– It is my responsibility not be controlled by extreme emotions.
In our modern world, and specially in Urban areas, we are subjected to the possibility of verbal and non-verbal aggressive communication. There is always somebody with a chip on their shoulders or just having a bad day and they take it out on the first person that crosses their path which may very well will happen to be you. Somebody thinks you are driving to slow or that you cut them off and the infamous flipping bird will shoot out of their windows or a loud “Fuck You Asshole!” will be heard from the alleged aggrieved party. Unfortunately in our modern society, we have been conditioned that we should respond in kind or risk to be branded as weakling of some sorts. Lt. Col. Dave Grossman in his book On Killing, tells us that in the animal Kingdom (and yes, we are part of it) there are four responses when confronted by aggression: Fight, Flight, Posture and Submit. When “attacked” we may choose respond in kind (Fight), to take off as fast as possible (Flight), to puff up our chest and make a big show we are not being intimidated (Posture), or simply cower down and surrender (Submit).
You may have noticed that I highlighted the word choose and that is for a reason. Even though we are attached to the Animal Kingdom and those four responses are automatic in most of us, we do have the ability to control them and activate them (or not) at will. I volunteer that 99.999999999% of the aggressive interactions we have with others in an Urban Environment are nothing more than Posturing that goes no further than some foul words and gorilla-like chest beating. The issue is that we may transform a Posture into an Attack by responding in kind and then we may be forced to use Lethal Force to control the situation. Once this happens we are in a world of trouble because our Self Defense legal position has disappeared since we also incited the confrontation. A ‘Fuck You’ or a Middle Finger do not constitute an attack in which we may reasonable fear for our lives, period. We then must learn a new set of responses to these attacks.
Your best option for personal security is a lifelong commitment to avoidance, deterrence, and de-escalation.
I have seen this little tidbit of whole truth all over the Internet attributed to many different sources so I won’t even try to find the author. But do take this words and make them your personal mantra. Avoid any situation that can lead to a Deadly Force encounter. If you have to go to the store for milk in the wee hours of the night and you find a couple of toughies that look like trouble, put your ego away and go to another place. Yes, you have a right to go to the store but why get in trouble for a quart of milk? If your bladder demand immediate relief and the closest option is a well known biker bar, choose soiled underwear and pants if no other options are possible. A bit of embarrassment and load of laundry is much cheaper and safer than explaining to a Jury why you went inside that bar when any reasonable person would not. Choose no to attend any battles and you will win them all.
Deterrence is defined by Webster as the inhibition of criminal behavior by fear especially of punishment. I would add that it is any attitude (body language), tactics or devices we can use to make a potential attacker decide we are not easy victims. Whatever we can do to show that any potential reward that can be obtained by attacking you may come with a higher than intended price to pay, will help to keep attacks to your person to a minimum. If we are in a mall just staring at the store fronts and oblivious to our surroundings, you can bet that a bad guy will notice you and mark you as a potential target. If you are sitting in a park bench, body slouched and half asleep, you are broadcasting to God and Country your mind is in bed and you pose no threat to anybody who wants to relieve you of your belongings. Be alert and make sure you face & body shows it. Constantly scan your surroundings and walk with as if you have defined purpose even if you are just strolling. If you are being watched by somebody, watch back, scan the person and and look into his eyes (No need to engage in a staring competition) to let him know you know. Except for the insane, the very stupid or the drug-affected individual, criminals will back off if they know the element of surprise is gone.
De-escalating is just the necessary maneuvers and behaviors we can use to reduce an ongoing and possible dangerous situation without the use of Deadly Force. If you accidentally bump into a jackass and he explodes in a verbal description that includes your Mom copulating with assorted animal farms, apologize and try to leave safely. This is where most of the Posturing stance will occur with the fraction of them that might actually turn nasty. And this is where we must make the biggest effort to control our outrage and avoid getting baited into a clash of Egos. Do not return the Posturing with some of your own and raise your “shields” in case an attack is incoming. This kind of display quickly runs dry if there is only one person doing the screaming and grows exponentially if the other party responds and augments the attack. I have personally found that remaining impassive but alert after I extended the apology goes a long way in defusing the other guy’s actions. The ‘Posturer’ finds me not responding to his words and actions while I am not displaying fear (even though I might be a mess inside) and his ego will be satisfied or maybe realizes that there is something else going on that he is not aware of and that might not be the best thing for him to remain in his course of action. Either way the spew of cusses will eventually die down and the situation disappears. Avoid getting yourself in trouble. Leave the Ego safely tucked at home.
In explaining what other may do, I wanted to emphasize what we should not do. We are not immune to emotions but we can control them to a point where we can use them in our benefit. The late Col. Jeff Copper in his booklet Principles of Personal Defense stated that when confronted by an aggressive response we should change our fear into indignation. Indignation is much easier to control because it requires an intellectual process, the “How Dare He?” and at that level we can tailor our response to the situation at hand. The emotions can also be controlled if we develop pre-planned responses to possible offensive scenarios. We prepare ourselves by asking “What If” and coming with multiple solutions and practicing them over and over just like we do our shooting. This is possibly the most important part of the whole issue because when confronted by an aggressive behavior, you will not have the time to sit an come up with a reasonable strategy that will get you out of trouble.
To summarize, don’t let the opponent’s emotion dictate your behavior and do not let your emotions get you in bigger trouble. Self Defense is also a thinking process but we must do the thinking way ahead of time because when the bell rings, you only have seconds to survive.