What You Resist Persists Discussion

The phrase "what you resist persists" was popularized by, and possibly invented by, the ErhardSeminarsTraining? (EST) self-improvement seminars of the mid-70s (and later, under the name "Forum", and was also borrowed by other seminar organizations like LandmarkEducation?).

As such. it is a catch-phrase to represent a larger idea, and certainly is not an exact law of physics.

The point is that resistance is not the best way to handle something you dislike. It doesn't say anything at all about other methods of handling such things. There are smart ways to handle things, and stupid ways. "Resistance" is a stupid way. The key reason is that resisting something implies reacting to it rather than being proactive; it also implies an emotional reaction rather than a transcendent attitude.

Resisting something implies you're annoyed by it, yet being annoyed can (usually will) aggravate situations rather than improve them.

To prevent murder we must allow murder?

No, the point of this page is not to make a blanket statement that is true in all cases. The point is that the most common and knee-jerk reaction to a problem is to resist it, but many times this approach does not work and sometimes it even makes matters worse. In other words, brute force is often not effective and we must change to a more indirect way of dealing with our problems.

I think WYRP is true more often in people-related problems than other types of problems.

I think it's true when the aliens have a tractor beam on you.

Room here for one more? I agree with the concept of WYRP as valid science. Not silly at all. -- GarryHamilton

To prevent murder we must allow murder?

Spurious logic. Resisting something tends to make it persist. What's "allowing murder" got to do with that? (GravityWorks. It doesn't care what you think. WYRP.) -- GarryHamilton

Perhaps more sound logic would be: "Society resists murder, and it does persist, implying that allowing murder might prevent murders." To support this statement, you'd need a causal link between resisting a murder and causing a murder. This might not account for murders caused by anger, jealousy, psychosis, etc. It might account for those murders perceived by the purveyor as self-defense.

Nothing spurious about it. Whoever wrote it just analyzed the situation down to its essentials.

Actually, if murder wasn't such a horribly punished crime (you know, almost as bad as drug dealing), or if there were proper channels to have it done, I have a feeling most people still wouldn't bother killing each other. Not unless the other guy did something really bad, and the cops were being totally ineffectual about it.

There is some management wisdom to keeping people responsible for their own actions. If murder were legal, and if you killed a lot of people who everyone liked, you would probably find yourself dead pretty soon. People would understand the gravity of their responsibility a lot better and use it less frivolously if they were treated more like adults than kids, given free rein but with a clear understanding of the probable consequences of their actions.

This is the same kind of justification given for capital punishment. The problem with it is that empirically it doesn't work. The American Criminology Society (?) officially rejects this kind of thinking.

Except for drug-related homicides (and maybe even those), nearly all murders are irrational spur of the moment things. Temporary insanity. Here's the typical scenario:

Joe Shmoe is walking down the street. He's angry because his wife didn't put out, undermining his manhood. He's afraid because it's dark and there's nobody in the lonely streets. As he walks, he's suddenly accosted by a knife-wielding stranger who demands his money. Joe is pissing his pants. He can't think straight anymore. He's humiliated. And that's when he snaps and decides he isn't going to take it anymore. No more humiliation for him! So Joe pulls out his gun and shoots the robber right in the head. Ha! That showed him!

Pure claptrap. No, psychology.

It sounds like Joe is thinking straight to me. A thug is threatening his life with a knife, so Joe responds by wielding a weapon of his own. Perfectly logical and perfectly justified. Wrong. Joe is the one who's making the situation dangerous by escalating it. Losing the contents of your wallet isn't worth the increased chance of dying.

And the statistics say that in more than 90% of the cases in which a handgun is wielded in a defensive manner, as Joe was doing in your example, it is not fired. The threat of being shot is enough to dissuade most attackers. This is nonsense made up by the NRA. Well, we know where you're coming from now.

I believe this psycho-dynamic is exactly what happens in the case of most "self defense" situations (which in nearly all cases, the FBI rules as unjustified, hence merely straight homicide).

What should be done with murderers (excepting serial and contract killers) is they should be placed in therapy. They should be hospitalized, not incarcerated. And actually, the above psycho-dynamic dominates all crimes, except for white-collar crimes which tend to be psychopathic in nature. That's right: the "gentlemen's" crimes are far, far worse than those of the uncouth low-born. After serial killers, white-collar criminals are the ones that can't be rehabilitated.

