The Bully, Emotions and Abuse: Are Humans Naturally Violent?

Bullies can make you feel that your head is in a vice. Is bullying and aggression normal or right in our society? I do not think so and neither do many other professionals and the public.
Bullies can make you feel that your head is in a vice. Is bullying and aggression normal or right in our society? I do not think so and neither do many other professionals and the public. | Source

Fight or Flight Offers Three Choices.

Emotions & Abuse: Are Humans Naturally Violent?

The concept of "fight-or-flight" is taught in every introductory psychology course as well as many other classes; however, it is taught as an either-or choice, rather than the three pronged opportunity it actually presents.

This concept is the idea that a human being only has two choices when confronted with any threat: 1) to stay and fight it out and WIN in order to reduce the stress presented, or 2) to run away and ESCAPE to reduce the stress presented. Thus, "fight or flight."

A third option is to ignore the threat and this option is often taken by 1) children that do not know about danger and dangerous situations, 2) individuals that have a mental disorder that prevents them from recognizing threat (including Stockholm Syndrome), or 3) an individual trained to ignore a threat through mental and physical techniques. In the animal world, the third option is self-grooming or self-mutilation. In the world, some rodents and other species will begin grooming when they cannot decide to fight or run; or, they might simply chew on their own limbs or tail.

Overpopulation Can Cause Stress

Overpopuation may result in tension, stress, and violence.
Overpopuation may result in tension, stress, and violence. | Source

Anxiety Disorders

DNA and the Emotions

Although humans are genetically programmed with a fight-or-flight choice for survival of the species, they are not inherently violent (APA, 2006; White Ribbon Campaign, 2006). The compelling evidence is that humans fight or are violent only when attacked, stressed, or provoked - or when mentally ill. A species that purveys violence and death against itself is a human anomaly that indicates a problem with mental health and/or societal systems. Further, the American Psychological Association states that violence begins in childhood with childhood maltreatment, or child abuse (APA and Lutzker, 2005). This could also begin within a totalitarian culture and government supervision. More recent findings from 1998-2008 at the Houk Institute in the Midwest find that violent behavior can be instilled in infants, especially during the first 3 months of life, if if violence or severe mental disorders (SMDs) are present in either parent/caregivers that are around the child a substantial amount of time.

As stated on the Santa Cruz IMC website: "'Testosterone poisoning' and ‘boys will be boys' are slang euphemisms that perpetuate the myth that men are ‘naturally violent'" (Bold, 2006). It need not be so.

Bold further states: "Even if men were ‘naturally prone' to violence, they have free will and can choose whether or not to act out violent impulses...Humans are naturally altruistic...It takes a lifetime of conditioning and trauma to make men violent." This opinion is echoed by the website www.sfgate.com: "Military training camps, police academies and even some self-defense pros are constantly searching for more effective methods of suppressing the human revulsion to taking human life..." (Haddock, 2006).

Emotions and Health

Stimulus & Aggression

White Ribbon Campaign totally agrees with these ideas of Bold and Haddock, stating that violence can be learned, and is not genetic: "Studies over the past century have found that half of the tribal societies studied had little or no violence against women, against children, or among men... Violence is something that some men learn. Men's violence is a result of the way many men learn to express their masculinity in relationships with women, children, and other men... Women are not immune from committing acts of violence "(White Ribbon Campaign, 2006). Indeed, aggression in females to the bad and the good has been on the rise since the 1980s and is examined in See Jane Hit. We must also remember that when the population increases to a certain critical mass, violence begins to manifest under the duress of reduced space and resources and the THREAT or possibility of reduced space and resources.

Violence results from stressors and threats that come in many forms. Stress arises when one's basic needs are unmet or under-met long-term, including shelter, food, water, mating, clothing, and autonomy. Even creative outlet and need to do meaningful work can be added to this list in many cases.

Other major stressors arise from all types of abuse that is prevalent in society: verbal, physical, emotional, sexual, financial, religious, and spiritual (APA, 2006; Bold, 2006). Notice that these forms of abuse attack individuals and groups at the point of their basic needs.

Stress also affects abusers if the object of their abuse leaves or they feel that they are losing control of the person(s) they are abusing. All of these factors can lead to violence if unchecked. Additionally, violence results from military training and preparation for war. Further, the use or abuse of alcohol and drugs can result in violence (APA, 2006; White Ribbon Campaign, 2006).

A new feature length animated film released in Spring 2015 is called "Inside Out." It portrays a young girl's emotions as characters at a dashboard in her brain. The story shows how emotions are never "wrong" but can become confused, expressed inappropriately, and finally, channeled to be useful in life.

