The problem in defense is how far you can go
without destroying from within what
you are trying to defend from without.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Psychology of Survival
On this page:
Actuality vs. Reality |
Adrenal Stress Response* |
Alpha/Beta Behavior |
Anger and Self-Defense* |
Assertive vs. Aggressive |
Attracting trouble |
Blame vs. Responsibility |
Body Sacrosanct |
Bonding Process (Human mating behavior) |
Conflict Cycle *|
Dealing with difficult people |
Economy & Stress Violence* |
Freeze Response* |
Getting Attacked |
High Risk Behavior* |
Is It REALLY About Self-Defense?* |
Fear Management vs. Danger Management* |
Kinds of Violence* |
Lizard Brain* |
Mental Preparation |
Monkey Brain |
Negotiation Out At The Sharp End* |
Normal, Abnormal, or Dangerous? * |
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder *|
PTSD: A Personal Journey |
Resistance About Calling For Help |
Pride, Self-Defense, Fighting & Self-Control* |
Self-Esteem vs. Self-Respect |
Problem Neighbors |
Sanity in the MA |
Staying Out Of Trouble In A Psych Ward |
Survivor's guilt |
To Fight or Not |
Unintended Consequences |
Violence: What is it? *|
Violence Geeks Blog |
Violence NEVER Solved Anything ... *|
Western Ethics and Self-Defense |
Self-help Books: NOT helping
Violence can be a traumatic, life altering
experience. Or it could be just another day at the job. It
boils down to how well you can cope.
Whether you are the victim, the
victor, a participant or you just muddle through violence
changes a person forever. That is an established fact... now
how it changes someone depends on the person and the
resources that he/she finds. Experience has taught us that the
wrong resources can be as damaging as no resources at all (1).
If not more so.
The fact that violence has such a strong impact on our psyche
means that we need to stop and think about it before we find
ourselves in the situation. Like Pandora's box, once it is
opened, there is no way to put back the plague of woes it has
released into our lives. Unfortunately, many people do not
realize how much what we think -- and by extension, what we do
-- puts us in danger of violence.
Actuality vs. Reality ('personal reality' that is)
Have you ever had an emotional reaction to something someone
said? Something that you were positive was an insult, only to
discover that that's not what the person meant at all?
Welcome to the difference between actuality and
reality. Or to be more specific, your personal reality,
which isn't always actuality.
Adrenal Stress Response
What the layperson thinks of as 'adrenaline' isn't just a drug,
it's a cocktail of chemicals. Putting it in commoly undestood terms,
when you're adrenalized you're drunk, high and caffinated all at
once. Adrenaline defintiely affects your thinking process. How our
minds and bodies function under the
Adrenal Stress Response is a major factor whether we freeze
or over react in a violent situation.
Afraid To Call For Help
Athough this page is oriented towards parents of teens, it has
some important information on connections inside our brains.
Connections (or lack there of) that lead to bad decision making.
Decisions that end up compounding problems until things esclate to a
crisis. People from dysfunctional backgrounds often lack the neural
connections that 'normal people' have (They never had a chance to
develop them. Or, in abusive backgrounds, different connections were
made.) This page looks at the resistance to
call for help when things are going out of control.
Anger and Self-Defense
What is the relationship between your
anger and defending yourself? And how can your anger get you
into more trouble than it gets you out of?
Assertive vs. Aggressive
Assertiveness will prevent an attack. Aggressiveness will
provoke one. Before you can understand the difference between the
two, you must first understand the nature of personal and shared
space. Then being assertive is much easier and
Have you ever wondered why bullies, troublemakers and abusers
choose some people but ignore others? There is an entire complex set
of behaviors and signals that are going back and forth. The
Bullies page is written for young men who are caught in a
cycle of behavior -- usually involving both bullying and being
NOTE: due to straight-talking to a particular audience, the
content is raw, vulgar and politically incorrect. Still the
information is useful for anyone who is being routinely harassed.
Blame vs. Responsibility
Do you know the difference? Many people think they do -- then
they abdicate responsibility and put themselves into dangerous
situations. When the results aren't what they expected, they resort
for psychological damage control.
Inherent in the paradigm of certain people (especially within
certain cultural and socio-economic levels) is the assumption that
body is sacrosanct. They believe they cannot be touched
without their consent, much less attacked. This core belief can --
and does -- have a strong influence on their actions. Actions that
often increase their danger. Unfortunately, this unconscious
paradigm greatly adds to the trauma of being assaulted.
