Just as incidents of violence and crime appear to be on the rise in our society, if we take a closer look around us, we will find that in our immediate surroundings too people are expressing themselves more and more aggressively.
Aggression can take many forms. Arjun’s abusive spat with his friend over a rule not followed while playing cricket; Priti’s argument with her mother and subsequent slamming of the door when she was denied permission to attend a late night party, or the exchange of blows at home between siblings over who controls the television remote… are all instances of aggressive behaviour.
When Sumit was stopped from cheating during an exam, he tore the exam paper and threw it at the invigilator’s face before storming out of the examination hall. All of these are, perhaps milder, methods in which aggression manifests itself in our immediate environment.
It is believed that we indulge in aggression mainly for two purposes. One, when we purposely want to bring harm to another person or object, also known as hostile aggression or when we indulge in an aggressive act in order to gain something, such as a three-year-old snatching a toy from his playmate. This is referred to as instrumental aggression. Aggression can take physical or verbal forms. While pushing, shoving, boxing, slapping, pinching, and throwing things around are mild forms of physical aggression; abusing, teasing, gossiping and spreading rumours about another person are forms of verbal aggression.
There are no easy answers of course to the question of why our society is becoming more and more aggressive; however there may be a few indicators in our immediate environment. Very often films and television present a completely distorted picture of aggression. Characters who indulge in violence are portrayed as heroes or stories where hostile means are adopted to attain one’s goals are celebrated.
Playing interactive and violent video games is another way in which youngsters may learn to adopt aggressive means in life. If you win a game by indulging in more violence than your competitor, you are likely to believe that it is the right thing to do. Sometimes parents, siblings, peers and even teachers display acts of aggression and unknowingly become role models. The ability to make a distinction between reality and fiction and to understand that there may be alternative paths to fulfil our wants is a developmental process which comes with age, maturity of thought and experience.
Just as there are examples around us which lead us to believe that aggression is an effective way of reaching our goals, interestingly, if we take a closer look, there may be enough instances which tell a different story.
Parents teach their children the power of negotiation and delaying gratification when teachers help resolve disputes among classmates through dialogue and discussion, when the media celebrates heroes of non-violence, we learn that aggression is not necessarily the best way to get what we want.
Choose your role models with care; the path we choose for ourselves should lead us to accomplishment and not destruction.