Copyright © 2002
Robert Howard Kroepel
20 South Shore Road
New Durham, NH 03855
We are seeing teenage violence in many areas of life,
especially in public schools.
How can we reduce or eliminate teenage violence?
Violence is a serious problem, but it is not a problem
which is unique to teenagers. All people have trouble dealing with not
getting what they want and choosing to how to react to that fact. Some
choose violence, others choose problem-solving.
Any kind of violence results when an individual knows or believes that he cannot have what he wants and he chooses to react violently by attacking someone or something.
Key to the individual’s violence are 1. His [proactive] desire for a person/thing/event and 2. His [reactive] desire for reacting to not getting the person/thing/event he wants or getting a person/thing/event he does not want by attacking someone [himself or/and someone else] or something.
If the individual did not have a proactive desire for a person/thing/event he could not achieve, or/and if the individual did not have a reactive desire to attack someone or something when he perceives or believes that he cannot have the person/thing/event he wants, then he would not act/react violently.
Many people learn to develop proactive desires for persons/things/events they can achieve, and/or to not develop proactive desires for persons/things/events they cannot achieve. This reduces their overall level of stress and increases their overall level of happiness.
Many people learn that instead of choosing a [subjective] reactive desire to attack someone or something when they perceive or believe they cannot achieve their proactive desire they can choose a(n) [objective] reactive desire to solve the problem of achieving the proactive desire or of getting rid of the proactive desire if they have no chance of achieving it.
In short, many people learn to develop realistic/achievable proactive desires and to choose objective reactive desires for reacting to not achieving their proactive desires.
In essence, they learn what is peace-of-mind and how to achieve it: Peace-of-mind is a state of being [state of mind] in which an individual has gotten rid of all desires which are liabilities because they cannot be achieved and has kept only those desires which are assets because they can be achieved; he will react to achieving peace-of-mind with good feelings of happiness.
All people need to learn how they can damage themselves when they develop unachievable proactive desires and subjective reactive desires; and they need to learn that they can avoid damaging themselves by developing realistic/achievable proactive desires and objective reactive desires.
When this is done, people will more and more choose to avoid violence as a reaction to not getting what is wanted.
Teenage violence can be avoided by teaching young people from elementary schools through junior high school and senior high school the basics of what is their mind, what is their behavior, what are their feelings, how their feelings develop, how they can control their feelings, how they can choose to react to not getting what they want by reacting subjectively or objectively, but that, in most non-lethal situations, choosing to react objectively is the better choice.
There are many ways of teaching teenagers how to deal with negative situations -- those situations in which they do not get what they want.
Operational Psychology is a system of psychology which offers operational definitions of psychological concepts, principles and techniques.
Operational definitions are descriptions
of the observation and measurement of the people, things and events which
are the natural phenomena of all reality.
Operational definitions can be constructed in sentences such as “_____ [the word, term or phrase to be defined operationally in observations and/or measurements] is when _____ [observations and/or measurements].” For example, a child might define “love” operationally in the following sentence: “Love is when someone says they like you and they do nice things for you.” When we see (observe/measure) someone saying they like another person and doing nice things for that person, then we can say we have good reason to believe that the first person loves the second person, and we can say that we have, therefore, an operational definition of love. A famous operational definition of “happiness” was the famous “Happiness is a warm puppy.”
By describing real-world observations and measurements of people, things and events, operational definitions are working/workable definitions, definitions that “operate” or “work.”
Operational definitions can be created for
the psychological concepts of mind, feelings, mental health, and mental
Why does a person do what he does?
A person does what he does because he has a desire to do it. Without a desire to do what he does a person would not do what he does. Without a desire to act, a person would not act; without a desire to react, a person would not react.
A personís actions and reactions are caused by his desires, fears and priorities. Without his desires, fears and priorities a person could not and therefore would not act or react.
Your mind does not come with an ownerís manual.
You must learn what is your mind and what is your ownerís manual for your mind.
You must learn the concepts, principles and techniques of your mindís ownerís manual:
Your mental health;
Your mental problems.
