Violence, scripts, power, permission, being right and a whole lot more – Marc MacYoung

A bit of mental rambling from a project we’re working on. And yes the topic was developing tools for a women’s self-defense program


Something else was triggered by this question.


Subset of that, being right instead of righteous. And most of all why THAT is so important for teaching women.

There is an important consideration about the difference of the violence Clint, Terry, Garry and I were involved in vs.  the violence Rory has been involved in.

Rory had ‘right’ on his side. Rory had the ‘law’ on his side.

We didn’t. At best, we only had the ‘rules’ And in a lot of those places the rules were pretty screwed up and barely functional.  But then again, so were we.

The problem is that social roles and scripts usually give people power and control in a situation. Not in the fucked up “I am god everyone must do as I say” sense people often ascribe to these terms. But influence, self-agency, responsibility, compromise and the ability to get through something via workable solutions.

Say for example, I’m going somewhere and there’s a person in my way. If I cannot simply walk around that person, I  say ‘Excuse me’ and indicate that I wish to pass.  Following protocol the person moves, I thank him or her and continue. No brainer right? But look at what happened here. This scripted behavior allows me to accomplish my goals and triggers an acceptable social script in the other person.  So, with the least amount of fuss the situation is resolved.

But what if things go ‘off script?’ What if he says ‘fuck you! and refuses to move? OMG what do I do? What do I do?’

A little hyperbolic, but important. Because most people know exactly what to do. It’s just not necessarily an effective strategy if your goal is to avoid conflict. On the other hand, it seems like the best plan in the world if your goal is to protect your ego. That is they react with another social script. Often indignation or verbal aggression. If that doesn’t work, do it all again, but louder. You often end up with another social script of two people being verbally aggressive to each other until one of them backs down.

That is where most shit ends.

However, let’s back up a bit. I can say ‘excuse me’ in a polite neutral manner and — from the toughest, bad ass — get a polite and cooperative response.

Or I can sneer the exact same words and get punched in the face.

Slight shift to make a point. Kathy Jackson and I were discussing the outrage a teenager can muster when you tell them to go back and do the job right. Take for example mopping. The goal of mopping is to get the dirt up off the floor. It is not — as the teen often assumes — simply going through the motions. The motion alone does not get the job done (clean the floor). But often to the teen, the two are synonymous.  They are outraged because to them, they mopped so the job is done. The did all the hard work of doing the mechanism … that’s the important part.

There is a huge reliance on social scripts to get the job done for us. But it is not the mechanism itself that does the job. The mechanism is a means to get the job done, but there’s more to it than just doing the motions.

Another slight shift to make a point.

There is a huge difference in ‘style’ between writing a book and writing a news story. There are all kinds of rules, limitations and requirements in the latter. These restrictions are often considered stifling by authors.

However, journalists recognize — once they get the hang of the restrictions — how creative they can be and stay within these restrictions. Once you figure out how, there’s a lot of leeway and stuff you can pull.

Watching ‘civilized’ women interact I’ve seen all kinds of shit pulled within the confines of social scripts. What kind of shit? This isn’t just going through the motions and not getting the dirt up. It’s spreading more dirt while pretending that you’re mopping.

When used this way, there’s a lot of power in the abuse of those scripts.  And a lot of denial of that’s what’s going on — especially by the person mopping with dirty water. See they’re mopping. They’re following the rules. But there’s a lot of shit you can pull and still claim you’re following the rules.  For example, the difference between politely saying ‘excuse me’ and sneering it.

I think it’s both

a- the denial of this aspect

b – as well as the ‘what do you do when the scripts don’t work?’

that is a big problem.

Because often it’s not a legitimate ‘what do I do if the social scripts don’t work’ question. The elephant in the room is how often the real question is ‘what if mopping with dirty water gets me into more trouble?’

Do scripts fail? Yes they do. Do dirty water scripts, often, not only not pan out, but make matters worse? Oh hell yes.

See here’s where we’re running into problems. Often people are more than willing to give themselves permission to use scripts to sling dirty water  — and claim Little Bo Peep status — but aren’t willing to go so far as using physical violence.

Kinda puts them at a disadvantage when facing someone who is.

Having said that, I will be the first to admit: The willingness to use violence is often used to back up one’s misbehavior.

And yeah, way too often people who use physical violence are not only using dirty water, but they ran the mop through something particularly icky and gross.

Ohhhh bad them. Evil them. Selfish them. Boo! Hiss!

