Thursday, December 5, 2013

Laugh it up Fuzz Ball

Laughing Monkey

I got into a stupid argument with my wife the other day. You'd think as a guy who teaches conflict communication I'd be better at using it.

The hows and whys of the argument aren't important, but after it happened I recognized that my monkey was doing the yelling and I allowed my self to become angry over nothing.

If you don't understand what I mean by monkey look at some older blogs in which I discuss conflict communications.

So I was replaying it in my mind trying to find when I got angry, and how I can recognize this quicker. Quick enough that I don't say something that is going to piss off my wife, thus triggering her monkey and prolonging an argument over nothing.

But that monkey is fast, faster than conscious thought. I say something back awfully fast.

I consider myself a funny guy and when I say stuff that pisses my wife (anyone really)off it is usually pretty funny.

That got me thinking, how come the monkey is funny?

How can it react with come backs so fast?
I want my physical / lizard reactions to be that fast

I never really thought about it, it is just something I can do. I couldn't always do it. There were times, just like anyone else that hours, even days later a come back or joke I wish I would have said in the heat of the moment came to me. So how did I get from there to where it happens fast enough to get me into trouble?

Is that a trained response?
Where does one get that training / experience?

Sibling rivalry / verbal combat training
Surviving as the youngest

I am the youngest of five children by quit a stretch of years. My closest sibling is 12 years older than I am, the oldest is 17 years older.

My siblings, for a long time were as much aunts and uncles as they were brothers and sisters.
Early on I got attention / acceptance in the group by getting a laugh.

Verbally "sparring" with my brother
No mean intent, but plenty of experience.

When I was in Jr High my brother returned from the Air Force and was going to school. He lived at home. This was really the first time I can remember living with any of my siblings as they all moved out before I was even in first grade ( I was about 6 or 7 )

So now I had a brother. We rough housed just like any brothers do, but he was in his mid twenties and I was like 12. There was never any sibling rivalry there, too far apart to be jockeying for dominance. Physically anyway. We never had any knock down drag em outs, nor did we ever really not get along. But we would (good naturedly) tear on each other, and the rest of the family all the time.

This was the verbal equivalent of sparring. Small doses of verbal confrontation in a controlled / safe setting that can prepare you for actual confrontation.

Everyone has been in a confrontation / argument and hours later you think of the best come back. One that would have been soooooo cool, if only you had said it at the time?

Usually that realization comes after the emotions have subsided and the human brain can process the information.

Diminished capacity caused by the conflict all the human could come up with was something like, your face is a butt.

That is why action movie tough guy one liners are so satisfying. I wish I could do that. I wish I would have said that.

But, the more times that happens , the easier it is to remember those tag lines. And if you have a brother to use them on, to spar with, the easier they become to use.

So how does the monkey get funny. How can you use human brain humor when you are emotionally charged

Less emotional = cool under pressure = easier access to information
Confidence in physical skills allows you to stay calmer. Deep breath, oxygenize the neo cortex. Human can access verbal skills, capacity is less diminished. Helps preclude the need for physical skills

Emotions are contagious. A self depreciating joke can break the tension and offer all a face saving alternative to physical violence. A human level win. Words cost nothing.

Humor as a weapon

"Verbally assaultive" behavior
Just as you can physically assault a buddy with no malice intentions, such as a slug on the arm, you can verbally assault a buddy, also with no malice intent - Ball busting

The reverse is true as well every physically violent manifestation of social violence (different types of monkey dances) can also be seen manifesting through verbally assaultive behavior. Words / humor as weapons.

Language via words is relatively new anthropologically speaking. Humans have been communicating with each other long before words. Body language is trusted over mouth sounds.

Language is the purview of the human brain (neo cortex)
So how come the monkey is funny?

Clearly there is physical humor
Three stooges
Chevy Chase falling down a flight of stairs
Farts are always funny
Some one getting kicked in the nuts is always funny

So, how come the monkey can use words so fast it gets me in trouble?
Has the human learned to work with the monkey in these instances?

Remember the monkey, lizard, human is just a model to help express certain ideas / concepts. It isn't "truth"

The monkey can use words just fine. The tricky part of the monkey is that it acts so fast you think you are in your human mind and behaving rationally.

Trick of the trade if you can feel the physical effects of emotion, you are not being rational. So learn what that feels like and practice getting out of it.

How do you get out of it?
 Similar to breaking a freeze - breathe. Inhale deeply, oxygenate your brain give the neo cortex fuel. That is one thing that effects the world. Follow that up with something else that effects the world. Move, talk, something. Something along the lines of sorry about that I let myself get mad, and there is really no reason to be getting mad right now, how do we fix this.

That has worked for me on occasions I was able to feel / recognize the emotion in time before I escalated things (usually with my mouth).