Bonding Process (Human Mating Behavior)
Although many claim rape isn't about sex, rape is a
parasite that hides within a very normal human behavioral pattern. A
process that sex is pivotal to. This page explains Dr Desmond
Morris's 12 step 'Bonding Process' and how, via this process humans
establish intimacy. Once you know this process, you can see
how easily rape can occur when the process goes wrong -- especially
Boundaries: Personal and shared space
Many problems arise from a misunderstanding of the nature of
boundaries. Often people believe they are defending their
boundaries, but they are in fact, attacking. Our model of personal
and shared space is a simple, but effective, explanation of both
boundaries and why situations so often escalate out of control. It
has also proved itself useful for explaining interpersonal
relationships and giving teenagers a uniform explanation about why
making and leaving messes in shared space is unacceptable behavior.
Did you know that fights, arguments, disagreement and other
forms of conflict have predictable stages? To the point of almost being
like scripts from movies. Most people don't. But how they don't know
makes for all the difference. If you come from a 'functional' background
odds are you subconsciously --arguably unconsciously--follow these
'stages' without ever realizing what you're doing. If, however, you're
from a dysfunctional background you weren't taught this script. Often
it's not the person choosing to be unreasonable, it's that the person
doesn't know the
conflict cycle and script that effectively resolves
conflict. Steps that if you don't follow damage -- if not destroy --
relationships, create the urge for revenge and escalate problems. (You
may not be conflict avoidant, you just may not know this cycle.)
Dealing with difficult people
Dr Joseph Bablonka has graciously granted us permission to
reprint an article he wrote on the fundamentals of
Dealing with Difficult People at work and in your
personal life. This article offers a some good, workable long-term
advice about approaching difficult people and important strategies
for all of your interpersonal dealings.
Verbal de-escalation comes in many forms and in many degrees.
The No Nonsense Self-defense de-escalation program is designed for
professionals in high-risk situations. In other words, people whose
job it is to confront other violent and dangerous people and tell
them "no." It is "front-line" psychology for
preventing immediate violence and controlling a situation.
As such, it may not fit the needs of the average reader. For
non-professionals, we have a recommended reading list on
verbal self-defense on the
Economy and Stress Violence
Whether it is a depression or a recession, crime goes up in
economic hard times. but not just how you might think it does. There
is a direct link between the
economy and stress violence.
Establishing Alpha/Beta Status
Humans are social animals. By this we don't just mean they like
to be with one another, humans
need each other in order to survive. This requires a social
order, usually this organizes itself into a hierarchy. In this
section we take a look at not only the nature of this phenomenon,
but what roles different people fill in the group. Often trouble
arises from people not understanding what
alpha behavior really is.
Getting Attacked 101
Unfortunately, in trying to either establish control and
dominance over a situation or warn away a potential attacker, there
are core mistakes a person can make. These mistakes will escalate
the situation to physical violence. Here is a handy set of
guidelines on ways not to
provoke an attack.
High Risk Behavior
Let us start by stating our definition of High Risk Behavior
isn't based in moralizing. The simple fact is that a wild party girl
(who knows the rules) can be safer among bikers than a 'good girl'
on a date with a 'Prince Charming' (who isn't). We define
High Risk Behavior as:Any behavior that puts you into
circumstances where violence is probable. It's what you do
in those circumstances that will determine whether or not you will
Is It REALLY About Self-Defense?
A lot of people get into so-called self-defense training for
reasons that have nothing to do with actual self-defense. On the
Is It REALLY about SD? page we take a hard look at an
elephant in room that people don't want to admit to.
Fear is one of the major issues that hinders personal safety.
Believe it or not, this is more a problem of not understanding the
nature of fear (and its purpose and benefits) than it is a problem
with fear itself. Fear is
your ally, not your enemy. You don't want to get rid of it.
Fear Management vs. Danger Management
There is a HUGE difference between training and behaviors that
soothes your fears and the same that keeps you safe from physical
danger. Unfortunately, there is a lot of self-defense training that
confirms your fears while actually
increasing your danger.
When it comes to violence there is no concept more misunderstood
than freezing. It's not only the greatest dread ("What if I
freeze"), but it's also a point of great shame ("I froze"). Entirely
too much nonsense is taught about 'overcoming the freeze.' First,
let's start out with EVERYBODY freezes. Second, the question isn't
"Can I break it in time?" The question is, "Is it the best tactic
for the situation?" Yes, freezing can get you hurt. On the other
hand it can also save you. The subject of
freezing is a little more complicated than you think it is.
