Posts Tagged With: aggression

The Broken Geek

One of the most confusing and disturbing aspects of the crisis in Geek and Gamer culture is the way that we seemed to have turned upon ourselves. After decades of being the untouchable class, geeks and gamers now have been given a seat at the table. Geeks and gamers are now being pandered to by the economy and media as the new rising social class. There are hundreds of conventions a year drawing thousands of geeks and gamers. The change has become so stark that term “geek” is now no longer an insult on the playground, but has become a popular way to self identify. And yet, in the face of this social victory, there has been a disturbing reaction that has caused geeks to become their own oppressors. Trolling has become a recreational activity, online harassment has become both prevalent and so severe to include threats of violence, and the geek community itself has members testing other members in some sort of geek purity campaign.

What is so confusing about this is that many of us took our experiences of insult, ridicule, and social prosecution as a lesson of the injustice that exist in the world. We faced the darkness and saw that it was fundamentally wrong. Bit it seems that others have looked at the wrongs committed against us and used it as the “how to” manual for using their new found status. Instead of learning from the injustice, they sought to perpetuate it.

There have been attempts to understand where this aggression comes from. The frequent gender based content of a lot of the harassment has lead many to assume the cause of the problem lies within a deep seated misogyny. However, similar attacks seem to occur wherever a justification to make an attack can be found, not just along gender lines. So it may be the apparent misogyny is symptomatic of a larger compulsion to find reasons to attack, but not the causal factor itself. Others have proposed that there is a basic sociopathy or rampant narcissism in play. Both those diagnosis involve a deficit of empathy and a tendency to lash out when their image is threatened, but there are problems with this as well. While the competitive aspect of the gamer subculture may attract more sociopaths than may be seen in larger society, the ability to win games should also satiated their their primary drive. Also, the violence of the sociopath is instrumental, not randomly or generally applied. Sociopaths usually use violence as a means to a goal and there is not a clear endgame to the harassment seen. Similarly, even though the attacks often do include and aspect of narcissistic reaction, anyone can lash out narcissistically, but since the primary goal of a narcissist is to gain social achievement, the degree of destructiveness does not fit either because it works against that achievement of esteem.

So what does fit?

If we want to understand the motivations for aggression we need to take into consideration the effects of the aggression that geeks have been facing for decades.  In response to the chronic social persecution, for instance, many geeks may have adapted by internalizing the “badness” and seek to prove themselves “good” to avoid future rejection, creating a depression that may have emerged and may be expressed in the themes prevalent in geek media.  In addition to this, there is another personality structure that also seeks to deal with a “badness” that the world has impressed upon them. But instead of internalizing the “badness” and trying to defeat it from within, this second structure works to externalize the badness and defeat it wherever it may exist outside in the world.

This is the personality structure of the paranoid.

The classic picture of the person who is paranoid is one where he believes the world is out to get him. This, however,  is a gross simplification. In the actual personality structure of the paranoid individual, the person is constantly aware of a “badness” that is ever present due to feelings of shame, confusion, sadness, anger, etc. The person cannot tolerate the idea that this the “badness” originates within himself, so he perceives the badness as existing outside somewhere. He begins to use a psychological mechanism known as “projection” that causes him to seek out and find something outside to make the source of the badness felt inside. Paranoid people need to destroy the “badness” that is always there, because if they cannot fight it outside, they then have to deal with the reality the sense of “badness” is actually coming from within them.

There are several characteristics of the classic paranoid personality structure that are seen in the behaviors of many of the harassing parties. Paranoid individuals, for instance, are hyper focused on the motives of others, usually putting onto individuals very negative and aggressive motives for their behaviors. When it comes to the actions of others, effect and motive are very much confused in these assumptions because of the projection they employ. If a person’s action made paranoid person feel bad, then they must have intended it to feel bad, and therefor they must have intended it to hurt the paranoid person. The badness he feels cannot lie within his perception, it must lie in the aggression of the other. And since the assumption of aggression in others is characteristic of those who are prone to aggressive behavior, such projective mind reading increases the likelihood for the Paranoid person to become aggressive.

