Category Archives: Violence

Parents who Kill – The Five Categories

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Criminologists and psychologists highlight five main categories into which parents who kill their children may fall. These are as follows:

THE FIVE CATEGORIES OF PARENTS WHO KILL THEIR CHILDREN :

1) The parent is suffering from an ACUTE PSYCHOTIC CONDITION (‘psychosis’ is a state in which a person substantially loses touch with reality; this condition may take many forms).

2) The parent perceives the act as  ‘altruistic’ If the parent falls into this category, it essentially means that the parent believes, for whatever reason, that the child is ‘better off dead’ and therefore views killing the child as an act of ‘mercy’ and ‘compassion.’

Mothers are more likely to fall into this particular category than fathers.

3) REVENGE AGAINST THE OTHER PARENT. One motivation for this kind of terrible revenge include the discovery that the other parent has been sexually unfaithful or.

Another motivation may be that the other parent has won custody of the child in a bitter legal battle during a divorce.

Men are more likely to fall into this category than women. (Sometimes they may kill their children and then themselves. In such a scenario a male is about twenty times more likely to perpetrate the crime than a female).

4) The child is UNWANTED

5) NEGLECT or RECKLESSNESS

Neglect may include medical neglect.

An example of recklessness may be drink-driving with the child in the car or beating a child in such a way that death is the accidental result (in UK this is legally termed manslaughter).

Sometimes, a parent who kills their child will fall into more than one of the above categories. An obvious example is that a parent may perceive his/her actions as ‘altruistic’ due to acute psychotic illness.

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Further information on mothers who kill:

Frequently, mothers who kill are MENTALLY ILL. They may, for example, be suffering from severe post natal depression with psychotic features combined with the effects of immense stress caused by the never ending demands of the baby.

Such killings tend to be IMPULSIVE and younger mothers are more likely to perpetrate such an act than are more mature mothers.

 

Further information on fathers who kill:

A more usual motivation for a father to kill, however, is if some major catastrophe hits him ; losing his job and income, for example, leaving him no longer able to support his family financially. Because men often pride themselves on providing for their family and doing so gives them a sense of identity, self-respect and self-esteem, if this role is taken away from them, it has been known to lead them, in exceptionally rare cases, to murder their entire family and then commit suicide, believing this to be in everyone’s ‘best interest’.

 

Young Children :

Young children are at greater risk of being killed by their parents than older children. This is because they are more defenceless, cause parents greater stress (eg constant demands of a crying baby), and there has been less time for a strong parent-child bond to develop.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Children Who Kill : Typologies

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In very extreme circumstances, and very rarely, children kill. Almost invariably, such a child has been deprived of love and nurturing, or has bee abused or rejected, or has suffered a combination of all or any of these. S/he is full of rage due to this treatment and this is displaced onto society in general and particular individuals within that society.

Criminologists have identified several categories (or ‘typologies’) of child killer. In this article, I will focus on five of these typologies. They are:

  • FAMILY KILLERS
  • SCHOOL KILLERS
  • GANG-BASED KILLERS
  • HATE KILLERS
  • SEX KILLERS

Let’s examine each of these five typologies in turn :

1) FAMILY KILLERS : Child killers in this group are likely to have suffered extremely severe ill-treatment from their parent/s and, as a result, have built up a profound sense of anger towards them which has perhaps been festering for years. A particular ‘triggering event’ can then cause them to ‘snap’, particularly if they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Sometimes, too, such children will have been living in constant terror of their parent/s so that the murderous act is a form of self-defence/self-protection.

The psychologist and researcher Heide has found that there is a very powerful association between the act of patricide (murder of the father) and of the child who commits patricide having been severely abused by that father (especially when the abuse has been emotional or physical).

 

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Kids Who Kill Parents CLICK HERE

 

2) SCHOOL KILLERS : Often, children who shoot their teachers/contemporaries in attacks on their school have suffered years of bullying at that school. The effects of this treatment have also usually been exacerbated by them also having suffered severe abuse at home.

It is likely, too, that such children have displaced their hatred of their parent/s onto authority figures in general (hence the attack on their teachers).

