Getting Intimate with Violence™: Innate Goodness

Getting Intimate with Violence™: Innate Goodness
Getting Intimate with Violence™: Innate Goodness
Getting Intimate with Violence™: Innate Goodness
Getting Intimate with Violence™: Innate Goodness

I had a chance to speak with Jim Bowsher in the recent past. He built the “Temple of Tolerance” in Wapakoneta, Ohio. His “temple” is an amazing world of architectural and natural stone configured into an almost mystic adventure land he uses for local children to come and just be children, free from outside structure and expectation to promote the natural wonder of youthful innocence and imagination. Everyone from troubled youths to local college students to aspiring artists are free to walk through his property and explore. Mr. Bowsher is a scholar, historian, writer, archaeologist, and a folklore collector. He also speaks at universities, prisons, etc.

Though we have differing viewpoints on many things, I made a connection with much that he had to say while standing in his back yard amidst the amazing “temple” he has built over the years. Mr. Bowsher is of a different mentality than most would seek for guidance for self- defense, especially for insight into how to train for high end tactical work. And, I often am frowned upon for seeking consult from those of a pacifist or some other “weak” frame of mind. But, when we get attacked we are not getting it from someone like ourselves. We are being attacked by someone of “alien mentality” from our point of view.

So, I believe to gain an understanding, a truly diversified understanding of those who are different than me, who may aim to harm or exploit me or my family, I must intermingle and pick “alien” brains as often as possible to gain insight into how others think and believe and adjust my methodology for training. I’m not just training to shoot someone for self-defense. I’m training to prevent it from happening. To possibly, mentally, see it coming before the physical manifestation to reduce the risk of having to enter into a violent course of action. Many train with firearms and yearn for the chance to prove their prowess against the “bad guy”. Having lived through it myself, alone in my driveway with no back-up or tac team with me or premeditated notion that there may be danger at hand, I can tell you I strive to do everything I can to prevent having to use my gun. But, I would never be without it or without the ability to decidedly and swiftly use it if necessary. I now believe if I have to use my gun I may have failed myself given the wealth of knowledge I now have after years of research on human behavior and violence.

Mr. Bowsher stated to me that he has never had his “butt kicked” because his father told him whenever confronted with violence he should “roll into a ball” on the ground and scream. You scoff at this as I did, but he has a point because he said it worked. He has never had his butt kicked though he has been confronted several times. For his particular situation it was effective. Mr. Bowsher often speaks on the subject of “innate goodness”. His belief is that as bad as any human is, there is some part of them, well before the process of their thinking gets in the way that is innately “good”.

I am of the belief that there are many in this world who would love to kill me or others if given the chance. Whether it’s a gangbanger looking to get his first kill to be accepted, a religious fanatic seeking martyrdom, or someone I have taken freedom from and “ruined” their life, there are people who could justify it in their own minds. So it is difficult to subscribe to the notion of innate goodness in every human.

As I stood and talked with him we discussed many things about his work, philosophy and his experiences talking to and helping violent prisoners and those who had experienced extreme violence and were now trying to get through the mental aftermath of those experiences. I was getting progressively more interested in the parallels I was hearing from him in comparison to my own experiences and beliefs. There were points that were so overwhelmingly dead-on with my own experiences that I couldn’t help but get emotional and excited at the same time as the conversation unfolded. Part of it was a new perspective of what I had experienced and believed and part of it was that he was helping me with my own demons, so to speak, that I had not yet found answers for. Before I go further listen to the message of innate goodness Jim gives in this video.

Out of this comes an understanding that if you take away all the logic, however skewed by your personal life experience, there is a basic nature. Now this nature may not be universal across the board when looking at individuals as Jim believes, but there is an underlying message that the logic we employ takes us away from an initial state of mind that is free from interpretation and the resulting change in behavior generated from what our perception and/or preconceived notions of “who” we think we should be.

When you understand this you understand two things;

1. When dealing with a violent person, the only way you are going to get to the innately good character of that individual is through time consuming work at peeling their hard outer shell away to the point you can change their behavior. As evidenced by countless instances of violence where the victim tries to comply in hopes they can appease the attacker and survive, or where an individual believes arming themselves is unnecessary as they can reason with the attacker, the outcome is almost always tragic.

Scholars like Mr. Bowsher understand that there is a way, with patient, nurturing persistence to help these people reverse engineer, in some cases, the issues and logic that lead to violent behavior. In others, a congenital neural deficiency is at play and nothing will help. But for the victim, in the moment, it is crucial to understand that when they decide to take you into that “universal human phobia” that LT. Col. Dave Grossman describes in his literature, there is no hope of convincing them to stop through passive persuasion. You must have convinced yourself of this truth and understand that to put your safety and that of those you must protect at risk to try this on-the-spot therapy is a suicide mission at best. Only by them having a sense of self-preservation will they stop if you convince them you are a lethal adversary. Most likely they will call your bluff if you even have a chance to present the notion that this may cost them their own life. That is their dominant nature and so you must react swiftly and with violence of action.

