Please or Register to create posts and topics.

Conditioning someone to potential physical abuse in jest

Hi guys,

here is something I realized today about a particularly nasty conditioning technique.

This is about a person I went no contact with two years ago.

What he would do: he would suddenly mock giving a jab to someone’s crotch, and if the other person would move (which btw is an innate self-defense reaction), he would say out loud:

Him: You moved! Now you have to pay!

The idea conveyed was that it was a “fear reaction” to put your hand in self-defense, and that “men stay still”.

Today I was watching an interview by a person who was in a cult for years, who said that one of the first things they did to him was “train his body not to react to mock punches”. And he explained that this was a way to break down the innate self-defense reaction of the body.

Then I got it: this guy I mentioned above (who btw was an abusive very nasty person in several respects) was basically using this “game” to condition people not to move when he threatened them physically.

Very nasty. At the time, it worked: I felt like I was not “courageous” enough. After my realization, I think my stock response to these kinds of things would be:

Him: You moved! Now you have to pay!

Me: Not only I moved, if you do it again I will move to punch you in the head.

I am curious if you agree with my perspective or have a different view about this.

J_J and Mats G have reacted to this post.
J_JMats G

I wasn't aware that this is used as a conditioning technique but it makes sense. I also think that some people might do this because they think it's fun and aren't thinking about conditioning, but it's childish behavior that signals low-quality individuals. I would try to avoid people who do this regardless of their intention, I don't see anything value adding by this kind of "joke".

I like your response a lot as it forcefully lets the other person know that there will be consequences for repeating the behavior. My only concern is that if it's done in public, some people might do it again just to call your bluff. Then you're stuck with either having to get violent (which others might see as an overreaction) or being viewed as someone who doesn't stick to their word. In a public situation I would have opted to shame him instead:

Him: You moved! Now you have to pay!

Me: That's incredibly childish. I thought you were more mature than that.


Lucio Buffalmano, Ali Scarlett and 2 other users have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoAli ScarlettAlexBel

Thanks Mats G!

Your answer is definitely higher level and better than what I came up with.

I also agree the "conditioning" intention behind this "joke" is mostly unconscious, but IMO present: this guy in particular was phisically threatening with lots of people (e.g. punching walls, slamming glasses, touching people inappropriately, etc.).

Even assuming he did not have this particular intention, the conditioning effect (i.e. training the recipient not to react to physical threats) is still present.

Mats G has reacted to this post.
Mats G

Yeah, I also think this is more games than conditioning.

Was it in Italian "paga la mossa"?
That was a thing pretty much nation-wide (there is even a song from Milan's rapper "Mondo Marcio" that mentions it), and probably even beyond.

There was a "verbal flinching" equivalent game as well where someone would speak nonsense gibberish and if you fell for it and asked "eh?" then you fell for it and were "owned" (my answer was often to make an over-exaggerated "EHHH??!!! As if to say "you're so obvious with that stupid game that here I am pretending to fall for it).

Your answer though is good.

Better yet, is to refuse to play with the same attitude you showed in your reply.

Think of it in terms of frames: they give for granted you're playing and accepting those rules.
But it is not game is not a game you accepted.

So the best frame control is to reject the game itself.

When they came to you to (playfully) hit you and collect their point a good answer is:

You: Get the fuck outta here (with that BS)

A way of saying "go away with that stupid game, I'm not partaking".

Also good as it frames them as playing childish games (something that works even among kids actually, as also kids escape the label "childish").

Mats G and Bel have reacted to this post.
Mats GBel
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Thanks Lucio, that’s exactly it! And of course he would also do the “verbal flinching game”.

I think my “conditioning” idea came from the fact that I observed this guy escalate in time from these kinds of games to worse things. He used them both as “power shit-tests” and as ways of framing others as “stiff” for not “going along” (thus falling in his frame and being subject to later control, and then later to abuse). And, unfortunately, it somewhat worked on me at the time, until later on he really exaggerated with other worse behaviors and I shunned him forever.

And your answer, where you reject the frame altogether without expressly saying it, is golden.

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

Yeah, I said that I'm not convinced it's "conditioning" but it's certainly a power move and all about power dynamics.

It does have major effects on the power/status between you and him, and within the group.

Power dynamics among younger men tend to be more obvious, including more on the physical/jostling side and more on the verbally aggressive side -obvious one-upping, mocking, etc.-.
And this is one of them.

When someone does that to you it immediately sub-commmunicates that they're at least at your own status level, or most likely higher.
And that, unless they do it to everyone, that they don't fully respect you and aren't exactly in a win-win relationship with you -you more rarely do that to your closest friends and allies-.

And if you don't defend and never do the same back on them, then it means they're really higher than you and that you let disrespect go unchecked, which disempowers you quite a bit.

So, yeah, albeit it might not necessarily be conditioning in this case, it's still all about power dynamics.

Bel has reacted to this post.
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
Scroll to Top