Since paranoia is not relegated to the purely “crazy,” a person’s paranoia will come into conflict with their natural drive to reality test. Depending on the level of “badness” they need to dispel, however, this may only lead a person to work hard to prove the rightness of their projected conspiracies. Paranoid people have the ability to construct a seemingly logical defense for the conclusion they made about the people doing them harm, a defense that is to them air tight. It is air tight because it needs to be, because any other conclusion threatens them with a badness inside. What’s more,if you are at any point able to poke holes in their arguments, then you have put them back in a state of crisis, and they will attack you and your motives to negate your argument. They will ignore your argument and assume aggressive motives (“you are just quoting those statistics because you are part of the conspiracy”) or they will ignore your argument and just attack you directly through insult or direct threat.

Paranoid people also try to beat the system at its own game. Due to the humiliation they experienced, they often see the system and authority figures as being oppressive and “bad.” This can create a drive to “win” against the system. When possible, they use technicalities and argue semantics to use the system against itself. But when that does not work, they aren’t above breaking the rules, because the ends justify the means.

Like the depressive personality, the origins of the paranoid personality structure is theorized to lie in a history of ridicule and invalidation. The person may have been the scapegoat used to compensate for the weaknesses in a family or social system. The person could have been frequently targeted for aggression in order to “toughen them up.” The person could have been consistently invalidated, rejected, or even punished for having unwanted feelings or thoughts. In other words, they lived the life of the outcast that often characterizes members of geek culture.The result of this attack and invalidation leads to an assumption that feelings are dangerous and the world itself is inherently threatening.

But does this fit?

We do have some evidence that would support paranoid presentations within this destructive tendencies within geek culture. In the extreme forms you have groups like the Red Pillers who believe that society is secretly controlled by women who are out to dominate men. Factually, this conspiracy does not fit the evidence (women are still underrepresented in government, the wage gap still exists, women are more often the targets for sexual and domestic violence, etc.), but it does have all the makings for a purely paranoid conspiracy. Sexual shame is easy to generate due to a fear of rejection, actual rejection, or just the conflict that occurs as one struggles with having sexual feelings in a very puritanical society. The person will then feel a “badness” generated in relation to the opposite sex, and since the idea of him being bad is intolerable, he will project this badness onto the woman, and then eventually onto women, making them a dark force they have to fight against. The aggression that we see in less organized forms also fits.There is a tendency to attack and “troll” the artistic contributions of others. To a paranoid person, whatever flaws may exist in the work invokes the insecurity and “badness” that he feels because of his own state of imperfection, He attacks the video and its maker viciously because he needs to fight and defeat those external flaws to deny his own internal flaws. Finally, there are the geek purity tests, attempts to prove certain members are not real members of the culture. To them, fake geeks represent a contamination in the system, a “badness” that must be rooted out. These hunted “fake geeks” have manipulative motives attributed to them, suggesting an additional overhanging malevolence.

If this theory is true, then, like the depressive features formerly discussed, the aggression seen in geek and gamer culture is a direct result of the ostracism, ridicule, rejection, and social persecution experienced by members of geek culture. The result of those attacks on the self is an overwhelming and overhanging sense of “badness” that constantly plagues those affected. If the person takes in that “badness”, they become depressed, compulsively striving to prove that they can overcome that “badness” that they can can makes themselves good enough to make sure you don’t reject them again. If the person sends out the badness, then they compulsively have to look for enemies to attack, they have to put that “badness” on someone else and then destroy that person for creating the “badness.” It’s a battle of where to put the badness, either making the self bad, or making someone else bad.

Is there hope?

