Notes from the counselor on Aggressive Personalities
Dr. Muriel Redman McKenney on Aggressive Personalities
Dr. McKenney had plenty of opportunities to see aggressive personalities through the decades.
As a child she was largely sheltered from aggressive behavior by her family and her family’s social standing. Though her family had suffered from aggressive behavior, she had been kept safe from the consequences.
As a teenager she saw the distant aggression of the Spanish Civil War and Third Reich but had no first had knowledge at least at first.
As a candy striper in Boston she got to see some of the results first hand. And as a young woman she had encounters with men that saw assertiveness give way to aggression.
Still the first part of her life gave her limited insight into aggression.
These are the notes of Dr. Muriel R. McKenney, The Counselor, on Aggressive Personalities:
“What is going on? Aggression and violence are rampant everywhere.
It seems that whatever aggressive or violent behavior the mind can conjure up is being acted out. Atrocities are being reported all around the world, as well as right here at home. We are bombarded with headlines such as: “Wife mutilates husband by amputation,” and “Beautiful young world class skater injured by man attempting to break her legs.”
While these events monopolize the news, I believe that the majority of people are good-hearted and try to do the best they can. Many researches in the field of behavioral science are trying to understand aggression and violence by studying personality issues. Toch conducted an extensive interview study on the violence displayed in 69 inmates and parolees. He found that there were 10 definite personality categories of violent men.
He describes them as follows:
1. The “self-promoter” is a man who works hard to give the impression that he is not to be trifled with, and that he is formidable and cannot be intimidated. He fights to impress others. He butts into others’ affairs to show his self-importance. He will maneuver others into positions where he can justify attacking them. He has no concern for anyone but himself and is capable of killing his own parents without any remorse.
2. The “bully” takes advantage of people whenever they are in a weakened position. Then when they victim cries for mercy or gives any indication of weakness, the bully accelerates his violence. He is purposely unfair, unmerciful and inhumane. He resorts to clearly cruel behavior like stomping on his victims’ faces. The bully has a history of boyhood escapades that lead to adult felony assaults.
3. “Redefenders” are individuals who defend their reputation as having a special position in the gang which depends on their violence.
4. “Norm enforcers” know the rules; know when the rules have been violated, and how the violator must be dealt with. They act as a one man posse.
5. “Self-image” defenders act aggressively out of profound feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem. Any threat to their integrity or manliness leads to a violent reaction.
6. “Self-defenders” react to others as sources of physical danger and strike first to prevent themselves from becoming the victim.
7. “Pressure removers” lack interpersonal skills and explode easily when frustrated.
8. “Exploiters” persistently manipulate others into being a source of pleasure or convenience for them. When others resist, exploiters react with violence.
9. “Self-indulgers” believe the only purpose for the existence of other people is to cater to them. The self-indulger’s own welfare is of primary concern.
10. “Catharters” use aggression to release internal pressure and moods.
In this research study Toch found that there are clearly aggressive personalities. However, aggression is not; an emotion (anger), a motive (revenge), or an attitude (hate), nor is it a personality trait. Aggression is a behavior and involves INTENT, and the intention is to harm or injure another person physically or verbally for self-serving purposes.
Recent research shows that an individual’s pattern of aggressive characteristics persist over time. Both girls and boys who were found to be aggressive physically or verbally at age four were also aggressive at age nine.
It was also found that students who were found to be high in aggression in junior high school were also high in aggression in there mid-thirties, showing considerable stability in aggressive behavior across two decades.
In his research, Huesmann found that both males and females who were high in aggression at age eight were more than twice as likely to use strong punishment on their own children, abuse their spouse physically or verbally, and drive intoxicated at age 30 than individuals who test low on aggression at age 8.
There is new evidence that genetic factors and temperament may contribute to lifelong patterns of violence.
With this in mind, we cannot sit back and allow our child to grab toys, hit, or fight with other children, in the hope that they will outgrow this childish behavior. No, it is more likely that they are forming life long patterns of aggressive behavior and personality, and need help to learn better ways to behave.”
Thus ends the notes of The Counselor.
After her marriage in 1945 she would have more insight into aggressive behavior.
As the mother of seven boys and a girl she got many chances to see how incidents turned from assertiveness to aggression.
Some of the aggression came from boys who were interested in her daughter.
Among her boys were varying levels of behavior, with a lot of it aggressive from time to time.
Her husband, though normally a rather reserved person, could easily become aggressive when he didn’t watch his diet. It turns out that he was diabetic and for many years didn’t know it. She would bake him wonder ful sugar laden treats as a special surprise. Two hours later he would begin behaving in an aggressive manner with the boys.
If they couldn’t keep out of sight, they could end up getting pretty well beaten. Some were very adept at keeping out of sight. Others were just as likely to show aggression in return.
With her own family she probably got to see a little of each style of aggression and of each response to it. The interplay between her own family and others gave her many opportunities to see both the behaviors and the consequences.
She also got to see first hand how aggression leads to more aggression. When her husband lost his cool and let reminders one of the boys, that boy would in turn blow off steam by beating the next younger boy.
Much, if not all, of this behavior happened before she studied for her degrees. Like many women she was seeing behavior but unable to understand it.
After years of study she set herself to helping others understand what was happening and informing them that there were things they could do about it.