To solve the violence equation and reduce violence, we can work to pass laws to control access to weapons (gun control).
But we can also work to develop behavioral health strategies and interventions to control the mental desire to use weapons to harm others (motive control). Yet this approach is rarely discussed or pursued by policymakers.
Research has shown that there is a single, common motive for many forms of violence: the perpetrator’s desire to achieve personal justice to avenge past wrongs and injustices. Neuroscience research has revealed that the desire for revenge in response to perceived victimization activates the same reward processing centers of the brain that activate for narcotics addiction. If we can develop behavioral health strategies and interventions for controlling the desire to retaliate in response to victimization and feelings of rage, it follows that we should experience a reduction in violence.
The Yale Collaborative for Nonjustice Studies is engaged in research and knowledge development activities to increase understanding of the role of the desire for justice and retaliation as a root cause of individual and community violence and suffering. We study, develop, and disseminate behavioral health motive control approaches for preventing and treating violence and victimization.
Why “nonjustice” studies? Similar to the Gandhian concept of nonviolence, nonjustice means to abstain from seeking justice through revenge for past wrongs (in contrast to social justice, which rightly seeks relief from present or ongoing injustices). Nonjustice is a motive control approach that is a focus of our research, together with an innovative behavioral health intervention called the Nonjustice System that we have developed to help individuals control their cravings for revenge.
Combining cognitive strategies, psychodrama, criminal justice theory, and wisdom traditions, the Nonjustice System intervention allows victims to explore their desire for revenge by conducting “mock trials” of their perpetrators, imaginatively playing the roles of complainant, prosecutor, defendant, witness, defense lawyer, judge, jury, and witness to the administration of punishments. In a pilot study, this intervention has been shown to be effective in reducing revenge cravings among victims of perceived injustices. We hope it will become a new way of solving The Violence Equation. And we hope you will want to collaborate with us in this important research!