Sunday, March 15, 2015
Screening for Violence: Introduction
"I was terrified!" is an expression of emotion in which one expresses deep fear.
In a recent interview, I found this statement in the subject's language and as is my want, I explored it.
I have done so in the past several years as not only to grasp a deeper understanding of language, but of fear, itself.
What I have learned:
Some people say that they are "terrified" in cases of:
getting no pepperoni on their pizza;
that a 'boy is going to look at me';
that someone will learn a personal secret, and so on.
"I was terrified that he was going to give us a surprise test!"
I found that in the personal, subjective and internal dictionary of many, being "terrified" left me rather indifferent towards the word.
That is, until this last interview.
In this interview, I explored "terrified" without much expectation, but what I received was:
"my heart pounded..."
"I ran to the bathroom and vomited"
"I broke out in a cold sweat."
I have become a bit desensitized by hyperbole and this was a good reminder for me, in spite of principle, to not interpret words but to ask the subject to interpret, in this case, her own words, for me.
It is a principle and habit of Analytical Interviewing that must be practiced, but for me, this was a good reminder of just how distant two 'camera lens' can be, one from another.
Another expression that has a wide gulf is, "I'm going to kill you" in speech.
"Let me borrow your shoes or I am going to kill you" versus the threat found within domestically violent situations.
Research and my own experiences in D/V show that the best predictor of D/V is not just history (often quoted, and, via data, wisely so) but also language.
Note that threats of violence should always be taken seriously, and must come within the realm of:
Decoding one's personal, internal, subjective dictionary:
Especially by therapists, counselors, social workers and medical professionals.
Does the subject use phrases connected to violence?
In particular, does the subject use words connected to violence when he speaks of non-violent scenarios or situations?
Does he "knock out" his friends in video games? (substitute "knock out" for any of a hundred expressions). This takes careful listening, just as "terrified" and "kill you" can be dismissed as hyperbole. You must seek out a pattern of similes, for example, and what the subject reaches to, in his vocabulary, to ascertain risk.
Does he listen to, or quote, musical lyrics in which women are degraded, objectified, or even referenced with violent lyrics?
Ask questions about his friends, specifically targeting areas in which you learn about how his friends treat their wives and girlfriends.
Who does he admire?
Why does he admire so and so?
Heroes may not be, today, what you and I think they were, yesteryear.
Seek out areas in which the subject has been in some form of competition. Now, focus in on what his reaction to victory was.
Did he gloat?
Did he boast?
Did he show any empathy towards the loser?
Athletes are highly competitive and you must learn what their reaction is towards the loser. This is critical. ESPN has glorified violence, which means that agents will encourage athletes to "stop the camera's movement" and have it focus in on the player, specifically, while he taunts his opponent. That ESPN highlight clip may translate to money for the agent and the player, even while it teaches unsportsmanlike conduct to the children watching.
Your job is to de-code the internal, subjective and very personal dictionary of the subject. This includes gender, race, culture, education, age, and so on, as factors into his language. At this point, you are just listening and asking him to clarify, and define. Do not assume to know even slang. Ask the subject about the word, and allow him to explain.
Does the subject actually feel what the consequence of violence upon another feels like?
You are an observer and not seeking, at this point, to enter into his language.
You are just listening.
Question: Who should screen for violence?
Answer: Who shouldn't?
Parents, professionals of all sort, and anyone who cares to protect others.