VioDy: Insignificant.

Oddest conversation I had at VioDy. Terry Trahan was trying to explain how treating people as if they’re non-people can facilitate violence – it may not cause it all by itself (though sometimes it can do that, too), but it definitely makes it more likely. By othering others, you make it more likely that they’re going to other you right back. Once you’ve been othered, it’s easier for them to treat you solely as a resource. In the wrong place or at the wrong time, bad juju can ensue.

[Storytime: I narrowly avoided an acquaintance of mine getting assaulted by a homeless man a few years back in London. The homeless man  was, very politely, asking for spare change. I said something along the lines of “sorry no can do.” My friend completely blanked the guy out. It was literally as if he couldn’t see or hear him. So the guy got louder. Still nothing. So he got increasingly agitated. Nada. He started charging towards us, and I ended up defusing the situation by telling him that my friend was autistic and couldn’t help it. He calmed right down, told me that I was ‘a good girl,’ and went away. I swear that even through all that my friend literally did not see that he was in a conflict, because he couldn’t see the person he was in a conflict with.]

I don’t see how this concept can be hard to grasp. Othering people can take practice. It’s often easier to other people back. For me, it’s actually quite hard to not other people who’re treating me like an alien life form, or a thing, but maybe it’s because I don’t try. The VioDy guy, however, apparently just couldn’t get it. He was fixated on the idea that by treating someone as a non-person you are insulting them, and then they’ll feel compelled to have to take revenge upon you. He apparently couldn’t conceive of the sheer impersonality behind certain types of interactions.

I have some working theories about this, which are probably bogus because I’m hugely biased. It is possible that the guy was such a humanitarian that he couldn’t access a head space where people are regarded as no more than the sum total of the resources they represent, and whether you decide to befriend, ignore, or exploit them will be based solely on a risk-benefit analysis. It could be that he was so invested in his social relationships with everybody, however temporary their contact may be, that he couldn’t conceive of being unable to create that kind of connection. Looking at the way the guy behaved around me, however, I’m disinclined to buy either explanation.

I wonder if the guy was genuinely incapable of accepting that some people may regard him as insignificant. If you firmly believe yourself to be the centre of the universe, it must be hard to comprehend that to some people you are a non-entity; that you can neither compliment them nor insult them, because you’re just not relevant enough. If you think yourself smarter than anyone else, able to manipulate whatever social situation you find yourself into, it must be intolerable to consider that none of your tools are relevant. If you think that you’re the only real person, surrounded by puppets provided as your backdrop and for your entertainment, it must be inconceivable that these may turn out to just not care about you.

I don’t know the truth behind this particular case and I shall never know it, because I’m not going to dedicate any kind of time to getting to know the guy better. I’m going to keep an eye out for this kind of thing, though. Is it possible that you get a superficially similar response to othering through an excess of humanitarianism and narcissism? I’d find that interesting.

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VioDy – The WSD question.

At VioDy, one of the guys asked me a few questions about Women Self Defence. I’m a bit slow at the best of times and I had the plague, so I’m not sure I really answered them. Basically we were talking about whether WSD is/should be its own thing, whether the gender of the instructor is/should be an issue, etc.

My stock answer to this kind of question is: it depends. No, really; that’s the best answer I can give. I’m not very good at gender politics, and  I’m painfully aware that my point of view is wonky because statistically I’m not ‘a normal woman’:  the stuff I’ve needed to use and the stuff I enjoy doing are both non-standard. I’m also aware of the fact that women are not all that homogeneous. This seems to baffle some people, but we’re actually individuals, with individual preferences, talents, abilities, attitudes, wants, needs, etc.

The way I look at the issue to fit it in my head is to reverse the questions. Can useful SD be taught to women in a mixed class? Can male instructors teach women? For me, that hinges entirely on the instructors.

I’m going to pick on Kasey Keckeisen now, because he is the ideal example and he’s very, very far away and busy, so he’s unlikely to hop on a plane just to slap me upside the head if he doesn’t like what I have to say.

Kasey and I have a lot in common: we’re both bipedal, bilaterally symmetrical, and warm-blooded; we both drive a meat-covered skeleton made of stardust; we both like Batman.

We also differ on a few, teeny tiny details. For instance, he’s male, and I’m not. He’s nearly a foot taller than me. He’s roughly twice my weight, and most of his is muscle while mine’s, well, not. Is chest is as deep as my shoulders are wide. Although we’re a similar age, he started training martial arts in ’82 and has been training consistently ever since, while I have trained patchily and badly for a total of maybe two years. He’s a Police Officer for the Mounds View Police Department and a Tactical Team Leader for the Ramsey County SWAT Team, while I make a living playing with puppies.

