Posts Tagged Child behaviour

VIOLENCE IT’S NATURAL LET IT BE.. Part 2

Its been a while and I need to get back on this…. here is part 2… lets see if we cant get a few more up in the coming months.. plus an insight into my new book….

VIOLENCE IT’S NATURAL LET IT BE.. Part 2

Yochelson and Samenow (2013)

A study of thinking patterns in criminals.

Aim: To understand the make up of the criminal personality.

Design: A longitudinal study using interviews that spanned over a 14 year period. The interviews were based on Freudian therapy techniques, which aimed to identify the root cause of the criminal behaviour.

Sample: 255 males from various backgrounds who had been found guilty by reasons of insanity and secured in a mental institution. Only 30 of the participants completed the interviews, and only 9 made any significant progress towards rehabilitation. Findings: Identified 52 thinking patterns that were common in the criminals.

These included:

External attribution they viewed themselves as the victim and blamed others for the situation. Lack of interest in responsible behaviour sees it as pointless. Closed thinking not receptive to criticism.

Conclusion: These ‘errors’ in thinking are not unique to criminals, but were suggested to be displayed more by criminals than law behaving citizens. They also put forward the theory of free will to explain criminal behaviour. This has five points to it:

  1. The roots of criminality lie in the way people think and make their decisions.
  1. Criminals think and act differently than other people, even from a very young age.
  1. Criminals are, by nature, irresponsible, impulsive, self-centered, and driven by fear and anger.
  1. Deterministic explanations of crime result from believing the    criminal who is seeking sympathy.
  1. Crime occurs because the criminal wills it or chooses it, and it is this choice they make that rehabilitation must deal with.

Does the criminal mind of one parent transfer via inheritance to the mind of their offspring? This has been a question that scientists and researchers have attempted to answer for quite some time now and the above does not really point us in a direction that one can be confident in!

The Construct We Call The Mind.

“Rabbit’s clever,” said Pooh thoughtfully.

“Yes,” said Piglet, “Rabbit’s clever.”

“And he has Brain.”

“Yes,” said Piglet, “Rabbit has Brain.”

There was a long silence.

“I suppose,” said Pooh, “that that’s why he never understands anything.”

A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

To date the brain and it’s functioning process are still the subject of large amounts of research and, according to a popular myth, we only use 10% of its capacity! Wikipedia (2014) ‘the 10% of brain myth is the widely perpetuated urban legend that most, or all, humans only make use of 3%, 10% or some other small percentage of their brains. It has been misattributed to people including Albert Einstein.

By association, it is suggested that a person may harness this unused potential and increase intelligence. Though factors of intelligence can increase with training, the popular notion that large parts of the brain remain unused, and could subsequently be “activated”, rest more in popular folklore than scientific theory. Though mysteries regarding brain function remain e.g. memory, consciousness etc, the physiology of brain mapping suggests that most, if not all, areas of the brain have a function’.

The mind of humans is very closely related in structure and in some ways function to that of the ‘Rat’. Research by Smith and Alloway (2013) at the Penn State Centre for Neural Engineering and affiliates of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, detail their discovery of a parallel between the motor cortices of rats and humans that signifies a greater relevance of the rat model to studies of the human brain than scientists had previously known. “The motor cortex in primates is subdivided into multiple regions, each of which receives unique input that allow it to perform a specific motor function”

In the rat brain, the motor cortex is small and it appeared that all of it received the same type of input. We know now that sensory input to the rat motor cortex terminate in a small region of the motor cortex that is distinct from the larger region that issues the motor commands. Our work demonstrates that the rat motor cortex is parcellated into distinct sub regions that perform specific functions, and this result appears to be similar to what is seen in the primate brain.”

“You have to take into account the animal’s natural behaviours to best understand how its brain is structured for sensory and motor processing,”. For primates like us, that means a strong reliance on visual information from the eyes, but for rats it’s more about the somatosensory input from their whiskers.” In fact, nearly a third of the rat’s sensory motor cortex is devoted to processing whisker related information, even though the whiskers occupy only one third of one percent of the rats total body surface. In humans, nearly 40 percent of the entire cortex is devoted to processing visual information, although the eyes occupy a very tiny portion of our body’s surface. It certainly seems from this research that the cortical mapping that occurs in the brain of a human is very similar to that of a rat; the big difference is the inflated size of our cerebral cortex.

Primitive neuro anatomy of the brain include impulses of rage and fear, that are balanced by the operating functions of the orbital cortex, which is responsible for emotional controls, that we know as moralization and self-control. The brain is certainly complex. However, the boundaries of its operations are slowly beginning to fail, not least due to the unfortunate circumstances some individuals have had to endure when accidental damage occurs to regions of their brain.

Pinker (2012) recounts an unfortunate accident that happened to a man called Fineus Gage, a railway foreman responsible for dynamite placement, he tapped down some blasting powder in a hole in a rock, setting off a premature explosion that sent the blasting iron up through his cheekbone and out the top of his skull. A 20th century computer reconstruction of the damage to the brain based on the holes in the skull, suggest that the rod tore up his left orbital cortex, along with the ventral medial cortex on the inside wall of the cerebrum.

Gage’s sensory, memory and movement were still available to him, although something about him had changed, he was no longer the same person, the damage that had occurred had caused an effect that was not just the loss of a capability that was controlled by the brain, this was more a change in his animal like behaviour.

Pinker quotes his doctor at the time saying “he is now fitful, uses the grosses of profanities, does not care about his friends, is persistently obstinate, plans future actions which are quickly abandoned, a child in his intellectual capacity and manifestations, yet has the animal passions of a strong man. Previous to his injury he possessed a well-balanced mind and was looked upon by those who knew him as a shrewd smart businessman, very energetic and persistent in carrying out all his plans. In this regard his mind was radically changed, so much so that his friends would say, that he is no longer Gage”

This type of evidence points towards clues that the brain and the control of emotions are closely linked and interactive with each other, some parts responsible for holding other parts in check.

This leads to an understanding that the human brain has been wired for violence, it is not a random development and in our evolutionary past, it was required as part of human nature to ensure survival, by the use of predation, dominance and vengeance. We must also not forget that humans have a great capacity for self-control, seeking peace or loving thy neighbour. However it is these acts of violence that are really nothing other than a means to strip resources from another individual that we now term as criminality.

One particular region of the human brain that contains several different areas all linked together, and is believed to be responsible for violent acts, is a region called ‘the rage circuit’ The neuro scientist Yank Punck Cept describes what happens when he sent an electrical magnetic current through a part of the rage circuit of a cat! “Within the first few seconds of the electrical brain stimulation, the peaceful animal was emotionally transformed, it leapt viciously toward me with claws unsheathed, fangs barred, hissing and spitting. It could have pounced in many different directions, but its arousal was directed right at my head, fortunately a plexie glass wall separated me from the enraged beast.

Within a fraction of a minute after terminating the stimulation the cat was again relaxed and peaceful and could be petted without further retribution’. This rage circuit in the cat brain has a corresponding counterpart in the human brain cited by Pinker (2012) This region in our own brain, can also be stimulated in the same manner as the cat, eliciting emotionally enraged responses, the only difference is that the cat hisses whereas humans have a propensity to use in appropriate language and violence.

One of the distinct differences in violent behaviour is between violence that is being used for dominance and violence used for predation. Observe two cats who find themselves faced off against each other, their hair stands on end, they assume a hunched and erect posture and all manner of cat noises emanate from within, so much so that when some humans use noise as a means of posturing, we find the term ‘cat fight’. Yet when the same cat comes upon a mouse or bird the behaviour is markedly different, now the cat is silent, determined and single mindedly focused on taking the life of the poor creature in its path.

 

Humans display the same behavioural patterns, these are evidenced in the typical Saturday night encounter when two males face off against each other. They inflate their chest, clench their fists, use language that threatens and insults the other party, however in the majority of cases even when fights start they are usually all blown out very quickly, they may have a few bruises and maybe a bone or two broken but there is, in the majority of incidents, no lasting trauma and unless they are very unfortunate to sustain a fall, and strike their head in just the right place with just the right amount of force, then death will not occur. When a tool such as a blade is involved the percentages rise sharply in favour of death.

However, we also have the capacity for predation, which unveils itself in our ugly capacity to take the life of another human in such a manner as to cause disgust and outrage. We can stalk other individuals and subject them to all manner of depraved acts eventually taking their lives. Cannibalism is also evident in some tribes and was more commonplace in our history than many would like to admit.

Humans also have the capacity to switch from passive ‘I love the world and everyone in it’ to ‘temper enraged maniacs’ at the switch of a button. This behaviour is exactly like the electrically induced rage of the poor cat above. Then we have times when humans are out for revenge, during these times a cool calculating persona can be seen, stalking their prey and preparing for the sweet taste of payback, usually a blade or a gun in some parts of the world are used in a cold manner where death is a high probability. No words are used and the silent determination is like evil unleashed.

A good friend of mine was returning home one night when he came upon a group of young lads bulling another, he intervened, trying to calm the situation, the next thing he knew and remembers was one of them repeatedly striking him, he soon went down as a result of multiple stab wounds. One thing that sticks in his mind was the coldness of his attacker executing his assault in complete silence with the rage of a person possessed.

Scientists have been able to insert their electrodes into different rage circuits within the brain of a cat to elicit either hunting or attack mode behaviour Pinker (2012). It is therefore no great leap to see that humans have the same rage circuits within their brains and that different stimuli will bring forth the same behaviour patterns that the majority of our animal relatives also exhibit.

The rage circuit that is responsible for producing emotional responses that are linked to aggression, hunting and attacking can have very subtle effects that at first look the same. These circuits are organized in a hierarchy which emanate from the ‘hind brain’ where neuro mapping controls the muscles and behaviour actions of the animal. The hind brain is positioned on top of the spinal cord. However, the circuits that control these rage centres are situated higher up in the mid and fore brain. When the hindbrain of a cat is stimulated by electrical impulses the resulting rage is known by neuroscientists as ‘sham rage’ the cat hisses, bristles and extends its fangs, but all the time can be petted and stroked without fear that the individual will be attacked.

If the rage circuit higher up is stimulated, then the resulting emotional effect is much more significant, the cat becomes as mad as hell and instantly attacks the head of the nearest person.

Evolution has, over time, taken advantage of these different modes of reactions, animals use different body parts as offensive weapons, including, jaws, fangs, and antlers, with primate’s hands and feet. The hindbrain circuits that drive these peripheral actions can be reprogrammed or swapped out as a lineage evolves. The central programs that control an animals emotional state are remarkably conserved, including the lineage that leads to humans.

Neuro surgeons have discovered a counter part to the rage circuit of other animals in the brains of their patients. Pinker (2012) It would seem from these types of experiments and the discovery that human brains are not that different in their mental processes, that behavioural actions are not all under the complete control of the conscious mind and that mechanisms within our brains are pre wired for violence. Pinker goes on to describe the position and links to other systems of our brain.

The rage circuit is a pathway that connects three major structures in the lower parts of the brain. In the mid brain there is a collar of tissue called the ‘periaqueductal grey’, grey because it consists of grey matter, a tangle of neurons lacking the white sheaths that insulate output fibers, periaqueductal because it surrounds the aqueduct, a fluid filled canal that runs the length of the central nervous system from the spinal cord up to large cavities in the brain.

