It is we ourselves who are the "missing link" between the apes and man!
How can a sleeping person wake himself or others? Therefore we must be awake alternately. There must always be someone who has not quite gone to sleep so that he can wake others. The worst that could happen is for you to lean back in self-satisfaction because you think it is enough to read these editorials like some "thought for the day". Please do not confuse reading and studying with working on your own improvement! Theoretical study is one thing, and indeed the precondition, but then personal effort must commence. Each of us must see with his own eyes and catch himself out when he responds like an automaton. Perhaps he will then develop a desire to refrain from being an automaton or a man-machine more and more often.
"Wazawai wa getai ni shozu" says Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of modern Karate: misfortune is always the result of inattention. Inattention means being asleep, in a trance, reacting mechanically, identifying with every little problem, forgetting oneself. Reacting mechanically is the real sin that makes us miss our goal of acting attentively and responsibly.
We must learn to see ourselves as the "missing link" between ape and man, for while we do not have control over ourselves, while we are unable to take responsibility for our actions and while we are unable to act in any other way, we are by no means the pinnacle of creation but merely humans in inverted commas, so-called humans who have not yet claimed their birthright of self-perfection. But lets get on with it; if everything is material then so is time, and perhaps our options are disappearing faster than we think.
Keith R. Kernspecht
P.S.: Observing oneself and taking control over oneself increasingly often is the first step. Many would like to become Masters and bask in the adulation of their obedient “disciples“. But somebody who wishes to command others must first have control over himself – only then can he command real respect. Technical skill is only o n e indispensable requirement for mastery, and by no means the most important! Michael Banse (Berlin) has chosen the topic How should one handle ones aggression? for his 3rd Technician essay, and found his own, personal solution. In his view he is in a favourable starting position for controlling his aggression if he is generally satisfied with himself and his circumstances in life. Please consider these thoughts, and dont forget to have some of your own as well.
Michael Banse: How should one handle ones aggression?
When I decided to write my Technician essay on this subject I was reading the book “Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. This book explains psychological inter-relationships to the layman and encourages the reader to become conscious of his emotions and those of his surroundings. I am a personal protection instructor for the State Police Authority in Berlin and therefore take a professional interest in the mental state of (disturbed?) potential attackers, starting with angry or frustrated citizens and engine with psychopathic loners, stalkers and extremists or terrorists. And also of course in the mental aspects to be considered when training personal protection officers. Accordingly, many of my thoughts on this subject make reference to the propositions in the above book.
First of all we must recognise that emotions such as anger, fear, passion or joy are vital to mans survival. While it was once fear of a large animal that caused man to seek safety by running away or hiding, it is the same fear that nowadays makes us take care when crossing a busy road or cross the street to avoid a group of drunken youths. A value is attached to rational information to determine our actions. Apart from flight, it was also aggression that guaranteed the survival of the species. It was aggression that enabled man to hunt animals = food or defend his territory and species. Nowadays, in todays society, this primeval instinct helps us e.g. to “survive“ in the working environment.
Aggressions help us to prevail in civilised “battle“, i.e. in daily life, to protect our position and pursue our aims energetically. But if we lose control of our emotions, whether out of anger or fear, this aggression lies beyond the bounds of normality. Excessive violence or panic-driven overreactions can be the result. If we want to control our aggression, we must first be aware of it.
Knowing the purpose of emotions and their importance helps us to control them. I know that a normal or controlled level of aggression can certainly be helpful in life, for example as cited above or in sporting competition.
To become aware of my emotional world (not only my aggressions), and with the aim of being able to control it better at some point in the future, I am currently conducting a personality analysis on myself. This means that I am trying to perceive my emotions consciously so that I can evaluate them. What do I feel when what events occur, and how do I respond? Like a silent observer, I try to monitor and analyse the event and my emotional response to it from an outside perspective. I do not judge these as Good or Bad, as negative feelings certainly have every right to exist as well – only the connections with the events that caused them are decisive. The idea behind this is described by Daniel Goleman in his book. By being constantly alert, one can determine the point in time when one becomes consciously aware of ones feelings increasingly sooner. One is no longer overwhelmed by ones feelings so frequently, but may still have a chance of intervening to correct matters. In his books Watch my Back“ and “Fear“, Geoff Thompson likewise describes the advantages of being aware of your emotions in different situations. As I have said, the object is not to prevent emotions and more particularly, but to let these out in filtered, apportioned form, or at a later time.
