Violence and impasse

Victor Ronald David MacGill


It is the contention of the author that the roots of violence do not stem from human nature or even animal nature, but that they are even more fundamental, being inherently and inextricably interwoven into the paradoxical nature of complex adaptive systems.

Violence can be defined as the invasion of a boundary or the disruption of a necessary flow across a boundary. In exploring how this might manifest in human interaction, the nature of humans as multileveled systems of systems is investigated. Because we all have different perspectives, priorities and perceptions, there will be times when perceived human needs feel unmet, and there is a risk that abuse or violence will be used as a response to try and meet those needs.

Often violence occurs because the two or more people involved in an interaction are unable to bridge the differences that have arisen between them in a way that allows them to have their perceived needs adequately met.  A boundary has been placed between those involved creating an impasse. The person who was previously seen to be operating within a shared boundary is deemed to have shifted to become the 'other’, the cause of the problems, and even a hostile enemy. The point of impasse is often used to 'justify' an abusive or violent response. The dynamics of impasse are examined in the case of intimate partner relationships and international politics to demonstrate how the principles developed operate in practice at various levels through society. The final section looks at how systems thinking might help avoid reaching an impasse, or in some case bring a relationship back from impasse to where meaningful authentic dialogue might be resumed.





Violence, impasse, boundary, systems theory, needs, threats

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