Hmmm... A book like TheTippingPoint would seem to suggest otherwise. (Its advice, I suppose, would be to suppress murder by making it unfashionable.) And to Mr "free rein" above : what you're describing strongly reminds me of TheTrueKnowledge? in McLeod?'s wonderful books (see http://www.santafe.edu/~shalizi/reviews/cassini-division/true-knowledge.html).

If murder were legal, and if you killed a lot of people who everyone liked, you would probably find yourself dead pretty soon.

Of course any family or friends you might have could decide to avenge you, in which case you have a feud of the sort which can persist for an exceptionally long time. Believe it or not, there have been many times and places where the only reliable punishment for murder was personal vendetta, and they've been far from peaceful. An eye for an eye...and remind me: why don't unpopular people deserve any security?

Interesting that extended feuds actually confirm WYRP. -- gh

Not at all. Feuds are more common when tolerated, whereas WYRP presumably means that resistance increases the effect, as above when you say murder would go down if it were ok. And you can't possibly be counting the feud itself as resistance or you'd never have made the italicized quote above. Something isn't jiving.

No, I didn't write the italicized part, and all my remarks are attributed (either as gh or as GarryHamilton). A feud is one group resisting another. It is the resistance that allows the condition to persist. That doesn't mean that feuds are a good idea. It doesn't mean murder is a good idea. It doesn't mean a lot of things. What it helps illustrate is that WYRP. -- gh

Ah, ok. My apologies for the misattribution.

I believe this psycho-dynamic is exactly what happens in the case of most "self defense" situations (which in nearly all cases, the FBI rules as unjustified, hence merely straight homicide).

This is stupid in two different ways.

First, the theory of self-defense says that a victim can respond to a violent attack using a reasonable level of violence himself. Basically, the victim can use as much violence as his attacker is threatening to use. In your hypothetical case, the attacker is threatening the use of lethal force by wielding the knife, therefore giving the victim the right to use lethal force. Knife wounds aren't anywhere near as lethal as gun wounds.

Lethal is lethal. There aren't degrees of being dead. Under American law, which is the only thing I'm arguing here, you have the legal right to use lethal force to defend yourself or others if you/they are threatened with lethal force.

If your hypothetical attacker had instead threatened to punch the victim in the nose, then the victim of course would not be justified in shooting the attacker. He _would_ be justified in punching, kicking, head-butting, etc the attacker.

Second, the vast majority of homicides, whether justified or not, are violations of state law, not Federal. Therefore, they are investigated and prosecuted by state officials, not the FBI. So, if the FBI doesn't investigate the vast majority of homicides, how can they "rule" on whether they were justified?

The only people who really "rule" on whether a particular use of force is justified are jurors. To a certain extent, you could argue that District Attorneys also can rule on such things, as they have discretion on whether to file charges in the first place. If the DA's office thinks it was justified, there simply won't be a trial.

He _would_ be justified in punching, kicking, head-butting, etc the attacker.

No, he wouldn't. Not as long as he had the option of either calling for help or running away. And even after these options were exhausted, self-defense doesn't apply when someone threatens violence but only when someone commits violence.

You are simply absolutely wrong here. You are under no legal obligation to let your attacker actually take a shot at you, or attempt to stab you, or whatever, before you respond. The threat is enough, legally, to warrant a response.

I agree that if you can safely remove the threat to your life by calling for help or running away, that would be the better course of action. But the victim of an attack has the right to attempt to preserve his life and well-being, and if using lethal force is the most expedient way to do that, then he is fully justified in using lethal force.

I have no desire to argue the matter with someone who apologizes for murderers. Isn't that what you're doing here? Justifying the thug's aggression? The thug had the choice of whether or not to begin the encounter, therefore the moral, ethical, and legal outcome of the encounter rests on his head, not the victim's. Anyone who wants facts and rational arguments to counter the pro-gun propaganda, can check out (http://www.korpios.org/resurgent/L-gunownership.htm).

You made a factual claim that the FBI found nearly all cases of the use of lethal force in self-defense to be unjustified. I say that's not true because the FBI doesn't investigate most homicides. They are state matters, not Federal. Therefore, they couldn't have come to any such conclusion. Also, the ultimate decision of whether any particular use of force is justified or not is a legal conclusion, and therefore the provence of a jury. Police departments, such as the FBI, gather evidence in a case. District Attorneys, Federal prosecutors, etc decide if there is enough evidence to file charges. If they decide there is, it is then up to a jury to come to a conclusion on that evidence. In terms of our discussion that conclusion would be whether or not, in that particular case, the use of lethal force in self-defense was justified. The jury decides, not the FBI.