How come the monkey is funny? Is humor saved in the mid brain? Humor is an emotion. Sense (feeling) of humor. What emotion/s are you experiencing when you laugh:

Release of chemicals and firing of synapses - we tag the the sensation with an emotional label afterword

Have you ever laughed when you weren't experiencing an emotion?

Laughter is tied to emotions, so it stands to reason that the monkey would be calling the shots when you are experiencing these emotions.

Remember in this model the Monkey is the part of the brain that deals with social interaction. Establishing and maintaining a place in that group.
The Monkey does not distinguish between humiliation and death. In the past if you were ostracized from the group that was very likely a death sentence. The Monkey does what it perceives is needed to prevent that.

With that in mind it makes sense that the monkey can use humor:
As bonding
As a tool to cement a place in the group
As a means to establish a "pecking order"
To put others down - a form of social violence

Lets re-examine social violence (the different monkey dances) through the spectrum of humor / verbal aggression.

Monkey Dance
Group Monkey Dance
Educational Beat Down
Status Seeking Show

Classic monkey dance from my youth - last day of high school

Monkey Dance - Ritualised jockeying for position with in a group

The physically violent version of this usually follows this pattern:

Hard Stare
Verbal response - What are you looking at?
Retort - Something clever like fuck you
Words have failed
Overhand right

That is the ritual, but it doesn't always go all the way through.

The dance can end at the retort if your monkey is good at "verbal assault". If you can use humor as a weapon.

In retrospect I have "won"several monkey dances because my monkey is funny and it shut things down before it got physical.

Last day of high school, a kid and his buddy from the rival school across town drove into our parking lot where a group of my buddies were hanging out. This kid used to go to our school and he was on the wrestling team with me, so I went over to his car to talk to him. I'm not sure if he came over specially to start a fight with me or if things just ended up there but eventually the conversation turned to something along the lines of -
Him - So I hear you think you are a better wrestler than me
(Side note when we were at the same school I beat him in practice all the time)
Me-Yeah, yeah I do
Him - Hard stare (see where this is going)
Him - You want some,...Pussy (In case it is hard to follow the context, he was asking if I wanted to fight, then he called me a pussy)
Me - (with out missing a beat) Jerry, If I wanted some pussy I'd still be at your mom's house.

I though, oh shit here we go I'm in a fight now. Instead he just sat there for a moment and stared at me then he spun out his tires and sped out of the parking lot.

I got a bunch of high fives from my buddies for burning him so bad and I went about enjoying the rest of my last day of high school.

My status in the group was raised by making Jerry back down.
I just happen to be able to do that with humor. Because my monkey was funny.

Humor achieved everything a monkey dance does.

Did my humor really shut Jerry down? I found out years latter he came back with two car loads of guys looking for me again, but by that time I was already on the lake fishing.

This might be a very different story had the timing been different.

I guess I'll never know if he just felt out numbered and went for reinforcements

Or if getting punked by jokes left an unfinished script that kept bugging him until he had to do something about it .

Group Monkey Dance (GMD)

The group monkey dance is a show of group solidarity.

With physical violence it can manifest as-
An outsider is discouraged from interfering with group business – a way of establishing territory. A domestic violence victim turning against the responding Officer

The victim is an insider who has betrayed the group. It becomes a contest to show your loyalty to the group by how much damage you can inflict on the victim.

Verbal Group Monkey Dances can manifest as

Scape goat
Bonding by ball busting
Shared Joke - knowing the inside joke means you are a member of this group (random blow job midget)

All the different crews that came to tow for the Violence Dynamics Seminar all had their own goat.

We all love our goat, but we all bond as a group by teasing / blaming the goat for no reason.

The Goat puts up with it because it shows he / she is part of the group.

Hazing as ritual
The Goat puts up with it and as the group continues to exist new members are brought in and someone else can be the goat.
Pass on to next generation continues the survival of the group

No one else picks on our goat.

Can the new guy handle it?
If he can't he will lose his shit in the street.
If you cry during your Filed Training how the hell will you ever handle the real stress of being a Police Officer?
If mean words make you quit how will you ever make it as a professional athlete?

High end skill selection process removes most hazing. If you can pass the entry testing, you can handle it, but ball busting occurs as bonding.

Case in point grouping up on me.

I don't want to give anything away but there was a bar room brawl exercise we were doing in training. The team did not bother with the objective of the drill but took the opportunity to have a 20 on 1 fight and kick the crap out of me.

It was fun and it was funny and it was payback for all the times I knelt on their heads in training. Bonding, we are all tighter for it.

Educational Beat Down
Reinforces the rules of the group

Physical violence examples include
A thwak to the head like the Three Stooges, or Mark Harmon on NCIS. A spanking between adults if you will.