It should not come as a shock to anybody that when it comes to interpersonal conflict and violence, Kasey and I don’t tend to face the same problems. It should also not come as a shock that we don’t really fit the same solutions. Does that mean that Kasey can’t teach me? No, it does not. Not a bit. In fact, he’s one of my favourite trainers.

I like training with Kasey because he’s, well, not full of shit. He is aware of the fact that he doesn’t share my problems. He realises that I would struggle to use his solutions. He’s willing to help me find solutions that actually work for me, even though they may be nothing like what he would do. He’s not so invested in his answers that he ignores the fact that they don’t fit my needs.

None of this should make him special, because it’s all damn obvious, really. But if I had a penny for every time a male instructor tried to tell me the problems I face, and what solution I should use, and would simply not listen when I’d tell him that what he was saying didn’t fit my reality… then I could put all those pennies in a sock and make me a pretty good cosh. Which would be a hell of a lot more useful than most of the SD those guys tried to sell me.

So, can a strong, fit, trained man teach a small, injured, untrained woman useful self-defence? Yes, he can. Can he do it well? Yup. Does it work for everybody, every time? Nope. Sometimes, maybe more often than not, it ends up totally sucking. But I don’t believe the problem is systemic, or unavoidable, or in any way dependent on the genitals we sport. Intelligent, courageous, imaginative, honest people make intelligent, courageous, imaginative, honest teachers. I think that’s about it.

Unpacking VioDy

I attended VioDy West week before last. I’m not even going to consider attempting to sum up the content, but here are some things I noticed and some I failed to notice:

I got to roll with my adopted brother for the first time. It didn’t feel like a new thing. In fact, I only realised it was a new thing some days later. There was none of the initial measuring, adjusting, and fumbling there tends to be when learning to play with new bodies. The dood also turns out to be one of my top three favourite people to roll with. I’m sure part of it is that we practice the same games with the same teachers, and neither of us are too proud to follow instructions. I also believe (but have no proof whatsoever) that the way people roll is very indicative of their personality – or maybe that there are some key personality traits that can be masked in everyday interactions, but make or break a rolling relationship. Still working on a list, but it will definitely include respect (for self and others) and a bone-deep understanding of and investment in consent (which isn’t ‘just’ a feminist principle: it is the underpinning of a number of other personal qualities).

It also made me think about the people I hate to roll with – there aren’t many, but they are there. Although they come in a few varieties, they seem to share common traits, too. I want to work out what they are, and to see if I can work out how they manifest in their interactions.

It’s damn great to have a large chunk of my favourite people in the same place at the same time. It can, however, make me selfish and oblivious and kind of an asshole. I literally forgot what it was like to be a newbie at this kind of gathering. I don’t think I helped anyone – which isn’t my responsibility, but it’s a value I thought I subscribed to. I also fear I was actively unhelpful by not thinking about how certain behaviours (the stories we tell, the language we use to tell them, etc.) can make ‘normal’ people feel that they don’t belong. I don’t like the idea of being selfish. I like even less the idea of acting the elitist.

Being familiar with the content and structure of the activity, and not feeling social pressures, allowed me to focus on other aspects. So, for instance, instead of focusing solely on what is being taught I can look at how it’s been taught, and how it is being learnt. Not being concerned about my social standing allows me to focus on how other people are interacting. The game doesn’t get repetitive: it gets deeper. I don’t see an end to it yet.

I had an epiphanot doing gun retention. It turns out that if I bring a gun to the party but don’t shoot it, and allow my opponent to grab it, I’m back to doing hand-to-hand with a physically superior opponent, with the added concern of a weapon being in play. Although this is damn obvious and I understood it conceptually, until I had gone through it physically I hadn’t learnt it in my bones, so to speak. For me, it’s an entirely different kind of learning. So there were two lessons here: the lesson itself, and how I learnt it.

 

 

Rule of dumb – 2.

Good people respond to “may nots.” Tell them that they may not do something, and they will either go along with that restriction or try to renegotiate it. Naughty people only respond to “cannots,” which are may nots with teeth. If there isn’t an actual cost to them doing what they want to do, they will carry on doing it.