Other factors that contribute to the development of the child ‘school killer’ include isolation and lack of social support/lack of friendships, having a dominant father which makes him feel powerless and a weak sense of identity – their decision to become a ‘school killer’, then, in their own minds, finally gives them the power and identity that they perceive themselves to have previously lacked.

 

3) GANG-BASED KILLERS : Children who join gangs often come from violent homes. Joining a gang provides them with a sense of identity, status, belonging and safety (ie safety in numbers)

Because of these psychological gains, they are often desperate to be accepted by the gang and, as such, are liable to have their misplaced loyalty to it ruthlessly exploited by its leader/s, even to the extent of being manipulated into murdering rival gang members.

Other factors which make a young person more likely to join a gang include lack of interests/hobbies, a sense of powerlessness (joining the gang gives him/her a sense of power) and poverty (being in a gang can be financially rewarding in the short-term, eg from drug dealing, muggings etc)

 

4) HATE KILLERS : These are children who kill others on the grounds of their differences (eg race, religion, sexuality etc). They are likely to have been influenced by their parents’ prejudices and/or the prejudices held by other members of their community/sub-culture).

Again, such children have usually experienced severe ill-treatment at home and have developed a deep sense of powerlessness which they attempt to rectify through an extreme, violent act.

 

5) SEX KILLERS : Again, such child killers have usually experienced extreme abuse at home and have developed a deep sense of inadequacy, worthlessness and rock-bottom self-esteem. Their crime is linked to their sense of powerlessness and a need to ‘assert their masculinity’.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Possible Childhood Characteristics of Future Serial Killers

Possible Childhood Characteristics of Future Serial Killers 1

Research has demonstrated that many serial killers have much in common when it comes to their childhood experiences. Below, I provide a list of the common characteristics they may sometimes share. It goes without saying, however, that people with many or even all of these characteristics will not invariably grow-up to be serial killers! Furthermore, some serial killers will have shown few or none of the traits presented below during their childhoods.

As can be easily inferred, those who showed many of the characteristics presented below are also more likely to have developed anti-social personality disorder as adults when compared to individuals who demonstrated none of the characteristics.

1) EMOTIONAL ABUSE –

The vast majority of those who go on to become serial killers have suffered childhood abuse; most commonly, the type of abuse that they have suffered is EMOTIONAL ABUSE or NEGLECT (about half have suffered  one, the other, or both according to the available research).

Any discipline that they received as children tended to be unpredictable, arbitrary and unreasonable, usually involving the child being humiliated and degraded.

Emotional neglect impairs the child’s ability to develop empathy (lack of empathy is one of the main hallmarks of psychopathy).

2) FANTASIES –

Because the child lacks control in his own life and may be the victim of severe abuse, he will often have a propensity to escape into a world of fantasy – the fantasies will frequently revolve around the themes of CONTROL and VIOLENCE.

3) CRUELTY TO ANIMALS –

Again, many individuals who have become serial killers ‘graduated’ from tormenting and torturing animals.

4) HEAD INJURIES –

A disproportionate number of serial killers suffered one or more head injuries as children. It is thought, in particular, that damage to the LIMBIC BRAIN, HYPOTHALAMUS, TEMPORAL LOBES and PREFRONTAL CORTEX are linked to the development of violent behaviour. The first three areas are involved with aggression, emotion and motivation whereas the fourth (the pre-frontal cortex) is involved with planning and judgment.

5) VOYEURISM AND FETISHISM –

This kind of behaviour may have developed fairly young ; the individual may, for example, have  started off  his ‘career’ as a ‘peeping tom’.

6) BEDWETTING –

If this goes on over the age of about 5 years, the child may feel humiliated because of it, especially if teased about it by, for example, older siblings or cruel parents.

7) DYSFUNCTIONAL RELATIONSHIPS –

Often, the adult serial killer began to have problems with relationships early on in life. Unable to form or maintain relationships, he is much more likely than normal to have become a ‘loner’ in adult life.