The periaqueductal grey contains circuits that control the sensory motor components of rage, they get input from parts of the brain that registers pain, balance, hunger, blood pressure, heart rate, temperature and hearing, particularly the shrieks of a fellow rat, all of which can make the animal irritated, frustrated or enraged. Their output feeds the motor programs that make the rat lunge, kick and bite, one of the oldest discoveries in the biology of violence is the link between pain or frustration and aggression.

When an animal is shocked or access to food is taken away it will attack the nearest fellow animal or bite an inanimate object if no living animal is available. The periaqueductal grey is partly under control of the hypothalamus, a cluster of nuclei that regulate the animals emotional, motivational and psychological states including hunger, thirst and lust. The hypothalamus monitors the temperature, pressure and chemistry of the blood stream and sits on top of the pituitary gland, which pumps hormones into the blood stream and amongst other things, regulates the release of adrenalin from the adrenal glands and the release of testosterone and estrogen from the gonads, which are part of the rage circuit.

In humans the Amygdala modulates the hypothalamus, as you will remember from earlier the Amygdala is responsible for memory, it also affects the emotional feeling that occur especially when fear is present and will encode these memories into our mind to remind us exactly what fear we should be tuned into. An angry face, aggressive posture, clenched fist, will all trigger neural activity in the Amygdala, this in turn sends a communication to our conscious mind with the message ‘remember the last time’

At the beginning of this chapter, I laid out two categories of violence, social violence and A social violence. It is now reasonably clear that structures and mechanisms within our brain produce two basic behavioural patterns, that of predation and domination and it is these two categories that link themselves to social or A social violence. Social violence being the path to domination and the attaining of resources, A social violence the path to predation, the killing of our own species, to also enhance the attainment of resources to survive and propagate, but not always.

The reasons we construct to explain why these behaviours are enacted are our minds attempt to civilize the moral code that many now live by, whereas in an age gone by, things were very different from what they are now, the rule of law and society supported aggressive, violent behaviour in a much more open and visceral way. Yes, we have also got the capacity for great acts of kindness and compassion, we are altruistic, cooperative, but let us not be deceived by this dichotomy, for humans have evolved complex structures to ensure survival, the showing of reciprocal lateritic behaviours is just another way of banking some credit for the possibility of future hardship.

References

Smith, J, B. and Alloway, K, D. (2013) Rat whisker motor cortex is subdivided into sensory-input and motor-output areas. Front. Neural Circuits doi: 10.3389/fncir.2013.00004. Published on 28 Jan 2013.

Wikipedia (2014) 10% of Brain myth. Accessed on 28-04-2014 @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_percent_of_brain_myth

Yochelson and Samenow (2013)Criminal thinking paterns and turning to crime. A2 Psychology revision. Accessed on 15/04/2014 @ http://psychorevision.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/criminal-thinking-patterns-and-turning.html

 

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VIOLENCE IT’S NATURAL LET IT BE.. Part 1

6 VIOLENCE IT’S NATURAL LET IT BE

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago: 1918-1956.

Having spoken about the path and life of a warrior, it’s relevant that I include a chapter on violence and aggression, I do not want this to dissolve into a story of evil and the good fight to protect the innocent, however it is important that we at least have a fleeting glance into the dark side of human nature. Ultimately my book Volitional Attention Training is about the ability for humans to fight and behave in a manner that confronts violence and the science involved in training and teaching others to have that same ability. It’s also important that we understand what we are training for, as violence covers a huge and diverse spectrum of human behaviour, just like our own perspectives are different given the experiences that shape them, violence is different depending on the culture and the mechanisms that drive it.

To some, any violence is wrong, any aggression is wrong, evil has to be banished from our lives forever, they sit firmly on the fence that believes God sees all and that one should not do harm. This is certainly not going to be a chapter on religion and violence; instead I will focus a little more on the evolutionary explanations for violence within the species homeo-sapian.

During previous writing within my book, I introduced Hobbs to the reader and his short statement on the nature of man, this helped to set the scene on why man undertakes violence and the reasons for such actions. Violence in itself is a vast subject and one that has had many books dedicated to the subject, what sticks in my mind is a story that was first introduced by Jainism, a religion traditionally known as Jaina dharma, originally from India. Jainism teaches that the path one should follow is one of non-violence and peace towards all living things, the story is about a king who was once trying to understand how people saw things in the world. He invited five blind men to his palace, he then asked each one to touch an elephant and then to describe what they felt based on their experience. The first touched the trunk and said “elephants are like snakes” the second one who grabbed the tail said “no, to me it feels more like a rope” the third felt the side of the elephant and said “it feels like a wall” the forth put his arms around the leg and said “elephants are more like pillars” the last felt the ear and said “elephants are more like winnowing fans” Hardy (2011). This analogy was also used by Rory Miller in his book Meditations on Violence, to put over the simple fact that violence means different things to different people and that it is a vast subject.

The first thing that should be done is to categorize violence, this will enable us to approach the subject from a specific viewpoint. There is no doubt that many may disagree with this, however we have to start somewhere. Violence has two very basic categories that can then be broken down into further subcategories, a project in the making is the categorisation and explanation of these, so I will not dwell too long here. One area that we will need to cover is why? Why do humans kill? Not only do we kill other humans we also kill in some way most other members of the species ‘Animalia’ all creatures great and small, as well as the plant and ecosystems that supports all life.

Category 1 Social Violence.