Good people in our mainstream society are also increasingly conflict-averse people. That’s how we’ve bringing them up: not only to avoid conflict whenever possible, but without the skills to handle it when it’s unavoidable. As a result, they don’t like to enforce their own boundaries, and that includes reinforcing unspoken rules. They don’t like to go up to the local teenagers and tell them to stop using their car as a goalpost. When they do, they tend to come across either as pleading, and get laughed off, or as imperious, and get into all sorts of scrapes.  Even if they get the balance right, they tend to find that it doesn’t work: the naughty people just don’t care.

So what the good people do is look for external, societal enforcement. They might contact a government official or start a petition. And eventually somebody sitting in an office somewhere will get a piece of paper on their desk, spelling trouble for them because there is a Problem, and they need to Fix It.

The people sitting in offices tend to be good people, too, just as conflict-averse as the good people on the street, and with a formal or informal obligation to keep the public happy. So the people in the offices will write a rule, and have a sign put up in the car park – “no ball games.” That discharge their obligation to the community. Where there was chaos and much grinding of teeth, there is now a Rule. The Rule will ensure safety & peace.

The problem is that nothing’s changed. Rules are not magic spells: they don’t affect reality, regardless of how often you repeat them. Unless they carry an enforceable consequence, they are may-nots, not cannots. The good people, who wouldn’t have done naughty things anyway, will obey them. The naughty people, on the other hand, will continue doing whatever the hell they want, perhaps enjoying it all the more precisely because it is illicit. Then idiots like me, with no training, physical resources, or any kind of useful back-up will have to try and stop them.

And the fun thing is… the rule-enforcers are the only people who actually get punished for the rule-breaking. They are punished formally by their superiors if they fail to enforce them. They are punished informally by the good people, who have no compunction whatsoever venting all their pent-up angst against people whose uniforms stop them from retaliating. They are punished by the naughty people, who are equally happy practising their own brand of enforcement and playing the system to do their dirty work for them. They can do both: physically assault you and report you on a trumped-out charge; and, as members of the public, their word counts more than that of a hired official.

From the point of view of improving public behaviour, rules achieve virtually nothing. In a way, however, they work: they create a group of people who act as shock absorbers, as society’s designated punch-bags. All the good people can sleep a little better, knowing that they’ve done what they needed to do: their problems are now someone else’s responsibility.

Rule of dumb – 1.

Once upon a time, the local authority I was working with decided to make a large proportion of their front-line employees “community wardens.” They gave us a new stick-on patch for our uniform, a training day, and a special notepad. The pad was to issue people with fines for “environmental crimes” (littering, vandalism, graffiti, leafletting and dog poop, as I recall).

The way this was supposed to work was:

  • We see a person or persons doing a naughty thing.
  • We go up to said person(s), all on our lonesome, armed with our inner virtue and protected by the sanctity of our role.
  • We tell them that they have done a naughty thing, and ask them for their name and address so they can be fined.

We didn’t actually process the forms ourselves, so I’m not entirely sure whether Mr. Fuck Off, living at You Stupid Whore, ever paid his fines or not. He sure got a lot of them.

This is the truth of rule enforcement. It is a completely different beast from law enforcement, yet hardly anyone seems to understand that: not the people who ask for the rules, and definitely not the people who put those rules into place.

Good people treat laws and rules as if they were equivalent. Naughty people know that that’s not the case. Laws are “the system of rules which a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members and which it may enforce by the imposition of penalties.” Rules are nothing more than the codification of preferences; sometimes those of the majority, more often those of whichever interest group shouts the loudest. Most importantly, they often do not carry a penalty for breaking them; or, if they do, that penalty is impossible to impose.

Driving on a given side of the road is a law. It regulates the behaviour of all drivers in the country, regardless of their feelings on the subject. Drivers who does not subscribe to it and get caught will be stopped by a special group of people geared up to handle that kind of situation; a punishment will follow.

The vast majority of human interactions and human behaviours in public places are not controlled by laws. They are, however, controlled by the unspoken rules of a given society. Most of us behave a certain way because we know that’s the way we’re expected to behave.

Not playing football/soccer in a car park is an unspoken rule. It’s something that most of us wouldn’t do because it’s a damn stupid thing to do at a number of levels. It puts us at risks; it puts people’s property at risk; it interferes with vehicular movement. Most importantly, most of us wouldn’t do it because it’s Not The Done Thing; people may, like, frown at us. Think badly of us. Think we’re NAUGHTY. And good people don’t want that.