2. Referring to Grossman’s “universal human phobia” it must also be understood that for those of us who are not violent by nature, there exists a tendency to only resort to violence under extreme provocation. In that, there is that moment I wrote about in previous articles that is often described as “fight or flight”. This is when you are instantly taken back to that state of “innate goodness”. In my mind this just means that you are at a clean white page. You have nothing but absoluteness in front of you. No room for spin, denial, selective perception, etc. It is what it is and nothing you do will make it not so. Your logic center (frontal lobes) has not kicked in and you are hanging on the edge of the abyss, and as Nietzsche wrote, “the abyss looks into you”.

For those who have issues or no experience with violence, there often is hesitation or even reluctance to perform an act of violence against another. It is so well engrained in some people’s psyche that they will not respond at all and be injured or killed before having attempted an act of self-defense. In others there may not be this same reluctance, but may exist a total lack of training so that they have no mental “drawer” to pull from. Others may have a little basic training or training from competitive shooting or some other relevant “sport”, but this has limited application and so the mental “drawer” for response is there, but too shallow to be of benefit. Still others may have proper training, but not of sufficient frequency to have been engrained by the Hebbian plasticity process of learning. Or, if it had at one time been common practice for them to train, but no longer do, that same Hebbian Plasticity will have whittled away the razor edge of proficiency they once were capable of.

To fully prepare, as much as can be, given the chaotic nature of violent encounters, training must be combat based. Not battlefield based or police-interview-during-a-traffic-stop based. It must be based on being taken by surprise to condition a relevant, effective response from that “white paper” mental state when your entire body is controlled by that emotional tripwire that I wrote of in previous articles, the Amygdala. This is why so many law enforcement officers are killed in the line of duty and show no attempt at self defense. Even if their training wasn’t tainted by institutional inertia that fails to understand the psychology of proper training doctrine, their frequency of training left their “drawer” shallow and/or their retrieval from that drawer sloppy or slow.

“Innate Goodness” is what therapists may be trying to find, but it can kill you in more ways than one, if it gets in the way.

Another interesting video of Jim Bowsher is the “Story of Rivets”. It’ll get you thinking!

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James Barnhart is a Veteran of the U.S. Navy, a former fugitive recovery agent and contract bodyguard and is a gunfight survivor. James has been operational and/or an instructor for firms such as Vance International, Dyn-Corp and the former Blackwater USA. He currently is an NRA instructor and teaches unarmed and armed self defense and lectures on the psychological and physiological aspects of training for violent confrontation. He has also been featured on the Dr. Gina Loudon Radio Talk Show. He can be reached at DefCon CCW and followed on twitter @defconccw.
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As a thirteen year military veteran, Grossman makes sense to me and it absolutely never crossed my mind to respond to a threat by going into a fetal position and screaming like a little girl!


It’s hard to understand how a trained police officer would hesitate or be outwitted in a situation were his life is in danger and not reacting first with a  lethal responce,
For a guy like me, a carpenter in Detroit, CCW holder for 15 years,I think it’s all about the money!
What happens if you shoot and kill somebody that try’s to kill you,totaly justified ? Your are out about $50,000 to $100,000 in attorney’s fee’s court fee’s lost wages maybe a lawsuit, being convicted on nightly news before the facts come out, Now you cant send your child to college or buy that new house or new car.
But you will be alive. If you are not ready to loose everything you own to possibly stay alive , you will be the victim and then it wont matter how much money you have you will be dead.


Ted Bundy & Jeffrey Dailmer & John Wayne Garcy had no inate goodess, falling on you back and screaming won’t work with them…jim has been lucky so far….


ABQ NM, APD is currently under the public’s agenda driven microscope. To their credit, they are Fast and deadly on the Draw. No Nonsense. Several instances, in the more quietly, media forgotten past, that took the lives of several veteran officers that ‘hesitated’ out of trust and innocent expectations, have hardened their current resolve… and deadly response. I now am fearful, for the demise of their hardened mentality for survival, being softened by the way too ‘Victim sympathetic’, vocal minority public, after ‘Their Dog was killed in the fight’ (victim’s family remorse, for raising dysfunctional ‘anti social’, Addiction Dependent threats ‘to everyone else’) . The pendulum swings.

 I personally, as a non ‘Dependency
Addicted Career Repeat Offender’, have few concerns with the present, predictable Officer reaction status. The small, Union ‘payouts’… after a Shoot, allowing the officer and family to take time to unwind, are being stopped, the Union president and top Union official have now stepped down after being attacked in the media. Vocal, inexperienced utopian Media, catering to Their politically ‘nurtured’ sector of the public, accuses the Union of ‘bounty’ encouraging. The officers are all now being ‘Retrained’ to react as you describe. I hold ill boding for the eventual result. A return to the past that I remember, where the naive, reluctant and hesitant officers become the ‘Victims’…. along With the public they are Uniformed to defend. The ‘Thin Blue Line’ is being Forced to waver, Away from ‘What works’.


Not sure who Mr. Barnhart is trying to impress, but it won’t be me.  His articles are
too verbose, and too intellectual for me.  I first one I read tested my patience, but I finished.  The second one I tried to read, caused me to give up.  I won’t bother again.   If you were writing for a living
I think it would be like my dad used to say. “If you writing for beans you wouldn’t get a taste.”
Just an opinion.


