5. Characteristics and Criteria - RonaldMah

Ronald Mah, M.A., Ph.D.
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist,
Consultant/Trainer/Author
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 How Dangerous is this Person? Assessing Danger & Violence Potential Before Tragedy Strikes
Chapter 5: CHARACTERISTICS AND CRITERIA


Chapter 5: CHARACTERISTICS AND CRITERIA
Among Jim's important characteristics was a relative calm or self-control of his emotions.  In other words, he did not appear to exhibit high emotional reactivity that was aggressive.  Reactive aggression- also called impulsive aggression or aggression without forethought or prior planning occurs when there is some trigger or provocation.  The trigger or provocation can cause emotional arousal, especially anger.  Reactive aggressors are more likely to say they were provoked and angered by the other person than proactive aggressors.  When in a high state of arousal moreover a reactive individual is more likely to be triggered by a real or imagined insult or threat.  The threat of the partner leaving can ignite dependency insecurity that is influenced by personality styles involving anger or emotional lability (Ross and Babcock, 2009, page 608).  The criteria for assessment would need to aid the therapist distinguishing sub-elements underlying reactivity as well as distinguish such causes from proactive aggression.  “Unlike reactive aggression, proactive aggression is enacted without provocation, and in the absence of anger (Merk et al. 2005) or high autonomic arousal (Raine et al. 2006; Ramirez and Andreu 2006). Proactive aggression, also referred to as instrumental, premeditated, predatory, planned, and cold-blooded (Ramirez and Andreu 2006), is a goal-directed behavior, in which violence is a means to an end other than simply inflicting harm” (Ross and Babcock, 2009, page 608).

Examining characteristics of various potential groups of individuals including those with mental disorders finds some of the criteria used in assessing Cho and Jim.  For example, “Characteristics of ASPD (antisocial personality disorder), including the inability to empathize and lack of remorse, are considered risk factors for proactive aggression (Kingsbury et al. 1997). Male batterers who enact proactive aggression often objectify their female partners and tend to view violence as an acceptable and appropriate mechanism for resolving conflict (Merk et al. 2005). For the proactive batterer then, violence may serve as a means of intimidating or controlling his partner or for getting his own way when conflict arises” (Ross and Babcock, 2009, page 608).  Intimidation and control and the violence itself are the behavioral expressions of a composite of distinguishing criteria including lack of empathy and remorse.  “Perhaps the effectiveness of current batterer treatment programs could be augmented by increasing punishments and/or decreasing reinforcers of violent behavior for batterers using proactive IPV and targeting the hyperarousal and emotion dysregulation associated with reactive IPV” (Ross and Babcock, 2009, page 615).  Distinguishing treatment, intervention, or therapy: targeting hyperarousal and emotional dysregulation for reactive versus targeting punishment and/or decreasing reinforcers proactive perpetrators comes from identifying the qualitative differences between the types of violence based on distinguishing criteria.  

The following is a list of characteristics or relevant elements can be considered criteria the therapist, professional, or concerned person can to use for assessment for violence or danger potential:

1. Specific Triggering Event
2. Opportunistic Behavior
3. Sense of Entitlement
4. Self-Righteous Attitude
5. Ego-syntonic Perception
6. Self-Esteem Gain or Loss
7. Intense Emotional Arousal
8. Pleasure
9. Resentment
10. Functional Reinforcement (Positive or Negative)
11. Characterlogical Behavior or Perceptions
12. Transitory Behavior or Perceptions
13. Isolation/Avoidance Behavior
14. Social
15. Presence or Lack of Remorse
16. Empathy
17. History

The criteria can be individually significant or clustered with one or more others because of some important relationship.  They may be variations of a similar concept whose nuanced differences occasionally offer important insight to the individual.  The therapist, professional, or concerned person will need to determine for him or herself the relevance of the clustering or nuances for the individual of attention or concern.  