If this theory turns out to be true, then there is direction towards addressing this problem with in geek and gamer culture. The traditional response is to match aggression with aggression, calling out and attacking those making the attacks themselves. In this model, however, these methods might be escalating the situation, as the paranoid are only feeling more persecuted, and the self persecution of the depressed is likewise being escalated. However, there are also efforts to efforts to provide support to those being targeted and humiliated, and these efforts are good because they can prevent the next generation from falling into the depressive or paranoid spirals. Doing whatever we can to learn to help our fellow geeks get through the harm of a rejecting, persecuting and isolating society without adopting the “badness” could save the next generation from suffering and repeating the harm faced by ours. For those that have taken on the “badness” today, challenging them effectively may be a Herculanean task. But learning to separate behaviors from personal judgment, emphasizing that certain behaviors are wrong, but the people who do them are not inherently bad may soften the blow when challenges need to be made. However, the biggest change we can make would be to begin to attack the notion of the “badness” itself.  To avoid this “badness” the depressive beats himself into perfection, and the paranoid beats the world into perfection, but neither stops to ask if the perfection is a real expectation. Neither thinks to ask if the “badness” is real. Normalizing the conflicts, the discomforts, the urges and the feelings that make up the badness as instead being part of the shared human experience needs to enter the social conversation so that we can teach people to say they are flaws and still loved.Creating the environment where people are safe to lose, safe to screw up, safe to fall on their face, and safe to be embarrassed without being humiliated would reteach our community that there is no “badness” to dispel, just flawed humanity to accept.

Categories: The Broken Geek | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Is Saving the Princess a Confession of Depression within Geek/Gamer Culture?

We often forget the value of returning to the basics. We can get so caught up with what has become so new, popular, or advanced, that we lose track of th basics, and in the process lose track of important and fundamental details, Recently, I was asked to blow the dust off of Nancy McWilliams’ Psychoanalytic Diagnosis for a presentation on the personality structure of the depressive person. As I reviewed the book, that I now regrettably had not touched since my first year of grad school, I was struck by an overlooked detail in the discussion of Geek/Gamer community relations.

With the problems involving geek and gamer culture, the aggression aimed against women goes beyond demeaning jokes and objectification. It has turned to threats of physical and sexual violence severe and specific enough to involve the FBI. There have been a number of ways this aggression has been manifested both directly through acts, and also indirectly through themes that come up in geek and gamer media. One such theme that to be examined is the “Save the Princess” trope. This theme runs through many fantasy games and novels and involves the notion that the hero must quest, and then end of the quest gets the princess (or damsel, or other love object) as a consequence of his success. However, there is a dark side to this tale when seen from the princess’ point of view in that the experience is that of the man purchasing the woman through deed, ignoring the woman’s own choice or needs.

In games, this is just a simple trope, hero gets fulfillment after beating the challenge, and the prewritten character of the princess is happy with the ending. However fantasy and reality are starkly different, and there are severe problems that emerge when the fomer intrudes on the latter. The experience of many women has been that they are being treated as a commodity as a result of the save the princess trope. They experience a demeaning bidding process as men brag or show off in the hopes of getting their attention. What gets lost in this process is an understanding of the woman, her needs, and her desires. This experience leaves her feeling ignored, depersonalized, and treated like a trophy. And when the woman resists being this commodity, she can then become the target of aggressive harassment and threat.

When pointing out this problem, there have been attempts to attribute intent for the effect as the cause for this problem and trope, that boys are intending to commoditize the princesses, and that that is the simple cause and effect. Human motivation is a lot more complicated that that, and so there may be a different explanation. With a problem so real and severe it is understandable to want to jump to such a symptom based diagnosis in order to quickly end the problem. But incomplete formulation and diagnosis is dangerous. You don’t want to keep taking pain killers to reduce a chronic headache and ignore the possibility of a tumor. And so it is always necessary to do a differential diagnosis.

So what if gender issues within geek and gamer culture come from a fundamental cultural depression?