Social Violence (SV) encompasses all the violence that as a social people we have come to accept as part of the behaviour of humans. In this category we find all types of sport that involves human aggression, boxing and MMA are the most popular due to their media exposure. We have violence within the community in which we live, especially when it involves a fight or aggression towards another individual, and although not a comfortable subject, aggression and violence by the young from very early ages until they reach adulthood. There are some cultural differences that will become apparent but in the main that covers a lot of violence.

Category 2 A Social Violence.

A Social Violence (ASV) is everything that is not in the social category. The type of violence that usually provokes a violent reaction is found in this level, here we find War, murder, rape, sexual abuse, killings that involve mutilation, gross, graphical use of blades, genocide, infanticide, what is interesting is that many of the words that we use to describe killing end with ‘cide’. This word is again taken from Latin, it is used as a suffix that means “a killer of” or “a person or thing that kills”.

Cultural Excuses

As a species, we are undoubtedly violent, however this propensity to violence is within some cultures considered normal, it is only what could be called “civilized society” that considers violence to be unhealthy and immoral. Countries that consider themselves to be civilized are also the very same countries that have, in some cases, the highest amount of recorded crime. The U.S for example has arguably the highest crime rate in the world and although this may have seen a slight drop in some years it still remains high and has started to escalate. People commit all types of violent acts against animals, plant life, property and even themselves, this writing will only be concerned with violence against other members of the human species and let’s not forget that often violence is carried out by more than one individual, it can take the form of organized violence by a group or gang, all the way to violence committed by the state, ‘War’

Depending upon how severe we class violence and also include aggression, we may find that harmful behaviour also falls within this category. If we are destroying the environment we are also, by default, killing other humans as a result, drought, pharmaceutical discharge, unsafe food, are we not all contributing in some way to this type of violence?

Violence regularly features as a bi-product of a game, within football in the UK violent fights often continue well beyond the finishing of the game and into the streets and pubs of the local area. Not a night goes by where the local or national news is not reporting on violence. It pervades our homes through the box in the corner of the room invading like a swarm of locus; it seeks out young and old with no care for the consequences, by portraying violence within children’s cartoons and entertainment in general, which includes video and computer games. Is it no wonder that our society is still a violent one, having said that according to Gardener (2008) in his book the Science of Fear, we are living in the safest times throughout the whole history of mankind?

Evolution

Darwin introduced the concept of evolution by natural selection in 1858 and from this time man has developed theory upon theory as to what processes have enabled humans to become the dominant species on the planet. One of the supporting arguments is that living beings tend to produce more offspring than the environment can effectively support with its natural resources. The result of competition means that violence has its place in providing a means to resolve conflicts between those that have resources necessary for survival and reproduction and those that don’t. This trait for violence would, according to Darwin’s theory, select those that have the capacity for violence over and above those that do not, therefore over thousands of years of evolution stone age man became more and more adapt at bringing violence to bear on his competitors in order to survive and have the resources required for reproduction.

In his book Selfish Gene, Dawkins (1976) describes the individual, as a selfish machine programmed to do whatever is best for its genes as a whole. He puts it in very clear language, to a survival machine, another survival machine which is not its own child or another close relative, is part of its environment, like a rock or a river or a lump of food, it is something that gets in the way, or it is something that can be exploited, it differs from a rock or a river in one important respect, it is inclined to hit back, because it too is a survival machine that holds its immortal genes in trust for the future and it to will stop at nothing to preserve them. Natural selection favours genes that control their survival machines in such a way that they make the best use of their environment, this includes making the best use of other survival machines, both of the same and of different species. With this in mind it is no wonder that mankind became so adapt at the tool of violence, as in its simplest form this is exactly what it is, you can also now begin to see how this behaviour begins to show itself in our very young children, this I cover in more depth both later in my book and within this blog.

Before I move on, it’s important that violence in children is put into perspective as it would seem that this wiring for violence is inherent in every child and begins to show itself very early during the terrible twos. According to Pincker (2012) the psychologist Richard Tremblay has measured rates of violence throughout the normal lifespan of humans, rather concerning is his conclusion that the most violent period in an individual’s life is that time when they are two, we may have expected this period to be in adolescence or young adult hood, but no, it was when we were hardly old enough to even talk. The usual behaviour shows itself as hitting, biting, kicking and general moody behaviour, this trend of violent behaviour then begins to slowly decrease throughout the infant’s early years. It is therefore of little comfort that these typical children are not capable of wielding any physical tool of violence or else we could see a high number of two year old, on two year old, killings.

The process of natural selection has to also have the ability to pass traits on to future generations, if this were not the case, we would never have adapted to our environment. What this means is that there has to be a mechanism to pass genes on with, this is achieved through heritability and first shows itself during that all too well known stage of the terrible twos.

The blank slate theory was once popular, it was originally believed that parents or any significant caregiver could harm their children by mistreating them, which of course is absolutely true. It was the philosopher John Locke who first proposed the idea that any child could be molded into whatever person he desired, politician, soldier, scholar, this theory became known as the “Educationalists” view and considered that every child born was a “blank slate” and as such they were intellectually and morally clean with no preconceived ideas or knowledge.

This understanding that a child was neither good or bad was at opposite ends to the popular religious views at the time who considered that a child was born inherently bad and that their sins had to be beaten out of them, subduing them to the rod and will power of their masters. A child’s nature therefore is easily manipulated during its early years and those that are close to them have the ability to affect intelligence, social skills, mental abilities and personality. This has been discovered to be not true, however due to later studies that researched separated and adopted children, it was found that they mirrored their peers in values and social identities, indicating that social interaction helped develop these children according to the doctrines and culture of their caregivers, not of their parents. Pincker (2012) states that studies of adopted children showed that they ended up with personalities and iQ scores that are correlated with those of their biological siblings but un-correlated with those of their adopted siblings, this confirms that adult personality and intelligence are more a result of genes than of social environment. What has this got to do with violence? Well there is a theory that violence has a genetic marker and that it is inherited rather than learned.

