Violence is what comes to mind first. All violence is aggression, but not all aggression is violence. Yet, that is where our minds first go to when we consider this word. Violence is the threat of or use of force that is unsanctioned by the culture. Capital punishment is not violence because it is a legal act, but it is aggressive. Aggression can be overt or suppressed. It can be innate or the result of chronic frustration. It can be directed towards yourself or someone else. Neither violence nor aggression necessarily result in physical harm. However, violence does result in harm, but it can be emotional harm. Emotional and verbal abuse are types of violence that do not cause physical harm. Assault is aggression. Threatening to cause someone harm or making unwanted physical contact (beyond reasonable everyday contact) is considered aggressive. Spitting on someone is aggression and assault. But not all aggression is assault. If you hurt yourself, it’s not assault, but it is aggression. These are complex words that are often used interchangeably which furthers their complexity. To make it worse, the definition of assault and battery vary by state. Both are aggression, but only battery is violent. Aggression is a word that really makes my head hurt. It is often used in a way that isn’t negative. Saying someone was “aggressive on the field” when talking about how they play soccer isn’t the same as saying someone was “aggressive in their language” while talking to a child. In my profession, this is a word that we look at frequently and struggle to define. After all, aggression is a symptom that we are frequently asked to treat. Yet, it is a vague term. Aggression can be impulsive or premeditated. It can be instrumental; used to maximize personal gains. Aggression can be sanctioned such as hunting, sports, rough and tumble play, war or police force. Aggression can be intimidation (making someone fearful). This is such a complex word. When I think about writing a poem or a short scene with aggression as a theme I feel my thoughts getting all swirled around. I think it would be interesting to write something with a focus being on the nonviolent aggression which is often undervalued in writing. It can also be more difficult to write. When writing about physical abuse, it is easy to hook your readers compassion. But it is more difficult to portray the dynamics and results of emotional or verbal abuse. Any of you know of a piece of writing that is a good example of nonviolent aggression?
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