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How much more grievous
are the consequences of anger
than the causes of it?
                Marcus Aurelius

Pride, Fighting, Self-Defense AND Self-Control

On this page:

I admit it, I was pissed when I wrote this. After you've heard the same screwed up idea for the 999,999th time, someone just is one more than you can stomach. There is a lot of bad information being passed off as 'self-defense' because it panders to the fears, insecurities and dysfunction of people. People willing to pay to have their misconceptions and fantasies confirmed.

If you want to stay out of jail, hospital or the morgue, you might want to consider the following...

Pride, Fighting, Self-Defense AND Self-Control
You can't go to a SD forum without hearing wailing and gnashing of teeth. There's always a story about someone the writer knows who was unjustly arrested for 'defending' himself.' And, occasionally, it's the writer himself. About 10 seconds into the telling of such tales of woe, I usually know why the person was arrested and convicted.

It's because it wasn't self-defense (legal), it was fighting (illegal).

Here's a real basic summation of the difference: Self-defense is something where you are an UNwilling participant. Fighting is when YOU are part of the problem.

You can try to justify, rationalize, excuse or twist it any way you want, but that's what it boils down to -- and those are the standards to which you will be held accountable.

There are many issues surrounding what legally constitutes 'self-defense.' One of the biggest is that there are lots of ways to cross over the line from self-defense into assault.

There are also many things you need to know about the way prosecutors, lawyers and even police view violence. Basically -- having seen so much illegal violence -- they tend to assume that it ALL is illegal. (If you are in it, they automatically assume you were part of the problem.) When 99 times out of a 100 it is illegal, this is an understandable bias.

And since a good majority of people who engage in illegal violence will claim it was 'self-defense,' you need to know there are questioning methods designed to reveal this lie. As such, you are only one wrong answer away from being arrested and convicted.

Then there's the boatload of stuff you need to know about how the legal game is played. Such as the fact, if it was self-defense, you need to get a lawyer who knows how to defend an innocent person. An attorney doesn't defend an innocent person the same way he does a guilty one (doing so increases your chances of conviction).

All of these are 'realities' about self-defense. They also are topics too big to discuss right now.

But what's NOT too big a topic is the danger of pride. Like how your pride cannot only get you into a violent situation, but how that can make what you do both illegal and participatory (as in, when you need the lawyer who knows how to get you off when you are guilty).

Two points are important.
First, just because you claim it was self-defense (or believe it was) doesn't make it so.
Second, your pride, ego, fear of humiliation, fear of loss of social status, insecurities and countless other 'monkey brain' (1) issues will turn you into part of the problem.

Those two points are the foundation of why most fights happen. They also are the root of why people are arrested for fighting -- when they adamantly believe they were defending themselves.

Your pride and fear of all kinds of imaginary social dangers can -- and will -- make you do stuff that seems perfectly reasonable at the time. In fact, your Monkey will tell you it is the right thing to do in order to defend yourself from this other aggressive monkey.

It's even better at telling you what actions to take to 'prevent' violence, except ...
calling his mother that ... insisting on your 'right' not to be told what to do ... refusing to withdraw from a situation ... wanting to show this other monkey you're not afraid of him ... displaying how big and bad you are so he'll back off ... yelling parting shots over your shoulder...don't actually 'prevent' violence. In fact, they pretty much guarantee it.

ALL of those actions constitute your being a willing participant in the creation, escalation and commission of illegal violence. You may have thought you were trying to prevent violence when you did those things. But outside your own head, these behaviors look a lot different, especially to witnesses, cops and district attorneys.

While you can tell yourself that you were only saying those things to show him that you're too big, rough and tough to attack, the raw truth is those actions are about your hurt feelings, anger and self-esteem. This isn't defending, at best it is counter attacking. Usually it's an insult and provocation. In the worst cases it's a betrayal and sneak attack. Fear-fueled pride, however, will be telling you something different.  It'll be saying, "YOU aren't the problem! It's the other guy who's being the aggressor!" And you'll believe this down to your emotional bones.

Later, it'll also tell you that you were 'defending yourself' when you called him that  -- or got there a little too soon on your self-defense move. (That last is particularly ironic when the security video shows you closing the distance to attack first -- when you claim you were 'defending yourself.') That's why police and DA's have such a jaded attitude towards someone claiming it was 'self-defense.'

Here's an important safety tip, MOST violence comes with instructions on how to avoid it. The problem is pride and fear usually will make you do the direct opposite. Seriously, when someone tells you to "shut up or I'll throw you a beating," he is NOT -- I repeat NOT -- asking for your opinion about his sexual practices with his mother.

But your pride (or your fear) is going to tell you now's the time to mention his testicles on his mother's chin. Usually, you say or do something JUST to show him what you think of him and his instructions.

To quote the comedian Ron White, "I had the right to remain silent, what I lacked was the ability."

The problem is your monkey brain and pride will often take away your ability to remain silent better and faster than booze. More than that, it'll make you  selectively deaf. All you'll hear is the threat of violence and NOT the way to avoid it.  Ohhhh, you have to react to that by showing him you aren't afraid. If your monkey brain, fear and pride weren't making so much noise, you might have noticed that there was a way to prevent violence.

Following that option is not only a pretty reliable way to prevent violence, but -- if violence still occurs -- a good faith effort to withdraw helps your contention that it was self-defense.