The above is a short extract from my book Volitional Attention Training.

References

Dawkins, R. (1976) The Selfish Gene. Publishers, Oxford University Press.

Gardener, D. (2008). The science of fear. Published July 17th 2008 by Dutton Adult.

Hardy, G. Great minds of the Eastern Intellectual Tradition. The Great Courses. University of North Carolina at Ashville, Yale University. Downloaded 2014. Publisher The Teaching company (2011).

Pinker, S. (2012) The Better Angles of our Nature. Why Violence has Declined. Published by Penguin Books 2012.

Solzhenitsyn, A, I. (1973). The Gulag Archipelago: 1918-1956. An Experiment in Literary Investigation. Published by Harper and Row Publishers Inc. (1974).

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Why your child should train in a Martial Art

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As a Martial Arts instructor for the last 35 years I have seen a great many children walk through the doors of our studio. Some come through with no idea of what they are coming into, their parents have heard that Martial Arts training will be good for their child and in they come. Quite often we get children turn up and crumple in a heap of nerves, never getting close to walking on the mat, where five minutes before they have been all up for starting to train, the idea being more powerful than the actual act of doing.

So what is it about training in the Martial Arts that parents find so appealing?

Well the reasons are varied and apart from the obvious of wanting them to be able to defend themselves, it could be that their child is very shy and timid and needs to gain confidence and self esteem, they may need to learn how to be more socially active and engaging with other children. It could be that the child is unruly and mis-behaves and in need of discipline and respect. Or maybe they are a little lazy and unfit, too much TV and/or X-Box/Play Station in their lives. Whatever the reason, one of the base effects of martial arts training on a child is an increase in confidence and self-esteem. It has been said that confidence is a child’s first weapon.

Of course we must not forget that one of the common reasons, that unfortunately we see way too often,  is that age-old problem of bullying and to understand this subject in a lot more detail please refer to my earlier blog on this site, which delves a little deeper into this complex subject.

In our organisation, we know the benefits and how to achieve these aims, our motto is “BUILDING CHARACTER THROUGH MARTIAL ARTS” as good character contains everything that the majority of parents strive to embed in their child’s life. Having respect for themselves and others and discipline in all areas of their lives, including self discipline. Being thoughtful and caring to others, helping others, having fun, but knowing when to be serious. Ensuring a child is confident and socially active ensures a good transition into adulthood and sets them up for a lifetime.

This brings me to one of the most critical and pivotal points in any child’s training and that’s the relationship and interaction between all three parties involved and yes, have no doubt about it, there are three! The instructor, the student and the parent, without all three working together it’s all too easy for apathy to set in and a child’s training to drop off. Once this sets in the child begins to fall behind others in his group and ultimately loses interest, but really this is just an excuse, as without support from their parents in bringing them regularly to training and keeping them on that path, they are not able to keep up with their peers and so begin to hide behind excuses as to why they do not want to train anymore, so parental support is an absolute crucial element and must not be undertaken lightly when deciding to start your child learning any martial arts discipline.

It could be argued that the two most important qualities taught within the Martial arts is respect and discipline and the two things that are lacking in many of our mainstream Schools in today’s age is exactly that!     Every child needs to have an understanding of these qualities, without them they are heading down a path that we have all too often seen. You know the one! the one that bullies, uses profanities, stays out late, never listens to authority, starts smoking & drinking at an early age and don’t think for a minute that your child is too young for some of these. The really fortunate thing is that once set on this path, changing it is not as hard as you think, they just need the right motivation and support. 

Notice that up to now the one thing that I have not mentioned is that Martial Art training teaches a child to “fight” and that’s because fighting is the very last thing that we want our young students doing. In our organisation, if we find out that any of our students are misusing their skills, then they enter a strict warning schedule, with the 3 strike rule ending in them being asked to leave.   Having said that, our aim is to teach a very efficient and effective method of fighting that can hold its own with and exceed any other Martial Art, if the need arises,  this results in a very confident and socially aware child. We teach every child to become aware using the color codes of awareness. This Code of Awareness has its origins in the U.S. Military, it was adapted by the late Jeff Cooper, USMC(ret) and founder of Gunsite and is used in many martial art schools today. Condition White, for instance, is  where you are completely self absorbed with your own thoughts, you may be engaged in a phone call, listening to music on your earphones while walking down the street, this is when you will get taken by surprise. The last thing that most people would do is walk across a busy road with no regard for the danger it possesses, yet so many walk the streets today oblivious to the dangers that surround us. Avoiding this state could be the difference between getting home or not.

There are so many different martial arts out there today, that makes choosing one to achieves a parent’s aims a lottery, so a word of advice, research what you are entering into. Make sure that you are happy with what could be one of the most important decisions you make in your child’s life. There are many martial arts organisations out there with Instructors of limited experience with no lineage,  that have no defined syllabi for different ages, choosing to teach the same material to every age group, including adults!!  That’s like sending your child to school where there is only one class room and everyone gets taught the same thing! It is so important to ensure that each child achieves within their group, has goals to work for, yet is not in over their heads. Most parents and even some martial arts instructors themselves have no idea what damage can occur when maladaptive behaviour is taught to children, it is therefore so important that whatever martial art you choose has the necessary knowledge and experienced established Instructors to not only teach your child to protect themselves, but to do so in a safe and effective manner with attention paid to correct biomechanical movement as well as having a sense of respect, self-esteem and confidence to live their lives fully.

