What is violence?
When you hear the word “violence,” what comes to mind? Murder and mayhem movie and t.v. shows? War? Gunshots fired, fists flying, wrestling, body slams? Bruised and bloody faces after an escalating argument?
Wars overseas… or gang bangers in some other town?
Enjoy some synonyms for violence:
Merriam Webster Thesaurus has a whopping 183 synonyms for violence… So many ways to describe what’s rampant throughout the world, throughout history.
In our own neighborhoods, inside and outside homes down the street from our house.
Maybe even in your house.
I Handled It Wrong For So Long
I don’t remember exactly what set my dad off. Probably me “mouthing off” again, defiant words flying out of my mouth. Usually the worst reaction was Dad yelling or raising his fist above my face, but this time he started kicking and screaming and coming after me.
After a couple kicks hit, I fled to my room and shut the door. I threw myself onto my bed and sobbed. And quietly raged every cuss word I could think of into my pillow.
I learned during my childhood to go along to get along. To keep my mouth shut. To blindly obey, knowing otherwise the rage would come, be it slamming pots and pans in the kitchen (my mom’s response), or my dad’s angry outbursts. Over time my contrary ideas or attitudes dissolved or burned buried deep inside, while I let the person in power – boss, strong-willed friend, husband… have the final say.
I had no idea what to do with violence. So I hid and tried my best to keep everyone around me from getting mad at me. Co-dependency much? Oh yes. All day, every day. For years. I mean, if you’re small and weak, what else can you do? We’ll get to that. But first…
Some Helpful Definitions
- behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.
Okay, a good start. It’s primarily a person’s behavior, how they act out what started inside, with destructive intentions. There’s a continuum in the violence spectrum. And it’s fueled by what’s inside: varying levels of aggression. So, what’s aggression?
- hostile or violent behavior or attitudes toward another; readiness to attack or confront:
We see there’s a behavior element in aggression but there’s more to it than that; it’s a readiness to attack. See it as the fuel in the powder keg of a violent person.
Aggression can be overt or covert. Overt? Picture the guy giving full vent to rage, screaming, throwing things around, you get the idea. The person’s unhinged and they’re acting out. You’re blasted by their explosion. Covert? Ah, the eyes blazing daggers into you (cue Heart’s 80’s hit “If looks could kill, you’d be lying on the floor…”), simmering anger, red face, you get the idea.
So violence and aggression go hand-in-hand. I think it’s safe to say aggression can and often does lead to violence. And violence stems from aggression.
Aggression may occur with or without provocation. Basically the person gets triggered, and you get an unregulated explosion.
Pulling Out the Shrapnel
Violence takes so many forms and whatever name we want to give it, and we have to look it in the eye. If we really think about it, most of us experienced violence in some way or another, too close up and personal, aimed at us and/or someone we care about. We carry wounds from so many acts perpetrated against us, so many we may not even realize are there.
Many of us heard loud fights, parent versus parent when they thought we were asleep. We’ve been on the verbal and physical receiving end of out-of-control parents, siblings, relatives, classmates. Some of us (I’m sad to confess) turned the violence we received outward and verbally and physically lashed out at the ones weaker than ourselves. The roots of bullying run deep…
And some of us had to flee from an intimate partner who seemed so nice until they got what they wanted. Then their hands turned hard.
Fair warning: as you come out of being passively controlled by aggressive and/or violent people, they may project their own aggression onto you. Like a woman who gets accused of being “too aggressive” by the abuser because she finally speaks up for herself instead of getting steamrolled – again – by the one in her life who’s always gotten away with it before.
Believe it or not that’s a good thing, because you refuse to be anyone’s doormat anymore, and you’re finally setting some healthy boundaries.They just don’t get it. They always got away with mistreating you before, because aggression is a form of intimidation. And you used to cower.
You’re finally being assertive, which is where we all actually want, and need, to be. And we can get to the point where we’re okay with people not getting it, because we’re learning to take care of ourselves no matter what they think.
Let’s Put Violence In Its Place
In the last few blogs, we chose to accept the reality of violence, and we explored how to cultivate a strong stance. We backed that up by discovering where our center of gravity is located and how to use it to our advantage.
Now let’s talk about putting violence in its place.
Let’s start exploring how to stop it before it gets out of hand, and hands – or worse – start flying.
First we drain violence of its power over us. We learn to assess and take charge of the situation. We learn to calm ourselves and enter a state of peace inside. To hack our own nervous systems so we can use our training effectively.
In a tense situation, there’s a continuum – from quietly talking to a person to taking them to the ground and finishing them. And a whole lot of steps in between. We want to neutralize the person and the situation as close to the nonviolent solution side as possible. But we also need to train at every escalation level or we’re gonna be the one on the ground.
How We Do It:
We begin calmly, a Tigress’ growl, if you will. A warning wrapped in a calm and calming tone. If that doesn’t work we gradually raise our intensity and volume until the situation’s handled or a physical intervention neutralizes them.
Having already identified escape routes, we move into the best position to calm the person, identify if others are involved, and use our hands and stance to back up our voice with our body language. Our aim is to help them decompress, but we’re prepared to use our hands to neutralize them, as needed.
We ignore their words, instead assessing their emotions and movements, watching for “tells” of their potential for violence. Where are their hands? How close are they? Are they coming closer? We want to be ready for whatever they may do, so we can stop it before anybody gets hurt.
Now I’m only giving you a teaser here, because next week’s blog is about de-escalating a situation. Besides, if I gave you all the tricks of our trade, why would you bother coming to class? And we really want to see your smiling face come through our door. So when you’re ready to train, you know where to find us. We look forward to seeing you.
In the meantime watch this space. It’s gonna be good.
Let’s Bring This Home
Violence takes many forms and if you haven’t faced it, you’re going to.
So we choose to be wise.
Because face it, this messed-up world isn’t getting any better, and there’s no indication it ever will.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is, we don’t have to be victims of violence anymore. We can empower ourselves, growing from right here and now, joining a sisterhood of women warriors who refuse to become a statistic.
We can choose to take back what’s been stolen, and go and grow from here.
We can train and keep on training, so if violence comes our way we can quickly and effectively stop it.
We decide to do what most never think they could, and instead of letting the offender win, we defeat them.
For good. Not for perpetuating violence, but stopping it – for good comes from that, good that never would’ve happened if someone – me – you – didn’t step up and do something about it.
And yes, it’s not just a fun night or morning to hang out with the girls and exercise (though God knows being physically fit is important).
It’s about warrior training. It’s about being – and staying – prepared, so we can defend ourselves and those we love.
The aggressor loses. Violence shrinks back. And we stand strong.