TRIGGER VS. OPPORTUNITISTIC
The first two criteria are related apparently as exclusive opposites.  They look at whether there is a specific triggering event and/or the behavior is opportunistic.  Some acting out or violence is clearly triggered by some precipitating words or events.  On the other hand, an eventual trigger may have no igniting effect (had no effect previously or subsequently) unless vulnerability somehow had first developed.  Some individuals are predisposed and primed to behave aggressively or violently and are on the lookout for a reason or a situation to act- that is, react.  Another individual’s vulnerability, lack of vigilance, an unlocked car, an accidental bump on the dance floor, a misspoken word, or a forgotten or misinterpreted act provides the excuse for the opportunistic abuser or social anarchist to aggress.  The perpetrator may claim to have been triggered, but anything that could conceptually be plausible as a trigger would have been sufficient.  Some individuals who act out or abuse do not bother claiming a reason or trigger, but transgress or abuse for the same reason George Mallory gave for wanting to climb Mount Everest- “”Because it’s there” (Gormley, 2012).  Because the opportunity is there is sufficient.  Not all acting out, normal socially acceptable or discouraged behavior, or violence is either triggered or opportunistic.  Being triggered and being opportunistic are not necessarily exclusive.  Some behavior occurs from a combination of predisposition and igniting factors.  The therapist, professional, or concerned person in many circumstances and for many clients or people should assess the dynamic combination of non- to moderately to highly compelling factors with non- to moderately to highly opportunism.  Theoretical and therapeutic or professional diagnosis, strategies, and techniques and interventions should adjust depending on the differences.  Dealing with triggers or opportunities can shape therapeutic or professional strategies.  Or, activate the concerned person to seek professional assistance.

ENTITLEMENT, SELF-RIGHTEOUS, AND EGO-SYNTONIC
Sense of entitlement, self-righteous attitude, and ego-syntonic perception form another cluster of criteria because of their similarity and potentially important nuanced differences.   Entitlement is a right that is conveyed or taken based on the sense of a contract or law or legislation.  The individual asserts his or her ions are his or her right- therefore, should not be contested or questioned.  Others are assumed to be required to defer to this right, since they are beholden to the same implicit contract, law, or legislation.  When others block or challenge the individual’s entitlement, they are violating a contractual benefit that the individual owns.  Self-righteousness comes from a sense of moral superiority greater over the other person or others.  By default, the other person or others are deemed morally inferior. Rather than acquiring precedence from some earned contract as with entitlement, the self-righteous individual asserts having the beneficence that a greater being or value system has bestowed upon him or her.  Challenging the righteousness or blocking the benefit therefore constitutes a sin against the greater entity or set of principles.  Ego-syntonic feelings, thoughts, values and beliefs, and behaviors are in sync with or acceptable to the needs and goals of the ego.  The individual feels, thinks, believes, and behaves in line with his or her idealized sense of self or self-image.  What the individual self-defines as ego-syntonic may be made up of entitlements and self-righteousness- of implicit contractual benefits and moral superiority.  However, the ego-syntonic individual has moved beyond some social contract or legislation and moral code to create a personal model of perfect morality, rights, and behaviors.  What is ego-syntonic for the individual is not just what the legal or social standards demand of and give him or her.  It is more than what some moral or religious or spiritual standards demand of and give him.  It is a very personal set of “shoulds” that the individual aspires to live up to and how he or she self-evaluates.