Kinds of Violence
Many people don't know what 'self-defense' is because they don't
understand there are different kinds
of violence. Not only do the different
kinds of violence have different goals, but your actions
have significant influence on whether or not the situation goes
physical. If you blindly react to any threat as though it demands
you to unleash your self-defense training you are seriously
increasing the chances of the situation escalating into the most
dangerous kind of violence -- an event you may not survive.
Your brain is a complex, multi-layered machine. One that when
certain parts are activated although you may 'think' you are being
rational, but your monkey or lizard brain is running the show.
Unfortunately, fear, anger and other strong emotions kick you into
functioning in the
Violence is an extreme. That means you are operating in an arena
that you do not normally function. A lot of things that you didn't
think about previously will become a matter of life or death. This
page introduces you to
the factors that WILL be present in a violent encounter.
Factors that you need have addressed before you try to function in
Normal, Abnormal, and Dangerous
This is an excerpt from our book "What You Don't Know Can
Kill You." The
Normal, Abnormal, Dangerous model serves two critical
self defense purposes. The first helps you recognize developing
danger so you can take appropriate action (including getting out of
there before you're attacked). The second is it prepares you for the
interrogation you will face from the police and courts after you've
defended yourself. It is a firewall against common verbal strategies
designed to undermine your claim of self-defense. There is however a
more every day and personal benefit. That is using this model
reduces stress and anxiety while simultaneously helping you decide
what is an appropriate reaction to what's happening. (Yes, you just
saw a guy riding a unicycle playing the bagpipes. While that's
weird, it's not dangerous.)
We humans have -- as a default setting -- primate behaviors
guiding our actions in conflict. While these patterns are not
inescapable, if you don't know about how your brain is wired your
monkey brain is going to be driving the bus. And monkeys
make bad drivers.
Negotiation Out At The Sharp End
Thoughts about how a discussion can become a conflict and how a
conflict can turn violent. And how to tell when a situation is
floating away from
negotiation and into the extremes.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
If you've gone through a traumatic experience, there is a good
chance your brain has been physically rewired. This page will give
you an introduction to what can happen to you long after the
incident has ended. It's called
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Having said that, some good
news permanent PTSD only happens to between 10 to 15% of people. For
everyone else, there are ways through it.
PTSD: A Personal Journey
This article was written to get through to you a young man who
was cavalierly discussing the idea of using a knife on another human
being, as such the language is somewhat rough -- the message being
"Wake up Junior." Although focused on knife use, it is applicable to
lethal force usage.
Pride, Fighting, Self-Defense & Self-Control
I am often approached by people who are willing to do anything
for self-defense except practice emotional self-control.
Treating one's emotions like an unstoppable juggernaut over which
you have no control is not only the fastest way to get into a
violent situation, but also the fastest way to end up in jail.
That's because you weren't defending yourself,
you were fighting
Having problems with an irrational, hateful and seemingly insane
neighbor? In such cases you'll find yourself wondering "WHAT IS
WRONG WITH THIS PERSON? Is he insane?" The answer is no, not really.
Odds are what is happening is you've run across someone who 'lives
by the feud.' The
problem neighbor page will help you understand what
motivates these people, why being 'reasonable' doesn't work and
why they won't just go away ... until you handle them correctly.
Sanity in the Martial Arts
Putting it mildly, there are a lot of dysfunctional people who
are attempting to self-medicate by taking martial arts/self-defense
training. Their behavior can range from neurotic to a
full blown cult
to sociopathic. Before you buy into what they are saying, make
sure they are
running on all cylinders.
Note: The preceding pages are more of a warning about what
you will run into while seeking training. (For more personal
What do you want out of this training?)
Self-Esteem vs. Self-Respect
Do you know that there's a difference? Do you know how one can
blind you from reality and the other put you more in touch with it?
Self-esteem is a slippery eel,
self-respect is far more stable.
Staying Out Of Trouble On A Psychiatric Ward
A guest columnist allowed us to post her article how to avoid
the common pitfalls, problems, hassles and trauma dramas that
commonly occur during a stay at a
There is an incredible amount of guilt associated with surviving
traumatic situations. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is only
one of the forms that this guilt can come in. What many people do
not realize is that the same mechanism can leave you feeling guilty
about what common sense actions you took to avoid being raped,
robbed or beaten. Often people focus on the fact that they "didn't
stand up to someone" more than the fact that they were not
physically harmed. If what you did worked to keep you safe, then
then that's what counts.
To Fight or Not
The decision whether or not to use physical force to defend
yourself is not an easy one. Either choice carries consequences and
responsibilities that must be considered before hand and accordingly
steer your actions.
