Retaliation Reactions

Jargonizing the Retaliation Reaction Construct:

This chapter’s construct consists of natural reactions that come up for message receivers as a result of acting as though their message experiences are the dominant reality.

Retaliation reactions can be as minor as a facial response: a glare, or a laugh; and in more dramatic occasions can involve actions that put the message receiver or the public at risk. In the course of this chapter I will provide some examples from my experience. While I certainly have observed the actions of others as most readers have too, I will limit the examples within, to my experience. Perhaps doing so will help make a case for group leaders to demonstrate their wellness by being able to take responsibility for their own complex behaviors.

From my perspective as someone who faced a sense of imminent danger against my life, those of us who are taught to defend ourselves or are victims of violent circumstances in their community, may end up in a bit of a disadvantage. In many ways, I certainly can understand how the prisons and jails become full of our people. Message receivers are most likely to get framed in crime rings as well as sucked into them. I certainly was afraid and conscious of this possibility. And I was most definitely recruited. Moreover, I believe that, in such contexts, passivism is clearly an advantage as efforts to hold tormentors accountable in families, work environments, the military and on the streets, ultimately are more likely to lead to incarceration, homelessness/barracks, and death. But I also reveal my own cultural bias here.

From the start, retaliation reactions are an integral part of the special message experience. To the outside observer, who knows nothing about all that has been written up to this point, they might seem easier to be mindful of than concepts such as sleuthing, theories and tricksters. But over time they become less pronounced and more subtle. By definition, retaliation reactions are usually reactions that are likely to lead to disruption in the lives of normal. Over time they shift from being reactions that happen as special message circumstances seem real; and they become corrective measures committed in social commentary on the oppression a message receiver has experienced.

However, because of the way these natural reactions are received by the social world, they become harder and harder to recognize. And the more institutionalized and adept the message receiver becomes, the more minute and innocuous the resistance gets expressed. Ultimately the institutionalized message receiver need to learn to stop all retaliation reactions in order to socially rehabilitate. In re-entering the work force they are often under a high level of scrutiny and retaliation reactions can get them rejected. Perhaps those who make it and who have more a sense of privilege may develop ways to be successful like normals and return to use of retaliation reactions to wield power over others. And this can actually come in the form of bullying, or using power to impose your views and influence over others.

Reducing the ways Retaliation Reactions get Misunderstood:

Consider that a message receiver’s specific message profile is essentially a personalized language of alternative meaning that, during crisis, they believe the world shares with them.  As Patricia Deegan in material published off the National Empowerment website and others point out, there is always meaning behind a message receiver’s action even if it is subtle and slight.  Seeking to decode and understand this meaning be the meaning subtle and institutionalized or drastic and dangerous, is a great way to help a message receiver. In order to decode the meaning, I’d argue, the helper needs to be curious as to the meaning not punitive. This can happen in group and in any therapeutic milieu. It means being interested and curious about behavior that gets hammered into innocuous institutional gestures; it means decoding the truth behind overt and punishable actions and honoring the communication.

Examples of overt and offensive behaviors behaviors that I engaged in include: emotional red-faced grimacing when taunted by a policeman, crossing the street backwards on a red light to block traffic, talking to psychiatric inmates to about the evils of the mafia (not smart when you know that gang affiliated individuals share their lives with you,) even, at one point, suggesting that I was mistreated (or pissed-on) at work by gesturing as though I was peeing on the floor.  As the name I have chosen suggests, there is a sense of retaliation in the behavior that alarms others and can easily be misinterpreted, even if there were explainable and exceedingly valid reasons for the behavior.  They can feel almost involuntary, compelled from the message reality that simmers beneath the consciousness.

As to the references to my own aberrant behavior in the above paragraph what I was saying and how I got treated were very distinct. In other words the communication was poor. Letting the cops know that I had already known they were following me resulted in be being physically hurt. Blocking traffic was meant as a call for help so that I would not be shot as I headed to the border, resulted in a car trying to run me over and further police contact. Talking to inmates about the mafia, resulted in an inability to get a job outside of an Italian deli for two years. And peeing on the floor in front of my nineteen year old boss was an effort to let her know that now she was back from vacation, I knew she was bullying me and being unfair in driving me to work in ways that were unnecessary and unnatural; it resulted in her effort to get me fired a few months later.