The individual will resist changing words and behavior that the individual feels entitled to.  Violent behavior that the individual feels he or she has some subjective or objective contractual including cultural right to is more difficult to change.  The individual is more amenable to changing behavior that is not backed by such contractual rights.  The self-righteous individual will more assertively hold onto behaviors that are morally sanctioned.  Giving up or altering morally justified behavior is shameful and a violation of the greater moral system.  Behaviors on the other hand that violate the moral code are more readily extinguished.    The individual will try to behave in a way that is ego-syntonic- that is, the individual is drawn to behavior including violence that fits within the individual’s self-image or self-definition.  Ego-syntonic behavior is very difficult to alter until or unless it can be reset or newly designated or reinterpreted as ego-dystonic behavior.  Behaviors that violate the ego-syntonic model are ego-dystonic.  They are disturbing to the individual as the individual fails to be the great person as he or she has self-defined.  Ego-dystonic behavior is much easier to challenge and change.  Many or most individuals simultaneously feel entitled, self-righteous, and ego-syntonic about all their feelings, thoughts, beliefs and values, and behaviors.  Some individuals however do not feel simultaneously entitled, self-righteous, and ego-syntonic in all cases.  These criteria may also be naturally in flux and/or subject to evolution or change. Discrepancies and susceptibility to change or evolution can be highly informative for the therapist for assessment and strategies.

SELF-ESTEEM
Behavior or others reaction to ones behavior may enhance or threaten the self-esteem of the individual.  If the individual loses self-esteem as a result of the behavior, then he or she is less likely to commit the act in the first place or repeat the behavior.   If instead, the individual gains self-esteem from the behavior, he or she is more likely to do it in the first place and repeat it later.  Of concern specifically, is how acting out, aggressive, or violent may be tied to self-esteem enhancement or harm.  Coopersmith’s (1968) model of self-esteem offers four issues that increase or reduce self-esteem: significance, moral virtue, power and control, and competence.   When other people who are significant to the individual communicate or treat him or her as significant based on the individual’s words or behavior, self-esteem rises.    When words or behavior result in communications and actions of being seen as insignificant self-esteem diminishes.  Feedback about aggressive or abusive words or behavior and violence from the right people can influence self-esteem and inhibit or promote repetition.  

As opposed to significant others views, moral virtue is the individual’s internalized self-definition of what is “good” or “honorable” values and hence, good behavior.  It also includes the individual’s internalized self-definition of what is “bad” or “wrong” values and hence, bad behavior. As the individual categorizes words and behavior including aggression and violence as good or bad according to his or her moral virtue, that raises or lowers self-esteem.  The greater power and control that words and behavior gains versus lowers power and control increases versus lowers self-esteem.  Aggression and violence are often intended and often succeed in gaining power and control, and therefore self-esteem.    On the other hand, aggression and violence can result in loss of power and control because of social and relationship consequences, and therefore harm self-esteem.  Being competent or incompetent in areas or skills deemed important to the individual also aid or blunts self-esteem.  Being competent through verbally or physically aggressive or being violent if important to the individual affects self-esteem.  Likewise, being able to assert oneself diplomatically, staying safe and secure, or getting along if important to the individual also affects self-esteem.  Self-esteem assessment may suggest therapeutic strategy for the therapist.  On the other hand, feedback about words or behavior including aggression or violence may have no or little effect either way if not tied to the individual’s self-esteem.  With such feedback, the therapist may be trying futilely to activate a non-existent behavior-self-esteem linkage and thus, have no effect on the individual per se.  Identifying and ferreting out reasons that words and behavior fail to affect self-esteem may yield important cues for understanding and working with the individual.