8) ALCOHOL/SUBSTANCE ABUSE –

Nearly three-quarters of serial killers grew up in homes in which other family members had problems with alcohol and/or narcotics

OTHER CHARACTERISTICS OF SERIAL KILLERS’ CHILDHOODS :

– exposure to alcohol in the womb

– low self-esteem

– poor social functioning

– academic failure

– witnessing violence within the family

– a failure to complete high school

– arson

– victim of bullying

– early display of anti-social tendencies

– a fascination with weapons

– dismissive of/does not acknowledge the rights of others

– early displays of unusually high levels of violence and aggression

 

BURGESS’S MOTIVATIONAL MODEL

 

The criminologist Burgess carried out a study of sexually motivated serial killers in 1986. In this study, he was able to develop a theory relating to the kinds of childhood such individuals typically experience. I summarize his main findings below:

Burgess suggested that four main categories of childhood experiences contributed to the individuals in the study becoming serial killers. These were:

1 – they grew up in an ineffective social environment

2 – they experienced negative formative events during their childhoods

3 – they developed destructive behaviours

– breakdown of interpersonal relationships

– they developed certain critical personality traits during their childhoods

Let’s look at these in a little more detail:

1- INEFFECTIVE SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT :

Burgess’ study (1986) found that those who went on to become serial killers showed a pattern of failing to bond in a healthy way to their primary caregivers, as well as a failure to bond with others in general.

Also, as children, the future serial killers’ negative behaviours very frequently remained completely unaddressed by their primary caregivers.

2 – TRAUMATIC FORMATIVE EVENTS :

It was also found in the study that, as children, the future serial killers experienced far more trauma than the ‘average’ child. These trauma s included :

– severe illness

– divorce of parents

– abandonment/rejection by parent/s

– death of parent/primary caregiver

– abuse by parent/primary caregiver (physical, sexual, emotional,or a combination of these)

It was also found that the negative effects of the above traumas were compounded by the fact that the children in the study tended to have NO SOCIAL SUPPORT SYSTEM (e.g. friends and wider family) and NO OTHER PROTECTIVE FACTORS IN THEIR LIVES (e.g. a skill or ability which raised their self-esteem).

In part as a result of the above, Burgess found that the children tended to become :

– depressed

– despairing

– suffered overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and helplessness

3 – DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIOURS :

In the group studied by Burgess, these destructive behaviours included :

– setting fires

– cruelty to animals

– destroying property

– burglary

– assault

– sadism

4 – BREAKDOWN OF INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS :

As the children got older, their problematic relationships with their primary caregivers tended to deteriorate further.

Many of the children, too, experienced continued EMOTIONAL NEGLECT.

Furthermore, the children were found to LACK POSITIVE ROLE MODELS and had nobody in their lives who might encourage them to act in a pro-social way.

5 – NEGATIVE PERSONALITY TRAITS :

The way in which the future serial killers were brought up tended to lend itself to the children developing negative personality traits and emotions; in Burgess’ study these were found to include :

– prone to anger, hostility and aggression

– prone to criminal and deviant behaviour

– sense of entitlement

– criminal/deviant behaviour

– rebelliousness

– a sense of having been rejected by society

– cynical and negative view of self, others and of the world in general (sometimes referred to as a NEGATIVE COGNITIVE TRIAD).

– social isolation

– lack of confidence, particularly in connection to forming relationships

– chronic/pathological lying

– tendency to retreat into a world of fantasy (see below)

THE ROLE OF A FANTASY LIFE :

Importantly, Burgess’ study found that the young people had a marked tendency to retreat into a FANTASY WORLD; this was thought to be in part due to their social isolation.

This retreat into fantasy tended to become deeper as the children grew up.

It is theorized that because these future serial killers lacked control and power in their own lives, they obtained it through the fantasies that they wove in their imaginations. In other words, they used their fantasy lives to compensate them for their inadequacies and shortcomings in the real world.