To explore this, let’s first begin with the essential personality structure of the depressed person. The depressed personality is one characterized by an internalized sense of badness brought on by a failure to connect. Somewhere in the person’s development was a traumatic loss, rejection, or abuse, and the pain of that trauma forces the child to choose between seeing the world as being fundamentally unsafe, or seeing themselves as the cause for their pain. For the vulnerable child, the latter is less frightening than the former. The child becomes perpetually angry at himself for his loss, and that anger becomes a profound shame whose intent is to prevent future loss. Preventing future loss and future rejection depends on how good the child can prove he can be. Much of the depressive state comes from an emotional self flagellation aimed at keeping their badness in check. The default state for the depressed person is rejection, and they must beat themselves to perfect to avoid that rejection.

In this context, the save the princess trope is not that the boy is motivated to earn the woman like a commodity, but rather the trope reenacts out the desperate fantasy that he can prove that he can be good enough to not drive people away. Only by completing the quest and proving he is the good enough to be a hero can he make sure the princess won’t reject him.

This depression theory does have other supports within geek/gamer culture. First, there is the the existence of the primary trauma: geek culture is characterized by chronic social rejection and stigma. Next there are the other symptoms of depression that occur stereotypically within geek/gamer culture: the social withdrawal, the unstable sleep schedules, frequent problems with hygiene and self care behaviors, etc. Depressive people tend to idealize and look to connect with the idealized object as a way of disconnecting from their badness, a process that can be seen by the obsession with celebrities, heroic fictional characters, and unrealistically proportioned women. Finally, there is a manifest desire to escape the flawed self as seen by tendency to use games to manifest our idealized selves.

The irrationally aggressive and demeaning behaviors can also be explained within this model. Since the desire to prove themselves as good is a primitive defense against the shame of their inherent badness, having that goodness frustrated or directly challenged results in the person being defenseless against that badness and shame. Left in that raw and vulnerable state, the geek/gamer will lash out at what they perceive as the source of their challenge as a last ditch effort to avoid that shame. They are trying to prove they are not bad, winning the princess would give them proof they are not bad, and if you frustrate that effort, they must make the woman the bad one or else they have to accept the badness they themselves are running from.

If this is the case, if this depression theory is true, then it also has advantages in addressing the problem that the more direct attribution of intention theories don’t have. If the motivation is just that the person is enacting cruelty for the sake of cruelty, then there is no recourse but to fight aggression with aggression, and enact a cycle of escalation with the hopes that you can overpower the evil in the name of goodness. However, the geek/gamer depression model assumes that the cruelty experienced is not intended, but rather it is the side effect of the desire to fight the badness within. Their are more and more realistic interventions available to counter that. Depression is treatable, and community psychology approaches can work to address systemic depression. Depression is often marked by a sense of helplessness, and refocusing in social skill and assertiveness can replace the sense of badness and helplessness with a sense of competence. But on a more interpersonal level, on the level that most people will be able to directly act, we can learn to recognize and empathize with this depression early, and if we can dispel this “badness” proactively, we can keep it from manifesting in the more destructive behaviors. Learning to work acceptance of rejection without shame, challenge the need to perfection, and that one can be flawed and loved can be consciously worked into personal and cultural discussion within geek/gamer media and circles to break the cycles before they escalate into the aggression manifests the problems we see today.

Categories: The Broken Geek | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Aggression and Assertiveness Part III: The Aggressive/Passive Cocktails *Updated 10/2/14*

Because aggression and passivity have severe costs along with whatever benefits they carry, and because the world is never strictly black or white, people are rarely polarized as purely passive and purely aggressive. Bullies have often been victims of bullying or abuse themselves, and the fears they have about being victims if they are not aggressors tend to come from experiences being the victims themselves. In addition, people often are aware that aggression is not socially acceptable, so they work to hide their aggression to make it more “politically correct.” Finally, people are not always capable of being assertive in all situations, as many times the environments have unfair power imbalances that force passivity onto people. Because of this, people often see one of two sets of patterns emerge where passivity and aggression are blended: passive-aggressive behaviors and cycles of passivity and aggressiveness

