I advocate keeping children as far as possible from violence… even from the concept of violence… and for as long as possible; it's simply not good for them. Unfortunately, our world, while it certainly has beautiful parts, also contains violence. And so children will run into it at some point.
Just to reiterate, I'm something of a purist on this: I think kids should be kept away even from violent heroes. Nonetheless, violence will make its appearance, and children should be prepared.
And so, today's installment shouldn't apply to young children, but it will to older children.
One of the first things to understand about violence is that it never proves anyone right or wrong. People portray it that way, but it's a ridiculous concept. Having better weapons or faster fists means absolutely nothing about being right or wrong; it's primitive force, and nothing else.
And yet, sometimes primitive force does matter. We certainly have to use it against wild animals: sensible cooperation with them simply isn't possible. And, sadly, there are people with whom reasonable cooperation isn't possible. There really are human predators; not terribly many, thankfully, but they do exist.
Violence does not come naturally to us; our mental and emotional systems don't react well to it. The people who are particularly good at violence are people who've been hardened by it: They'd be better and happier if they hadn't had those experiences.
Nearly all of us, encountering violence the first time, are simply unprepared: We freeze in place, run or hide. That's just what happens to most of us. But it's not important that we've been frozen by fear, because we can also get over it. Think of an old person you knew who was facing death – perhaps a grandparent. They knew they were going to die. (And how much worse is death than a punch?) Did your grandparent lie in bed, shivering and screaming in fear for weeks or months? No, they got over it. They might not have liked the situation, but they were able to process the fear. You can too.
So, if and when a moment of violence comes, your job is to stop questioning yourself. You must think only of the objective, letting that drive your body. And yes, this is animal level thinking, because that's what violence is: animal stuff. If violence comes, think of nothing except subduing your enemy. If there's nothing you can do about the situation, you'll just have to get through it. And that means stopping your normal questioning processes and serving only the goal of your enemy being soundly defeated. That's ugly because violence is ugly.
Now, before getting to a few specifics, please remember that it's far better to avoid violence that to deal with it. Even if you are supremely ready for it, violence is always a damaging waste. Stay away from it. Pay attention to your surroundings, don't let questionable people drag you along with them, and get the heck away if things start to worry you.
The Bully's Weapon
Predators know that if they can make you afraid, they are in control of you. And how do they know this? Because they lived through it themselves, and probably many times.
Every bully has been abused, in one way or another. Now, they want to impose their pain upon you. And they know by experience that once they were frightened, they were disarmed. And then they were beaten.
The bully gets relief from the memory of his own weakness and pain by abusing others. His or her cruelty springs from weakness and fear. (Strength and wholeness give us compassion.)
So, when a predator decides to prey upon someone, the first thing they do is to intimidate them; they want to see fear before they proceed. A bully will almost always test their victim before attacking. So, if someone is too intrusive or threatening, and if your instincts start to make noise, you have a predator on your hands. He's testing you, to see if you'll be easy to beat.
Ignoring the test is a sign of fear. Denying that the predator is there – the head in the sand tactic – is exactly what he's looking for. Hardened predators see reasonableness and kindness as weakness. They believe that no one would show kindness unless he or she had to.
Running away may not help either, it's another indication to the predator that you can to be taken.
The Two Classes
In the twisted mind of a predator, there exist two primary classes of human beings – predators and victims – and there is very little in-between. So, when a predator starts to feel a bit weak, he has to intimidate or abuse someone else, just to prove that he or she is not in the "Victim" class.
Predators who "want their props," have a good reason for it: To accept "disrespect" identifies them as victims. And that means that other predators will start circling.
Also bear in mind that there are many people who grow up in predatory cultures. This is the only way they know of viewing the world. This is not to excuse them, but we should understand what, in fact, they are.
If someone sees all the world as predator and prey, you have no hope of talking them out of it, and you cannot allow a predator to dictate your actions.
The Bully In The Bar
Before we go through the classic confrontation, let's start with this: If you're in a nasty enough place to encounter a bully looking to prove something, you're either exceptionally unlucky or you've gotten yourself into a stupid situation. Use some common sense and you'll avoid these wasteful experiences.
That said, a bully in a bar is an almost perfect setup for an intimidation. Not only can the bully surprise you, but he can make you feel multiple types of fear. Beyond the obvious fear of a beating, he can also make you afraid of looking weak in front of your friends and potential mates.
Three Rules for Dealing with Bullies:
Show no fear. (Feeling fear is not a real problem, just don't show it.)
Do not insult or challenge the bully.
Give them an exit that doesn't require them to accept the status of "victim."
We all feel fear; it's just an unfortunate inheritance. So absorb the fear and learn how to hold a straight face. This is difficult and unpleasant, but life on Earth is a long way from what it should be. (Sorry.)
Also, do not allow yourself to say, "Maybe it's not that bad," because it is that bad; a predator is preparing to crush you. Many of us have an instinct to deny things that are too unpleasant but you must not allow it: denial will make it almost certain that you get hurt. Your attitude should be: "Well, crap, I'm in a bad situation with no easy escape. I'll have to do the right things to get through it."
If a predator tries to intimidate with words, go ahead and answer them, but do so as an equal. Assert yourself.
You may have to actually fight. That stinks, but even in this case, showing no fear is your first blow against the bully. Think of it this way:
The predator sees you as a likely victim, and tries to scare you. (His first blow.)
You answer him firmly. (Your return blow.)
He has now lost his advantage.
In this scenario, even if the bully does attack, he will be attacking with a divided mind. This is a big disadvantage for him. So, by answering the bully, you are weakening him immediately.
Facing Fears Alone
Here's one more thing to keep in mind:
When facing threats alone, we experience high levels of stress hormones. Like it or not, useful or not, this is how the human body operates. But, when we face threats in groups, our stress hormones rise to only a fraction of the solitary level. This is why armies keep men in tight units.
You have probably noticed this in your own life. If not, try to imagine walking, all alone, through the dark woods at night, then hearing an animal noise behind you. Would you feel better if you had a friend or two with you? If you are anything close to average, you would.
Why we are this way really doesn't matter, we are that way. Our minds are less effective when grouped with others, but our stress hormones are more placid. Ah well…