I. Your Mind
1.1. Your mind is your personal system of desires, fears and priorities.
1.1.1. A desire is wanting a person, thing or event.
1.1.2. A fear is not-wanting a person, thing or event.
1.1.3. A priority is the importance of a desire or fear compared to all other desires and fears.
The word “desire” can be used to refer to “desires, fears and priorities” for convenience.
1.2. You have two types of desires:
A. Physiological desires, unlearned desires which are in your body when you are born. These desires include surviving, eating food, drinking water/liquids, eliminating wastes, getting enough sleep, warmth, cooling, finding companionship, sex, reproducing, etc.
B. Psychological desires, learned desires which are learned when you seek persons/things/events who/which can/cannot achieve your physiological desires.
1.3. Psychological desires develop in a sequence:
1. Physiological desire.
Example: To drink liquids.
2. Experiments with Environmental Choices.
Example: Experiment with liquids such as water, milk, and tonics such as Coke™, Pepsi™ and Seven-Up™, all of which can satisfy your physiological desire for drinking liquids.
3. General Psychological Desire.
Example: You might, in your experiments with the liquids water, milk and tonics, learn that you like tonics in preference to water and milk and you therefore develop a desire for tonics, which is a learned desire, a general psychological desire.
4. Specific Psychological Desire.
Example: You might, in your experiments with tonics, learn that you like Seven-Up™ in preference to Coke™ and Pepsi™ and therefore develop a desire for a Seven-Up™, which is a learned desire, a specific psychological desire.
1.4. The sequence in which psychological desires develop suggests a hierarchy of desires.
The Hierarchy of Desires
[In reverse order.]
III. Specific Psychological Desires.
II. General Psychological Desires.
Experiments with Environmental Choices.
Examples: Water, Milk, and Tonics including Seven-Up™, Pepsi™, and Coke™.
I. Physiological Desires.
Example: The desire to drink liquids.
Your physiological desires lead you to develop psychological
Your physiological and psychological desires are what move you, what cause you to act and react.
Most of your desires for people/things/events are learned desires, psychological desires.
2.1. A feeling is a reaction to a realization of a desire or fear.
2.2. A realization is the achievement or nonachievement of a desire or the avoidance or nonavoidance of a fear. By a realization you achieve/do not achieve a desire or avoid/do not avoid a fear—you get what you want/do not get what you do not want or you do not get what you want/get what you do not want.
Many people refer to realizations as “situations.”
Positive realizations are positive situations -- realizations in which you get what you want or you do not get what you do not want.
Negative realizations are negative situations -- realizations in which you do not get what you want or you get what you do not want.
2.3. A feeling develops in a D/R/F sequence or Desire/Realization/Feeling:
1. Desire: _____ (?) [Wanting a person/thing/event]
2. Realization: _____ (?) [Achieving/not achieving the desired person/thing/event]
3. Feeling: _____ (?) [Reacting to the Realization of the Desire]
A realization is the achievement or nonachievement of a desire; achieving/not achieving a desired person/thing/event.
2.4. You have two types of feelings:
1. Physiological feelings, sensations, which are reactions to realizations
of physiological desires, and which are experienced as --
A. Pain from not getting enough food, liquids, sleep, etc.;
B. Pleasure/Satisfaction from getting enough food, liquids, sleep, etc.
C. Pain from getting too much food, liquids, sleep, etc.
2. Psychological feelings, emotions, which are reactions to realizations
of psychological desires, and which are experienced as --
A. Happiness when you achieve [positively realize] a learned desire for a person/thing/event;
happiness is experienced as a range of feelings from contentment to joy, elation.
B. Unhappiness when you do not achieve [negatively realize] a learned desire
for a person/thing/event; unhappiness is experienced as --
1.) Sadness when --
A.) You perceive an actual loss or no hope of achieving a desire;
B.) You want to give up and become depressed;
2). Anger when --
A.) You perceive a violation/frustration of an expectation/promise/contract/law/ethic;
B.) You want to attack someone or something;
3.) Fear when --
A.) You perceive a threat of a loss/accident/injury/illness/genetic defect/verbal
or physical attack;
B.) You want to run away from someone or something.
