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By January 23, 2008 117 Comments Read More →

Aggression

Question: Why do people engage in aggressive behaviour (some, as we know, rather more than others)?
Answer: Because they enjoy it.

There’s a bit of a flutter on the internet (see here and here) about research coming out of Vanderbilt University. Studying mice, Maria Couppis and Craig Kennedy have found that aggression can be as emotionally rewarding as food or sex.

The neurotransmitter dopamine has been implicated in nearly every experience we consider rewarding, such as love, drugs, eating, and sex. Indeed, the mesolimbic dopamine pathway is referred to as the reward system of the brain. Dopamine is necessary for reinforcement, e.g. the ex-smoker’s craving brought about by the whiff of cigarette smoke.

Now a direct connection has been drawn between dopamine and aggression. In the experiement the male home mouse continually pushed a button to let in an intruder mouse which it then aggressed. When treated with a dopamine antagonist (blocking the activity of the dopamine) the home mouse decreased its button-pushing. (For a discussion of the experiment see here.)

(Incidentally, it is important not to conflate aggression and violence. Aggression is dominating behaviour. For the mice aggressive behavior included tail rattle, an aggressive sideways stance, boxing and biting – two non-violent and two non-violent behaviours.)

“We learned from these experiments that an individual will intentionally seek out an aggressive encounter solely because they experience a rewarding sensation from it,” Kennedy said. “This shows for the first time that aggression, on its own, is motivating, and that the well-known positive reinforcer dopamine plays a critical role.”

Not that surprising?
I suspect that lovefraud/blog readers who have been on the receiving end of aggression won’t be surprised by these findings. Says Dr. Bliss at Maggies’ farm, “I cannot speak about mice, but every psychiatrist – and every person – knows that this is a fact for human beings.”

Any comments?

A query I have is runs something like this. Many commentators on this blog speak of increased assertiveness, anger, determination, etc. which has enabled them to get through relationships with psychopaths, to gain self-respect, and to make new lives. Would you say that you have learned to better access aggression? And if so, is there pleasure in it?



117 Comments on "Aggression"

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  1. robxsykobabe says:

    Ahhhh…this article on dominance and power! Soooooo…

    The day I drove us to see his biological mother in Michigan, after having to leave the gym because HE forgot to give his 11 year old son keys to get BACK IN the house and a phone to use for emergencies, my ex panicked! I was getting ready to teach and he told me of his ‘mistake’. I was pissed…why?

    Because, yet AGAIN, he had been irresponsible and I was expected to rush to his aid…clean up HIS mess. I ‘resisted’ this time and said “if its such an emergency, then take a cab home right now to give him keys and a phone.” Well, THAT my friends, would have INCONVENIENCED HIM so he chose to stay at the gym, work out, and dictate to ME that we would leave after my class. Well, that wasnt MY plan for the day…I was PLANNING on staying to do cardio…screw him.

    I let him know of my plans…in no uncertain terms…which caused ALOT of tension because I was being ‘selfish’ and ‘inconsiderate to an 11 year old.” We left the gym…

    Later that day…as we drove to Michigan, I could BARELY look at his disgusting face. He, on the other hand, was ‘trying to make nice’ so we ‘could have a nice weekend.” IT WAS ON!

    We got to his aunts and I could barely contain my emotions-I was LIVID, ANGRY, HURT, RESENTFUL and all other emotions in one. I could NOT put on the ‘happy’ face and pretend all was well. It wasnt. That night, I told him I wanted to go home.

    Ut oh…’you want to do WHAT?”
    “I want to go home. I dont feel good, Im uncomfortable, Im upset and I want to go home.”
    “Well, we aren’t leaving.”
    “Really? I want to go home…that doesnt matter to you?”
    “Fine. We can leave BUT that will be the LAST time you and I ever talk. You’re gonna ruin this trip.”
    “What! I am uncomfortable and clearly upset.”
    “Fine, Ill take you to the bus tomorrow. You can take a bus home.”
    “Really? How are you gonna get me to the bus. YOU CANT DRIVE, REMEMBER?”
    “Ill find a way.”
    “NO…IF I WANT TO LEAVE BECAUSE IM UPSET, WE WILL LEAVE…IM THE ONE DRIVING!!!”

    He proceeded to tell me the next night (the day of him leaving)…”and that statement you made about leaving if YOU want because YOU”RE the one who drove? That showed me JUST HOW MUCH POWER YOU ACTUALLY HAVE.”

    I hate him.



