"To win 100 victories is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill."                 --Sun Tsu THE ART of WAR, 400-320 BC




Control is the crossroads of crisis. Aggression stems from efforts to exert external control. Peace arises from intervals during which everyone simultaneously exercises a modicum of self-control. The most common error of those in authority is the overcompensation of "taking charge" of a situation when the only thing one can ultimately have control over is themselves. We potentially have 100% complete control over everything we say, we potentially have 100% complete control over everything we do. Most efforts to control others results in exacerbating the behavior we'd hoped to eliminate. The only concrete means by which we can control another is physically, and this unsavory outcome may only be possible through the infliction of severe injury or even death. The primary objective must be to break the reflexive pattern of reciprocity, which incites competition and results in escalation. This universal, social process (you smile/I smile back, you say hello/I greet you in return) dangerously subsumes itself following the introduction of anti-social behavior. If everyone engaged in appropriate degrees of self-control (i.e., respecting the boundaries of others), there would no need for laws, for locks. Indeed, there would be no violence. The goal is to "play possum" or dead to the bear. It is nearly impossible to escalate in the presence of someone who is remaining calm. They act as interpersonal ballast, stabilizing one-half of the interaction, thereby breaking the pattern of provocation/antagonization.

            There is no "us and them." There is only us....all of us.

copyright 1993 Ian Brennan

Ian Brennan, author and speaker