Retaliation reactions happen all the time during crisis many of them are so minor, they don’t get scrutinized.  Thus when a punishment is imposed via a sanction it has a strong impact because there is a sense that it is unpredictable, unjust, and inconsistent.  When a message receiver is under a microscope in a hospital or a job, there is a tendency to try to break them of the retaliation reaction habit through constant sanction. The problem is that this may accelerate the sense of being persecuted and cause many message receivers to develop smaller, more bizarre behaviors to demonstrate their oppression that don’t get sanctioned.  Sure there have been official documented studies of peasants done in sociology that document that the same process goes on in economic oppression.  When presented in these contexts the behavior perhaps observed as cool or culturally acceptable.  The oppressors are too stupid to even notice that they are being got.  It is such a frustrating thing to live with such oppression that these expressions are medicalized as an illness.  Let me tell you from experience, it can increase mistrust of others and general sense of hopelessness.

So a major technique for managing retaliation reactions is to pay attention to them and usher in communication.  Find out what is meant and respond in collaborative and healing manners.

I would like to suggest that before a real problematic retaliation outburst happens there is a pattern of emotional build-up in which many messages and divergent views work in emotional concert with each other until there is a behavioral outburst. In reality, the behavior may be justified but it is not perceived in this way. And when it is harshly punished or negatively reinforced there is a sense of injustice that kill trust for the social world that surrounds the message receiver.

As a result, communication about messages and divergent views can go a long way toward curbing retaliation reactions and preventing them before they build up. And observing small retaliation reactions and making curious inquiry can lead to communication that reduces retaliation reactions in the community that can increase in size and danger to both the message receiver and the community.

 

Additional Treatment Strategy of Joining with Effective Retaliation Reactions:

If message receivers were publicly understood instead of cast as so irrationally dangerous, they might be complimented for retaliation reactions that provide relief and do no harm. Particularly if retaliation reactions are witty and “appropriate,” there could be a vast decrease in suffering with some acknowledgement. Too often the message receiver is discouraged and overpowered for making a good point just because it is against the grain.

When in message crisis and with the majority culture hitting me with insults, I could not help but come at the majority in a retaliatory manner. I did not feel I had anybody on my side who could acknowledge when I made a good point. This is largely because majority culture tries to distort and silence the valid points that some message receivers make. Instead, it is too often presumed that the majority needs to silence message culture and that if the whole world stand united against the message receiver, the message receiver will have to surrender.

This does not work in so many cases. Instead message receivers become unwilling to share their private experiences and look at them with other people. They bury them deep inside even when they have the opportunity to do so in my group, they do not do it.

Consider, in contrast, a message group in which message receivers have the freedom to explore and get acknowledgement for their good retaliation reaction quips. It is not only fun, it naturally brings up regrets and remorse about bad ones. As these get shared, message receivers who continue to retaliate hear this and reflect on their retaliations in a new manner, with better judgment.  With cultural support, retaliation reactions could become more effective and assertive and the experience of retaliatory reactions can be normalized and shaped in a direction that can be acknowledged by mainstream culture.

Thus an individual, who wants to support a message receiver, might start with an eye for supporting and acknowledging the elements of the retaliation reactions that are “appropriate.” Strongly reinforcing humor and glorifying non-damaging push back is a start. Joining with it instead of siding with the system that seeks to unilaterally muffle a process that can be adaptive and healthy is a start; however, a person who wants to do this will observe and run up against plenty of incidence when the pushback humor has made things worse because it is likely to be perceived as “inappropriate.”

Managing this scenario his can be done by fully exploring the meaning that was behind the gesture. Just this very line of appreciative inquiry is markedly different than punishing and stigmatizing the deed. While getting the meaningful intent of a retaliation reaction does take a deep step towards suspending the helper’s judgment. Once this is done validating the intent but challenging its effectiveness gives the helper the ability to then explore the potential social consequences with an eye for the role of bullying.  This is a great way to deepen the relationship with the message receiver, teach social skills and change the nature of the retaliation reaction and direct it towards something healing and positive.  The ability to tell personal stories that demonstrate these concepts from your own or someone else’s recovery is a great way to do this.

In this way, group can be a great way to learn how to increase the safety and effectiveness of the retaliation reaction.

As most therapists who have been responsible for assessing threat know, if a message receiver is able to voice their retaliatory reaction, the chances that they will act on them immediately gets reduced not enhanced.  While it’s true this is not an absolute assurance, when someone is able to open up it can go a long way to promote healing.  This is why consumers talk about the importance of risk-sharing.  The strength of the relationship is the largest predictor of safe healing intervention.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Tim Dreby

I am an award-winning author and practicing psychotherapist

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