2.5. You experience four basic emotions:
1. Happiness when --
A. You perceive achieving your proactive desire;
B. You want to celebrate.
2. Sadness when --
A. You perceive a loss or no hope of achieving a proactive desire;
B. You want to give up and become depressed.
3. Anger when --
A. You perceive a violation/frustration of an expectancy/promise/contract/law/ethic;
B. You want to attack someone/something.
4. Fear when --
A. You perceive a threat of a loss/accident/injury/illness/genetic defect/verbal or physical attack;
B. You want to run away from someone/something.
All your life you learn how to deal with people, things and events in terms of your desires, fears and priorities, and your feelings; in addition, you learn to deal with people in terms of their desires, fears and priorities, and their feelings.
2.6. When you develop what seems to be a single desire for a person/thing/event you actually develop two desires:
1. A proactive desire for a person/thing/event.
2. A reactive desire to react to achieving/not achieving the person/thing/event that includes A. a desire for an affective reaction [a feeling] and B. a desire for an impulsive reaction [an action].
2.7. You have two choices for reactive desires for reacting to not achieving a proactive desire:
1. A subjective reactive desire, when you do not achieve a proactive
A. To become sad and to give up;
B. To become angry and to attack someone/something;
C. To become fearful and to run away from someone/something.
2. An objective reactive desire, when you do not achieve a proactive
A. To control your negative feelings:
1.) To not become sad and to not give up;
2.) To not become angry and to not attack someone or something;
3.) To not become fearful and to not run away from someone or something.
B. To solve the problem of achieving the proactive desire or to give up the proactive desire
if it is truly unachievable/inappropriate and therefore unrealistic.
2.8. A feeling develops in this sequence:
Desire [Proactive Desire and Reactive Desire]/Realization/Feeling [Emotion: Happiness or Unhappiness: Sadness/Anger/Fear]
1. Desire: _____ [Person/Thing/Event]
A. Proactive Desire: _____ [Person/Thing/Event]
B. Reactive Desire: _____:
1.) Affective Reaction: _____ [Happiness/Unhappiness]
A.) Happiness when you achieve your proactive desire.
B.) Unhappiness when you do not achieve your proactive desire:
2.) Impulsive Reaction: _____ [Give Up/Attack/Run Away]
A.) Positive/Constructive Impulse when you achieve your proactive desire: To celebrate.
B.) Negative/Destructive Impulse when you do not achieve your proactive desire:
1.)) [Sadness] To give up and become depressed.
2.)) [Anger] To attack someone or something.
3.)) [Fear] To run away from someone or something.
2. Realization: _____ [Achieving/Not Achieving a Person/Thing/Event]
3. Feeling: _____ [Emotion: Reaction to the Realization of the Proactive
1.) Sadness/Give Up;
3.) Fear/Run Away.
2.9. The choices you make between A. choosing and developing achievable and appropriate proactive desires vs. choosing and developing unachievable and inappropriate proactive desires and B. (for reacting to not achieving a proactive desire) between choosing and developing a subjective reactive desire [developing a negative affective reaction and a negative/destructive impulsive reaction] vs. choosing and developing an objective reactive desire [controlling negative affective reactions and developing a positive/constructive impulsive reaction] create in you the difference between mental health and mental problems.
III. Mental Health
3.1. Mental health consists of achieving peace-of-mind --
A. By getting rid of proactive desires which are liabilities
because they are unachievable/inappropriate and therefore unrealistic;
B. By keeping proactive desires which are assets because they are achievable/appropriate
and therefore realistic;
C. By developing objective reactive desires to react to negative realizations [not achieving a proactive
desire] by controlling negative feelings and solving the problem of achieving the proactive desire
or giving up the proactive desire if it is truly unachievable/inappropriate and therefore unrealistic.
When a person has achievable and appropriate realistic proactive desires and objective reactive desires for reacting to negative realizations of proactive desires he then has mental health.
3.2. Mental health consists of achievable and appropriate and therefore realistic proactive desires and objective reactive desires for reacting to negative realizations of proactive desires.
Exception: When you are attacked by a criminal you or when you see someone else attacked by a criminal, then you are justified in reacting subjectively to defend yourself or the other person.