Passive-aggressive behaviors

The first of such mixes is what is known as being “passive-aggressive.” Passive-aggression in its pure form is when someone purposely uses inaction or censors their own thoughts and feelings (passivity) in a way to exert control over a situation (aggression). This can manifest in intentionally forgetting to do things, stubborn refusal, intentional inefficiency, the use of sarcasm to express beliefs, and other forms of inactive defiance. This can also manifest in learned helplessness, where a person refuses to use the abilities they have because they fear they will not work, and they resort to the passivity to get others to do things for them. Finally, there is the emotional passive aggression. This is where a person self censors by denying a negative feeling (passivity) while simultaneously shaming (aggression) someone for causing, or likely not preventing, that same negative emotion.

Even though passive-aggression is not the ideal way to handle a problem, it is also not always negative.  In situations where there are stark power differentials that do not allow for the oppressed group to assert their rights, passive aggressive actions may be the only way to resist abuse or facilitate change. When the assertive answer is not offered and not possible, passive-aggression becomes the best choice of all the bad options. Humor and sarcasm, for example, are also passive-aggressive. In the hands of the oppressed, they are ways to point out their oppression without suffering severe consequences of a censoring hierarchy. In the kings court, as is said, the jester is the only one who can speak the truth. In the hands of the oppressors, the people who have the power to act assertively, they act to reinforce the abuses being committed while simultaneously avoiding the responsibility for that abuse. Jokes about rape provide the clearest example of this effect. In the hands of those who enforce the disastrous status quo, jokes about rape reinforce the mentality and promote the behavior of rape and ultimately promotes the aggression of rape. However, in a world where women are being told they are responsible for preventing their own rapes while less than 6% of rapists will ever see jail time, jokes about rape have also been made to point out these double standards and have become an incredibly powerful tool for building empathy with the struggles of the gender most at risk. It’s not hypocrisy because the difference in gender treatment in our society creates an imbalance of power. If the power situation were equal, if women weren’t being raped more than 5x the rate of men and then being blamed for their own rapes, it would be a different story. But because the ability for women to assert their rights and be heard and taken seriously is limited due to the gender inequality, this passive aggressive tactic is appropriate.

But passive-aggression still relies on aggression and passivity. Though it can be a powerful tool for change in the hands of the oppressed, it is still not the best tool, but rather the best choice of a set of bad options. When passive-aggressive tactics start to arise, it either means that one group has been so disenfranchised that they don’t have ways to assert themselves to have their needs met, or it means that a group can assert themselves, but they know their need is not appropriate. In the former, the passive-aggressive behavior is a symptom of a larger problem in the environment. In the former, the power imbalance is such that people cannot successfully use assertive techniques, and so the system needs to be modified to give people back their equal standing so that there are better options beyond passive-aggression. In the latter, however, the people employing passive-aggressive behaviors have the power to be assertive, know they have the power, but are choosing to be aggressive instead. Because they know they are being aggressive, and that aggression is not accepted, they mask it with passive-aggression to avoid responsibility.  Answering the latter involves tearing away that mask to point out the aggression.

Passivity and Aggression cycles

Where passive-aggressive behaviors can sometimes be the only way for the disempowered to act, the cyclical behaviors of passivity and aggressiveness are generally both self-destructive and destructive to others. The passivity and aggression cycle occurs when a person becomes passive until a problem, frustration, or resentment builds up to the point where that person then explodes in a cathartic but aggressive act of physical or emotional violence. The person can be self censoring (“I should not be upset” or “I am bad if say what I think or feel”) or they can feel the censorship is imposed (“I can’t say that because it is not politically correct,” or “If I hit him/her now, I will go to prison, so I have to suck it up.”) Because the problem does not get addressed, this creates a cycle of passivity and resentment that builds until the person cannot take it anymore or can find a reason to justify an aggressive response. The person lashes out releasing the pent up resentment and frustration, and that release becomes more important than the actual problems that cause it.

