What is Aggression?
While most people have experienced what it feels like to be around someone showing signs of aggression, they might not know exactly what aggression is or why someone exhibits these behaviors.
In psychology, the term aggression is defined as a wide range of actions and behaviors that can result in mental, emotional, or physical harm to a person, others, or objects. Even if it is done subconsciously or when one loses control, portraying signs of aggression often results in hurting another person physically or emotionally.
For example, Casey is a fifteen-year-old girl who has never properly been taught how to regulate her emotions. When people upset her, Casey often lashes out, calling those around her bad names.
Often, she has hurt her mother’s feelings by being rude and saying upsetting things to her. One day, Casey’s father comes into her room and asks her to talk about all the mean things she has been doing; he tells her she is showing multiple signs of aggressive behavior on a daily basis.
Casey breaks down and begins crying, telling her father that she does not mean to be nasty, but it just happens sometimes. Because Casey has never learned how to show her emotions in a positive way, she has begun to exhibit aggressive behavior. With mental and emotional work on herself, Casey can learn to not act that way over time.
Signs of Aggression and Aggressive BehaviorWhen there is such a wide range of how aggression can be defined, one might ask themselves, what exactly does being aggressive mean? Aggressive behavior refers to the multiple aggressive actions one can commit, generally when they are attempting to stand up for themselves or exert power over others in a way that is seen as hostile or violates the rights of others.
Often, there are warning signs that come before the onset of aggressive behavior. They can include:
- someone losing their temper easily
- a person withdrawing or isolating from social activities
- someone expressing tendencies for violent behavior (usually in writing or artwork)
- unfair or unrealistic attitudes being displayed towards another group of people.
Some actions that are not technically considered aggressive behavior, such as giving someone the silent treatment, can also be signs of an oncoming issue with aggression.
In the earlier example, Casey was portraying aggressive behavior towards her parents and others. If they had looked out for signs before it got too severe, they might have noticed Casey keeping away from the friends she used to hang out with (withdrawing or isolating from social activities). They might have also noticed that she is quick to the trigger (losing her temper easily); if they ask her to do the dishes and she screams no, that is not normal behavior and would have been a sign. Lastly, if they looked into her writing samples, they might have noticed she was writing aggressively or with intent to harm.