IV. Mental Problems
4.1. Mental problems consist of not avoiding un-peace-of-mind --
A. By not getting rid of desires which are liabilities because they are
unachievable/inappropriate and therefore unrealistic;
B. By not keeping proactive desires which are assets because they are
achievable/appropriate and therefore realistic;
C. By developing subjective reactive desires to react to a negative realization [not achieving a proactive
desire] by becoming sad and giving up, by becoming angry and attacking someone/something,
or by becoming fearful and running away from someone/something.
4.2. Minor mental problems consist of unachievable/inappropriate therefore
unrealistic proactive desires.
When a person wants what he cannot have his desires are unachievable and inappropriate and therefore unrealistic. He wants what he cannot have; he goes where he is not wanted; and he loves those who do not love him. He may be an annoyance to himself and/or other people, but he is not a threat to himself and/or other people.
4.3. Major mental problems consist of subjective reactive desires for
reacting to negative realizations of proactive desires.
When a person chooses to react to negative realizations of his proactive desires (to not achieving his proactive desires) with negative affective reactions (negative emotions) and destructive impulsive reactions, he has a subjective reactive desire which, with only the exception of defense against a criminal attack, is inappropriate and therefore unrealistic. He not only wants what he cannot have, goes where he is not wanted, and loves those who do not love him, but he is a threat to himself and those people he wants but who do not want him. He may hurt himself by giving up and becoming depressed (a destructive impulsive reaction to sadness), he may hurt himself by attacking himself or/and he may hurt someone else by attacking them (a destructive impulsive reaction to anger) or he may hurt himself by running away from himself or/and he may hurt someone else by running away from them (a destructive impulsive reaction to fear). In a major mental problem the affective reactions (emotions) are intense and the impulsive reactions are destructive as well as intense.
The individual who chooses to react to not getting
what he wants/getting what he does not want with violence has a major mental
problem because he has a subjective reactive desire to attack someone [himself
or someone else] or something.
Violence can, of course, create negative consequences for the violent person as well as innocent persons who are victims of the violent personís attack. When the violent person chooses to react subjectively with negative emotions and negative/destructive impulses to attack someone else, those who are innocent victims of the violent attack may choose to react with violence and thereby cause injury or death to the violent person.
We are all born with subjective reactive desires for reacting to not getting what we want/getting what we do not want. This is natural for survival. When the child cries because it is hungry, thirsty, in pain, it is reacting to not getting what it wants, which is food, water, relief from what is causing pain.
We are all selfish.
But there is a difference between personal selfishness and social selfishness.
Personal selfishness is seeking to achieve only oneís desires without considering the desires of other people.
Social selfishness is seeking to achieve oneís desires through helping other people achieve their desires.
An individual typically travels through a sequence of (1) being born selfish, with physiological desires for survival, eating healthy food, drinking liquids to slake thirst, eliminating wastes, finding shelter from excessive heat/cold, finding companionship, sex, a mate, reproducing, etc., (2) becoming therefore initially personally selfish in seeking to achieve his desires and to maximize his happiness without regard for the happiness of other people, but through experience (3) learning that he needs the ready, willing and able cooperation of other people for which he must be ready, willing and able to cooperate with those other people by negotiating and seeking to achieve common desires he becomes socially selfish.
2. Personal Selfishness
3. Social Selfishness
All this is observable, predictable, and experienced
by normal people.
Thus where S = Selfishness, PS = Personal Selfishness, and SS = Social Selfishness, we have S->PS->SS.
S->PS->SS underlies all human motivations and resulting activities which are considered "good" regardless of any claims to the contrary. When someone else's desires and happiness [feelings and wants] are as important to an individual as his own, then that individual is motivated to work to help that other person to achieve his desires and to maximize his happiness, and in that process the individual achieves his own desires and maximizes his own happiness.
S->PS->SS is thus the foundation of morality and law and order. It is the process/sequence by which both morality and law and order are established and maintained.
Thus, the inherent selfishness of mankind, which is observable, predictable, and experienced by all normal people, can be converted into the finest and noblest motivation of mankind.