Why is it so traumatic when things go violent? A huge part of
the problem is that most people were not only not mentally prepared
for violence to occur, but because of how they were thinking that
option wasn't even considered. As such they face both the shock and
trauma of the violence, but also the psychological fall into
Violence -- It ISN'T What You Think It Is
Have you ever checked your definition of violence against a
dictionary? We did ... yikes. There is an old clich?that
'violence attracts violence' which has proven itself to be
reliably accurate. Unfortunately most people don't realize
when they are being violent. That's because the
violence they are doing is non-physical
I recently wrote a blog that defines a subculture that is
largely overlooked by the mainstream. Although you will not find the
term Violence Geeks in the DSM-IV these people are very real. And
they pose a
legitimate danger to people who run across them.
Violence NEVER Solved Anything ... oh yeah?
Politically correct thinking would have us believe that
any kind of violence is wrong (first off they need to read the
proceeding section as to what violence really is). Often these
people use their pacifism as a self-righteous weapon, especially
against those whose job it is to use force to protect others and
keep the peace. Anyone who has had to use justifiable force (or
currently uses it professionally) has dealt with the scorn and
contempt of those who contemptuously proclaim '
violence never solves anything,' as a put down. Marc wrote a
blog to rebut this long standing clich?and how to answer when it is
being used as an insult instead of wisdom.
What do you want out of this training?
In the link to the
Sanity section, we suggested that many people are using
martial arts/self-defense/ women's self-defense/ reality based self
defense training as a form of self-medication. Many people
ascribe almost mythical benefits to MA/SD/WSD/RBSD training. While
no one is arguing that these programs can provide assistance and
beneficial tools for life, they are not omnipotent. Nor are
they a replacement for professional therapy. But there are many
people who go into training expecting it to solve all sorts of
personal issues. Before you spend all kinds of money, you need to
know what the training is and what the
Western Ethics and Self-Defense
Often popular Western philosophy is diametrically opposite to
what you have to do to survive. Thes are deeply embedded issues
about morals, morality and ethics. Before you can reconcile these
differences you need to take a look at what they are and
where they come from.
Self-help books: NOT helping
I have over five decades experience with trauma, conflict and violence.
If all that time has taught me anything, it's that violence doesn't just
'come out of nowhere.'
It – like conflict– has knowable stages and build up. It also has some
pretty reliable responses to certain behaviors. Unfortunately, those
actions that result in violence are almost a default reaction for most
people when they are under stress. Back in the days when things in the
night were out to eat us and the only hope we had for survival was being
in a tribe, these reactions made all kinds of sense. In our modern
lifestyles... not so much.
In fact, they often provoke a violent reaction. A big part of the
problem is to your adrenalized and emotional self these reactions will
seem like the most brilliant move and guaranteed to solve the problem.
No. They tend to escalate the situation. If in your past you
suffered abuse, these reactions will be even stronger; to the point of
you might think you can't help yourself.
But to break these habits we need to have a broader understanding of the
subject. There are many books on the side of these pages that will
help with that. They cover a wide variety of topics.
Something else to consider. Most self-help books (and in fact, therapy)
is really oriented on making you feel better. Not necessarily develop
better coping skills and changing your circumstances, but feel better
about where you are.
Well speaking as someone who clawed his way out of the violence and
dysfunction of the streets, where I was sucked. I didn't need to feel
better about it, I needed to know what it would take to get the hell out
of there. I've selected many of these books with that goal in mind, not
to feel comfortable with self-identifying as a 'victim.'
Return to top
1)There are many issues revolving around self-defense that are not
addressed in martial arts training. Nor, in our opinion, are the
addressed with sufficient depth in most self-defense classes. Much of
what *is* advocated we consider shallow, dysfunctional, unrealistic and
down-right dangerous (e.g., "A woman has the right to walk naked into a
biker bar and be unmolested." We are not making this up
this is a commonly espoused belief in many Women's Self-defense courses.
We consider any such ideal an abrogation of common sense).
A lot of the advice given in these situations is either illegal,
endorsing obnoxious behavior or likely to provoke an attack from a truly
violent person. Then the proponents this kind of thinking wonder why
they end up in chaotic and oft times violent situations. The
psychological, moral and ethical complexities are far too intricate to
be summed up in trite clich? and catchy sound bites. You need to be
leery of anyone who tries to tell you differently. You also need to be
just as leery if you find yourself slipping into just such a mindset for
convenience's sake. There are no "I'd just..." answers to this topic.
Nor is there any black and white "I'm right, he's wrong."
Return to Text