I recently saw a statement online that implied, possibly inadvertently, that there was a binary choice between behaviour that might incite aggression or violence by challenging the personal insecurities of affected (alpha) personalities and that which might invite approaches from those that prey on those they perceive as vulnerable.
I may have misinterpreted the statement, but the implication seemed to be that these were two sides of a coin. Acting in a way so as not to appear vulnerable would attract negative attention from those seeing it as a challenge to their imagined local social status, while seeking to avoid antagonising the latter would engage the interest of those looking for prey.
I prefer to see those points as distant (though not necessarily opposite) poles on a world of behaviours. As with the real world there are some places where the local physical or social environment may make it a very dangerous location to be without appropriate experience, training or support. But in common with the real world there are large hospitable zones where most people are very safe and supported most of the time.
Just as many people have the ability to travel or adjust their environment to make it less dangerous, most of us have the ability to move on our behavioural globe. Through our own agency or with the guidance of others (parents, peers, role models, teachers or counsellors) most people can adjust their self-perception and body language to the vast continents of calm confident behaviour that neither antagonises nor invites predatory activity. In fact, the infrequency of violent crime victimisation per person on average in most WIRED / WEIRD (Western Industrialised Rich Educated & Democratic) countries would indicate that most people manage this most of the time.
Personal behaviour is something that was alluded to by Gichin Funakoshi in his 20 precepts.
“When you leave home, think that you have numerous opponents waiting for you. It is your behaviour that invites trouble from them.”
Our behaviour and attitude to life determines much of our reality. Most abusive, aggressive or violent encounters can be avoided or negated through social awareness, respect for others, cognitive and/or emotional empathy, and confident behaviour. The thought of ‘numerous opponents’ is not an incitement to paranoia (which is the wrong mindset for safe and healthy living), rather a reminder that our behaviour has the potential to be an obstacle and can create opponents.
This is not the same as laying the responsibility for any victimisation at our own door.
Any individual has the potential to meet the wrong people in the wrong place at the wrong time. The ‘prevention point’ for most domestic or familial abuse is both early behaviour pattern spotting to avoid entering into coercive and abusive relationships, and environment and behaviour shaping in youth to prevent people developing into abusers. As children we have little to no control over the environments and events that the adults around us shape for us or that we are born into. These have the potential to fix us in behaviour patterns that can make us more vulnerable than others to different problems, just as others may react to poor environments and events by becoming embedded in behaviour patterns that make them cause issues for others in the future. Breaking such cyclical patterns requires multi-generational approaches because it’s not simply about preventing yourself from being victimised tomorrow, or deterring another person tomorrow, it’s also about helping the previous generation move on and working ‘early’ to prevent the next generation from repeating the cycle.
This rather neatly takes us full circle, because in attempting to expand on one over-simplification with regard to avoiding abusive aggressive and predatory behaviours, I’ve also moved to a gross simplification of some of the many complex factors that lead to people perpetrating or being the victims of such behaviours. It is human nature to want to simplify explanations, whether as advertising or teaching soundbites or as concepts to learn. As such I understand I understand the binary example given at the start, even though I believe the exceptions to its imagery are greater than the norm.
There is a truism that if you understand something complex you can explain it in simple terms, but such terms still remain simplifications. Everything that is complex is simple at its heart, and everything that is simple is complex.