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Responding to Violence, Suicide, Psychosis and Trauma

The Dangerous Behaviour Masterclass 2 – Violence and Beyond

Our courses go by the title “Difficult, Disturbing and Dangerous Behaviour” because terms like “Managing Aggression” or “Personal Safety Training” or “Dealing with Challenging Behaviour” fail to reflect the depth and breadth of what is covered. My interest is to help practitioners find the most effective and practical skills and  strategies for dealing with their greatest concerns about their own safety. For a start, “violence” is neither a unitary concept, nor all-embracing. Consider the examples below:

1. Domestic violence

2. A drunken brawl

3. A gangland shooting

4. Self-defence

5. Violence carried out by soldiers in the line of duty

6. Organised fights – e.g. Boxing

7. Violence caused by following a psychotic command hallucination

8. Violence borne out of frustration

9. Instrumental violence to achieve a particular end.

10. Accidental violence borne out of panic or confusion

11. Violent bullying

12. A revenge attack

13. Football hooliganism

Clearly all of these could be called “acts of violence” but the differences are huge. Furthermore, often we are not actually talking about violence itself, but the fear of violence. If we only think about the violent act, what about threats and intimidation? We have to think , not only about the behaviour of the perpetrator, but also the experience of the victim.

It has also struck me that “difficult behaviour” is different from “dangerous behaviour” not only in the degree of risk, but also in the form, principles and process involved. Certainly “difficult behaviour” – if not effectively contained – can become “dangerous behaviour,” but my observation is that when it does, it does so at a discrete point and at that point all the rules change. Later in this Masterclass I will expand on this point, or shift, in greater detail (see The Vacuum Concept). At this stage suffice to say that difficult behaviour refers primarily to situations where the behaviour of both perpetrator and respondent can be mediated by thought – i.e. it is possible to think before you act. Dangerous behaviour takes over when the events either overwhelm cognitive processing, or occur at a faster rate. Think of slipping on a banana skin – certainly dangerous because it can cause serious injury – but by the time you start thinking about it you will be on your backside! So somehow evasive action has to precede thought.

Most training within this domain is either restricted to difficult behaviour, or assumes that the only skills we can develop in relation to dangerous behaviour are preventative (risk assessment, lone-worker policies etc), or physical (breakaway, restraint etc). Important although these may be, this Masterclass will take us beyond that restricted view and into what some might say is the unknown or unknowable. What do you do when there is no time to think, no margin for error, and when your body seems to be operating with a “mind” of its own? We are talking about sitautions where people often say “every situation is different”, “you never know how you will react until it happens” , “there are no rules”, “what might work for me , today, may not work for you, tomorrow”, “there are just too many variables to take into account.” We will see!

But what about “disturbing behaviour?” Most of us have an intuitive understanding of at least some of the rules involvd in responding to someone who is behaving aggressively, and feel quite at sea when the aggressor is drunk, delirius, high or psychotic. So this is the other dimension of our Masterclass.

In  the next Masterclass we will look at what I have labelled respectively, Dysphoric, Psychotic and Psychopathic behaviours. Until then, stay safe!

Iain Bourne, 11.01.2008

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