AROUSAL, PLEASURE, AND RESENTMENT
High emotional arousal precipitating or accompanying aggression or violence, pleasure gained from being aggressive or violent, or resentment underlying and motivating aggression or violence form another important grouping.  All three involve intense emotional responses that can affect emotional reactivity and/or provide motivations for words or behavior.  Intense emotional reactivity surges past inhibitions that would otherwise reduce, restrain, or eliminate acting out, aggression, or violence.  Emotional or psychological rewards can be more powerfully motivating than emotional or psychological punishments and/or functional rewards or punishments.     Deterrents otherwise effective for less emotionally and psychologically aroused individuals are insufficient for such individuals.  The highly aroused individual will act more compulsively and be less attentive to and minimally swayed by cognitive or logical cautions or alternatives.  For example, “Individuals with borderline features have mood instability, with periods of dysphoria and anger. They may avoid real or imagined abandonment that can result in a dependency upon others manifested as jealousy (Heard and Linehan 1993). Thus, intimate partner abusers with borderline features may articulate anger and dysphoria, as well as jealousy and fear of abandonment as compared to those with antisocial personality features”  (Costa and Babcock, 2008, page 396). The non-aroused or lowly aroused individual can more readily restrain him or herself- that is, look before leaping and consider validity of assumptions, weigh potential consequences, and contemplate alternate actions.  Low or lower arousal is ordinarily considered socially adaptable.  This would be the individual who manages his or her arousal sufficiently well to make socially productive choices.  Ability to manage normal arousal is not synonymous with someone who has little or no arousal over experiences and situations where most people are aroused.  The lack of arousal can be a major indication of the antisocial personality disorder and all its accompanying issues.   

Being emotionally aroused can be in of itself pleasurable.  When words or behaviors give pleasure, they are more likely to be repeated and more difficult to extinguish.  Discomfort or other disconcerting experience or loss of pleasure from words or behavior, such as aggression or violence would tend to discourage repeating the words or behavior.  For some individuals, aggression or violence may be intrinsically pleasurable versus the consequences of aggression or violence may be pleasurable.  For example, the individual may enjoy abusing his or her partner versus the individual enjoys the obedience, control, or financial benefits from abusing and thus, intimidating his or her partner.  Resentments are grievances against a prior injustice that has not yet been avenged.  The intense emotional energy of resentments drives the individual towards seeking satisfaction.  This can only be achieved through counterbalancing a prior wrong (that caused harm) with retaliatory harm against the other person.  Resentments are bitter discomforts that can continually deepen over time often to the point of motivating extreme retribution.  The more the individual is unable to retaliate based on some resentment, the more resentful he or she becomes.  The deeper a resentment and the more resentments held, the greater is the likelihood of acting out, being aggressive, or violent.    And the more difficult it would be to change such behavior.  “Getting back” or “getting even” can be hugely satisfying and pleasurable.  Holding resentments can be very pleasurable as well.  Letting go of or giving up resentments can be very difficult since that would mean giving up pleasurable self-righteousness.  Forgoing resentments, also would symbolize accepting injustice and insult.  Holding resentments due to not evening the score or because of incapacity of doing so gives the individual the illusion that he or she has rejected the insult.  Someone who is not holding resentments, holds minor resentments, can give them up readily, or can have the underlying grievance ameliorated is less likely to act out, be aggressive, or be violent.

An individual may have all three: high emotional arousal precipitating or accompanying aggression or violence, pleasure being aggressive or violent, or resentment underlying and motivating aggression or violence.  Such an individual  would be very likely to be abusive or violent.  It would be very difficult for the therapist to promote change in behavior.  Another individual may have one or two of three but not all three or the same one or two.  These combinations result in different expressions of acting out, aggression, or violence that the therapist would need to address.   Change may be not necessarily be easier to promote, but definitely may require adjusted strategies and interventions.  

FUNCTIONAL REINFORCEMENT
The individual who gains a tangible benefit for his or her acting out, aggression, or violence experience it as reinforcement to persist and replicate the behavior.  A tangible detriment for the same behavior would tend to discourage repetition of the behavior.  Reinforcement can be positive which encourages behavior, or it can be negative which discourages behavior.  Functional reinforcement may include greater or lesser status, academic or vocational promotion or rewards, financial or material gain, or more power, control, or influence in arenas important to the individual.  What is reinforcing functionally for one individual may differ significantly in comparison for another individual.  For the individual for whom functional reinforcement is relevant, the presence or absence or probability of reinforcement will influence acting out, aggressing, and being violent.  However, while not all aggression or violence is functionally reinforced, rewarded, or punished, it may be emotionally or psychologically reinforcing, rewarding, or punishing.  Functional reinforcement moreover is not relevant to all individuals and their tendency for and practice of aggression and violence.  The individual may not care about potential consequences when he or she acts out, aggresses, or is violent.  The behavior or violence is in of itself important or satisfying however the outside world or people may respond.  Such an individual would differ from someone who may refrain from aggression or violence if he or she anticipates being punished, while be more likely to do so he or she believes he or she will not be caught or punished.  

