Recently, it seems as if some members in our communities have lost their sense of reason. As the riots, which started in London, spread to other cities in the UK, the general public seemed to get the impression that the random and uncontrolled violence was due to something in the air, when the causes of violence may have been due to other factors such as boredom and poverty. The Encyclopaedia of Psychology defines violence as “an extreme form of aggression, such as assault, rape or murder.”
There are many causes of violence including “frustration, exposure to violent media, violence in the home or neighbourhood and a tendency to see other people’s actions as hostile even when they’re not. Certain situations also increase the risk of aggression, such as drinking, insults and other provocations and environmental factors like heat and overcrowding” (American Psychological Association’s website).
Intentionally causing harm to other individuals or property is a serious problem today. For example, the recent video of the Malaysian man whose jaw was broken and then robbed when someone was trying to help him comes to mind. These recent violent events give rise to the question, just what are the causes of violence and what should be done when you are faced with violence?
A Psychological Insight into the Causes of Violence
The most common motivations for violence can be viewed as inappropriate attempts to handle emotions. Often, violence is the medium used by an individual to openly express their feelings such as anger, frustration, or sadness. Other times, violence can be considered as a form of manipulation for individuals to try and get what they want or need. Aggressive behaviour can also be used as a form of retaliation; a means by which one uses to even the score. Finally, violent behaviour is sometimes caused because people grow up seeing violence openly displayed. Violence then becomes learned as an “appropriate” way to behave.
Individuals who act violently overlook healthier behaviour and safer forms of expression to deal with their emotions or to meet their needs (*see article on anger management counselling for helpful suggestions). Sometimes, individuals will choose violence as a means to manipulate others to gain control over a situation.
Other factors which can be causes of violence include:
The influence of one’s peers
Having a lack of attention or respect
Having low self-worth
Experiencing abuse or neglect
Witnessing violence in the home, community, or medias
Access to weapons
It is common for those who act violently to have difficulty controlling their emotions. For some, behaviour can be attributed to past abuse or neglect, false beliefs that intimidating others will gain them respect, or a belief that using violence will solve his or her problems. However, violent actions often work against the individual, and they often lose respect or become increasingly isolated because others view them as dangerous.
Over time, violence and aggressive behaviour often escalates when not addressed; however, there are signs that can help identify potential or immediate violence.
What are Some of the Indicators of Violence?
Signs for potential immediate or increased violence include, but are not limited to:
Porting a weapon
Pleasure in hurting animals
Voicing threats or plans to hurt others
Use of alcohol and drugs
Destruction of property or vandalism
Loss of control over emotions
Warning signs for the potential development of violent behaviour and acts include, but are not limited to:
Having a record of past violent behaviour
Membership/affiliation with organized crime
Having an interest in weapons
Harbouring feelings of rejection
Being a victim of bullying
Poor academic performance
What to do if you Recognise Violence?
So what can one do when if you recognize any of these signs? First, it should be clarified that hoping that someone else will act and take care of the problem for you is not an appropriate solution. This choice actually allows the violence to continue. Therefore, one should:
Be safe! Remember to be careful and do not put yourself in danger when trying to help a violent individual.
Share! Tell someone else if you are concerned about someone’s violent behaviour.
Protect yourself! If you are worried that you may be a victim of violence contact the local authorities and ask for protection.
Seek professional help! A key to addressing violent behaviour is seeking the assistance of professionals who specialize in violent behaviour.
If you or someone you know is at risk or displaying violent behaviour, it is important to seek professional assistance. Contacting the proper authorities, such as your local police or an abuse hotline, can help provide guidance on how to properly handle the situation. Each case of possible or actual violence is unique and addressing the issue may require different interventions. Lastly, speaking to a trained therapist can help provide added emotional support and guidance for dealing directly or indirectly with aggression or violence.