The problem is that some people like being naughty. They don’t care about other people’s property; they don’t care about other people’s convenience; they may see a potential accident to themselves as an opportunity for a lawsuit, rather than a risk. Most importantly, they don’t give a good goddamn about all the frowns in the world; in fact, sometimes they court them. In the same way that we’re invested in being “good,” they’re invested in being “bad,” or “hard,” or “outlaws,”or whatever it is they label themselves as. This isn’t just an internal identity issue. This is difference that has huge implication both on their behaviour, and on how that behaviour can be influenced by others.

 

Trauma-aware self-defence instruction. 8

Of all the unhelpful beliefs about violence, this one is probably my biggest pet peeve. Rory Miller has written some wonderful blogs about and around it. Here’s my version of it, from the new book. Did I tell you I was writing a new book?

 

6.      ‘Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’

This quote by Lord Acton has become part of our culture’s paradigms, to the point that it is rarely challenged. Whether it is true or not is largely immaterial. What matters is that those who embrace it and internalize it may see power in all its manifestations – strength, resilience, self-reliance, agency, etc. – as inherently evil, and may well choose to reject it.

Self-defense training is possibly the ultimate empowering activity: it gives people the authority and power to use force to protect their own lives and those of innocent third parties; it can make people stronger and more confident. Until people can accept that power is not evil and acquiring it will not corrupt them, they are unlikely to truly embrace the essence of self-defense.

Rejecting strength can also cause people to stall in their recovery. Recovery takes strength. Recovering builds strength. If people believe that becoming stronger will inevitably turn them into overbearing bullies, they are likely to sabotage their own recovery.

Students need to be not only told, but shown that developing strength and force-use skills can actually reduce people’s need or inclination to use violence by giving them more options. The stronger and more skilled people are, the better able they are to scale force.. This concept can’t be conveyed by words if actions and attitudes support the precise opposite. Students need to be able to trust that while it takes strength to be dominant (or domineering, which is not the same thing), it also take strength to be truly gentle and kind.

˜ ™. . . 

These six core beliefs are common contributors to much of the psychological pain suffered by survivors of violence. Anything that changes or destroys these beliefs causes a major paradigm shift. A single act of interpersonal violence has the potential to destroy all of them in one go. It’s a nuke shattering the cornerstones of the way people look at the world. It’s massive. It’s painful.

For those of us who don’t hold those beliefs, it is important to remember how critical they are to those who do. We need to remind ourselves that, although they may be obviously incorrect and unhelpful in our eyes, they are incredibly important to the people who hold them.

If we are not careful, if we don’t remember that our view of the world may be radically different from the one the survivors held prior to whatever incident they have gone through, we can end up discounting a major issue. A lot of self-defense instruction either assumes that we are all on the same page regarding these core beliefs, or that people will gladly give up their existing beliefs when they are proven to be incorrect. These are huge assumptions that have little basis in reality.

Ignoring the mismatch in belief systems, or the struggles inherent to major paradigm shifts, creates a barrier to true communication and understanding. It’s a barrier that, if it’s not overcome, can either deprive students of a meaningful context for their self-defense skills, or alienate them altogether.

 

And this is all you get. If you want more, you need to get the book. Did I mention that I wrote a book? I wrote two, in fact. They’re brilliant. Honest.

Veni, vidi, marketed. We shall now be returning to our regular schedule of whatever I feel like writing. 

Trauma-aware self-defence instruction. 7

Why are we persevering with excerpts from the book? Well, this may come as a shock, but there may be a couple of people who haven’t bought it yet. I know, it’s disheartening. To be missing out on such wisdom, at such a paltry cost! However, not everyone in the whole wide world reads this blog. They might not in fact know that the book exists. You could help those poor, neglected people by caring, but sharing is even betterer.

 

5.      ‘If I become an innocent victim of violence my social net (police, doctors, employer, school, whatever) will unquestionably be there to support me and bring my attacker to justice.’

It is not uncommon for innocent people to think that their innocence is not only obvious to all onlookers, but a guarantee that their social infrastructure will either protect them against bad people or avenge them after an incident. It can come as a shock to them to discover that innocence without evidence just isn’t enough. They will have to learn:

  • that their statements have to be investigated;
  • that evidence has to be gathered;
  • that until an investigation has been completed they may be treated as actual suspects;
  • and that if this process does not yield certain results they may not only not receive any help whatsoever, but may have their whole experience being denied by the authorities. They may even be deemed the guilty parties and punished accordingly.

