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I have little hope for an answer, but would like to hear your ideas:

Yesterday evening I went visiting my dear old ma. She lives at one of very best neighborhood of Tel-Aviv - Very quiet, very secure. This is my childhood neighborhood, so I know it very well.

Around 11 P.M. I decided to take the bus back home. I waited at the bus station, very near my old high-school. There was almost no traffic. It was quite dark as the street light kept turning off and on again. To pass the time I decided I'd train a little in the Alexander technique, and I started practicing the monkey stance. This makes me look rather peculiar, but there was no one around so I didn't mind. I mention this because for me practicing this technique has almost meditative qualities - it really calms me.

I was absorbed in my meditation when two teenagers on an electric korkinet passed me by. Out of the blue one of them shouted a curse at me, spat on me, and they sailed away.

All this is a preface and setting the scene to what really troubles me: In a blink I straightened, used my "low, manly, aggressive" voice, and shouted an insult at him describing the sexual practices of his mother. And, on the way home on the bus, though I was shocked by the unexpected and unprecedented aggression, and though I felt soiled by the spit, I really felt good about how manly I reacted. That is - I felt good about it till I calmed down and analyzed my response.

Now, I like to think of myself as a rational guy. Just previous month I've had a seminar with Rory Miller about how to deescalate violence and avoid fights. So I'm really disappointed with myself and my reaction: In the first real test - I flunk and respond aggressively.

So, my question is: Can you think of any method or training method to try and restrain such automatic aggression reactions?

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Not a direct answer (I would also LOVE to see an answer), but in my opinion you failed multiple times. That is, you failed to spot the anxiety at those strangers (although you were unoccupied), you failed to keep your distance (although there was plenty of free space on the street) and THEN you failed to keep cool when they attacked you (emotionally). Check this out: conflictcommunications.com/Articles.htm . Maybe a good advice is to get used to thinking about the consequences of your action, no the very action (e.g. live 10 seconds in the future). Maybe not. –  Vorac Jul 6 '12 at 5:47
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@Vorac - In my opinion, that is absolutely an answer. Not the question that's been asked, but the question that's lying underneath - the root cause. –  Trevoke Jul 6 '12 at 22:26
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5 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

It's absolutely fine and normal to feel agrieved at the insult that was yelled at you. I suspect your disappointment in your reaction is because you realise you were not in control of your action. Expressing doubts about their parentage is fine as long as it isn't a sudden reflexive action, effectively you are lashing out.

Where you "failed" was you didn't recognise and/or mentally process that there was no immediate physical threat. This "processing" is a subconcious thing and is a result of not only training but also being in situations where you need to exercise it. You could train everyday for years and still automatically have the wrong response the first time you have a real life situation - in a way that is part of the training.

So you failed this time - that is fine, there is no damage except maybe to your self esteem. Often we learn not by doing the right thing, but by doing the wrong thing and realising afterwards that it was wrong. You will have a far better chance of having the right reaction next time it happens, if ever.

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Thanks, insightful answer (and thanks for the question editing). –  Avi Jul 4 '12 at 11:16
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+1 for "Often we learn not by doing the right thing, but by doing the wrong thing and realising afterwards that it was wrong." –  Vorac Jul 6 '12 at 5:34
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Pick up a competetive* martial art and go into some competitions. It's a great way to get the urge to fight out of your system.

*full contact/full resistance ideally, rather than kata competitions

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At 52/130 I'm too old and fat (and fragile) for that... :) –  Avi Jul 4 '12 at 11:13
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Last summer I made a one month trek in the Balkan mountains. One guy was 70-year old. Also, ngepit.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/burn_fat.jpg –  Vorac Jul 6 '12 at 5:52
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I think your reaction was the best possible at the time. The attack on you was not purely physical, O. K. Some spit hit you. That is very unpleasant and humiliating, can cause you to be user for days and to want to hit someone. That is normal. But there was no danger to you and you did react. You didnt freez like most people will and you didn't throw a stone at them. You reacted perfectly with the situation and without unnecessary force. If it was me, I toils throw a stone and run and kick their heads after they fall to the ground. Next time, while meditating, try to see the attack in advance. I think what you need to work is not the response, but to see the danger before the attack.

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One of the core principles of most martial arts is avoiding unnecessary violence - and reacting to the insult received by replying with another insult could have escalated the situation to violence. Those two teenagers could have been sailing around insulting people looking for someone to react and give them an excuse for a fight. They could have been armed. Avi's response was normal and understandable, but it was a long way from the best possible. –  Rophuine Jul 9 '12 at 23:46
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Start meditating. You reacted (note: not "response" but "reaction") to a perceived aggression that, in truth, had nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.

I don't quite know how far they were - if they spat ON you and not just AT you, then very close.

However, you say they headed away from you right after the spitting. This means they did not want an altercation with YOU. They were simply acting out some kind of energy - maybe the interaction between the two of them is tense and they feel that they have to do this to ease the tension. Who knows.

The key here is the spitting. Culturally, it tends to be one of the most vulgar things one can do to someone else. I'm sure they knew that and wanted to provoke you - but that's it. That's as far as they wanted to go. They wanted to elicit a response from you.

Imagine: they spit on you, leave, and you give them no reaction. Or: they spit on you, and you beat them up. Or: they spit on you, and you yell at them.

In the last scenario, I'm sure they feel like they won. In the second scenario, I'm sure you'll feel like you lost, right after you get arrested. In the first scenario, they'll act as though they won because they totally spat on that weird dude. But it wasn't satisfying.

Now ... you could do nothing and it could eat you up inside. That's why: meditate. You need to be able to let go of your emotions if they bubble up that way. You need to be able to perceive things for what they are. The threat here was imagined, and not even physical - an imaginary threat to your ego.

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All part of learning to come to terms with your monkey brain, and learning to recognize when it wants to play with the other monkeys in the area. Not easy, start always with you did here, self examination, become aware of what you did and how yo could have handled it differnetly. I would even suggest meditation type activities to learn to calm and relax yourself

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