For some people, this is the case of the straw that breaks the camel’s back. The blow up is then regretted and leads to a sense of shame that causes the person to repress their feelings more. This feeds the cycle, and the person represses and blows up and represses again. This person becomes bitter, angry, and high strung. In many situations, there are real issues that are oppressing this person, but instead of addressing the very real problem, they repress and avoid it. The problem is left to fester, and they end up destroying their relationships and hurting others as they continue to avoid the problem. When addressing bullying in schools, this is the pattern that Stuart Twemlow saw in many teachers. The teachers were themselves being being bullied but administration, pressured by parents, and regularly dealing with student defiance. They let the the resentment build up until they found a student or instance of class wide misbehavior, and then would unleash with ridicule or other forms of targeted aggression. The teacher had real problems he or she felt powerless to address, and would “suck it up” until he or she reached the point of explosion. The problem never got solved, many children were abused emotionally, and other children were taught by example that bullying behaviors were acceptable.

This pattern becomes darker when the liberation or narcissistic gratification that came from the blow-up is itself rewarding. Lashing out can give people a sense of control and power. Lashing out becomes its own tool with several secondary gains including the ability to be aggressive and controlling while avoiding responsibility. This is the cycle of “gotcha” aggression. In gotcha aggression, the person knows the aggression they want to enact is not appropriate or acceptable. Because of this, the person actively seeks out reasons to unleash their attacks onto the target. In their minds they cannot be held responsible for their aggression if they can blame their target for the violence unleashed upon them. “Ha! Gotcha! Now I can do whatever I want to you!” This is the aggression seen often in domestic violence, where one partner waits for reasons to attack another just so they can make the controlling aggression the victim’s fault. The broken plate or spilled coffee is met with a beating because it never was about the plate or coffee, it was just about absolute obedience. The recent gamergate fiasco is a perfect example of this as well. The controversey was fabricated by an angry ex who wanted to exert control over his ex girlfriend. The men involved had a history of highly sexist and woman hating speech on internet message boards. The target was a woman who was starting to become powerful in the gaming community. The result was a campaign of death threats, rape threats, and doxing, all justified by a conspiracy that was all founded on the accusations of an angry ex. The accusations were fabricated, but even if they were true, they did not justify the abusive level of aggression that was used in response. But that is because with aggression, it never is about the problem or solving the problem.

*Update 10/2/14 – Aggression by Proxy*

After I first published this post, I realized there was a third way people blend passivity and aggressiveness: aggression by proxy. Aggression by proxy is a symbiotic aggression and passivity collusion. In this dark partnership, one individual enacts the aggression, and others cheer on his or her action. Those cheering on the aggression get all the rewards of the aggression, such as the feelings of power and control, the cathartic release of resentment and frustration, etc, but they bare none of the responsibility for the actions that are taken on by another. The aggressor, meanwhile, enjoys the protections of the masses who will come together to absolve the aggressor of his or her crimes.It’s not just the bully on the playground beating the kid in many situations because there is also often a throng of accomplices who hoot and holler, egging on the violence without directly enacting it. Modern cyber-bullying thrives on this form of aggression. The primary bully is the one who posts the humiliating video, but every person who shares and makes a humiliating comment feeds the efforts of the primary bully and does so without fear of reprisal.

Next: assertiveness.

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Aggression and Assertiveness Part I: What is aggression?

Due to trends in therapy, and also due to the trends that have been manifesting in many social topics I have been writing about, the themes of aggression and assertiveness have been becoming increasingly salient. But one of the things I have discovered in this process is that aggression is an incredibly murky topic to discuss in the common culture. In practice, we seem to think about aggression the way we think about pornography:

  1. we can’t quite define it, but we know it when we see it.