In interviews it was found that their fantasies tended to revolve around the following :

– dominance

– control

– power

– violence

– mutilation

– torture

– death

– rape

– revenge

Tragically, eventually fantasy alone could not keep these individuals’ anxiety levels at bay (it is thought such fantasies serve to reduce intolerable anxiety) and they acted them out in lethal fashion.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

Childhood Trauma – The Cycle of Domestic Violence

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I have already written an introductory article on the subject of how domestic violence may affect children (CLICK HERE) and, in this article, I want to look at the cycle that often underlies domestic violence, leading to the violence being repeated again and again in the affected household (domestic violence is most often repetitive, although it can, of course, also occur as a one off event).

THE CYCLE OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE :

The cycle of domestic violence can be represented as being made up of three main elements; these are :

1) The Pre-Existing Conditions Within The Family

2) The Trigger Incident

3) The Violent Incident Itself

Let’s look at each of these in turn :

1) The Pre-Existing Conditions Within The Family I have said before that any type of family can be affected by domestic violence; however, families with the following types of characteristics may be particularly at risk :

– excessive use of alcohol

– use of narcotics

– very limited understanding by the parent/s of normal childhood emotional/psychological development (eg that rebelliousness during adolescence is normal)

– the parent/s have used violence against those outside of the family

– a strong emotional bond has failed to form between the child and parent

– financial anxieties

– a poor and stressful relationship between the parents

– poor communication between trhe parents

– poor social support/social isolation

– parent/s has/have low stress tolerance

– unemployment

– low self-esteem of parent/s

– parent/s have emotional problems/problems with impulse control

Of course, some families may have several of the above characteristics and different families will experience different levels of severity of the characteristics.

All else being equal, the more of the characteristics the family has, and the more severe these problems are, the greater the risk of domestic violence within the family (not least because many of the problems often compound one another).

2) The Trigger Incident : The incident that immediately precipitates the violence may be very trivial or more serious. The reason a trivial incident can trigger violence is often because the perpetrator of the violence already feels under stress (due to problems such as those referred to above) and is very close to his/her tipping point anyway (ie. the point at which s/he will become violent).

Because of this, s/he takes out his/her stress, anger and frustration (the psychological term for this is DISPLACEMENT) on the family member even though the family member and the trivial initiating incident are not be the main cause of the violence.

3) The Violent Incident Itself : The type of violent incident is also part of the cycle as the perpetrator of the violence will tend to repeat the particular type of violence s/he deploys against the victim/s.

For example, a perpetrator who uses physical violence will tend to stick to this, while a perpetrator who uses psychological/emotional abuse (CLICK HERE to read my article on emtional abuse) will tend to stick to that. Often, of course, a perpetrator may use both forms of abuse simultaneously.

 

RESOURCES:

 

DOMESTICVIOLENCE.ORG

 

EBOOKS :

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Ebooks : Above ebooks now available on Amazon for immediate download. $4.99 each. CLICK HERE.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Childhood Trauma : Domestic Violence

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Domestic violence can affect children in two ways : DIRECTLY and INDIRECTLY. Let’s look at each of these two categories:

DIRECTLY :

–  the violence is DELIBERATELY aimed at the child with the INTENTION of causing him/her harm

INDIRECTLY :

– the child witnesses the violence is the household (eg sees the father beat up the mother). Whilst the violence is not perpetrated directly against the child, the child is caused psychological damage as a result of the experience

Childhood Trauma : Domestic Violence 2

STATISTICS RELATING TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE :

In the USA, approximately 1.5 million children per year are affected by domestic violence (although this is thought to be a substantial underestimate due to all the cases of domestic violence which go unreported/undetected). Shockingly, about 2000 – 5000 children will actually die as a result of the violence (figures come from The National Crime Survey).

Worse still, these are just the figures that relate to direct violence; millions more children are harmed indirectly. The proportions, then, are truly epidemic.

WHAT TYPE OF FAMILIES DOES DOMESTIC VIOLENCE OCCUR IN?

All types of families are affected by domestic violence – no religious sector, ethnic group or socio-economic class are immune. However, it needs to be noted that children are more likely to be affected by domestic violence in families affected by :

– poverty

– unemployment

– being a single-parent family

WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON TYPES OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?