The value of Martial Arts training and your child’s future and confidence is so often never seen, hopefully this will help parents appreciate how important the decision is to start your child on their Martial Arts path of learning and the level of commitment that is required.

 

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The age old problem Bullying Part 2

                                                                 
 
The age old problem that will not go away ‘Bullying”
 
It does not take a great leap of imagination or foresight to understand that children mimic behaviour that they see in both their peers and their parents, it is therefore vitally important that, parents modeling aggressive behaviour, understand that their children are in all likelihood going to learn that very same behaviour. Even the words that they use to convey information about how to deal with aggression and handle physical contact are going to impact heavily onto the child’s mind.
 
 
At such young ages any behaviour that a child exhibits is generally for a reason, we may however sometimes struggle to ascertain the reason why at the time. Young children will display and mimic behaviour well before they begin to mutter their first words, parents lead the way by touching their head and encouraging the child to do the same, attempting to get the child to understand ‘head’. Then ever so gradually they begin to develop curiosity and start to explore the world according to them. As the child grows older more complex behaviour starts to reveal itself, copying parental behaviour, using a knife and fork, trying to put on clothes or performing body and facial expressions, all this requires is an amount of attention and they are off. Play also develops with other children or substitute children in the form of dolls or that stuffed teddy bear, these are very early signs that children are beginning to imitate parental behaviour patterns.
 
Fast forwarding a few years we now find a child well versed in a set pattern of behaviour that can be traced  back to early experiences, they are now entering the social world of interaction and have a minefield of emotional and physical interactions to negotiate. One of the primary interactions of children from a very early age is that of negotiating a hierarchy and creating a status within their social group. It could be argued that the reason for dominant adaptive behaviour “bullying” is solely designed to elevate individuals to positions of dominance to create status within the group. The status of an individual can be linked to a better chance of survival, more food, better prospects, all ultimately leading to survival of the fittest.  A question should be ask at this point, is higher-archival and status developing behaviour universal? If it is, then just like the primate research in the previous blog, it could answer a great many questions, something for later. Lets look at a few thoughts that help explain why a bully bullies and why they continue to bully throughout life.
 
Once a bully inflicts pain and humiliation on their victim, they realise that they have power over others and like a drug, they feel good on it. This power also brings with it social status.
 
Nobody actually deals with them and tells them that it’s wrong to bully, so they continue to inflict pain, as the behaviour is left unchecked they think it’s ok to continue.
 
Bullies bully because they have low self-esteem, they feel insecure and are not like normal kids, as they do not have many friends and feel bad about themselves.
 
Bullies are psychologically damaged, either at birth or have become that way due to bad parental guidance.
 
Bullies have been made by their parents and have been exposed to violence and aggression within the family.
 
Not all of the above statements are an accurate representation of the facts “Research indicates, for example, that toughness and aggressiveness are important status considerations for boys, while appearance is a central determinant of social status among girls”  (Eder, 1995 cited by Espelage and Holt (2001).   They then go on to say, “Therefore, it is likely that this pressure to obtain peer acceptance and status might be associated with an increase in teasing and bullying to demonstrate superiority over other students for boys and girls either through name-calling or ridiculing” Research indicates that bullying behaviour is not about the bully fulfilling a need to harm and make afraid and in doing so satisfying a deep need for evil, although this may be the case in the odd child, instead it points to social pressures and peer group standing as one of the main causes for this behaviour “the analyses in the present study of 6th through 8th grade students quite clearly indicate that students who bully their peers on a regular basis share the same amount of popularity or peer acceptance (i.e., number of friends) as those students who do not bully their peers. This finding suggests that students who bully others are not necessarily socially rejected but do have friends” Espelage and Holt  (2001).  This would also lend evidence to contradict the claim that the bully is insecure, has low self-esteem or has been psychologically damaged by his/her parents. Instead the opposite is maybe true, they are intelligent, strong and have a clear identity and sense of self.  They are also supported and encouraged by their peers, they mix with children of similar traits, even though they may have been taught that this type of behaviour is wrong, as these are very powerful supporting groups that will continue to encourage this behaviour.  It’s not all about social states and peer groups, bullies can lack self-confidence, or they desire attention and these feeling will have been exaggerated through the lack of early parental guidance.

What’s happening within the brain?It’s only recently that researches have started to scan the brains of both those being bullied and the bully, with surprising results. When interviewed children who were on the sharp end of a bully’s tactics reported the same feelings and symptoms that were given by people suffering from depression, anxiety and fear. This would suggest that there would be a manifestation of psychological and physical  effects on the child. Researchers are now becoming aware of the true implications of bullying and how it affects children and their brains “using SPECT brain imaging, Todd Clements, M.D., Medical Director at the Clements Clinic in Plano, Texas, has discovered that the brain scans of bullied patients resemble the brain scans of patients with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Patients with PTSD report identical symptoms such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, inattention, flashbacks, etc. What this means is that the human brain is interpreting the trauma of bullying in the same ways a soldier’s brain interprets the experiences of battle or how a car accident victim’s brain interprets the accident (see images of normal and bullied / PTSD brain images). Humans have the ability to adapt to their environment which gives them, the best chance to survive. Unfortunately, a bullied child’s brain interprets the bullying as a threat and adapts to deal with the trauma” Divine (2010). It may well be the case that most of those that are bullied during childhood go on to be confident individuals in adulthood, however there are some that are severely damaged by acts of a bully, if anxiety is allowed to transfer itself to adulthood, then changing long-term ingrained behaviour will be even more difficult to alter. This behaviour is in all likelihood part of normal children’s behaviour patterns, its effect is exaggerated due to social and cultural changes throughout our evolutionary development. Knowing this should give parents and those that are in positions of authority in teaching children an advantage, to develop programs that can help both bully and victim.