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  2. Ox Drover says:

    Dear R-babe,

    Hate him! You did good, realizing that you needed to set some boundaries….and now you’re learning that it is okay to set those boundaries. Hell, I didn’t even know it was OK to think about those boundaries or that I should/could set them.

    Good for you!!!!

    Now quit thinking about him and think about how fortunate you are that he is gone!!!!

    Sit down and make a list of the good things you have in your life now that he is gone!!!!

    He is irresponsible—NOT YOU. HIS PROBLEM, NOT yours!

    Sugar there ain’t nuttin’ that you could have done to help this jerk, he needs someone else to wipe his butt cause he’s too stupid to do it or too lazy (not sure which) you are miles better off than to be connected this this jerk face! TOWANDA to you kiddo!!!



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  3. lesson learned says:

    Babe,

    Were with with the SAME spath? I think the only differences were that my spath had a good job and owned his own home. Sheesh! EVEN STILL, he is IRRESPONSIBLE…to raising HIS son to be responsible…ohhhh the stories babe, really, now gf has to deal with all of that. Seriously, if I did ONE thing “wrong” in dealing with his son, I was on the silent treatment, kick ass list.

    So you see? They can have a great job and have “success” and be as irresponsible to others as if they HAD NO JOB AT ALL…in the raising of children, and to a significant other where RESPONSIBILITY INCLUDES RESPECT FOR ANOTHER’S FEELINGS!!!!

    What a bastard!

    I HATE mine too. I HATE HIM!

    Babe, he’s the same BASTARD wherever he goes!! TRUST ME! And guess what? The prize is YOU DON”T HAVE TO DEAL WITH HIS ASS ANYMORE! What a BASTARD!!!

    You deserve better, chica. You have spunk!!!

    And it’s perfectly FINE AND NORMAL that you HATE Him and are PISSED OFF at the situation.

    But YOU are the one who WINS! I’m proud of you for dealing with him as you did, kicking his ASS to the curb and that of what appears to be his spathy son.

    I’m tellin ya, Chica, it would have been WORSE had you stayed.

    Now go out there and kick ass FOR YOU and YOUR life!!

    You’re worth it!

    LL



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  4. robxsykobabe says:

    MY AQUIRED FORTUNE SINCE HE’S BEEN GONE…

    Peace Food in my house
    A dog Less gas used in my car
    Less running around Being able to do what I want
    Self-respect Cleaner house
    Respect for MY own time No more being a ‘babysitter’
    Less tension No one to argue with!!!!
    No more being a maid Responsibility to MYSELF
    No NEED for excitement NO DRAMA!!!
    Getting to watch MY tv Saving MY money

    MY LOST FORTUNE SINCE HE’S GONE…

    Human companionship…errrrr, I mean, being able to BABYSIT AN ADULT



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    • biggestdummyofall says:

      Im adding your list to my growing list Rbabe! I always tell people I lost a 220 lb ASSHOLE when they remark I look like I have lost weight! The only thing I have lost that I truly miss from him is the physical relationship we had. It has been 8 months since I was with him and it has been torture not allowing myself to see him even for a lil roll in the hay! I was with him for 10 years and I wrote a three page list of things I hate about him and could only find a three letter word for the list of things I still loved about him! the word S E X on an otherwise blank page as opposed to pages listing horrible unexcusable acts of selfishness, cruelty, neglect, dishonesty, theivery, physical and emotional abuse helped me to stay away from the toxic part of the intoxicating effect he has on me that allows him to control me like his puppet. I just keep staying away and have tried to eliminate all contact with him which is hard with a 9 year old child that we share that seems to be the only person on earth that this spath has the capacity to actually love. I hate it that even though HE is the addict, Im the one that has the addiction I cant kick, which is HIM. Even though my life is better, I feel better, Im doing better in almost every way except for my body craving his. I just keep hoping some day I will recover and be able to find love. I keep faith that not all men in the world are like him which is both comforting and disconcerting. I know I do not want someone who will use and manipulate me as he did but I also worry that I will never have the sexual connection and satisfaction that I found with him that I never had in my life before him and I met him at 42 yrs of age.

      One thing I didnt list as lost tho was HUMAN COMPANIONSHIP! Not even BABYSITTING! One would have to be a HUMAN first! My Spath always said he was an Alien and I kinda believe him now!



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  5. Ox Drover says:

    Dear R-babe

    GREAT list! See what you have GAINED vs what you have “lost” LOL even your “lost” list is a GAIN!!!! Getting away from them is totally a WIN-WIN situation. There is nothing about getting rid of them that is a loss at all!