You made a factual claim. Can you back it up, or were you just blowing smoke?

<< [ Original (off topic) remarks paraphrased ... ] The reasoning that it is better to surrender freedom or property than to take the life of someone who wants to take it from you is flawed. I assert that it is better to counter with extreme prejudice, where the means and opportunity is available. I further assert that pulling a weapon on someone (e.g. a knife) to relieve them of their freedom or property is not a rational act. I further assert that it is not fundamentally incorrect to assess such an act as a "very real threat."

My remarks were based on a decade of field experience and my own personal experiences as the recipient of violent assault. The passive response doesn't work. I originally removed my remarks when it became evident that the subsequent comments were essentially emotional constructs framed in psychobabble, and not the result of actual experience. I don't have a great deal of patience with someone who must resort to name calling and pretended knowledge to "make a point." -- gh >>

Unfortunately, that's wrong. You wouldn't try to separate people into "rational" and "irrational" if you understood the human psyche. Similarly, you wouldn't try to separate people into "very real threat" and "non-threat" if you understood military tactics.

Since power, domination and humiliation are the emotions which dominate a confrontation, any proposed tactics must hinge on a solid understanding of their dynamics. If someone threatens you with a knife, they are trying to establish a power relationship over you, to dominate you. If you proceed to pull a weapon on them, you are yourself doing the exact same thing as the attacker is doing. That's mistake number 1.

Even if you have a superior weapon or superior training, and ignoring the fact that you have lost the advantage of surprise and preparedness, none of that matters. As soon as you've turned the confrontation into a fight for dominance (like the mindless animals you see in nature shows) you've increased the chances of an actual fight. In any actual fight, even the winner comes out a loser; coming out of it worse off than they entered the fight. When guns or knives are involved, the damage to the "winner" can easily be severe or even lethal.

So what's the proper (ie, safe) response to a confrontation? There are three.

First is submission; keep your hands away from your body, no sudden moves and let him have your wallet. Of course, to some, submission is literally considered "a fate worse than death".

Second is to sidestep the fight for dominance. One method mentioned somewhere here is biting the attacker's ear thus making them think you're insane. Needless to say, this is not practical when weapons are involved.

Third is to combine the first two. Run away and/or scream for help. This is probably the best damned response possible when the attacker doesn't have a gun. -- RichardKulisz

<< You know, I wrote a lengthy rebuttal here, and on reading over it and comparing it with what has been said above, I realized that nothing I am likely to say will hold any sway. I don't teach pigs to sing. It wastes my time and annoys the pig. -- gh >>

The above is messy and hard to understand now. Suggested the rebuttal be condensed to No, he wouldn't. He'd be justified in using only as much violence as it takes to get him out of the situation, which so long as he can give up his wallet, run away or call for help, is absolutely none, or something like that.

<< I have paraphrased my original comments. I still believe this entire discussion to be ill-judged. But as long as I'm going to comment ...

If a person wishes to live then he should not engage in robbery or thuggery. It's a fundamentally flawed thinking process. The position that it is in any way acceptable or that allowances should be made for it is likewise flawed.

I will not entertain the concept of "assailant's rights."

I agree that rehabilitation is the most correct way to handle a person who assaults others, but probably not for the same reasons you may have. Of course this assumes one can apprehend and restrain the assailant, as well as assuming that real rehab is available.

In the end, assault is unacceptable. In practice, if assault is allowed to succeed, it will continue.

It's absurd to posit that the person being assaulted must make every effort to spare the assailant any disproportionate injury. If one doesn't want to get hurt or killed, one should not do what places him at risk of life and limb.

This concept scales. If someone wants to "hold a gun" on an entire country and say, "be calm, I only want your freedom and property," he's going to have to accept that his victims may not feel like just "handing it over." There's a very real risk in that kind of conduct. The irony is that nations (and people) who will do something like this will have "justifications" for their actions and feel very "wronged" if their victims successfully counter the assault.