Brain scans on the bully also revealed interesting results “that bully beats you up because he enjoys it. Healthy kids’ brains respond to other people’s pain with sympathetic twinges in their own pain centers. But bullies who witness pain show activity in their brains’ reward centers. Aggressive adolescents showed a specific and very strong activation of the amygdala and ventral striatum (an area that responds to feeling rewarded) when watching pain inflicted on others, which suggested that they enjoyed watching pain”Newitz, A. (2008). The activation of reward centres does indicate that some bullies derive pleasure from the activity of bullying.   However this is not the case with every person that bullies, or at least from some interviewers’ research, there are children that state that they do not get pleasure from it. Further research needs to be done to confirm this as, even though on one level a child may not think with their conscious mind that they enjoy it, something completely different may be occurring within the brain.

It is also the situation that a large amount of children that get bullied never find the courage to say anything to either parents or teachers, as they themselves feel that admitting this to peers is a sign of weakness.  It is therefore up to those that are in positions of authority with children to be mindful of the signs that a child is being bullied. , It’s also important to remember that this is abuse, it may not be as bad as sexual abuse, but it’s no less harmful and so the responsibility falls firmly at the feet of parents, teachers (martial arts instructors), friends anyone that has a child’s best interest at heart. The signs may be very subtle and these may include;

Signs of emotional distress – nervousness, anxiety

Withdrawn, tearful, aggressive, depressed, nervous habits

Lacking in confidence

Bruises or scratching on a young person or attempts to hide physical injury

Torn or damaged clothing, missing personal items

Unusual bed wetting

Fear of going to school – excuses of illness often made to avoid going to school

Coming home without money or belongings that they should have

Having trouble with school work or grades for no apparent reason

Lack of interest in doing things they would usually want to do

Behaviour clues are only as good as the person paying attention to the changes that are happening within the child, for a child to hide stress, fear, or anxiety and possibly physical injury, bruises and scratches for example will take a large amount of effort on their behalf and in the majority of cases they may not even recognise the change themselves.

A plan of action

It’s important that we all remember that fear, anxiety and stress create changes within the child, the brain adapts to the psychological threat, therefore any attempt to help the child, will need to focus on the mindset of the child , superficial patches that deal with outward behaviour will only create short-term results. To obtain long-term recovery the mind will have to be rewired back to a more stable setting. To help address these underlying deep issues, principles of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) should be part of your tool box, martial artist have been practising this for centuries, it’s know as meditation. Children will also need coping strategies and skills that will help them manage interactions with a bully.

Those that are in positions to help children need to have an idea of how to interact with the child, what they should do and say, there are some things that should not be said or done, especially if you want to avoid making a bad situation even worse for the victim.

1. Ensure that you remain calm at all cost, showing signs of anger or frustration will be seen by the child and focused on, they may believe that they should not have said anything.

2. Keep reinforcing that they have done the right thing by bringing this to your attention, let them know, that you know it must have been a difficult decision.

3. Take time to discuss how they feel, slowly getting around to the important questions, who, where and when?

4. Take it slowly, one step at a time, the longer that the child has been bullied the more emotional torment could have occurred.

5. Agree with the child the first steps, it should be their idea if possible and not yours, working together to tackle l the issues that are raised.

6. Are there simple ways in which avoidance of a person or place could stop the bullying, keep in mind that once a bully has identified a target they may go out of their way to find them and continue the abuse.

Do not leave it thinking that it will sort itself out, take action before things get any worse.  Tackling this behaviour needs to be with the support of schools, clubs or any event that your child attends. make sure that you meet with the person at the school who is responsible for their bullying procedures, they should have an anti bullying policy, make sure you see it. getting someone to take responsibility for monitoring interactions while at school. Remember recording meetings and agreed action in writing places a degree of importance on the matter, it’s not going to go away and needs to be dealt with. If you are not happy with the way things are going keep going up the line of accountability, board of governors, positions, you are the only person that can keep the ball rolling and protect your child’s long-term emotional intelligence. This all seems logical information and hopefully it’s not new to parents.

The martial arts

Any good  martial arts school will have a policy in place to protect the children that attend, however it’s not just the policy it’s the whole mental and physical training that is important. Good martial arts instructors will teach children non-violent solutions to bully avoidance, this will include strategies to talk and avoid a confrontation, it’s about confidence in yourself that you do not have to resort to physical confrontation to deal with the bully. The goal is to discourage bullies if the potential victim can resist the verbal assault, taking away the control and emotional pay-off, the bully will be less likely to choose them again, as with most perpetrators of violence or crime they are looking for easy individuals to attack. One that has the potential to fight back or is aware and not an easy victim will probably not be chosen. Tactics that are taught should include avoidance, appropriate verbal exchanges, neutral/confident body language and facial expressions, selective ignoring and self-control, physical confrontation is the very last thing on the list.  Bullies are looking for the nerve that makes any individual react, if a child can hide their emotions then they are well on the way to counteracting the bully. Once they discover a victim’s weakness they will do it again and again to see the same reaction over and over again.

Physical techniques are the last resort to dealing with a bully, the problem with any conflict especially with children is knowing were the boundaries are, when is it the right time to act, to fight back? is there a time? should you never resort to physical violence even when being beaten on? There are some that would support this, with words such as “if you use violence against a bully you are then no longer any better than the bully” we have  all heard this at some point I am sure and to be fair adults have the same problem, when to fight or when not to fight?   Should I use a pre-emptive strike? These are important questions and are beyond the scope of this  text and will be covered later. The most important point is should any child use violence to protect themselves? The answer to this question will be different for a great many individuals, ask an adult this very simple question, if you were being beaten by another adult and had the means to defend yourself would you? My thoughts on this is that everyone has the right to defend themselves and their family, should it be different because they are a child? Children will eventually come of an age where they can process this line and do the right thing at the right time, the main aim here is to convey knowledge of the bully and the victim, what they are and how to help a victim fight back, hopefully before too much psychological damage has been done. If you are dealing with a child who has already become a victim, then it’s no good just treating the behaviour of the child you have to get to the root cause of the problem,  the psychological effect on the mind.