"Inside Out" - When Emotions Feel Uncontrollable

  • Amy Poehler is Joy at the dashboard of emotions in the early elementary school girl's mind. She fits the part very well.
  • Phyllis Smith is Sadness. She is the enjoyable actress who played Phyllis on "The Office" and I think she can make feel sad if we watch this film.
  • Bill Hader plays Fear, which should be perfect for him, considering the number of times he wonderfully portayed horror film star Vincent Price on Satuday Night Live.
  • Lewis Black can portray anger powerfully, even though in jest ion his routines. So could Jackie Gleason, who would have been hilarious in this role. Jerry Lewis showed us anger in "The King of Comedy" with Robert DeNiro and when Jerry is angry, it's a scary thing to see. Too scary for this film, although I love him.
  • Mindy Kaling is the talented woman from "The Office" and her own show that portrays Disgust.


But wait! Mom also has sadness, and it is portrayed by Lori Alan, who voices Pearl the Whale on "SpongeBob SquarePants."

The director and producers of this film whop to reach children with the message that emotions do not need to run their lives, but can be useful and many can be enjoyable.

Hero in the Hallway! - Preventing Violence

The reality is that the brains of human beings -- unless they fall within the demographic sliver we call psychopaths -- are hardwired not to kill other humans...

— V. Haddock

Evidence From War

Haddock states in 2006: "The reality is that the brains of human beings -- unless they fall within the demographic sliver we call psychopaths -- are hardwired not to kill other humans... That's why military training camps, police academies...self-defense pros are constantly searching for more effective methods of suppressing the human revulsion to taking human life -- virtually rewiring the brain to react first in certain situations with an automatic response to kill " (Haddock, 2006).

Haddock calls this violent reconditioning "killology" and that it is learned, not natural.

In World War II, US soldiers with a clean shot at the enemy actually shot only 1 time out of 5, according to Army historian Brig. Gen. S.L.A. Marshall (Haddock, 2006).

These GIs dodged bullets and rescued fellow soldiers, but mostly refused to fire on the enemy. The US government demanded more killing in battle, thus fifty-five percent (55%, over half) of our soldiers fired on the enemy in the Korean War. Thus the killing rate increased.

In the Vietnam Conflict, this shooting rate increased to 90%.

Soldiers today train in simulated combat, in behavior modification drills, where the targets are now people-shaped pop-ups that reward points for each hit. These drills are repeated fanatically to create muscle memory and rewire the brain to do violence (Haddock, 2006). The violence is nearly automatic in battle and may need to be, since automatic weapons fire is difficult to dodge.

American and other military and police forces use strict behavior codes and authority figures that give orders to do violence. Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram established that almost two-thirds of people (67%) are willing to administer shocks to others, including a lethal 450 volts, at the order of a scientist in a white lab coat (APA, 2005; Haddock, 2006).

Bully B'ware -- http://www.bullybeware.com

Prevention in Public Health

I agree with the APA in their stance that violence is a serious public health problem that can be prevented (APA, 2005). It is preventable in families through parenting classes when needed, through various public health prevention efforts, in schools K-12 with classes and interventions, and in changes to government policies that promote violence training.

The APA also states about their 2005 publication Preventing Violence: Research and Evidence-Based Intervention Strategies:

"Because evidence shows that a cycle of violence seems to begin with child maltreatment-which includes not only child physical and sexual abuse but also neglect-the contributors examine the possibility of connecting the disparate intervention areas in both research and practice. Contributors often draw on large-scale studies conducted by the government in their discussions of approaches to violence prevention..."

This statement indicates the both the APA and the American government believe that violence is preventable, not natural. I agree with them.

All of this information is substantial in demonstrating that not only is violence:

  • a continuum of behavior beginning with strategic ignoring or neglect, dirty looks, and sarcasm across the long scale up to mayhem, murder (even in self defense), and genocide,

but also,

  • not the norm or average behavior of a healthy human population.

This indicates, therefore, that abuse is violence and is unhealthy, although it may be the norm or average behavior manifested in a stressed population or in a person lacking resources or perceiving threat to its/his existence, status, and power.

One part of the answer is prevention in the form of education early on the lives of parents and children and the education of society at large to recognize cuasation and symptoms of violence and the overarching spectrum of emotional disorders in self and others.

REFERENCES

  • American Psychological Association. APA Help Center. Facts & Statistics. (2006).
  • Bold, Utopia. (2006). Men are not "naturally violent." Santa Cruz IMC.
  • Lutzker, J.R.; Ed; APA. (2005). Preventing Violence: Research and Evidence-Based
  • Intervention Strategies. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
  • The White Ribbon Campaign. (2006). Learn Why Some Men are Violent.
  • Haddock, V. (2006). The Science of Creating Killers: Human reluctance to take a life can be reversed through training in the method known as killology. The San Francisco Chronicle. 8/13/2006.

More by this Author


Thoughts and Resources 20 comments

thegecko profile image

thegecko 8 years ago from San Diego, CA

Based on my studies in college, I think "violence" is not a gender specific trait and is part of the hard-wiring of species, not necessarily against our own members however. I also believe that social factors such as poverty, poor institutions, and other socioeconomic struggles (ie cultural conlficts, access to opportunities) will influence violence. These greater issues need to be addressed.