How should one handle ones aggression?
The title of this essay is “ How should one handle ones aggression?. Well the answer is: I dont know! I cannot make a conclusive statement on the matter, as I am neither a trained psychologist nor experienced enough to offer others a solution. Nonetheless I have concerned myself with this topic for quite some time now, with the aim of controlling my aggression as much as possible. I am testing several options on myself as described below, however I cannot claim that my findings are valid for everybody. My intention in doing this is to become more balanced and therefore more effective both in my profession and as a WT instructor. Some years ago one particularly significant event which I will briefly describe below caused me to examine the subject of “my aggression“ in some detail: I was 19 years old and had just joined the police service as a probationary custody officer. I had just moved into a flat with my 19 year-old girlfriend, who was still at school. We had both left home after disagreements with our parents, and were now starting out in life together. She did casual work outside school hours so that we could jointly afford the flat and a small car. One morning I drove her to school in the car. On the way into town the two lanes of the main road merged into one because of a construction site. I was in the right-hand lane and allowed several cars in the left-hand lane to merge. Just as I reached the narrow section an Opel suddenly came across from the left and cut me off, causing me to wrench the wheel around and brake sharply, hitting the kerb. I furiously sounded my horn. The driver of the Opel stuck up his middle finger and drove on. I was beside myself with rage. As soon as I had passed the construction site I accelerated and chased after the Opel. I finally overtook him and suddenly moved into his lane to make him brake, however he kept his nerve and accelerated instead, hitting my rear bumper. We both stopped and got out. He simply laughed and said he would call the police, as my sudden lane-change had left him no time to brake and had caused the accident. I was absolutely furious and shouted that I would beat him up for that, to which he simply replied: Go ahead. It is thanks to my girlfriend that I didnt hit him. My colleagues eventually arrived, took down the details and confirmed that I was to blame for the accident. In short, I was fined on the spot and had to pay for the damage to the other vehicle. But that was not the end of the matter for me: for a whole week I planned my vengeance. I drove to the other fellows address and waited outside for hours, hoping that he would show up. Fortunately he never did, otherwise I would have beaten him up! After a week my anger subsided and I began to think about the incident and the consequences of taking vengeance. This incident would have been a minor matter to anybody else, and I was a probationary policeman! I would have lost my job for retaliating, and as a police officer I would have been punished particularly severely for assaulting the other party. I could have lost my driving licence, as this was also provisional. We could no longer have afforded the flat, and as “probationary custody officer“ is not a profession, I would have needed to retrain for something else. And all because of an avoidable incident. This fortunately harmless incident caused me to think about my anger threshold, which was very low at the time. No conflict in which I have been involved since has reached this level of intensity. Whenever I have been about to lose my temper, I have so far been able to control it in time. Nonetheless it is still my aim to control my aggression to such an extent that I can consciously recognise any rise in its level as quickly as possible. With reference to the raised middle finger of the Opel driver, this would have meant responding sensibly without being afraid of a confrontation.
My personal approach
I have found that aggression is neither fundamentally negative, nor can it be completely prevented. In my case it is distress that leads to overwhelming aggression, therefore I first try to make my circumstances as positive as possible. For this purpose I have produced a so-called “lifestyle scorecard which I regularly use to check the following points:
- Am I content with my current situation in life (family, profession, social contacts etc.)? If not, can I change anything about them?
- Can I realise my aims in life, can I influence events, time factors etc.?
- Am I able to handle the demands that life makes or might make on me in physical and mental terms (as I see it now)?
- Do I currently have the motivation necessary to pursue my aims in life?
- Are disturbances to be expected, and am I prepared for them?