CHARCTEROLOGICAL VS. TRANSITORY
The way an individual thinks, feels, or behaves tends to have some personal consistent pattern.  The individual’s response is predictable and may vary little over time.  Behavior may be a regular part of the individual’s personality repertoire.  The behavior may range between highly functional to significantly problematic for self and/or for others.  Behaviors that come from personality disorders are by definition both characterological and difficult to stop or extinguish.  Family, peer, social, or culturally modeled behavior can become embedded in the personality of the individual and can be considered characterological.  The behavior is highly habitual and likely to be expressed through the lifespan, in different contexts and circumstances, and despite varied social requirements.  Characterological aggression and violence tends to persist despite negative reinforcement and efforts personally and by others to stop or reduce frequency and intensity. On the other hand, the individual may not display particular behavior except in response to unprecedented and/or regularly occurring stress or triggers.  In respect to problematic behavior or choices, the individual may act appropriately except when triggered by some specific stress. Behavior may be consistent and predictable or idiosyncratic within a set of circumstances precipitated by a trigger.  The resulting behavior may be transitory in that it stops or recedes once the current stimuli pass or after a short passage of time.  In other words, the behavior is not a part of the characterological makeup for the individual.  Problematic transitory behavior depending on its intensity may present less damage to oneself, others, and relationships.  The individual, others, and the relationship may be disrupted but personal resiliency, strength, and resources may be able to stabilize, heal, or restore normal healthy functioning.    Transitory behavior implies unusual circumstances that trigger an unprecedented response.  When therapy can address either or both of these issues: unusual circumstances and unprecedented response, acting out, aggression, and violence would be less likely to re-occur.  

This pair of criteria may seem to be mutually exclusive.   That is, when the behavior is characterological, it is not or does not need to be triggered, or when the behavior is transitory, it is not within or from the characterological energy or issues of the individual.    However, closer examination might find other results.  Acting out, aggression, or violence may be the consequence of both issues- that is transitory behavior may be due to underlying characterological issues.  Some engrained characteristics may cause the individual to be vulnerable to being triggered into an aggressive or violent mood.  Acts of aggression or violence become likely during this mood shift.  The mood would be transitory and problematic behavior unlikely after the mood passes.  This could be from an undiagnosed or diagnosed personality disorder for example.  The therapist, professional, or concerned person may also encounter a seemingly nonsensical situation with an individual  who seems not to have any characterological issues, and without any identifiable triggers or a transitory mood shift to explain unprecedented acting out, aggression, or violence.  The therapist, professional, or concerned person may be mystified being unable to identify triggers affecting transitory aggression or violence nor opportunistic tendencies from characterological issues.  The complete lack of rhyme or reason for acting out, aggression, or violence might indicate some non-observable internal trigger suggestive of psychosis or reaction to an unidentified medical condition that the therapist would need to address.  Other than psychosis or a medical condition as the explanations, the most likely reason for these findings would be that probable triggers are unconscious, subtle, and symbolic, a fleeting mood shift, or characterological issues or opportunism submerged or hidden.   This could be from an undiagnosed personality disorder- specifically those that manifest primarily when triggered by threats to a fragile sense of self or attachment security.

