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On Aggression

Mar 07

If I’m not mistaken this title was coined by one of the greatest zoologists ever to practice his science.  He was Dr. Konrad Lorenz and his book was a “must read” for every Social Science student during my Post Graduate days.  I’m sure he is no longer with us, and nonetheless I apologize to him for what is about to come.

To continue with my penchant for disclosure, I will share with you (and I’m sure I have previously) That I was raised a Roman Catholic, attended The University of Notre Dame (GO IRISH!!!!!),  considered entering the priesthood, was a daily communicant at times during my life, have since “fallen away” from the Church, and presently regard myself as somewhat of a Buddhist following The Tibetan Kagyu-Nyingma tradition (that coincidently acknowledges all “deities”, including Christ, as unique and gifted teachers).  Are you still with me?  I haven’t frightened you off?


I’m travelling in this direction as I’m about to address aggression, ISIS, and the Western World’s response to them;  and I don’t think it can be done without getting into the belief system (notice I didn’t say religious beliefs) of whomever it is that is responding.  In previous posts I have hinted at some of the beliefs (that translate into skills) that I hold, with regard to dealing with recalcitrant others.  So, to begin………

We, human beings, have the ability to be surprisingly aggressive toward one and other; and other creatures on this planet.  I say remarkable, as we are supposedly regarded as existing at the top of the intelligence pyramid.  If we take the time to focus our thinking on how, over centuries, we have been cruel to each other, and those other creatures that share this planet with us, it would not be difficult to question the notion of our superior intelligence.  However, those of us who have been tasked with resolving major conflicts (i.e. World Wars through Racial Conflicts to today’s conflicts with our Muslim brothers and sisters) don’t have the luxury of stumbling around in a state of confusion.  This state of consciousness is not an option; rather, we must learn to work skillfully with human frailties using what the above noted Buddhists refer to as the “vajra view” of aggression.

The adoption of such a view starts with somewhat of a paradigm shift in defining who is attacking whom.  It isn’t complicated (as Buddhism isn’t really a religion in the traditional sense); it rests upon the obvious axiom, “people attack people”.  Not so complicated eh?  With every day that dawns people “shit on people”: They lie to each other, insult each other, and take up arms against each other.

However, a closer look at this and we may (those who adopt the “vajra view”) notice that human  aggression is not so clear-cut.  It seems to flex, change, and shift.  At one moment we are allies, the next we are enemies.  Check it out; look at how relationships that you have had with friends, lovers, bosses, or business partners have gone from positive to negative.  On a grander scale, check out the history of some of the World’s National coalitions (maybe more recently in the Middle East).

When you gain the ability to adopt the “vajra view” you are surprised by the fluidity of aggression; you become able to see it for what it is, that is, a human behaviour born out of fear and ignorance.  Being able to take a “vajra view” of an attack directed at you, provides you with the ability to see aggression as flexible and adaptive; and if you are good, you may even avoid falling into the common habit of forming a fixed, self-serving view (this should sound similar to what the Western\Christian\Jewish world might be doing now ?).

Once we can recognize that aggression is the enemy, not the other side…….even “Radical Muslims”; we are in a position to begin examining our own aggression.  I’m not suggesting that we need to parade around in “sack cloth and ashes” bleating about our own sins; only that we come to recognize the “dance”.  When we recognize our fear we can abandon the attack, when we accept that we have been insulted\embarrassed we can abandon threatening, and when we accept that we have been hurt we can abandon our defense etc.

The “vajra view” of aggression is not about listing the “sins” of others.  It is more about becoming aware of how the human intelligence, we spoke of above, can at times drift off course into cowardly, murderous, and obnoxious behaviour.  I haven’t even told you yet what a “vajra” is!  When I do, I hope it will assist you in grasping what I am saying.  A “vajra” is a thunderbolt; and the Buddhist thinking is when you throw one at a troublesome emotion, it blows it up and transforms it into wisdom.  To continue with this line of thinking, the “vajra” is thought to be made of meteoric metals and is indestructible; and when it is thrown it pierces the other’s heart and grabs hold of the confusion residing there; it then returns to the thrower’s hand, bringing with it keen insight into what is behind the other’s aggression.