Conversely, we also have to acknowledge how much nasty shit is being pulled under the guise of social scripts by the person who wants to self-identify him or herself as the ‘good person.’ This up to and including to the point of provoking violence.

The latter is important for two significant reasons

1) It erodes our trust in social scripts

2) If things blow up in our faces ALL we have is self-righteousness — not being right — to power our physical violence.

I can tell you two important things:1) when it comes to taking pain and poundings, self-righteousness fails you a lot sooner than being right. 2) when it comes to giving yourself permission to do hard things, it’s both more reliable and easier to do it when you actually are in the right.Way too many people run really fast into shit out of self-righteousness, but when their dirty water versions of social scripts fail, they fall apart (I got nothing). More than that they choke at the last minute when it comes to doing something else, something physical and effective.

So now you have a combo of factors

1) what do you do if scripts fail?

2) what do you do if you’ve been using scripts in a shitty way and things blow up in your face?

3) what do you do if you’re forced to use a resource outside your normal comfort zone and power structure?

4) is doing that outside your comfort zone, self-identity and self-awareness?

Let’s take this from the general to the specific for an example. Violence — overwhelmingly — comes with instructions on how to avoid it. Truth is these instruction are — also overwhelmingly — legitimate. They also tend really not to be humiliating — except to an emotional, scared, pissed off Monkey (e.g. you) Someone telling you to get the fuck out of there is pretty simple. And, realistically, it’s not humiliating. You are being offered a chance to leave or there will be physical consequences.

Oddly enough offering to leave a conflict or potential altercation often has an amazing track record of preventing (or ending) physical violence. I used to tell people ‘attempt to withdrawal.’

The fact that I had to change ‘attempt to withdraw’ to “…make a good faith effort to withdraw” is significant.

A whole lot of people responded to the former with ‘But what if he tries to follow me?”

Two points about this. First is a number of the people asking this were the type who felt they couldn’t withdraw in the first place I call it rattlesnake cornered, but their egos wouldn’t let them. So they’re looking for a reason to reject withdrawing anyway.

Second, I wasn’t giving them the answer I wanted. Instead of giving them permission to go apeshit on someone, I was suggesting something much harder for them to do.  That was do not break the contract. Do not throw dirty water around and pretend you’re behaving.

I realized most of the people who were asking this question were — in fact — the kind of people who couldn’t leave an area without getting in the last word. They HAD to make some kind of parting shot or show their contempt for the other person. This even though they were ‘supposedly’ taking the deal.

Again, ego.

The significance of all of this is if you do actually make a good faith effort to follow social scripts MOST violence will pass you by. In fact, you can field and prevent most incidents. This is a subject that is given a hand wave in most of the SD training I have seen.

But something that is not only given a hand wave in most WSD, but is actively ignored, dismissed and minimized is this: Do NOT be a vicious cunt hiding behind social scripts.

Do NOT mop with dirty water.

You’d think it’s a no-brainer, but in fact, when that has been a primary weapon for so long, that’s the first thing that someone is going to reach for. It’s self-righteous. It’s self-soothing. It’s self-rewarding (I hurt him back)

Here’s the problem. When physical violence occurs — and there’s a damned good chance it will — you need something more than just being self-righteous.

To take the pain and injury of being attacked and fight through it you need to be right. To not hesitate to pull that trigger, to ram a knife into someone’s heart or tear his throat out with your teeth, to snap a person’s arm and keep going through their screams … you need to be right.

And — more importantly — before you are going to be able to drop social scripts and do what you have to do with total commitment — you need to have made a good faith effort to use them to avert the problem.

The hitch with this is if you’ve been running social subroutines all along, there’s a damned good chance you’re going to get caught in the ‘fighting’ subroutine. Not the resource protection mode.

It’s not that the scripts failed and you got nothing else. It especially isn’t that you played fast and loose with dirty water and now you’re the innocent victim. But that’s what a lot of people want to pretend is what happened — especially after the fact.

But trying good faith is an important element of being right. “Okay, good faith efforts didn’t work, time for an alternative strategy.” That is where being ‘right’ becomes a super power. Because it is what it takes to flip the switch and give yourself permission to do what you have to do to be safe.

But how many people can come out of social scripts? How many people’s use of violence is just an extension of social scripts, self-righteousness and is — in fact — just a higher level of fighting to get what they want?  That ain’t self-defense. That’s fighting.


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