ISOLATION/AVOIDANCE VS. SOCIAL
When the individual is socially isolated and/or avoids social interaction, there is a greater likelihood that he or she may lack common social skills.  Isolation or avoidance may be from a lack of desire to be social and/or a lack of ability to be socially adept enough to foster mutually rewarding intimacy and relationships with others.  Lack of desire or skills both can sometimes result eventually in aggressive or abusive behavior with others.  Lack of opportunities to be social because of isolation or avoidance also precludes gaining feedback about how ones words or behavior affect others.  The individual may or may not care if he or she hurts, insults, or disrespects someone else, but in lieu of much experience or feedback he or she may be the proverbial social bull in the china shop.  If the individual is avoidant and lacks desire to be social, there is no motivation to curtail acting out, aggression, and violence against others because of losing social benefits.  Therapy or other treatment and intervention to change behavior become more difficult.  

On the other hand, another individual may be highly motivated about gaining or losing social intimacy and relationships.  This may include staying or not staying together as a couple, getting and keeping a job, or maintaining friendships at school, social activities, or work.  He or she is therefore more receptive to adapting behavior undesirable to others such as rudeness, indifference, acting out, aggression, and violence behavior.    Not only does the social individual get more feedback about his or her behavior, but he or she also attends to feedback, including from family members, school or work peers, and the therapist as important and compelling.  The therapist, professional, or concerned person may find the individual to be either a social isolate or a social being or somewhere in between.  In certain cases, the individual may appear to be social, but actually does not care for social interactions or relationships.  He or she may be quite content being isolated or often avoids social interactions, but engages in social interactions for purposes other than for intimacy or social benefits.  In some circumstances, the individual may appear to be highly charming and socially adept, but only does so because of ulterior motivations for largely or purely self-interests such as for control, manipulation, or exploitation.  Association and interaction with other people are for non-social non-mutual selfish benefit.  Satisfying someone else’s emotional, financial, social, or other needs are incidental or necessary evils to serve egocentric motivations. If highly habitual, this could be due to narcissistic or antisocial personality disorders, for example.    

REMORSE AND EMPATHY
The individual who has empathy for another person relates how the other’s feelings are similar to his or her own feelings.  Anger in another is referenced to prior feelings of anger within oneself.  Fear in another ignites memories of fear from prior experiences.  Another person’s joy or sadness activates a combination of cognitive and visceral connections to the individual’s joyous or sad feelings.  The vicarious mirroring of feelings initiates a sense of identity with the other person.  “That is what I feel.  That is how I have felt.”  The feeling of the other individual’s feelings causes one to think and feel a litany of projections that ones own experiences were the same as the other person.   Compassion is the positive result of empathy leading to caring for the other person’s suffering. Compassion is critical to mutual social connections.   For most individuals who have empathy for another’s feelings- specifically, for the other person’s suffering, compassion should follow.  When the individual cares about the other person’s sad, scared, or hurt feelings, he or she often becomes motivated to do something to lessen the negative feelings.  However, when the individual has empathy for the other person who is feeling badly and is also responsible for that person feeling badly, then the individual feels remorse.   Remorse is personal regret felt from committing or allowing some act that is emotionally or physically hurtful, abusive, or violent. Remorse is very related to guilt- the violation of some socially or legally defined boundary. Regret over a previous action or failure to act may be because of remorse.  However, it may be from other consequences, including getting into trouble or being punished for the behavior or lack of behavior.  Remorse may therefore not be felt in most situations other people may expect it, but be situational per individual and perhaps, very egocentric self-serving values.  The therapist anticipates that the individual who feels empathy for someone he or she has harmed will also feel remorse.  Remorse can activate anger at self or feelings of shame.  Remorse therefore often motivates behavior change.  Sometimes however, remorse, guilt, or shame stays within someone and is insufficient to activate the desire to change or actual change.  The therapist, professional, or concerned person would need to determine if empathy and remorse are relevant for the individual to motivate change.