The most common types are as follows:

– beating

– biting

– burning

– immersion in scalding water

– shaking

WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ON THE CHILD?:

The effects upon the child are wide-ranging and may include:

nightmares

bed-wetting

– depression

low self-esteem

– introversion/introspection/withdrawal

– non-communicativeness/refuge in silence

– feelings of hopelessness

– feelings of being trapped

– academic/social problems at school, including failure to make friends

– feeling unloved/unlovable

– anxiety/exaggerated startle response/nervous behaviors

– aggression/fighting/hostility/destructiveness/abuse of pets/abuse of siblings

– avoidance of discussing anything about family with peers

– feelings of self-hatred 

– irrational feelings of guilt/shame together with irrational feelings of being ‘bad’ and ‘to blame’.

DO CHILDREN WHO SUFFER DOMESTIC VIOLENCE GO ON TO PERPETRATE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE THEMSELVES IN ADULTHOOD?

Research suggests that about 30% of those who suffer the effects of domestic violence in childhood go on to perpetrate domestic violence themselves as adults.

The chances of this occurring are reduced considerably if the person gains insight into the effects of his/her childhood experiences had upon him/her through appropriate therapy.

WHEN IS PROFESSIONAL INTERVENTION APPROPRIATE?

It goes without saying that professional intervention is necessary if significant physical harm is occurring. Other indicators that professional intervention may be especially urgent include :

– the child’s physical/emotional/cognitive development is being adversely affected

– the child emotionally regresses (i.e. starts behaving significantly younger due to emotional distress – e.g. a fourteen -year -old who frequently has emotional tantrums more usually displayed in a four-year-old)

– significant, recurring, aggressive behavior

– extreme social withdrawal

– the child is suffering from significant anxiety (e.g has an exaggerated ‘startle response’)

NB. The above list is in no way exhaustive; indeed, some children may be suffering a high level of internal emotional distress which s/he suppresses making it less easily detectable. It is, therefore, always best to err on the side of caution.

Other Articles Related To Violence :

 

RETURN HOME TO ABOUT CHILDHOOD TRAUMA RECOVERY.

 

Childhood Trauma : Domestic Violence 3Childhood Trauma : Domestic Violence 4

Above eBooks now available for immediate download on Amazon.  CLICK HERE.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

 

When Ten Year Olds Turn Killers – The Case of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson

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The case of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson is well known, so it is not necessary to go into details about it here. Suffice it to say, they were both, at the age of ten, found guilty of abducting and murdering the two year old James Bulger.

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Above: Artist’s impression of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson in court with their legal representatives.

Surprisingly, there seems to have been little media interest in examining the early life experiences of either of the two boys who were prosecuted for the crime, so, in this article, I will look at the environments in which they grew up in order to establish if it is possible to find some clues as to what caused their deeply aberrant behaviour.

Clearly, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson had profoundly intense pent-up anger which they displaced, in a most shocking way, onto the toddler, James Bulger, whom they abducted. But from where did this anger originate? In order to answer this question, it seems common sense to look at their respective home backgrounds.

Robert Thompson had six siblings and it has been written that both he and they were neglected. Furthermore, Robert’s father left the family home when the young boy was just five years old; and this, it seemed, exacerbated his mother’s drinking problem. At one point, too, she attempted to commit suicide.

On top of this, Robert’s father was violent, and, before he left his family, had frequently behaved in a threatening and intimidating way towards Robert, and had also physically punished him on regular occasions.

It appears that due to this extremely stressful environment, all the children in the family became disturbed, taking out their anguish on one another – they would, for example, threaten one another with knives.

Indeed, the family was so disrupted, chaotic and unhappy that one child asked to be taken into care. When he later had to come back to the family home, such was his distress that he attempted suicide.

One point, in particular, I think, goes to show  the extreme extent to which Robert’s mother neglected him : she was rarely with him to provide emotional support on the many days that it was necessary for him to attend court.

Jon Venable’s family, too, was deeply unhappy and unstable – indeed, this state of affairs had led his parents to divorce. His mother, it seems, was something of a narcissist (click here to read my article on narcissism) and was, apparently, far more concerned about her love-life (she had a constant stream of boyfriends) than she was with looking after Jon. She also suffered from mental health problems (predominantly depression) and, like the mother of Robert, had attempted to commit suicide.

