Territorial or Predatory Aggression?

When confronted with aggressive behavior that might escalate to violence, you need to quickly determine whether the aggressor is being territorial or predatory. If you judge correctly, you might be able to defuse the situation without violence.

Territorial behavior occurs when the aggressor feels threatened because you have encroached on what he perceives to be his space. If you have nothing to lose by it, the easiest way to deescalate the situation is to project confidence and calmness with your body language while you back away and verbally concede the space to the territorial person. An example might be that you are sitting on someone’s favorite stool in an unfamiliar bar.

If, however, the contested space is one that you wish to lay claim to (i.e. there is a homeless person camping out on your doorstep), it is important to stake your claim calmly and assertively, call the police if necessary, and eject the intruder as diplomatically as possible before his claim cements itself in his mind. Similarly, if you are a newcomer to a place (the new kid at school sitting at the lunch table), you have to strike a balance between conceding other people’s established claims to territory and your own need for territory of your own. Territorial aggression subsides once territorial boundaries are affirmed or established.

Predatory behavior calls for a different kind of response. When the predatory aggressor establishes dominance over his victim, violence is often the result. The predator seeks a submissive victim, and will quickly pass over someone who puts up a fight. This is why we’re told never to get into a car with an attacker. Once we establish a pattern of submission, we feed the attacker’s confidence and dehumanize ourselves in his eyes, making violence easier for him.

An armed robbery will have some elements of territorialism and predation. The attacker makes a territorial claim to your valuables. But there is a predatory side to their personality–no one gets into the robbery game solely for the money. So to get out of a situation like this without violence, you have to find the right way to surrender the territory that you’re willing to give up without surrendering your humanity to the predator.

For more information or to attend a free self-defense class, contact me through my website here.


~ by nolashaolin on October 14, 2008.

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