The therapist, professional, or concerned person normally can use the accompanying motivation that exists when the individual both has empathy for another’s feelings and remorse for having caused negative feelings through his or her words or action.   For some individuals, the ability to identify and understand the emotions that someone else is going through or has gone through does not cause them to feel similar feelings within them.  Identity with and understanding of other’s feelings for some individuals does not lead to caring about the experience of the other person.  They would not care, whether to enjoy the others joy, to be sad with another’s sadness, to feel fear when the other is scared, or to despair with someone’s desperation.  Such an individual may be very astute in recognizing another’s feelings, but note it as another bit of irrelevant or potentially useful information rather than experiencing any shared humanity.  The individual may be able to expertly act like an empathetic person, including skillfully playing the remorseful partner, friend, or colleague if it serves him or her in some way.   

The therapist, professional, or concerned person must however determine if the empathy and remorse are genuine.  This may be a difficult determination regarding certain individuals even for the therapist or professional.  Lack of empathy and remorse, which includes false empathy and fake remorse significantly complicate therapy, treatment, or intervention.  They compromise the possibility of behavior change. Such an individual does not care about the harm incurred by the target or victim of aggression, abuse, or violence, and therefore not motivated to do anything about it.  “Psychopathy is comprised of two distinct factors: interpersonal features and psychopathic conduct (Cleckley 1941). The interpersonal features reflect callous/unemotional disregard, which are in sharp contrast to the dependency and emotional lability of individuals with borderline features. Individuals with the psychopathic interpersonal features are likely to not show anger and dysphoria. The other factor, psychopathic conduct is comprised of criminality, similar to symptoms of antisocial personality disorder (APA 2000)” (Costa and Babcock, 2008, page 396). The individual’s concern would be instead focused on what old and new consequences, specifically benefits or harm have been and will be.  The individual who conceals his or her lack of empathy and remorse may be more challenging than one who is openly non-empathetic and not remorseful for pain caused or abusive actions.

HISTORY
When the individual has a history of acting out, aggression, or violence, it suggests that the individual has compelling emotional, psychological, or intellectual issues expressing in a pattern of behavior.  The prior acts indicate habitual reactions to triggers or needs and predict repetition in the future.  The history or pattern actions imply a compulsive component from emotional or psychological issues, family modeling, cultural indoctrination, or other psycho-behavioral imprinting.  These issues would make therapy and behavior change more difficult, and further acting out, aggression, or violence more likely.  Behavior that has no historical precedent would most likely be examined primarily from a present-tense lens.  However, when the behavior is repetitious from earlier times, then it must also be dissected from historical perspectives including from childhood, previous relationships, and experiences.   Preventing reoccurrence of problematic behavior is more difficult than preventing repetition of a one-time unusual out-of-character behavior. The therapist, professional, or concerned person would look for identifiable circumstances, specific individuals or individuals in similar roles, common stresses, and particular or similar demands (social, financial, academic, work, spiritual, and so forth) in the present and past experiences of the individual.  

On the other hand, if the individual does not have a history or pattern of the problematic behavior, the therapist, professional, or concerned person looks for triggers and circumstances shortly before and within the timeframe of the incident.  The therapist, professional, or concerned person may also look for personal issues that activate otherwise latent vulnerabilities.  The therapist, professional, or concerned person can consider if a unique combination of triggers and circumstances may have exacerbated the dormant vulnerabilities to cause what would be unforeseen and unimaginable behavioral excess.   The individual’s singular acting out, aggressive, or violent behavior would be simpler to deal with and hypothetically easier to extinguish or to prevent repetition.  Challenging the behavior may be easier than dealing with the underlying vulnerabilities however.  Or, it may not be necessary to address the underlying vulnerabilities since they normally do not cause acting out, aggressive, or violent behavior.


ADDRESS:
433 Estudillo Ave., #305
San Leandro, CA 94577-4915
Ronald Mah, M.A., Ph.D.
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, MFT32136
CONTACT INFORMATION:
(510) 614-5641 or (510) 582-5788
fax: (510) 889-6553
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