Paul J. Hannig, Ph.D. MFCC
THE POWER OF PROVOCATION
The need for personal power is a basic human need. Certain people attempt to get their power needs met through the action of provocation. If you can get another person to react to you negatively, through provocation; you have successfully sought to unconsciously fulfill your need to be punished. But, perhaps this is not something that you really want. On the other hand, provocative power feeds your need for hostile attention, which for some people is better than no attention at all. One cannot overlook the childlike regressive nature of this approach. It is primitive. Perhaps, the substrate for this instinct is rooted in our early evolution, when our progenitors needed to provoke fights in order to acquire someone else's power resources.
THE POWER STRUGGLE
Once provocation enters into your interactions, the power struggle has begun. You are now in the middle of a win lose strategy. As with all such struggles, this approach involves inflammatory speech and behavior. What comes out of your mouth fulfills the win lose approach.
The provocation strategy has to involve two parties; the provocator and the reactor (provocatee). You could be either one or both of these. Decide which one more closely approximates your style. Remember, these categories and assumptions are relevant to whomever is doing the observing. Perceptions do differ!
TRY AN EXPERIMENT:
For an entire week, consciously make a decision to focus your attention on provocative power situations and the individuals who are involved. You can go into your memory banks, the news media and examples from every day situations. Keep a log! Make a list of those people who are caught in the provocation power game, including yourself. Write down in detail the specifics of each situation and try to imagine coming up with very difficult answers on how to deal with these problems.
CRITICAL THINKING: TRY IT!
The president of Iran is threatening to build nuclear power plants. He also makes provocative statements about wiping out the nation of Israel. Who are the targets of his provocative statements and what do you think could be the eventual outcome of his speech and his actions?
A person that you hardly know or someone that you know very well, makes a very hostile statement to something that you have said and done. What are your emotional and behavioral reactions?
You say something to someone and you think it is quite innocent and they go off on you. What's the trigger? Who is doing the provocation?
Another assignment: For a whole week, monitor anything that you might say, do or think that could provoke someone to react hostile toward you.
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Paul J. Hannig, Ph.D. MFCC
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