I told him pretty much the same thing not long ago, as did others.   I have several college degrees and this stuff isn’t impressive in the least.   After nearly 30 years in law enforcement as well as service in Vietnam I’ve learned to keep things simple.  If you can’t say what your trying to communicate in a few simple paragraphs you really don’t have anything to say.   He may get tweaked over this . . . I don’t care.   I believe in old fashioned plain English.   

James G. Barnhart

LOL…not trying to impress, just trying to promote thinking. All of this stuff was discovered, fugured out, thought up, etc. by people a heck of a lot smarter than me. They then took what they found and have put it into training programs to take really good shooters, LEO’s, military types and enable them to have much better survival rates. Some of the stuff I have read I had to read several times to fully nderstand the concepts. Some of the training I have experienced I had to work hard to get through. There were no quick “fixes” so to speak. It’s human behavioral training and mixes science with “range” time. It’s not “slide rule” science. It’s often mistook for quackery. But for those that understand it’s necessity, which is often only those that have experience a lethal situation, there are benefits to be reaped.

I apologize for my inability to effectively get the point across for you, but it would be impossible to do it in a few simple paragraphs even if my writing skills were of Pulitzer caliber. Maybe it would be simpler to just give a reading list for you to dig into. Grossman’s books open up a lot of knowledge into the subject, but there is much more in the scientific “why” of the results of his research than just the facts expressed in his books. Check out the writings of Gavin DeBecker, Daniel Goleman, Dr. Joseph Ledoux, Richard Wrangham, Dr. Michael Asken, and Col. Robert Ressler (former FBI agent and Army CID). All much smarter than me, with better writing skills (or a staff to clean up there writing). Not sure if they were aiming to “impress”, but significsant sources of info. However! I must warn you, it’s a heck of a lot more than just a few simple paragraphs! 🙂 But, since you’re not going to read my stuff anymore, you should have plenty of time to read theirs!

Thanks for your feedback!

Gunnin Peace Doc

Thanks for your
article Mr. Barnhart. Like many writers (including me) to many words were used,
but I do like the points you made. I used to initiate violence against people
while wearing a blue costume. I would stop their movement and sometimes cuff
them. I would sometimes hit them, twist their arms or throw them to the ground.
Of course it was not a bad thing because I was wearing a blue costume and
millions of people were convinced that as long as they support men wearing blue
costumes; the initiation of violence is honky dory.  Different perspective, huh?

Your point about
different people having different perspectives is interesting. This forum
serves mostly white males who are supportive of their government. Most of us
are either sheep dogs (or poodles that think we are) or at least are willing to
accept that “Violence is sometimes the answer – it just depends on what
the question was.” People of our ilk do not typically score as highly on
IQ tests as engineers, philosophers, physicians or chemists. This is not a bad
thing, there are many other things in life that are more important than IQ.

Having said this,
it does take a fairly high IQ to be interested in examining life from a deep
philosophic perspective. The average Big Dude with a Stick that keeps his
family and neighbors same through violence and the threat thereof is not likely
to have an interest in philosophy. 
Stefan Molyneux says that “We are all philosophers” but I would suggest
that we change that to “could be.”  Lloyd
deMause might be right about his ideas, but how many among us will listen?  Carl Watner is correct about most things, but
who wants to read all the essays in “I Must Speak Out?” 

have received criticism in the comments, but people like you are needed.  Keep investigating stuff and presenting it to
us!  Thanks to USACARRY for posting.   Obviously a crazed Christian or Muslim that
perceives they have nothing to lose that is fighting for THIER God and Country
and wants us dead will not stop when I say hippie love peace stuff to them, and
in moments like that our minds will revert to directing our bodies to actions
involving meat and metal, but in the days of peace, we would all do well to
stretch our minds.

James G. Barnhart

GPD, Thanks for that feedback. I’ll work on improving the presentation of what I find. There is a lot out there to learn from people. I know I learn a little more each day. 


good article,I believe such things as paint ball games help devolop good mindset and reflexes


Maybe its because I haven’t read many gun/shooting articles, but I liked this one. I wish USA Carry would post more articles on a regular basis!


Mr. Bowsher has spoken at my college and I have been to his “temple”. He is a very interesting fellow to say the least. Being an avid CCW holder and going into Law Enforcement causes me to have a very different perspective on violent conflicts, however, he has some pretty good, and pretty crazy stories! Good article. I am new at this site and I am glad to see something right of the bat that comes from my neck of the woods. (Live 20 minutes away from Wapakoneta)

James G. Barnhart

Welcome to USA Carry, Robert! Thanks for the comment. Since you are fairly local you may be interested in my Defensive Intelligence seminar on May 5th here in Findlay. I’m partnering with Terry Vaughan from this season of History’s “Top Shot”. Terry specializes in body language interpretation for personal safety and self defense and this fits perfectly with my curriculum. NRA is also raffling off a Kimber Pro-Carry 1911, a Glock 19 and a Glock 233 during the seminar. See my website listed in my bio for more info.


Ohio rules!