Civilization began when an individual realized that in order to maximize his happiness he needed the cooperation of other people and he needed therefore to cooperate with other people to negotiate and achieve common desires.
Civilization is renewed in every generation when individual realize that in order to maximize their happiness they need the cooperation of other people and they need therefore to cooperate with other people to negotiate and achieve common desires.
Thomas Jefferson said the following:
The essence of all law is that no man should injure another; all the rest is commentary. [Source unknown]Paraphrasing for clarity:
The essence of all the law is that no man should [be allowed to] injure another [innocent man, who does not intend to injure another innocent man]; all the rest [of the law] is commentary.We see, then, that what we want others to do for and with us we must therefore want to do for and with others.
We must learn to develop objective reactive desires. Through training and learning many individuals can learn to develop objective reactive desires for reacting to negative realizations of their proactive desires. When they learn what is and how to achieve peace-of-mind they begin to develop control of their feelings and to develop a more positive influence on the people who are important to them.
What is key herein is getting an opportunity to learn what is the mind, what are feelings, how feelings develop, what are proactive desires, and what are reactive desires, particularly what are the objective and subjective reactive desires and how they affect an individual’s mental health, what is mental health and how to achieve it, and what are mental problems and how to deal effectively with them.
We can provide this opportunity to our students through requiring all students to study psychology/philosophy/human nature as part of the required credits they need for earning a diploma.
This is the right thing to do for our students.
Our minds do not come with owner’s manuals. But with
the concepts, principles and techniques of psychology and philosophy being
developed to help us understand what is our mind, what are our feelings,
how our feelings develop, what is mental health, and what are mental problems,
we can develop the control of our feelings and our wants that can help
us in our personal pursuits of happiness as promised in our Declaration
Among the books which can be used for these classes are the following:
1. Deborah Tannen: You Don’t Understand!: Women and Men in Conversation.
2. Deborah Tannen: Thatís Not What I Meant!: How Conversational Style Makes Or Breaks Relationships.
3. John Gray: Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus: A Practical Guide for Improving Communication and Getting What You Want in Your Relationships.
4. Ellen Kriedman: Light Her Fire: How to Ignite Passion, Joy, and Excitement in the Woman You Love.
6. Ellen Kriedman: Light His Fire: How to Ignite Passion, Joy, and Excitement in the Man You Love.
6. Martin Seligman: What You Can Change ... And What You Canít: The Complete Guide To Successful Self-Improvement.
7. Edward L. Deci with Richard Flaste: Why We do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation.
8. Timothy Miller: How To Want What You Have: Discovering The Magic and Grandeur of Ordinary Existence.
9. David G. Myers: The Pursuit of Happiness: Discovering the Pathway to Fulfillment, Well-Being, and Enduring Personal Joy.
10. Gillian Butler and Tony Hope: Managing Your Mind: The Mental Fitness Guide.
Footnote: There is a type of violence generated when an individual has a proactive desire [not a reactive desire] to hurt someone, when he anticipates a sick happiness from seeing someone writhing in pain, from hearing someone scream for mercy. When he achieves his desire of hurting someone else, he is, of course, going to react subjectively with good feelings simply because, in his Desire/Realization/Feeling sequence, he has achieved his [proactive] desire and is enjoying his subjective reactive desire. Hurting someone else may be necessary and/or justified when an individual is serving as a member of an armed service in a military conflict or when he is required to defend himself or someone else from a criminalís attack; otherwise, when an individual has proactive desires to hurt someone, then that individual is deemed a sociopath or a psychopath, depending upon the severity of his condition and his contact with reality. Sociopaths and psychopaths are difficult to help. They do not know they need help. Their proactive desires to hurt other people seem normal to them. They have little or no sense of morality and little or no consideration for the interests of other people. They may be gang members. They may be loners. Psychology courses may not help them. Intense individual psychotherapy might not help them. Only police intervention might keep them away from hurting students in or out of school. But for those students who are borderline between choosing to help or choosing to hurt other people, psychology courses can help them by showing them how they can hurt themselves through violence and how, therefore, they need to develop other ways of achieving what they want.