Assessing Behavior and The Potential For Violence

There are several points to be aware of when assessing behavior and the potential for violence.

  • All behavior is motivated

Acting-out, like other types of behavior, is intended to achieve some goal. This goal may or may not be apparent to you or the person who is upset. The first question you must ask yourself is “What is the reason for this person’s behavior”? You need to become aware of the person’s vital interests and how the environment might be perceived by the person as a threat to that vital interest. Examples of vital interests commonly threatened in the work place have been previously discussed, such as loss of job, loss of stature with co-workers, and in general, a feeling of helplessness as one places their well-being in the hands of others.

  • The more basic the vital interest being threatened, the higher the risk of violence

All people have a threat threshold -that is a certain tolerance for perceived threat. If the intensity of perceived threat in the environment is more than the individual can handle, the risk of that person becoming violent is high. This threat threshold will differ from person to person.

  • Violence-prone individuals have a condensed threat threshold

The individual with a condensed threat threshold is more likely to escalate toward a physical confrontation than the average person. There are numerous reasons for someone to be or become violence-prone. Factors such as personality, past experience, learning, and the present circumstances shape a person’s reactions. Typical examples of individuals that might have a condensed threat threshold include:

  • The criminal or antisocial individual
  • The intoxicated individual
  • The psychotic individual
  • The physically and/or emotionally traumatized individual or family member
  • The more intense a person’s emotional reaction, the less likely they are able to think rationally

Acting-out always involves some emotional force associated with the situation. Fear is the most common emotion related to aggression.

In understanding that the emotionally upset person is unable to think rationally, we can see the sense in taking deliberate steps to de-escalate the emotional components of a situation so that the person can rationally cooperate.

  • When upset, if given an option, an individual will usually choose a nonviolent way over a violent way of dealing with a stressful situation

Common causes of acting-out:

  • Frustration
  • Tension (anxiety)
  • Being ignored/rejected
  • Lack of positive attention
  • Confinement
  • Loss of person power
  • Lack of impulse control
  • Boredom
  • Overcrowding
  • Competition
  • Staff behavior
  • Psychological confusion/misperception
  • Need to establish/maintain self-esteem