The aim of this analysis is not primarily to assess the above positively for myself at once and tackle problems energetically (this comes later), but rather to discover why I give way to aggression more easily in certain phases than at other times. This may sound banal, but I believe most people are not aware of it. I am not angry and aggressive because I missed the bus yesterday, an egg fell on the floor at breakfast this morning or my boss gave me a hard time. The problem is larger in nature. The problem is to be found somewhere in my score card, and I subconsciously turn my mind to it. Another example: I had had a hard day and my boss had been difficult. It was raining as I drove home. The car in front of me was pootling along at 45 km/h on a three-lane highway. I was unable to overtake because cars were coming up on both sides. Approx. 30 m before a junction the traffic light changed from green to orange. The slowcoach in front of me did not accelerate as might be expected, but braked suddenly. As I have said, the road was wet. For a fraction of a second I considered avoiding action, but decided against it because there were too many cars still moving up on both sides. My car had no ABS, so I shunted him in the rear. A thousand thoughts flashed through my head: “Damn, youll have to pay for the damage yourself, and with your bank balance! The insurance premium will also increase. Apart from that, youre in a hurry because there is WT training tonight and you have to unlock the school. The police are bound to take an hour before they have time to record the accident.“ When we had both parked our cars at the roadside, the slowcoach, a man in his sixties, immediately began to talk at me. He had to brake ... after all, the lights were yellow... I had not allowed enough safety gap. When the police arrived I accepted the blame, and I arrived at the school late that evening. And what about my mental state? Naturally I was annoyed about this incident. But was I aggressive, did I feel like killing someone, was I boiling over with anger or did it take days for me to calm down again? The answer is NO! I was completely calm. I let the other driver talk, gave the police the details they wanted and politely apologised to my students for being late. The evening proceeded smoothly. Even my wifes quiet criticisms did not arouse me to anger in any way. Why? When I thought over what had happened and about my mental state, I arrived at the following theory: there were no significant fluctuations on my score card. I was basically in harmony with myself and my surroundings. I think the answer to the question: “How should one handle ones aggression? lies in giving no fertile ground to heightened emotions. On my score card I try to detect fluctuations as soon as possible and take corrective action, thereby keeping my aggression within limits. My proposed solution is generally to control aggression in life. But what happens if aggression overwhelms me because the fluctuations in my life plan are in the lower area of the scale?
My emergency plan
Thought process: I dont believe it! This cheeky so-and-so roars up and cuts in just in front of me, forcing me to brake. Just look at him, hes laughing! Get your own back! He wont let you pass! Ok wait, Ill get you at the next traffic light! Then Ill drag you out of the car and shove you up your own exhaust pipe! And then Ill …? Stop. I realise that I am gradually beginning to lose control. Everything is buzzing and focussing on the roadhog. Now it is important to reinforce and seal the borders. I take a deep breath and slowly start to count to 20, at the same time opening a window and letting fresh air in. Once I can think reasonably clearly again, I need to get away from the situation as quickly as possible. I slow down and turn off at the next junction. Now I start to realise where I actually am. Has this area always been this run-down? That building site is new. It would be a good idea to take my wife for a walk here again. There have been a few changes here.“ Gradually the anger level goes down and I can continue my journey normally. Everything ok. Or is it? There is something wrong. I must analyse my score card urgently. There are a few things I need to change rapidly. I need a bit of success to get back on top. Thats where the actual work begins.
This approach to dealing with my aggression has so far kept me from overreacting. I am unable to say whether this is a generally effective solution, however. But I think the key to overcoming aggression is to be generally content with oneself and ones life. In order to achieve this I am constantly alert where my emotions are concerned. Concerning oneself with this topic naturally also touches on other major areas, such as “Those who wish to defeat others must first overcome themselves or Life is our teacher. I think that is as it should be, and it will no doubt provide material for the next TG essays.
- Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman
- Watch my Back, Geoff Thompson
- Fear, Geoff Thompson
- Stalkers, Amok and Behaviour in Stressful Situation, Dipl. Psych. A. Kranz (State Police College, Berlin)