The verbal equivalent of an Educational Beat Down include

Demoted to van driver
Tactical bra

Again it is not my place to divulge the details of these stories so I will make my points as vaguely as I can as I refer to stories.

A story from another Operator. His team had a guy that was letting himself go. Not meeting the physical fitness requirements of that team. If your life may depend on the fitness level of your teammates then this becomes an issue for everyone. The team retro-engendered an entry vest into a tactical bra that could accommodate the guys freshly spawned "bitch tits" (see also man boobs, or the fat that collects in the chest of fat guys).

Humor was used as an educational beat down. Your behavior is unacceptable. You are going to be shamed in front of the group to teach you a lesson, and to show others what happens when the rules written or otherwise are violated.

In both cases the educated got the point of the beat down and modified their behavior.

Status Seeking Show

In a marginal society like criminal subculture it is better to be feared than loved. A reputation for violence is a valuable thing. So how do you safely earn this reputation? By beating up your allies? Not conducive to having guys watch your back. You could fight rivals. But those rivals have friends watching their back and it could easily escalate beyond what you are prepared for. So that leaves an outsider but not an enemy. Someone by themselves or at least with no large male companions. A relatively easy mark. A SSS will violate almost all the rules of normal social violence. That is the point. Look how crazy I am did you see what I just did? Better not fuck with me. A SSS doesn’t need to follow the steps of the monkey dance nor limit damage either. A savage beating, knifing, or killing serves the purpose of seeking status by showing how crazy you are.

The verbal equivalent of a SSS

Class Clown

I've got myself into trouble with this, with a former Chief of mine.
I never saw humor as a weapon until I wrote this.
Now I can see how / why he with reacted the way they did.
I spanked his monkey. Let me clarify that.
No violation of policy, but my jokes (verbal assault)felt like an attack.

Just as with an educational beat down children don't spank their parents, subordinates don't tease / embarrass their superiors. Especially in front of others.

Not anything he could really do.  He was not going to out joke me, nothing to gain by going physical, and who would want to fight me?

I didn't break an "official rule" but there is an unfinished script. An unfinished script causes uneasy feelings and compels the need to finish it.

Come on in shut the door please - that phrase is never followed by a fun conversation.

My perception - ball busting / bonding
Their perception - verbal assault

What I have learned the hard way. What I perceived as a compliment, one meat eater accepting another into a group by talking to them like they are still a meat eater, even though they are no longer operational doesn't work. It comes off as disrespectful.

Treating non operational administrators as just that, admin - shows respect, even though if I were in their shoes I would still want to be part of the ball busting.

The perception of the person receiving the message is what is important here. 

Let them set the tone, in fact the less you talk all the better.

Naturally gifted athletes and martial artists make the worst coaches / instructors because they never had to learn it, they could always just do it.

Telling someone to just do it doesn't teach them jack. The best teachers are technicians that had to find a way to teach themselves to compete against the naturally gifted and have a means of transmitting what they learned to others.

What can I learn from how I gained those skills, and how can that be applied to other aspects of human communication and conflict?


Emotions are contagious. If you are dealing with someone who is pissed off it is easy to become angry too. Even over very trivial matters. The key is to recognize the physical symptoms / manifestations of emotion and realize that anything you say in an emotionally charged state will not be productive.

When you experience the physical sensations of emotion Inhale deeply, oxygenate your brain give the neo cortex fuel. That is one thing that effects the world. Follow that up with something else that effects the world. Move talk something. Something along the lines of sorry about that I let myself get mad, and there is really no reason to be getting mad right now, how do we fix this.

Have you ever experienced or witnessed someone smoking to chill out after something happened. It works, but nicotine is a stimulant, how does it calm you down? I offer the theory that the tobacco really has nothing do to with it. However the ritual of smoking, or more to the point of the rhythmic breathing associated with smoking is similar to that used by martial artists and shooters to stay calm and concentrate.

What can we extrapolate to physical conflict?

Training and experience.
You are only as good as your training buddies. Having someone I joked with all the time made me better at joking with people.

Sparring with my brother was not the same as backing Jerry down with Jokes, but the regular "training" with my brother made dealing with Jerry less scary and allowed me to access skills before capacity diminished under adrenalization.

Having good people that push you under safe conditions is not the same as physical confrontation but that hard training provides stress inoculation which allows one to access skills before capacity diminished under adrenalization.

Also the more actual experience with conflict the longer the negative effects of adrenalization can be pushed back. The conflict is less scary because you have been there before, this isn't your first rodeo.

With that experience you can bring more accurate context and feeling back into your training

Lastly so this blog is useful to others, and not just a mind dump for me what else can the readers take away?

In writing this blog, a lesson finally sinked in for me.  Simply stated it is harder to get yourself in trouble with your mouth shut.

Train hard, Train smart, Stay Safe