Infringing on the rights of another
The idea of trespass—to
infringe on the privacy, time, space, or attention of another—lies at the root
of several negative emotions, violence, and turmoil.
The person trespassed against often considers it as a form of
loss. The trespass can take many forms, some
much less tangible than others. Trespass recognizes that your freedom ends where
mine begins, and symmetrically, my freedom ends where
yours begins. We all establish boundaries that we don't expect others to cross.
- Intrusion, invasion
- Overstepping boundaries
Roots: Middle English trespas transgression, offense
Breach, encroach, impinge, infringe, intrude, invade, transgress, and violate
are all close synonyms for trespass.
Your own idea of entitlement, related to your self image, will establish the
boundaries of trespass. For example, if you feel you are entitled to
peace and quiet, then you will evaluate noise as a trespass, and be prone to
anger in response to the noise. The resulting
anger can then be traced back to identify the trespass
and therefore the boundary and entitlement. Dignity—the quality of worth and honor intrinsic to every person—establishes basic
entitlements that are the birthright of every human. The boundaries of dignity
are never to be breached and trespassed.
Human needs establish another boundary that is
essential to uphold. Denying the needs of another is the essence of
Forms of Trespass
An intrusion can take many forms. Here are examples of territory people may
consider to be their own, not to be infringed upon:
Touching, restraining, (unwelcome) sexual advances, assault …
- Peace of Mind:
Abuse, anguish, hurt, insult, torment, taunting, nagging, harangues, tirades,
doubt, shame, obligation, guilt, fear, anxiety, terrorism, interruption,
- Agreement, trust: Broken promises,
- Limbic Traces:
destroying fond memories, replacing positive associations with negative ones,
Lies, religious proselytizing, propaganda, fallacious, false, or misleading
Restricting freedom of movement, speech, beliefs, religion, access to (non private)
information, assembly, rights, . . .
Loud noises, dogs barking, telemarketing calls, email spam, computer viruses
- Status: Insults, diminished competency or
- Intrusion, unauthorized disclosure,
entering my house uninvited, or staying too long, or snooping around
- Land: Entering my land, crossing my land, squatting, usurping my land,
destroying our land.
using, taking, borrowing, stealing, and damaging my stuff.
- Intellectual property:
patents, copyrights, trademarks, presenting my ideas as your own, plagiarism, brand loyalty
(Coke is better than Pepsi)
- Shared Property: Limiting access (e.g. closing, charging, crowding) to the park,
waterways, highways . . .
- Shared Resources: Air or water pollution, Toxic waste disposal, natural resources (waste
of gasoline, oil, water, clean air, forests, wilderness areas), water rights, aesthetic
resources (view of mountains, sunset, landscape, destroying forest . . .) cultural resources (great
art, historic buildings, religious icons. . .), Gene pool (genocide), Public
Road rage (trespassing in my lane, intersection, or right to travel at full
Attention (Limiting Access):
(interfering with or reducing time with or attention from) mom, the boss, the
romantic prospect, the doctor . . .
Talk time on TV or Radio, editorial space in newspapers or magazines, Google
Disrupting my train of thought, dialogue, air time, or time in a
make me wait for you, missing an appointment, slow response, cut in line, taking
up my free time, waste my time, boredom, ask me to work on the weekends.
- No one has a right to “first
place” but that is often forgotten in the heat of competition or battle.
Dominance contests and various
status contests are fought to claim the top
position in a variety of dimensions.
Trespass, Anger, Coercion, Revenge, and Violence
One definition of
anger is the “response to trespass” A common, but
unfortunate, pattern is:
“A” trespasses on “B” (or
“B” perceives a trespass by “A”) this can happen if an egotist has claimed more
territory than he is entitled to. E.g. Hitler believed the Jews were
trespassing on the Arian race.
“B” gets angry at “A” and
feels compelled, or at least justified, in retaliating. Because the
offence “B” perceives is often greater what “A” intended—called
the “magnitude gap”—the
intensity of the retaliation is usually increased. This is the basis for
retaliation, often called revenge. Retaliation involves trespass. Anger breeds more anger. The
magnitude gap causes escalation.
Anger leads to violence
and the escalation is underway.
This cycle has to be
broken in the early stages: don’t trespass, or don’t retaliate for trespass.
This is easier said than done. Understanding aggression is
essential to establishing peace.
Claiming ground, marking ground, and standing ground establish boundaries
to identify and protect what we consider to be our own territory. Our approach may be
and aggressive or more timid, tentative, generous, and submissive. It is best to
seek a balance somewhere in between.
have many options for how we establish our boundaries and how we react when
others encroach on those boundaries. The territory we claim may be small or large,
and may encompass many or only a few of the dimensions listed above. The boundaries may
be well marked and unmistakable, or they may remain hidden, perhaps until they
We have many different ways to stand our ground. We may react
instantly and forcible when any boundary is infringed, or we may be more
tolerant, or at least less dramatic, as we forgive those who trespass against
us. Encroachment can quickly lead to conflict, and there are many approaches for
resolving conflict. A sensible response to
intrusion is to respond quickly, predictably, clearly, and
proportionally. This escalation may proceed through these stages:
- Claiming the territory we believe is ours.
- Describing, marking, and advertising the boundaries of our territory as
we establish them.
- An announcement, clarification, or reassertion providing increased
visibility for the boundary when it is first
approached or threatened. This reasserts our claim to our territory.
- A clear and friendly warning when a boundary is first crossed.
- A more stern warning if a second breach occurs, and
- Forceful action to defend against further trespass.
Many boundaries established by culture or custom are assumed to be
obvious. For example, many adults expect to be address as Mr. or Mrs. to
acknowledge respect for their age. People holding
advanced educational degrees, professional standing, or other forms of status or
stature expect their titles to be known, understood,
and always used correctly. However, many people may not know that custom, be
unaware of the title, or may not believe it is useful. This can often lead to
misunderstandings and unintended insults when such an
invisible but assumed-to-be-understood boundary is not respected.
Notice how a person claims territory, marks territory, and stands their
ground. Is their approach based on helpful symmetrical
principles or on power-based or
manipulative asymmetrical principles? Do
they ensure there is enough for everyone or do
they claim more than their fair share? Do they mark boundaries in a helpful way,
or obscure boundaries to set traps? Are they violent and belligerent when they
stand their ground, or do they acquiesce, submit, and relinquish legitimate
rights at the slightest challenge, or do they escalate gradually and
proportionally to protect what is rightfully theirs?
Only a symmetrical approach to claiming and protecting rights can provide
fairly and sufficiently for all.
- Your freedom ends where mine begins.
- "Freedom is the recognition of necessity" ~ Friedrich Engels
Fear, Sadness, Anger, Joy, Surprise, Disgust, Contempt,
Anger, Envy, Jealousy, Fright, Anxiety, Guilt, Shame, Relief, Hope, Sadness, Depression, Happiness,
Pride, Love, Gratitude, Compassion, Aesthetic Experience,
Joy, Distress, Happy-for, Sorry-for, Resentment, Gloating, Pride, Shame, Admiration, Reproach,
Love, Hate, Hope, Fear, Satisfaction, Relief, Fears-confirmed, Disappointment, Gratification,
Gratitude, Anger, Remorse,
power, dominance, stature, relationships