People may also be unaware that:

  • until a crime has been committed the police have very little power to act;
  • that if they can’t provide sufficient evidence of a crime having taken place, the courts will not prosecute;
  • and that the level of help available following different events can be heavily affected by fads and biases.

The need for a thorough investigation and evidence gathering can be particularly disturbing to victims of sexual crimes, especially in light of the type of physical evidence required. However, it can badly affect victims of all kinds of violence and crimes. This loss of faith in the social net can result in feelings of abandonment, betrayal, powerlessness, and injustice.

Part of this is an institutional issue that can’t be overcome without resorting to kangaroo courts and vigilante justice. Self-defense instructors can do a lot to inoculate their students against this problem, though, by teaching them how the system actually works. Explaining that those imperfections are systematic, rather than deliberately aimed at the students, can help insulate them from their impact.

There is another issue with our social net, though, which can cause problems just as serious. Our institutions are composed and run by people. Those people who come into contact with victims ought to treat them with consideration and respect; to provide them with the support they are entitled to. This is not always the case – and I am not referring to the cliché of the callous police officer who victim-blames a poor rape victim. There are people working at all levels of our emergency and support services who routinely mess up, hurting victims in the process, not necessarily out of malice but because of a lack of awareness, preparation, aptitude, or resources.[1]

There is every reason to accept investigations and trials as necessary processes. They ensure that our civilization is, well, civilized. There is no reason whatsoever to tolerate continued incompetence or callousness on the part of those in a position to support victims. Better screening, training, and monitoring of support staff could ensure that this kind of situation becomes a thing of the past. In the meantime, however, we have to accept that our institutions are far from perfect.

[1] For a real-life example of a series of failures on the part of medical experts to adequately support a rape survivor:

https://godsbastard.wordpress.com/2015/08/14/rape-aftercare-a-diary-trigger-warning/

 

Trauma-aware self-defence instruction. 6

Ok. Either the book is a bestseller by now, or Anna is off to join the Foreign Legion, never to be seen again. Or at VioDy. You were warned.

Incidentally, did you know that you don’t need a Kindle to read Kindle books? All you need to do is upload the Kindle app to your device, and away you go. And lots of old classics are free. But why am I telling you this? You won’t want to read anything but this, because this is so wonderful.

 

4.      ‘If I become an innocent victim of violence my community (family, friends, church, co-workers, whatever) will unquestionably be there to support me.’

It is often the case that people share common beliefs with their community. We pick up our belief systems as we grow up, and many of us never question them, let alone abandon them. Even those who reshape their worldviews tend to surround themselves with people who share them. The more important a certain belief is to a person, the less likely that person is to willingly befriend those who radically disagree with it. What this boils down to is that people with certain beliefs often belong to communities who share those beliefs. Beliefs about violence are no exception.

This can have a significant impact on the way a community treats a survivor. If the community as a whole subscribes to any or all of the three beliefs we’ve just described, an act of violence against one of its members will put those beliefs at risk. Each member of the community will be faced with the same choice as the survivor: paradigm shift or paradigm paralysis.

This can be of particular import when an entire community is living in a safety bubble. Instead of admitting that their safety was illusory, they will seek to find ‘what the victim did wrong’ that caused them to be attacked. This is not a search aimed at finding the truth. It is not designed to find out how to decrease personal risks, or how to help the survivor avoid a repetition of the incident. Its sole goal is to preserve the ‘safety bubble.’ Once the “Wrong Thing” is discovered, or made up, these people can rest soundly, happy in the illusion that their little world is as safe as ever. If no “Wrong Thing” can be found, the community may completely turn its back on survivors, or demand that the incident and its effects are completely ignored. Anything is preferable to the disruption that a paradigm shift would cause.

As a result, it is not unheard of for victims to turn to their community, and find it entirely unsupportive. For those victims who expected support, this failure causes yet another paradigm shift. Their faith in their community is shattered, filling them with a sense of abandonment and betrayal. It leaves them more alone than they’ve ever been, at a time when they most need support.

Instructors can help by reminding their students that people’s reactions to violence are far more influenced by how the events affect their belief system than by what actually happened. If the event doesn’t fit their beliefs, they will often subconsciously prefer to warp facts in their mind rather than have their beliefs shaken. Their unhelpful reactions are a reflection of their inner turmoil, rather than a statement on the events, or the survivor’s value as a person. Although this awareness may cause disappointment, it will prevent students from internalising people’s negative reactions.

