Here are some of the main causes of escalation
Certain behaviours are known and proven to increase the chance of escalation in interactions. These behaviours often trigger the body’s alarm system and provoke reactive responses such as the flight, fight, freeze or fawn, in which people shift (knowingly or not) into prioritizing their own safety. Additionally, these behaviours break trust and make people less able and less likely to want to engage in an honest dialogue. We can never control people’s reactions or responses, but we can become mindful of the certain behaviours that are more likely to cause them in an attempt to minimize, but also understand escalation in our relationships and environments.
THREATENED & AFRAID: Threatening someone’s physical, emotional, spiritual or psychological safety through verbal, physical or emotional intimidation.
TRIGGERED &/OR OVERWHELMED: When faced with surprise challenges, confrontation or having a boundary crossed, people may get overwhelmed or triggered, causing them levels high of activation in the body. Additionally, if a certain behaviour or situation causes a flashback to a past harmful or shameful incident, it may cause the person to become triggered.
OUT OF CONTROL: Whether it’s because someone is feeling ashamed, trapped, depressed etc; there are a multitude of things that can cause people to feel out of control. For example, experience of constant or increasing levels of oppression and discrimination which threaten people’s rights and wellbeing can contribute to feeling out of control.
MINIMIZED & INVALIDATED: Having people invalidate our experiences by using phrases like ‘oh that’s not so bad’ or ‘you’re overreacting’ only increase someones feelings of sadness, anger, helplessness, etc. Centring yourself in an experience that is not about you is a form of minimization that causes escalation, for example, ‘I had it way worse when I was younger’.
DISRESPECTED & ATTACKED: Attacking someone’s character or passing judgements based on your own value systems or assumptions (ex: you’re a bad person).
IGNORED & NOT LISTENED TO: Ignoring someone, interrupting, texting or watching tv while someone tries to explain their experience to you, uninterested body language, etc.
UNWANTED & REJECTED: Threats of exile from spaces or groups create feelings of rejection, which is an incredibly difficult feeling for social species like humans. For example: being ignored by others, openly gossiped about or laughed at.
ENTITLED: People who hold power and privileges are likely to confuse feelings of entitlement with threat. Entitlement is believing someone or something belongs to us or is deserved by us for no reason other than we’ve come to expect or depend on it. It could be that we are used to having something and now no longer can. Maybe something is changing that we do not like. Maybe someone we love wants to no longer be with us. Though this can definitely feel hurtful and scary because it is destabilizing to our routine or security, it is important to distinguish the entitlement (and its behaviours) from actual threat.