Jon was frightened of his mother as she could behave menacingly towards him – he would, for example, take refuge by hiding underneath chairs. More worrying still, he would cut himself with knives (click here to read my article on the relationship between childhood trauma and self-harming).

Together, Jon and Robert would be absent from school without permission. They would shop-lift and become involved in violent incidents. They had also displayed cruelty towards animals – shooting pigeons with air rifles and tying rabits to railway lines so that they were run over by the trains. Such cruelty towards animals is known to be one of the risk factors which predict the development of anti-social personality disorder (sometimes referred to as psychopathy) in adult life (click here to read my article on the link between childhood trauma and the development of anti-social personality disorder).

POSSIBLE EFFECTS OF ENVIRONMENT ON THE BRAIN DEVELOPMENT OF ROBERT THOMPSON AND JON VENABLES :

The healthy development of a region of the brain called the PREFRONTAL CORTEX depends, to a large degree, upon the child experiencing warm, loving, affectionate relationships as he grows up. Jon and Robert were deprived of this which, in turn, is likely to have damaged the development of these brain regions (essentially, without these positive relationships, the brain does not produce enough OPIATES which are needed for the proper development of the particular brain area).

The Prefrontal Cortex :

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The above diagram shows the position in the brain of the prefrontal cortex – it is this area which was possibly damaged in both Robert Thompson and Jon Venables

The prefrontal cortex is responsible for self-control, empathy and the regulation of strong emotions such as anger. If, then, Jon’s and Robert’s prefrontal cortices were not properly developed, this would provide at least part of the explanation as to why they behaved as they did.

eBooks :

emotional abuse book   childhood anger ebook

 

 

Above eBook now available for immediate download from Amazon. CLICK HERE.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

Overcoming Aggressive Behaviour Linked to Childhood Trauma. 5 Step Method.

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childhood trauma and aggressive behaviour

I have already written at some length about how childhood trauma can lead us to become full of anger and prone to aggression in later life in other posts on this site. In this post I want to look at a 5 Step Method which can help us to overcome this problem. The goal of this 5 step process is to try to develop a more tolerant and accepting attitude to things which previously could have made us act aggressively.

WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOUR?

These may include :

– finding it very difficult to accept criticism or acknowledge our own faults – this can result in becoming very defensive which might include becoming enraged and aggressively counter-attacking the individual who challenged us

– trying to get our own way with little or no regard for the feelings or wishes of others

– shouting and becoming verbally abusive and hostile when others fail to comply with our wishes

– turning discussions into heated arguments and trying to dominate the other person by talking over them, interrupting and generally not giving them a proper opportunity to put their own views across

– using threats (both verbal and through body language) or physical assault to get our own way

 

If we think some or all of the above may apply to us, a method frequently used by therapists involves carrying out a practical exercise involving 5 key steps. I give details of what this exercise involves below :

1) Try to recall a specific example of a time you were in a situation in which you think you acted aggressively, think you might have acted aggressively or were accused by others (either correctly or incorrectly) of behaving aggressively (what does not seem aggressive to us may still be perceived as aggressiveness by others).

2) Write down how you behaved in terms of body language etc, what you said, and how you said it (tone of voice etc)

3) Write down what the consequences of what you said and did were, both immediately after the event and later on. Also, write down how what you said and did made you feel (again, both immediately after the event and later on)

4) Write down what you could have said and done in a calmer way

5) Write down what you think the pros and cons of acting in the calmer way you described in step 4 may have been.

WHAT TO DO AFTER COMPLETING THESE FIVE STEPS :

If you think that the pros outweighed the cons in step 5, make a conscious decision to experiment by acting in this calmer way next time a situation arises in which you may previously have behaved in an aggressive manner. See if you feel better for having behaved more calmly, and achieved a better outcome. If you find you prefer acting in this calmer way in situations which in the past would have provoked aggression, by consciously reminding youself to behave in this new way it should become an ingrained characteristic.

I hope you have found this post useful.

Best Wishes, David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

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