 

Trauma-aware self-defence instruction. 5

Here is the next episode of “Anna Really Hates Marketing.” Here you will find excerpts from her new book, which 

is

now

OUT! 

On Amazon.com as a Kindle book and a paperback.

On Amazon.co.uk as a Kindle book. The paperback is available from a US merchant, with a serious mark-up, so I’d avoid it for now, but watch that space. Amazon are slow, but they do move.

 

Where were we?

People living in an imaginary “safety bubble”:

If an act of violence bursts that bubble, people can experience what amounts to a loss of faith. This is a serious blow, regardless of what they had put their faith into. Whether they believed in God, Krav Maga, Sam Colt, or a suburban lifestyle, it doesn’t matter: to discover that their faith was misplaced can cause a deep sense of betrayal and a painful paradigm shift.

The alternative to this loss of faith is worse. People may end up believing that they have themselves failed; that if they had been better Christians or martial artists or shooters or people, they would not have gotten hurt. They maintain their faith in whatever safety choices they had made, and choose to accuse themselves instead. This is self-victim-blaming, and it is a form of psychological self-torture that can completely crush people. The voices in your head are the voices you can’t walk away from.

As instructors, there is a lot we can do to both prevent this kind of thinking, or to address it after the fact. First and foremost, we need to be honest with ourselves about the product we provide, and market it accordingly. There is no system or technique that can’t fail. Anyone selling a guaranteed cure-all to all types of violence is misleading students. Making these false promises is not just unethical advertising; it can put the students who buy into them at risk of psychological and physical damage. Students who believe they are being taught a perfect self-defense system may blame themselves if their training fails to protect them. They may also put themselves at risk of harm, believing that their invincible training will keep them safe no matter what.

Secondly, we need to be aware of how alien the risk assessment process is to many people. Without specific instruction, many people are unaware of the distinction between hazards and risk:

  • a hazard is anything that may cause harm;
  • the risk is the chance, high or low, that somebody could be harmed by present hazards, together with an indication of how serious the harm could be.[1]

People who live in a safety bubble have no idea of the hazards around them. When their bubble is burst, and these people suddenly realize all the potential dangers around them, it can shock them to the point of paralysis. They become so focused on what could happen that they have no energy left to determine the real chances of it happening. Only once they learn to recognize hazards and evaluate risks will they be able to make a reasonable assessment of their actual level of safety, which may be quite high.

[1] http://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/controlling-risks.htm

 

 

Trauma-aware self-defence instruction. 4

Join us for the next episode of “Anna Really Hates Marketing.” Here you will find excerpts from her new, upcoming book. Have you checked her Amazon Author’s Page lately? You know, where all her works are listed? No? Shame on you. I can’t think of a better way to spend the evening.

 

We are still talking about commonly-held yet incorrect and unhelpful beliefs about violence.

3.      ‘I can achieve 100% safety.’

People who can realistically assess risk are aware that they have a degree of control over their own personal safety. They know that through a combination of training, awareness, and lifestyle choices they can reduce their chances of becoming a victim of violence. They also know that 100% safety is unachievable, because the best plans can fail against better plans or sheer bad luck. Furthermore, they know that everything is a trade-off, so that higher level of safety may require restricting activities to such an extent that quality of life would plummet – and they still wouldn’t be 100% safe.

This lack of security does not keep them awake at night and doesn’t paralyze them with fear in the day. On the contrary, it empowers them to make choices based on a balanced, in-the-moment evaluation of their risks. It allows them to selectively ‘switch on’ in higher-risk situations, relax when the situation allows for it, and make emergency plans for all reasonable contingencies.

Many people, however, can’t or won’t handle that level of uncertainty. They don’t want to see it, so they don’t look at it. They prefer to believe that complete safety is a real possibility that can be achieved through making certain choices. The choices themselves vary hugely, from training self-defense, to getting a weapon, to carrying an amulet, to living a certain lifestyle. The key aspect here isn’t which choices people make, but the level of faith people have in their efficacy. Complete faith in whichever measures they have taken means that these people live their lives in an imaginary ‘safety bubble.’

People who live in a safety bubble cannot realistically assess risks. Only when they accept that they are at some degree of risk all the time can they take appropriate steps toward reducing that risk. Unfortunately, giving up their present feeling of safety, however illusory it may be, is too daunting for many people. As a result, they only do so when pushed by circumstances, after an incident has shattered their ‘safety bubble’ for them.

 

….and then what? To find out what happens when the safety bubble burst, stay tuned!