They threw Coca-Cola glass bottles at my head the first night I worked at Teen Outreach with troubled youth. Inner City. Manhattan, Kansas, 1973. The second night they trashed my bicycle. The Board of Directors warned me that these teens had kept a record: Not one director stayed more than two weeks. I declared with each violent attempt: “I AM STAYING FOR ONE YEAR!” The teens hated me.
Cursing at me, tripping, and threatening me seemed harsh until the tenth day. In the Center’s church basement, the bathroom had two locks. Midstream, the wooden door burst open! Six teens stared at me with my pants down. They laughed. I pulled up my pants, marched out, declaring, “I AM STAYING FOR ONE YEAR.” They hated me.
Thirteenth day: I was in the church basement unlocking a flat lock door (no doorknob). To get into the closet, I had to find the key on my jean belt keyring, stick the key in, turn it, and put my left hand on the door to pull it open. As I pulled with my left hand, someone behind me kicked the door shut. My bony middle finger was LOCKED in the door. DANGER! I had to FIND the key on the keyring, insert it into the flatlock and pull the door open to free my locked finger. My finger resembled an open flapping book. My instinctual body….not my mind…..turned me to face R, 16, 180 lbs., drunk and drugged out. Staring into his drunken eyes, my right arm and fist gave the most powerful slug straight into his face! He ‘woke up,’ and left.
My power shocked me – and him! He returned in three weeks, thanking me for punching him. “You don’t want to know what I was going to do to you.” Then he ‘spilled his guts’ about his life’s disasters.
Self-defense can be described as any force of physical violence used to counteract another force of violence. (Smith and Vinson Law Firm https://www.smithandvinson.com/blog/2020/january/difference-between-self-defense-assault/
Environmental and genetic disposition play major roles in aggression. Violence is a tool. I learned that with R. He used it to release. I used it to protect.
When R left, the teens were sure I was done for it. “I AM STAYING FOR ONE YEAR.” A chorus of cussing and drooped shoulders ensued.
After that incident, the criminals in the halfway house I was volunteering with, teaching them biofeedback relaxation skills and self-healing imagery, began escorting me to and from my job. I smiled knowing I was being protected by criminals against teen wannabe criminals. Small guns didn’t mess with the big guns. I STAYED FOR ONE YEAR, helping many to heal.
In college, I took three semesters of Judo, able to throw 200 lbs. The photo shows me picking up my mom for a magazine interview on my accomplishments. (No, I didn’t throw her!) I learned Judo to feel strength in my body and to protect myself. My violent ‘punch’ was martial art strength.
Look at the child’s artwork who felt violent after abuse. Picture a pressure release valve at the top of your head. Imagine a geyser of negative feelings bringing pressure up your spine, throughout your chest, restricting breathing, increasing heart rhythm. It fuels the brain with angry thought ammunition to destroy. EXPLOSION!
Even the Dalai Lama has proclaimed he experiences anger. But it is what he does with those feelings that recoil any tendency for aggression.
Aggressive behavior is linked to certain genes which break down dopamine (happy hormone). Childhood abuse and other environmental factors can cause Antisocial Personality Disorder with a long-term pattern of manipulating, exploiting, or violating the rights of others, as well as committing violent criminal acts. https://www.jax.org/news-and-insights/jax-blog/2015/december/the-genetics-of-violent-behavior#
Virginia Commonwealth University states that aggression is sought when people feel bad, using it like a tool to help themselves feel better. It activates circuits in the brain connected to violence. Drug and alcohol abuse can exacerbate aggression.
Christopher Ferguson, Stetson University: “The only thing that matters is the mental capacity of individuals to understand consequences of what he/she is doing and whether or not the individual can control his/her behavior. We are all products of genetics and the environment. That doesn’t rob us of free will and understanding right or wrong.”
With the right intention, violence is a tool. I am grateful I didn’t choose to turn the other cheek. I wouldn’t be here now. I treasure my five stitch scar.
Janai ‘Grandma Boom’ Mestrovich
Social Emotional Learning Skills
Life Guidance/All Ages/Individual/Group