It can be difficult to decide whether to take defensive action against someone violating your boundaries, like personal space, inappropriate intimate contact or teasing gone too far. This is especially true if the offender is a friend or family member. But when given a wide enough perspective, it can be quite simple.
First, let’s look at a few things that make us uniquely human. We seek social interaction, justice, fairness, community, communication, happiness and love. Our contact with other humans enhances these things. We collaborate and grow together. We have an unspoken agreement to help each other, or at the very least not hinder one-another’s growth or happiness.
So, you could argue that in the moment that someone violates that social contract, they have for a brief moment forgotten their humanity. They have allowed the animal part of their brain to take the reigns and be selfish, survivalist beings fighting over dominance, or resources.
Now, imagine if on your way home you were attacked by a vicious dog. You wouldn’t hesitate to defend yourself in as much as it took to get back safely, while trying to act humanely towards another living thing. By extension then, it should be no different to assert your right to happiness and health in the face of any damage or interference by any outside influence be it animal, environmental or from another person acting in a way that hinders it.
I’m not saying in the least that you need to be a sociopath. That again would be sub-human in the sense that we are using the word. Acting to keep happy and able to contribute to the greater good helps everyone. Defending yourself is protecting your own humanity. No one should be allowed to infringe on it. When you act to defend yourself, you are protecting the best part of us all.
The trick lies in doing so in a way that fits with your personal moral guidelines, the rules of the social sphere you live in and avoid “overdoing it” and letting the desire for vindication or aggression take over.
The simple (but not easy) solution is forethought and preparation. Decide in advance who you want to let touch you. Practice the means to assert your boundaries to the level that you are prepared to assert them. Lastly, remember that your actions will stay with you and define you as either human or something a little less.