By the way, don't bother using "psychology" as a foundation for argument. It hasn't proven itself as a science, so if you're going to use its teachings as the basis for your reasoning, you're wasting your time. Of course, there may be other readers who accept it as science, so go right ahead. -- GarryHamilton >>

<<By the way, don't bother using "psychology" as a foundation for argument. It hasn't proven itself as a science, so if you're going to use its teachings as the basis for your reasoning, you're wasting your time. >>

There is no such thing as a 'proven science'. You cannot 'prove' a physical theory, since there is inherent subjectivity and error in any observation. You can be very certain in science about something, even 99% certain, but never 100%. By your reasoning, we shouldn't use science at all.

Isn't "there is inherent subjectivity and error in any observation" itself a physical theory?

You are probably biased against psychology because of what goes for psychology in the popular media. Journalists are worse at reporting psychology than any other science, because people such as journalists have more intuitions about human behavior than say quarks, and tend to interpret the research far beyond what research supports based on their personal intuition.

<<If someone threatens you with a knife, they are trying to establish a power relationship over you, to dominate you. ... If you proceed to pull a weapon on them, you are yourself doing the exact same thing as the attacker is doing. That's mistake number 1.>>

This sounds like some weird form of sociology, not psych.

There are two ways you could use psych to analyze the situation. You could make the assumption that the assailant is not a high-level rational thinker; for example a bear. By submitting passively, you fall into the 'victim/prey/food' schema of the bear, and eventually you become food without the quotes. To stop a bear attack, you must cease being 'prey' and become 'competitor', at which point they decide its no longer worth it. Same goes for human attackers. Numerous studies on aggression have found that people find it easier to attack and humiliate those they consider victims, and have a much harder time attacking peers.

Or assume that the assailant is rational, and they want your money etc. You will be victimized if the risks are less than the likely gains. If a target has more risk than rewards, the assailant will move on to another easier target. This is why people are advised to carry objects such as umbrellas that can be used like weapons to deter mugging. Even though they don't let you win a fight, they make it risky enough for the attacker that they choose a more vulnerable target.

To sum up, when you resist, you persist. -- johnk

Actually, it's been proposed that WYRP applies to airplane security. Since, after all the hubbub about airplane security and those National Guard people standing in American airports with their unloaded machine guns, there's no evidence that some loonie can't sneak another box cutter on a flight, knowing that none of the other passengers or airplane staff are armed, and that there is at most one armed federal air marshal who has a 1% chance of being there.

Suppose tomorrow you woke up and anyone could bring a gun on any plane in the United States. We'll take it as an axiom that discharging a gun on an airplane doesn't automatically cut the fuselage in half or otherwise cause all passengers to die. But bombs still do that, so they will check for that. Now, if some loonie wants to hijack the plane, he'll have to face an unknown number of armed passengers. And after September 11, a lot of loyal Americans will board planes packin'. It'd certainly be cheaper, and more effective than confiscating scissors from old ladies. And it'd put Al Qaeda on the kind of resource crunch that they've put us under.


Idiotic. Anyone who believes it is delusional, lacking some essential connection with reality and/or human nature.

I agree it's idiotic. I start a page about a well-known axiom of negative FeedBack? on a network, and more than half the page is now about how you can get somewhere if you push a string really hard...

Umm.. which aspect of reality and/or human nature exactly does the above contradict? People carry guns on the street all the time, and there were no firearm restrictions on airplanes before 1971.


The page WhatYouResistPersists spawned from the page TheNetherlands. Specifically, "Holland is a place where nearly everything that the rest of us have been taught will lead to the breakdown of society is legal. They follow the simple ideal, "WhatYouResistPersists.'"

So this page is all about resisting crime the dumb way.

So in TheNetherlands they don't resist the dumb way, and they have a very low crime rate.

We are still waiting for some folks to put two and two together here... -- PhlIp

For this Wiki, we'll see


I tried Google to look up more information and research on the effect of the practice of tolerance in Holland. No luck.

So is that all a myth? Or an old tradition totally wrecked by arrival of MTV, or ...???
Late 2004, a playwright who had written a play considered by some to be critical of Islam was killed in a violent manner by several Islamic people. The reaction of the Dutch was not as tolerant as some might have thought it would be. Europe by and large appears tolerant because they are much more monocultural then the USA - Swedes dislike immigrant Turks about as much as Arizonans dislike immigrant Guatemalans, but until recently there were so few of them that they were almost invisible. Now that the number of Levantine immigrants in northern Europe is increasing, we see more evidence that the Europeans react sometime worse than Americans - France banning headscarves, the Dutch public beating Middle-Eastern-looking passers-by.

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