This very clear metaphor is not to be taken literally; that is, we (as conflict resolvers) are not required to wander about throwing “vajra” bolts into opposing others’ chests.  However, it is expected that with a “vajra view” of aggression we will be better able to get to the heart of the conflict, adopt an objective view, and comprehend what may be driving the other to such cruel and inhumane behaviour.  We become more easily aware of our choices; will it be the building of trust, or the building of a boundary?

The “vajra view” reminds us of our humanity, even if the other side appears to have lost theirs.  We should be better able to gaze deeply into others’ behaviour and see the wisdom behind it; and when we do, we now have the choice to enter into a mutually satisfying problem solving interaction, get the hell out of something that is none of our business, or seek to destroy.

So, there it is.  As I said at the outset, I just wanted to address some of this thoughtless “tit-for-tat” violence from a different perspective.  What do you think?  Kind of “airy-fairy”?  Riddle me this then, before Mr. Paulson and his “minions” decided they couldn’t handle the truth, and divorced themselves from me, was I thought by some to be a pretty successful and well-recognized Conflict Management consultant?  You should know that my thinking was always guided by “vajra”; whether I was dealing with the (so-called) “bad guys” (e.g. Gustafsen Lake) or the so-called “good guys” (e.g. the Command of a Crisis Management Team).

“First to seek agreement, then to destroy”

Dr. Mike Webster   ( Reg’d Psych. )

P.S.  Wouldn’t you know it, I hadn’t seen Mr. Paulson in public for some time and then there he was at the Senate Hearing on 6/3/15.  (I was beginning to think he had retreated to the closet with “Steve”).  I’ll present just a couple of observations related to his performance before the committee.  Did you catch the “behavioural indicators” he exhibited in front of them?  They put me in mind of a “flea on a hot brick”.  Any of you trained in this area?  What do you think?  Everyone in the room seemed to continue to struggle with the difference between “terrorism” and someone who “feels terrorized” and a valid definition (psychological, of course) of terrorism.  Any thoughts?  What do you think of the leap from Zehaf-Bibeau identifying himself as a “mujahideen” and accepting that he was one?  I identify myself as extremely handsome and irresistible to the opposite sex.  Does that make me so?  Lastly, as Mr. Paulson suggested, Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau “did not come to this act alone”…  say some more Bob, I’m not sure what you mean?  “He had an entire Jihadist movement behind him”.  Ok Bobby, you lose me at that point.  In the sense you are implying, I’m sure that I have at least a majority of professional wrestlers (not even the “entire” bunch) behind me in whatever I do.  Does that mean that they necessarily have a direct effect on my behaviour?  Is there a difference between sharing a belief, like say the “vajra view” that I wrote of in this post, and travelling to Tibet, entering a monastery, and becoming a monk?  And to wrap up for now, what do you think a transformational leader who was dealing with manpower shortages (“I’ve had to shift investigators from other areas to this file”) and a limited budget would do?  Continue to “piss and moan” or demand the RCMP be downsized; limited only to cases like this (i.e. federal statutes) and having general policing duties left to cities, municipalities, and provinces?

PPS:  With regard to “Iron Mike’s” invitation to Mr. Paulson to accept my challenge (or is it a “threat”?) to engage me in a “chain match” to the finish, I haven’t heard a thing!!  You know how to reach me; I’d love to hear from you.



  1. Interesting and insighful read about the frailties of the human psyche, including my own. My search for imparting compassion is rejuvenated by this post and lead me to seek out a quote, “Compassion is not religious business, it is human business, it is not luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability, it is essential for human survival.”
    ― Dalai Lama XIV

    Compassion and understanding is essential, except of course, during a wrestling ‘chain’ match with the commish, ‘Iron’ Mike. Interesting visual …
    Posted by a peacetime military veteran

  2. Once again, very well said. I would like to purchase a ticket to the chain match. Unfortunately Bob wouldn’t stand chance. That said the tickets would have to start at about $00.01 per ticket. I would love to see him get his ass kicked, but he isn’t worth the $00.01.

    Rolly Beaulieu
    Retired RCMP member

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