    Good for you Babe!!! I like your list! (((hugs))))



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  6. fightforwhatsright says:

    I don’t feel I have access to aggression like the sociopath can readily access. I have, though, discovered a better assertiveness. I have been sharing here abou the book which discusses the success of psychopaths. The spath checked it out at the library and I pick up his books because he is on a walker. I was very upset and felt he had ordered a “handbook.” Then, I borrowed it before giving him his other books and started reading. I am still not sure of the author. I believe he is a narcissist and he shared that his father was a psychopath, yet seems to admire him. He also talks about only one political party having psychopaths and I don’t believe that is true. He is from the UK, so I’m not sure why he talks about the U.S. political system, but he does. Although, I wouldn’t want to date the author, I am enjoying his insight and information.

    He includes a lot of research and statistics. Time and again, the author brings up biological research about proven brain differences in psychopaths. I have shared here about some of the experiments he covers and ways to spot a possible sociopath by observing even minute patterns of behavior (like that they don’t blink as much and that they don’t ever yawn spontaneously when someone else does the way normal people do).

    One that has changed the way I behave with the sociopath in my life involves a double experiment called The Prisoner’s Dilemma and Tit-For-Tat. You can look up information about these experiments. My understanding is that if someone does something bullying, abusive, inappropriate, etc., you give it right back to them immediately every time they do it. It is working around here.

    My spath (The Lodger) has been out of cigarettes for four days. In the past, this would have been cause for demanding to borrow money from me, my going and getting some, and a nightmare. Instead, a week ago, he had 20.00 left and had been going crazy on the cigs since his surgery. He also needed milk. I took the 20 and bought four packs of cigs and milk. I then got up close to him while he was sitting down and said, “That is all the money you have. If you don’t keep track of your smoking, you will be without cigarettes and I am not going to be of any help to you.”

    Today, he had a doctor’s appointment. He had told me two days ago when I went in to help him with something that he had smoked all those cigarettes. At that time, I said, “Well, I guess some people have to learn about the problem with instant gratification the hard way” and said bye and left. No rage. Only VERY kind and appropriate social discourse every time we spoke or saw each other for two days.

    So, today, he had gathered up enough change to buy a pack of cigarettes. He asked me if we could go to the store on the way to the doctor. I told him we could. Later, after I got him home from the doctor, he walked up to me looking like a proud four year old child. This is a 58 year old man. He said, “Did you notice that I was nice and I didn’t do anything wrong even though I didn’t have cigarettes?” I said, “Good. That is the way it needs to be from now on if this is where you want to be.” He smiled….still looking like a little boy. Like child bullies, spaths need to receive assertiveness in response to aggression. That is what I am learning daily.

    Now, I must add a caveat that this man is old, sickly, has no car, and has no one else who wants him any more. I need rent. But, he could be homeless. I don’t know if I had been more resolute in telling him to shape up or ship out many years ago…the first time he lived here and I thought we were an exclusive couple….that it would have worked. I think if they are young and have money, it would take a lot of time to figure out how to handle them. But, Tit-for-Tat is working very well for me.

    If he decides to try aggression again, I will become more assertive just reaching the line of aggression with him. I am learning a lot from this book and will share more as I have time to read more.

    I agree with this article. Bullies must be put in their place swiftly. It may be a trickier feat when it comes to complete sociopaths/psychopaths, but I do find it rewarding to stand up for myself when needed. Thank you all for the many lessons you have taught me here.



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  7. Biggestdarlingofall – Welcome to Lovefraud. I’m sure the screen name you chose is not appropriate – I’m sure you’re kind, trusting, giving – etc – because that’s the type of person sociopaths go after. Anyway, we have all wanted to kick ourselves when we realize how we were played. But at least now we know.

    You might want to search Lovefraud’s articles that discuss oxytocin – it’s a normal hormone released during sex – and probably has a lot to do which why you feel addicted and why you stayed.



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  8. blossom4th says:

    Thinking of the dopamine pathway being triggered by aggression…guess that answers my question as to why my husband who was oversexed before meeting me had settled for no sex once I’d had our three daughters and had my tubal.It’s like the tubal was a big turn-off.No more reproduction.During the yrs of childbirth,there was physical abuse.That changed after the tubal.He became emotional and psychologically abusive.Which to me is much worse than the physical abuse.The body heals faster than the mind!



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