Saturday, May 5, 2012

Personal Observation - Violent Instincts?

I tend to think of myself as relatively evolved, i.e., I walk upright, I speak in complete sentences (usually), and I do not solve problems with violence. Well, that last one should include "anymore" at the end because when I was young, I did solve problems with violence. Somewhere around the end of my teens and the beginning of my 20s, I stopped using my fists and began using my brain.

Looking back at my youth, I tend to see those violent days as a manifestation of being taught by my father that the only way to deal with bullies was to beat the crap out of them. BUT, I was never to be a bully myself - and no matter what she did, I was never to hit a girl.

There was also the serious influence of peers who fought on the playground to determine alpha status. We never really hurt each other, it was more like wrestling the other other person into submission. Violence seemed to be a cultural norm, even though I was suspended from school a couple of times for fighting.

As an adult, I thought I had outgrown that desire to hurt people.

Recently, however, a very unstable person has inflicted serious chaos and uncertainty (possible loss of livelihood as a worst-case outcome) into the life of someone I care about very much. And the unstable person has recruited otherwise sane people in the quixotic quest to hurt my friend.

I was rather disturbed that my first impulse was a desire to hurt this person. Obviously it's something I would never do, but the thought arose and sat there in my awareness almost mocking me. It seemed to be saying, "This is who you are - there is no escaping your true nature."

Before you conclude that I myself am less than stable, please be assured that I do not hear voices, nor do I see invisible people. But I do try to dialogue with thoughts and feelings sometimes, which is part of a psychological process called disidentification.

OK then, I was left wondering if the desire that arose in me is a leftover from my youth, or if it is something hard-wired into males as the "protectors" of the tribe. Are men, in general (and obviously not all men), hard-wired to protect those they care about with violence? Is this a part of our genetic heritage?


But we also have the option to see these impulses as objects of awareness and not be identified with them, not be compelled to act them out. Clearly, evolution has endowed us with higher order functions.

I'd be curious to hear from any men who have thoughts on this issue. Does this happen for you? How do you make sense of it?

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