When the Big Bad Wolf comes knocking at your door…

Probably one of the most common anti-social attackers you may come across is the Wolf. They are trouble. These people are mean and nasty and they will try to hurt you to get what they want. Driven by the obsessive need to have power and dominance over others they will readily resort to violence to get what they want. They actively seek opportunities to engage in violent behavior. Violence makes them feel great and powerful.  In the animal kingdom, most, if not all animals have ritualized combat between males of the same species to establish dominance. Antelope lock horns, male lions often fight each other for territory and females. The same happens with humans. There are always people out there seeking to be the top dog, the Alpha Male. They will actively fight to earn that position. To Wolves, using violence makes sense, it helps them to achieve their goal. They actually enjoy the act of fighting.

Who are they?

These are the people who will walk up to you in a restaurant and ask in an aggressive tone of voice: “What are you looking at?” or who become unreasonably offended when you accidentally bump into them in a crowded area or who will start pushing you around if you said something ”wrong” to them. They are the abusive husbands who will physically hit their wives because the food was cold or the schoolyard bully who beats-up your child for his lunch. One tends to think that wolves select people that are physically weaker than them so that they can beat them up. This is not true, many Wolves will readily seek out the toughest looking people to pick a fight with- if those people then back away or if the Wolf can physically beat the opponent, their perceived social status increases and they feel even more powerful and dominant.

Understanding their current mindset

Wolves do not always actively seek out a fight. Many times, they just become easily offended when an incident happens and then they start losing the ability to reason with their reasoning brain. They then start using their mammalian and reptilian brain. The reasoning brain is responsible for making informed and rational decisions and choices. The mammalian brain takes over when the brain understands conflict and disputes in terms of posturing or submission and the reptilian brain takes over when they resort to aggressive physical behavior.

If the Wolf is still able to talk coherently and answer questions logically during a confrontation it means that although they are upset, they are still using the reasoning part of their brain. If they are unable to speak coherently i.e. if you are met with silence when you ask a question or if they mix up their words or if they are repeating the same sentence over and over, it means that they are not using the reasoning brain anymore and they may be in the phase where the mammalian or reptilian brain has taken over.

Recognizing the pre- attack indicators

When the mammalian brain is taking over, they are trying to establish dominance and justification for resorting to violence. Take the following scenario: You are in a busy night club and as you walk towards your table you accidentally bump into a person and spill your drink on him. He immediately becomes aggressive with you and says to you: “hey you idiot, you spilled your beer on me!” You respond by apologizing but he does not accept your apology and continues with his verbal assault: “I will bust your face!” You immediately apologize again and ask him what you can do to resolve the problem. If he responds with a logical answer like: “Get me a towel so that I can dry my shirt you idiot!” it is an indication that he is still using his reasoning brain although he is angry. If he however repeats the same statement: “hey you idiot, you spilled your beer on me! hey you idiot you spilled your beer on me!”  and his repetitive statements are accompanied by posturing, it is a good indication that he is currently thinking with his mammalian brain. He can also be mixing up his words like “Hey beer, spilled, idiot!”  If he does not respond with any answer but still looks highly aggressive it may be thinking with his reptilian brain and is preparing to physically attack.

The following are common posturing tactics used when in the mammalian brain state:

  • Aggressive stare
  • Verbal challenge: “What are you looking at?”
  • Swearing
  • Repetitive statements
  • Hands downward, arms spread out to the sides with palms turned towards you and chest pushed forward excessively.
  • Using the above posture and walking up to you and putting his forehead against yours
  • Faking headbutts, punches or slaps
  • Pushing against your chest with his chest or hands

The following are common pre-attack indicators when in the reptilian brain state:

  • Aggressive fixed stare accompanied by silence or obvious avoiding of eye contact – fixated stare into the distance
  • Establishing balance by placing the dominant leg backwards
  • Clenching fists
  • Uncontrolled Shaking of hands
  • Increased rate of breathing
  • Flushing of face and neck
  • Uncontrolled trembling of upper lip or jaw
  • Concealing dominant hand in pocket (may be a weapon in pocket)
  • Getting the dominant hand ready to attack by feigning scratching of the nose or back of the head
  • Slow and deliberate removing of jewelry

How to handle a confrontation

Ideally you want to de-escalate a conflict situation while the Wolf is still reasoning with his reasoning brain. The fasted way is to apologize, show open palms facing the wolf and ask a polite and sincere question relating to what you can do to resolve the problem. Essentially you are submissive and do not pose a threat to the Wolf. There is thus no gain for him to engage in violent behavior, unless of course he is a low-ranking wolf who wants to become the top dog by gaining a reputation as a fighting machine. Even if that is the case, keeping him in his reasoning brain state will greatly reduce the level of violence he uses if any. Never pretend that the confrontation is not happening, do not simply turn your back on the Wolf and walk away. This is the ultimate insult and, in his mindset, you need to be taught a lesson. You will immediately escalate the situation to the mammalian/reptilian brain state. Similarly, if you make empty threats or start swearing at him, you will escalate the situation.

If you spot the indicators that the Wolf is in the mammalian or reptilian brain state, the best course of action is to create distance between yourself and the attacker. Make sure your hands are high but still in an open palm position. Do not clench fists as this is a clear indication to the wolf that you want to fight and he will readily take on the challenge. Creating distance allows you to be out of the way of any surprise strikes or kicks and it also offers you the opportunity to prepare to strike first should the wolf approach you. If the wolf continues the approach and you recognize the pre-attack indicators described earlier, best course of action is to either run or attack first. If you decide to attack you need to do what you need to do to stop the threat as quickly as possible. Take note that the wolf may have friends who will not take kindly to this and who may launch a counter attack so be aware of your surroundings and get out of there as fast as possible.

for more information:

C.O.B.R.A.™ Self-Defense South Africa

Call 082 299 9117