Do you really believe people are born altruistic?


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

Not altruistic - aside from basic survival-related "violence" in tough times - I believe humans are born neutral.

I mentioned the book SEE JANE HIT, on which I did a review here at Hub Pages and it speaks of rising aggression among females. I have seen equal amounts of aggression among males and females in all the classes that I teach - both academic and martial arts.

I beleive that humans are born with the genetic disposition to survive and this is stronger in some that in others. Beyond that survival fight for food, water and shelter, I think other violence used by humans is a mental illness.

Thanks for the post.


thegecko profile image

thegecko 8 years ago from San Diego, CA

Yeah, also, it depends how you measure the violence... violence is not always physical. I think in the past women have been very violent in more emotional or social ways.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

Yes, I agree with that.


LdsNana-AskMormon profile image

LdsNana-AskMormon 8 years ago from Southern California

Yet another excellent Hub:-)

I am so glad that you present a third option, as to how "humans" respond to a stressful situation. To accept that there are only two options that are exercised, is to place the greatest of all creations - on the level of animals.

Truly, what makes a human-being different from all other living creatures, is that we have the ability to consciously "choose" to act and not be acted upon. Therefore, we have many options in various circumstances.

I believe that depression is the cause of only "feeling" trapped or "buried" or deeply pressed. (stuck) When options and other ways of thinking are introduced to a person that is "stuck" or depressed -- a new world can open up to previous - limited ways of thinking.

Humans love choice -- this is what is natural, needful and available for every human soul.

Very thoughtful article. Thank you.

tDMg

LdsNana-AskMormon

Dugg:-)

http://digg.com/educational/Emotions_and_Abuse_Are...


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

Thanks for the nice comment! I think we can teach children early on to make choices and respond, rather than to knee-jerk react.


Creativita 8 years ago from New York City

Excellent Patty Inglish, MS! In-depth background and practical solutions to a major social problem. Well-researched material. Well-thought-out concepts. Helen (a.k.a. Creativita)


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

Thanks Helen!


In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 8 years ago from California

Patty,

What great insights on the "Fight or Flight" mentality. I too agree that humans are not naturally violent, but choose to be so in some way or another. Emotions come from many different areas, some being learned from experiences from early childhood until adulthood. Controlling emotions, except in the case of mental illness, is something that we as humans are all capable of doing. Great research and wonderful presentation.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

Thanks for commenting, In the Doghouse/ Emotions are complex.


john guilfoyle profile image

john guilfoyle 7 years ago

kudos for a thought provoking hub...altuism....broad concept...if mentally healthy we are definitely cooperative...major component of our encoded survival instinct...so I sense

thought I'd toss in my 2 cents...wanted to lighten my shoes without burdening my pockets...

peace


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

Thank for your comments, John. Cooperation is indeed survival at a basic level imo as well.


Sterling Sage profile image

Sterling Sage 7 years ago from California

Good hub, Patty!


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

Thanks for visiting, SS!


shareitt profile image

shareitt 6 years ago

we definitely have some in-born "issues" however our society can really dominate how we react to situations...having visited places like Peru, China, Brazil...their fight or flight reactions are definitely far different from mine. thanks from hub :)


susanlang profile image

susanlang 6 years ago

Patty, I'm glad I came across this hub story. You covered the topic quite well. What stands out the most for me is the fact that we all have choices in our actions and reactions to how we treat other people. Thank you, well done again.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

shareitt - Cultural differences are interesting, and sometimes a bit confusing as well. I admire teh Canadian ani-bully project called Bully B'ware very much; seems far ahead of US to me.

suslang - Thanks for the comment and posting. We do have choices. Surviving the horrid abuse you endured is proof of determination and choice as well as devine intervention, I think. Everyone should go read your story on HubPages and see.

I wonder how many people are so shocked by unexpected instances of abuse that they are nonplussed and freeze?


Spirit Whisperer profile image

Spirit Whisperer 5 years ago from Isle of Man

Very well written and full of very useful information. I Particularly liked your very well chosen videos. I have added them to my favourites on YouTube. Thank you.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Oh good; I'm happy you find them useful. Thank you, Spirit Whisperer.


haikutwinkle profile image

haikutwinkle 5 years ago

I'd like to think of the third option as the moment of grace or a grace period. Can people really "ignore" how other people made them feel? I think not entirely. Some may choose to react in another time and place, some may have forgotten what they said or being said, some take it too personal, some may take it less personal,etc.

Another thing I noticed about proverbs and philosophies, authors from different cultures offered a unique view on life's difficulties or emotions. It is always a challenge to learn to see from the viewpoint of another culture different from oneself.

Wonderful hub on emotions and humans' choices ;D

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