of a tested spiritual path will also help tremendously. All spiritual paths meet at the Center. It is important to realize that, while the maturation of the aggressive problem solving drive may take years to accomplish, miracles of growth do happen if we truly want them.

For families with children: Most parents will need to start with the above recommendations for individuals in order to start clearing out their own blocks, but this does not preclude introducing a new policy of helping their children mature in accordance with the principles and practices outlined on this Web Page. Children, too, may take some time to work the ego-blocks to aggressive problem solving growth out of their minds, and much patience on the part of all the adults in their lives is needed to help them grow emotionally. In this respect remember that double standards are particularly insidious.

One ingredient (among others) is essential to this maturational process; the children must be loved; they must feel and know they are loved. Moreover, that love must be unconditional and never traded for good behavior. Of course, this does not mean children can behave in untrained, antisocial ways, and if you are puzzled by this statement re-read this entire Web Page. Never say, "I love you but I do not love what you are doing!" because this splits them into two pieces. Always adopt a positive training program and loving relationship that will move them up through the levels gently. Seek professional help if nothing you do seems to work. But find a family therapist or child counselor who believes that Love is the most important attribute of Life.

For nations, tribes, clan, international groups, and social organizations: This is a huge topic, one which can be touched on only briefly here. Suffice it to say that the attitudes, beliefs and characteristics of the leaders of any country, organization or group (whether elected or not) largely determine the aggressive problem solving level on which that country, organization or group will operate. While there is some truth in the saying that, "Every country, organization or group gets the leaders it deserves," there have been many instances around the world where (at different times) a very capable compassionate leader has preceded or succeeded a less capable lower aggressive problem solving level leader. Some, like Asoka, have switched levels in mid-stream. But, by and large, the maturational problem solving level on which a country, organization or group (including its leader) operates is determined by the level of maturity of its people, citizens or members.

 

THE ANSWERS ARE ALREADY KNOWN: In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that we already have all the answers to every problem, and that usually these answers are fairly obvious to those who truly wish to seek for them and find them. I would only add that it is our ego-fear and its flip-side infantile anger that prevents us from acknowledging these known answers—let alone implementing them.

 

 

Loving Oneness Now -- Copyright © 2007 Alexander Bannatyne, PhD

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