As I mention in my book Character Disturbance, we do a lot more “fighting” in life than we do “running.” And while most of us “neurotics” fight in principled and disciplined ways (that’s what assertiveness is all about), the disturbed characters among us are unscrupulous fighters determined to get the better of us. But the nature and prevalence of human aggression is generally poorly understood. This is especially true when it comes to differentiating reactive vs. predatory aggression. To avoid victimization, you really must heighten your awareness about the kinds of aggression disturbed characters exhibit.
Aggression can be overt (out in the open so everyone can see it) or covert (veiled or carefully concealed so that a potential victim is caught unaware). It can be direct (aimed at a particular person) or indirect (carried out through intermediaries). It can also be active (defined by what a person does) or passive (revealed by what a person doesn’t do). And as I mention in In Sheep’s Clothing, perhaps there is no more common misunderstanding than the difference between passive and covert-aggression. But it’s also true that many of the traditional psychology paradigms made it all but impossible for folks (lay persons and therapists alike) to appreciate the difference between reactive and predatory or instrumental aggression. In fact, it’s the tendency on the part of most folks to assume that fear and/or anger underlies all aggression that makes it really hard to tell when someone is neither afraid of you or angry with you but simply preying upon you! Predatory aggressors are a very different lot. And sometimes they victimize out of pure desire or for amusement. Below is a link to a video segment from my upcoming DVD and webinar series on character disturbance, explaining the difference between predatory and reactive aggression: