Dude, Take an Aggressive Pill

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“Alright, everybody, let’s get intentional and focused with our ludonarrative dissonance using the frustration-aggression theory and careful, calculated, responsible actions…”


…is an example of a sentence I would construct using words I just learned. But it’s also the main point to this blog: let’s all get aggressive

Understand that I am all about world peace. I’m all about solving problems of homelessness, starvation, world hunger, human rights, and so on. But perhaps lately we’ve gotten a little soft in areas we shouldn’t and hard on topics that don’t matter, like why some believe Miley Cyrus is the Pied Piper of today’s youth. Compare her videos to issues like injustice for racial minorities in our court systems and, well, it kind of feels like a waste of a good argument.

You see, many groups believe that fighting is a bad thing. They are the kind of groups that say, “Don’t fight. If you want to fight, either take up kickboxing or download some Yani and chill out.” Fighting sucks, there’s no question there, but it’s not quite avoidable. Fighting is inevitable. So, if we gotta do it, let’s do it right. 

A really smart guy by the name of Leonard Berkowitz started a conversation about aggression in the 70’s that began to shed some light on how to fight. His “revised frustration-aggression theory” said this: We get frustrated. Then we get angry. Our anger leads to aggression

Frustration –> Anger –> Aggression

Where does our frustration come from? It comes from a gap between what we expect and what we attain. When we don’t get what we expect, we get grumpy. Our grumpy becomes “hacked off.” When we get “hacked off,” heads roll.

Our movies, stories, and games have reflected this process for centuries. Remember in Hamlet when everybody died trying to fight for the throne (using buckets-o-blood in the process)? Remember when the Judeo-Christian God burned to death the whole city of Sodom after they refused to stop being so trashy? Remember when Don Vito Corleone had that horse head tossed in that guy’s bed? Or remember when in the 60’s the U.S. loaded up a boat full of soldiers and sailed on down to Cuba only to get caught with their pants around their ankles? 

Yeah, those times involved people getting hacked and heads rolling.


Aggression is, in itself, not a bad thing. It has been used to do some powerful things for the right reasons. Ask Dietrich Bohnhoeffer who tried to kill Hitler in order to stop the injustice done to Jews. Ask “The Tank Man” who stopped four Chinese tanks in Tianabmen Square by standing in their way. Or ask Martin Luther King Jr. about the nonviolent protests that stood up to racial inequality. These stories are examples of people still being aggressive, yet these people did so in a radically helpful way. These stories share these two things in common:

1) The leaders were in control of their actions and understood their reason for acting.

2) Their reason for acting was to stand up against injustice.

Perhaps what we need is not a world of nonaggressive people. Perhaps what we need is a world of carefully aggressive people who stand up against injustice. Aggression can be so very useful if we understand it in this way:

Injustice frustrates me. This frustration makes me angry. I want to stop injustice.

And we can indeed stop injustice if we make a stand. Understand the frustration-aggression theory, we start channeling our aggression by changing our expectations. We should expect people who are different than us to have rights, freedoms, and justice. When they are not offered those things, we are in the right spot to get upset about the right things. It also starts with the small actions such as, “It isn’t fair for my child to make fun of your child; my child is going to be disciplined.” We then move on to the big things: “It is about time we stop discrimination against minority classes and we start letting them have the chance to be a part of this society; I am going to stand up to social injustice.” Anger and aggression is good, when it is controlled and directed towards the right things. 

Now if only I can justify cussing at that person who cuts me off in traffic…



2 thoughts on “Dude, Take an Aggressive Pill

    garyjosephhead said:
    November 6, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    Kyle, I really like a lot of what you are saying–our country has become quite heated about some silly things and quite lazy about some serious injustices. I do think, though, that a deeper examination into the Miley Cyrus sort of culture could show us partially why people are generally lazy about injustices: we just want to party. And as Miley says, “We can’t stop, We won’t stop.”

      kylerbullock responded:
      November 7, 2013 at 6:12 am

      That’s a good point, friend. Perhaps we have become soft because we have been socialized to enjoy the soft, to value it. We love to party and enjoy the chill life. Caring about important stuff gets in the way of that.

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