Understanding Aggressive and Defensive Behaviors

 In Self Management

“Where wisdom is called for, strength is seldom effective.” (Heroditus – 425BC)

Understanding Change is a unique perspective to behaviour management where focus is on the development of insight into the variables that create our stresses so that there is less tendency to resort to defensive behaviours when we are confronted by undesirable events or disagreeable people.

This approach is unique because it does not attempt to redirect, suppress, or treat the aberrant behaviour. Rather, it educates you to approach your stresses with greater insight by

  • being alert to the variables in existing conditions that may introduce new stresses.
  • developing the desire to increase awareness in preference to the pursuit of survival,
  • learning to communicate more effectively by understanding that when other people appear to say something contentious, it is usually because they did not express themselves appropriately or the observer may have misinterpreted their intent,
  • learning to be more tolerant when another person is defensive by understanding that the defensive response is a weak attempt to protect self when a stress is too large or an expectation too unattainable.

When you know and can accept this, you become better able to nip a problem in the bud before it becomes an insurmountable stress rather than try to apply yet another tactic that can fail when a new stress comes along.

The Components of Behaviour

Everyone responds to the stresses and challenges of life with two personal assets, the intellectual or knowledge-based component, and the physical or action-based component. Together, sometimes augmented by external attachments, these make up the person`s self-image.

The Intellectual Component is driven by reason using past experience and the information of present perception. This ability to comprehend the components of a stress makes it more manageable and the approach to it more confident.

The Physical Component is driven by the fight, flight, and surrender instincts. These can be easily identified as the attempts to achieve balance using

  • Aggression – reducing the strength of the opposition (fight),
  • Evasion – withdrawing from the challenge (flight), or
  • Accommodation – giving in to the demands of the stress by extending or augmenting action resources (surrender).

Appropriate Behaviour

When the Intellectual Component comprises the greater part of Self-Image, behaviour is proactive and appropriate to the level of the stress. Self-Image here is secure, confident and strong.

Yet, the Physical Component can still be applied appropriately when driven by the intellect. To wit,

  • Aggression – decisive manoeuvring, focused imposition, creative manipulation
  • Evasion – deferral, studied disinterest, preferred diversion
  • Accommodation – appeasement, social positioning,

Inappropriate Behaviour

When the Physical Component comprises the greater part of Self-Image, behaviour is reactive and, in new or disruptive conditions, can be inappropriate to the level of the stress. Then Self-Image is insecure or weak.

The Physical Component becomes the greater part of the Self-Image when the Intellectual Component is small relative to the stress. This occurs when the knowledge base is poorly developed; when it is inaccessible because of illness, exhaustion, or drug use; or when it is irrelevant to existing conditions. Then,

  • Aggression becomes so forceful that your actions can be revealed as violence, anger, or inconsideration. You may even feel the need to augment it with the use of tools or other people as instruments of manipulation, or even as weapons.
  • Accommodation can allow the physical component to be so stretched that your body`s organ systems are distorted and disease results. You may also strain material and social supports experiencing rejection or loss when you push them to the extreme.
  • Evasion may become total irresponsibility or the preferred indulgence in simple pleasures like partying, gambling. In addition, you may be drawn to the use of drugs or alcohol that will facilitate withdrawal or provide cheap thrills.

Diagnosing Inappropriate Behaviour

Whenever you become drawn into an inappropriate behaviour, you are really revealing a need to depend on physical or even material/social resources in preference to intellectual resources to manage that stress. Then, it can be foolhardy to focus on punishing, treating, or replacing the physical component. Its manipulation cannot compensate for an inadequate Sense of Self. Any attempt to use one of these tactics can only leave you with the same weak Self-Image but without a familiar defence. The next stress will cause you to reach for the same physical response or to introduce a replacement that is no more appropriate.

Treating Inappropriate Behaviour

The first consideration is to acknowledge that you really do not have a more intelligent solution under the circumstances in which you presently operate. You are using defensive solutions only because you are relying on the material or physical component to assume the more important role. From this, it is natural to assume that the spiritual/intellectual component needs expansion. Since this is composed of stored experiences and present perception, there is a need to establish a more disciplined approach to the stresses. That is, you need to focus your efforts on building and activating the more competent intellectual option. Discipline is necessary to be able to examine the variables in any uncomfortable stress, and use the information to evoke past experiences and stimulate new ones.

Why self-discipline is important

The person with a limited or poorly accessible Intellectual Component is understandably one who may not have had the opportunity or the encouragement to confront stresses appropriately at a developmental stage. For, example, the child who was exposed to limited stresses with limited guidance would not have developed the discipline to explore what was not available. The one who was over-indulged would not have been inclined to face imposed stresses because there was little pressure to do so. Finally, the child who faced too many stresses at an early stage would have been inclined to rely on physical resources because that is the only strength that would have been developed at that stage to reach a level of success or escape the experience of feeling violated.

The Understanding Change Approach to Teaching Self-Discipline
The Understanding Change approach offers a model for teaching self-discipline using a series of scientific and logical arguments to impress three separate facts.

The first is that change occurs constantly. It is not the result of an unfair exposure to a stress, the unjustified action of another person, or the unexpected weakness from an illness. Rather it is the often-unpredictable precipitation of natural activities from the material world, the biological body and the mind of other people.

The second is that the human mind is highly flexible, more than is the body even with its social and material extensions. It, however, must be driven by the desire to be stimulated by the stresses that are beyond present understanding.

The third is that we are not here to discover an implausible niche, build a better world, or surrender ourselves to life. Instead, we are here as intelligent minds with the mandate to grow, expand and become energized by the challenges we face and people from whom we can learn.

By accepting the inevitability of change and the complete requirement of the human being to grow from change, you learn how to address existing stresses with reason rather than resentment. You learn to approach new stresses with flexibility and the desire to understand the stress before responding to it.

This shift of reliance from physical attributes to the more flexible mental attributes allows you to effect a progressive shift to self-controlled management. Dysfunctional behaviour and unhealthy moods are reduced by attrition as stresses are more rationally managed. This approach has very low recidivism, requires limited supervision and is can initiated through self-teaching rather than having to rely too heavily on the presence of highly trained professionals.