Escalation is always problematic. If tit-for-tat continues indefinitely because no one knows who started it, or no one is willing to admit that a perceived first wrong was in fact a wrong, then eventually greater threats are posed for the sake of getting the other side to stop. More often than not, these don’t go unmatched, and the tit-for-tat can continue at a further higher, and much more damaging, level.
On the other hand, tat-for-tat often occurs when the person doing the initial wrong believes that the other side may justifiably retaliate – or already has retaliated though they are without proof – and sends yet another salvo. They may prepare with escalation and threats or do genuine further harm, in advance of any reaction by the other side at all, in order to keep them from doing anything in response. It can be this sort of self-justifying escalation which is the most destructive, because it is born from naught.
In such cases, it may be only more difficult to see how the initial recipient, now having only more threats piled on, and carrying around with them a reputation for ‘potential retaliation’, can actually achieve a peaceful and equianimous ends. This can lead some to escalate to the greatest extent possible, in order to finally clean the slate. Others are capable of recognizing that the best revenge is living well, but need the other side themselves to complete the retribution.
Among those who believe they can do no wrong, this can be a tough sell, especially those who insist on acting out of suspicion or falsified claims, rather than any genuine evidence. What is needed to stop the paranoia may be unclear, but it does not help to call the other side ‘paranoid’ in advance of them calling you the same.
It is not without reason that there is always a higher authority.