  1. Many people are proud of their indulgence in it, Many people abhor it, and many people pretend to abhor it while keeping it their dirty little secret

One of the consequences of all the myths and lack of clarity on aggression is that we have become very good at identifying what we think is aggression in others but are very good at denying it in ourselves. This trend has become both dangerous and counterproductive in common discourse, as it has not only served to propagate myths and misconceptions, but has both blinded people to their own aggression that thwarts their own efforts to make needed changes, and also turns the conversation about aggression into a weapon of aggression itself.

Since I will be discussing aggression, passivity and assertiveness in depth in the future, it is prudent that I spend some time defining the concepts for this future use. For reference, the information I am using is drawn from the Assertiveness skills training material I use with my clients in therapy as designed by Dr. Fiona Michel and Dr. Anthea Fursland of the Centre for Clinical Interventions as well as the research by Stuart Twemlow on bullying.

So what is aggression?

Aggression in its primitive form is attacking something seen as a threat. When someone is coming at you with a knife, it is appropriate to respond with physical violence (aggression) if there are no other ways to protect yourself. However, very few incidents that a person will encounter are as directly life threatening as the above example, but people seem to be aggressive none the less. According to Michel and Fursland, aggression can be defined as a means of having wants and needs met or expressing thoughts and feelings in ways that ignore or violate the rights of others. Physical aggression can be easily identified, as it often involves the use or threat of violence to get what the person wants. Nelson beating up Bart for his lunch money is a clear and simple act of aggression. It’s when you get past the physical manifestation that things start to get fuzzy. While some forms of verbal aggression, like mockery and humiliation and threats are also easily identified, other forms, such as blaming, labeling, and even using phrases like “should” and “ought” are so commonplace that they don’t often register as aggression. At the heart of aggression are a few core beliefs and cognitive patterns.

First and foremost is that aggressive people assume aggression in others. The reason that they are able to justify aggressive and often violent actions is that they really believe that everyone else is ready to do the same violence to them. This often causes them to believe that the only way to get ahead is by being aggressive and pushing others down, leading to more abusive behaviors. This also causes them to be on guard, seeing potential threats everywhere, and reacting violently to such potential threats, even if no real threat was present. It is important to understand this core assumption because also shows that aggressive people aren’t necessarily evil or sadistic people, often they are scared, confused, or desperately frustrated. It is also important to understand this because this belief is what causes a lot of resistance that arises when people try to address aggression. When aggressive people are told not to be aggressive, they believe they are being forced into an unfair handicap, because they assume everyone else is going to be aggressive towards them while they are being told to do nothing and be vulnerable to attack.

Second, aggressive people are highly blame oriented. When a problem arises, the issue becomes about who is wrong, not what it wrong. Because of this aggressive individuals tend to focus on finding blame, they are prone to making character judgments. Combine that with the afore mentioned assumption of aggression in others, and you often find they engage in mind reading cognitive distortion in which they accuse others having thoughts, feelings, and motives that are aggressive or blame focused. Aggressive people will often tell you what you are thinking and feeling, and it is always negative and very often not true.

Aggressive individuals tend to externalize problems. This is also consequence of their blame orientation and assumption of aggression. If the source of a problem comes from the aggressive individual, then to admit that is to admit not only badness, but also vulnerability and weakness. The source of a problem must always come from the outside, and because it is always outside, the person is just reacting to it and the problems it causes. This assumption absolves responsibility for bad decisions and behaviors, because someone else always made them do it.

Finally, aggressive people tend to confuse opinion and fact. Because aggressive individuals are so prone to judgment and blame, they cannot allow themselves to be wrong, because they would then have to turn that judgment upon themselves. As a result, their beliefs need to be unassailable, inarguable, and absolute, because of they can be challenged, then the person is vulnerable. People need to agree with their beliefs, and if they cannot agree, then that person must be judged and dehumanized so their disagreement won’t matter. The words “should” and “ought” roll off their tongues reflexively. This is not the same as being argument prone, because one can be able to assertively defend a strongly held belief. Rather, this is a desperate lashing out that will not end until the threat to their ideas is destroyed in character and spirit.

Next: Defining Passivity

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