Learn to put your pride, fear and emotions on the back burner and pay attention to what is REALLY happening -- rather than what you think is happening.

Is the guy -- for right or wrong -- offering you terms to avoid violence? Are they actually reasonable and acceptable? (Like leave the bar or there will be violence.) This is important: IF -- because of your pride -- you choose not to take the offer, you WILL be viewed as a willing participant in an illegal act. And if you 'win,' you're definitely going to be treated as an aggressor.

Oh BTW, there's also something else. That same monkey brain that's telling you can't leave because everyone will think you're a wimp? Yeah, that one. It has another trick it can pull. That is to tell you you CAN'T leave because he might follow you. These are different paths to the same stupidity. More than that, it's a real kick in the nuts to your self-defense plea. No matter what your reason for staying, huffing and puffing, and calling him names, the end result was you chose to stay and participate.

Now many people upon reading this will think that I'm suggesting you just curl up and let people walk all over you. No, I'm not. But what I am saying is -- if you choose to stick around and fight -- don't whine about getting arrested for defending yourself.

You weren't defending yourself, you were fighting. Man up about it. And that includes the consequences.

Oh yeah,, if you're fighting, don't claim it was self-defense.  Besides credibility and self-honesty, there's another reason not to call it self-defense. Take an important tip from someone who has both fought a lot in his life and is involved in the court system:

Yes, it's that important.

But, what does that mean in simple English? It means: By claiming self-defense, you are ADMITTING to having committed an illegal act -- except you are saying there were 'extenuating circumstances.' Circumstances you could not control; circumstances so overwhelming they made your use of force legal.

Why is that important?

Ordinarily, when it comes to prosecution, the state has to prove  you are the one who did it. That's the hardest part of a DA's job. By claiming self-defense, you just confessed. You have just done three-fourths of the prosecutor's job right there.

Now all the cops and DA have to do is undermine your claim about extenuating circumstances. And there are lots of ways to do that: Such as the fact you refused to leave the area; you said that about the guy's sister; multiple witnesses heard you threaten him; or (my personal favorite) the security camera showed you stepping forward and striking first with that super cool 'self-defense' item someone sold you. (Can you say assault with a deadly weapon, boys and girls? I knew you could.)

If your pride, fear and anger drove your actions, odds are you screwed up somewhere along the line and made the violence participatory.

What I am about to say is not technically true, however, it is functionally true. What is technically true is that in ANY criminal case providing the burden of proof is on the prosecution.

What is 'functionally' true, however, is -- when you claim 'self-defense' -- the burden of proof shifts to you.

You claim it was self-defense, now you have to convince the cops and the jury that it WAS. Claiming self-defense isn't enough. You need to be able to present and articulate the 'extenuating circumstances' that make what you did NOT a crime.  A big part of this is presenting everything you did to try to avoid the violence.

Oh yeah, one more thing: Even if you didn't step on your dick by arguing and participating in the creation, until you can provide a better explanation than 'he looked at me mean,' the DA is going to have your hide on the wall.

That's to let you know -- even if it was -- that claiming 'self-defense' is still a lot of work. If you let ego, fear and anger drive your actions and turn you into a willing participant, then claiming 'self-defense' is a slam dunk for the prosecution. And you just handed them a ladder.

Basically if you choose to fight, don't just man up, shut up. Now's the time to keep quiet and let that criminal lawyer do his job. Calling your fighting 'self-defense' just makes it easy for the DA to put you in jail.

In case you haven't figured it out by now, I regularly meet people who are willing to do anything in the name of self-defense -- except practice emotional self-control. That' the reason for this article. It's also what gets them into trouble.

It's not that they are stupid. Yet it is the fear-and-anger-based lies of  their monkey brains they listen to. That's what gets them into conflict, even if those situations are arguments, not violent physical encounters. That part of them is screaming there is overwhelming danger, when, in truth, there is NO immediate physical danger.

And there won't be until their monkey brain puts them on a course of action that escalates the situation to physical violence.

What's really sad is that the Monkey sucks at identifying physical danger, but it's real good at freaking out over imaginary danger. Here's a fundamental rule about learning how to keep from participating in a fight vs. self-defense: Can what you think is being threatened be put in a wheelbarrow?

Does your pride, self-esteem, rights, social status or what other people will think of you if you don't stand up to this dude have physical existences? If not, then what you're fighting over and trying to prove doesn't legally justify use of force. And yet, those are usually what people get into fights over.

Many people can't tell the difference between a threat to their emotions, pride or self-esteem and a threat to their physical bodies. As such, they react physically to an emotional issue. This is fighting! It is NOT self-defense -- even though you think you're defending yourself. What you are 'defending' cannot be put into a wheelbarrow.

In fact, most people are so fixated on emotions, they don't recognize they are actively participating in setting up the conditions necessary FOR physical violence (e.g., getting up in the guy's face, verbally and emotionally attacking, threatening him, insulting him, etc., etc.) What they are trying to 'protect' has no physical existence. The violence they do in that pursuit isn't legal OR self-defense.

Don't be that guy.

Oh yeah, one more thing. Reacting physically to an emotion is EXACTLY what the bad guy is doing. How can you claim to be better than him if you're doing the same behavior?

Marc MacYoung


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1) Your emotional, socially concerned, primitive "monkey brain" is discussed in depth at Conflict Communications
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