Be mindful all the time!

 

Cyber bullying

 

Recently in the UK a 14 year old girl took her own life due to Cyber bullying, if this tells us anything it should be that parents have to be vigilant all the time. This type of bullying is disturbing and it’s not the first time that young adolescent children have resorted to suicide. This type of bullying is perhaps the most dangerous type of bullying as it can be done anonymously and has a very powerful effect on the mind. Why would someone believe what they read on an internet forum or text message sent to their phone? The reason is how our brains work with regard to the law of similarity. If it looks like a tiger it is a tiger. Like causes like and the brain perceives this, if we see a person being sick just after eating a particular food, we ourselves will not want to eat the same food, this has an evolutionary benefit, as it would have protected the individual from consuming the same food and suffering the same fate. Experiments have shown that if we create a negative thought and feeling this will transfer to our conscious mind and become prominent, over the fact that we know it not to be true. For example take a glass of clear drinking water, apply a label to it that says ‘contaminated with radiation’ and feel the effects that this will have on thinking about drinking the water. This rule of like causes like, can be seen when we observe an individual that has in their past decided to ink their body with ‘tattoos’ for example, or someone who has worked out and is big and muscular, we link these individuals with bad behavior or crime and in doing so our minds automatically create a thought of, stay away from them, don’t talk to them, there is a threat there somewhere, even though in our mind, if we take the time to think about it, there is no real danger. These linked thoughts of similarity are ancient wiring processes within the brain that are automatically transferred to the mind and brought into conscious thought. In the time of our Stone age ancestors this process would have worked perfectly, there is a tiger, looking for food; we had better be on our way before we are the food! Children these days are exposed to constant stimuli input from the cyber world, over time this informational input which was once used to aid humans survival, has adapted itself to create the idea that what is read and spoken about on the internet is indeed “true and real” the mind uses similarity and adapts the belief within the individual that what they read is how it is. Cyber bullying is found in mediums such as email, text messaging, and social networks such as Face Book, MySpace and “ASK”, the last one it would appear being particularly unregulated as the bully can remain anonymous as they can create false names and profiles. Cyber bullying consists of the same threats that can be found in any bullying situation, with threats of violence, verbal abuse and the use of language that may not be normally said when face to face.

The bully who knows no right from wrong

There are a few bullies where no amount of therapy will help, the only explanation is that the bully is a cruel individual, they like to harm and inflict pain on others. What’s more,  these bullies have no understanding of what Is right or wrong, they feel no remorse, lack empathy and in most cases these individuals carry their behaviour with them through into adulthood. These type of individuals have predisposition to violence, aggression, manipulation and lying, they can also be very intelligent and in some cases very hard to spot, one in 25 adults have this type of character trait. Quite often people will use the term nature versus nurture, in the case of these individuals it is nature that has created the shortfall in the ability to understand and nurture will only have a very limited effect. understanding this particular type of character trait will require more text than this article allows.

Fear

 

From all the information above it would seem that we live in a world that is controlled by fear and to a degree this is the case, we are fearful today of so many things, we fear the sun, diseases, bad health, violence is everywhere, we do not let our children play freely due to predators, the risk of terrorism is ever-present, the list goes on and on.  The fact is that nothing creates a feeling more powerful within our minds than the risk of fear. Is it true? –  are we now living in the most dangerous times within our evolutionary history? Facts would argue otherwise, our life expectancy has increased generation on generation and statistically fewer people die today theatre they did 100 years ago. What we do have now is instant communication across the globe, when a horrendous event occurs such as the September 11 terrorist attack in New York, we are instantly dialled into the event and those survival mechanism within our brain are triggered, we become fearful.  This subject is not one that we like to dwell on long, but we must remember that the bully can be overcome, there are ways to combat their effects.

Conclusion

Bullying and the effects that this behaviour creates is a very serious issue, if they are not addressed than the psychological scars will continue throughout life. We will never eradicate this behaviour completely, acknowledging this gives us the tools to understand the behaviour, identify those that carry out the bullying and their victims. This in turn allows for real control and management for both parties. They are both victims,  the bully from exposure to cultural stimuli and a lack of nurture with the child’s best interest at heart and from a left over survival mechanism within the brain. The individual who is subject to the bully’s behaviour, is also a victim of cultural stimuli, lack of understanding, support, love and nurture.  My hope is that this information will at least help a few, if it does, then at least a few will grow up without the foreboding baggage given to them by a bully.

 

References

Divine, M. (2010) Bullying Hurts: How bullying takes our brain’s ability to adapt and turns it against us. Posted on 07 September 2010 by admin. accessed on 04/08/2013 @ http://www.michaeldevinecounseling.com/blog/bullying-hurts-how-bullying-takes-our-brains-ability-to-adapt-and-turns-it-against-us

Espelage, D,  L.  and Holt, M, K. (2001) Bullying and Victimization During Early Adolescence: Peer Influences and Psychosocial Correlates. Howarth press, Inc.

Newitz, A. (2008). brain scans reveal that teen bullies get pleasure from your pain. Accessed on 05-08-2013 @ link. http://io9.com/5079234/brain-scans-reveal-that-teen-bullies-get-pleasure-from-your-pain

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