Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Psychological defense against violent intimidation

An effective and often neglected method of avoiding conflict is psychologically defending yourself against an intimidating person. Many self defense and martial arts schools teach that when faced with someone intimidating you, you should be ready to respond physically. They don't teach you how to deal with the psychological aspect. Physical self defense should be your last resort. This guide will give you insights into how to diffuse a potentially violent situation from an intimidating and violent individual. Down below, i've posted a helpful link to deal with intimidation.

I will create the following scenario and i want you to think about your responses. Imagine an abnormally large menacing muscular man approaches you at a bus stop or in a park and let's assume that you practice self defense. Imagine you both engage in the following dialogue:

Man : "..don't you practice self defense in X school?"

You: "..yea i do.."

The man then aggressively gets in your face and says in a more challenging tone of voice.

Man: "..well i think your a fraud...i think what your learning is garbage and it's what's gonna get you know i just got out of prison and i've beaten guys like you to a pulp...what's to stop me from crushing your skull in and having your blood flowing all over this ground right now?!? Think you can take me on?!? I will destroy you fool!"

Here are the some of the common mistakes people make.

1. Get defensive - When people are insulted or verbally attacked in any way, their response is to defend themselves. You may respond by insulting your offender back or justifying yourself in the face of accusations ex. being a fraud. Once you get defensive, you give your offender power over you because he/she knows your weaknesses. All your offender has to do is keep pressuring you until a fight breaks out because you are validating his or her judgement on you.

2. Not taking what your intimidator says seriously - Some people may laugh it off and say "yea man i don't buy it..." Your offender may say something like "oh you think this is a joke?!?" then start attacking you. This is bad because if your offender threatened you and there's some credibility to the threat, your verbal attacker may try to communicate violently that he or she means serious business. You should always take threats seriously.

3. Avoidance - Some people will shut down and try to psychologically avoid the situation by saying something like "i don't want any trouble." The person intimidating you may respond with "well trouble found you. Why don't you man up and deal with it?!?" Once you are in this particular situation, it's unavoidable unless there was a way of escape. If you try to back up without first disengaging psychologically, you give your offender power over you and he or she may end up attacking you.

If you don't respond with violence, the person intimidating you may try to keep pushing your buttons and finding out your weaknesses by saying something along the lines of:

"...what if i ended up hurting your loved ones, would you fight me then? I just threatened your loved ones and you won't do anything about it..your pathetic! Your a coward! Your a joke!"

If you've snapped out of fear for your loved ones safety then you've already given what your intimidators want and that is violence. If you suddenly freeze in fear, that's bad because you could get hit at any moment and not be prepared to respond.

What's the best way to diffuse the situation without resorting to violence?

* Know your enemy - According to behavioral theorists, people who resort to intimidation do so out of fear. It's fear of your race, your skills, your gender, your orientation, or some aspect of you that makes them feel inferior. Perhaps they grew up in an environment where they've been intimidated by authority so their way of coping is by intimidating others and believing that the only way to survive is to intimidate. Think about this. Why would someone who is truly secure in his or her knowledge seek to intimidate someone who is seen as weaker than him or her? Only someone who seeks to prove something to him or her self would go out of the way to intimidate you. Behind whatever image the person intimidating you puts up, there are hidden vulnerabilities.

* Keep your distance - Keep your enemy in your vision. Last thing you want is someone sneaking up behind you and hitting you with a weapon before you get jumped. Don't allow yourself to get too close.

* Focus on your body language - Show no aggression or any emotion. Keep a calm composure. Focus on breathing. Let the person intimidating you that his or her methods won't work on you. Don't look him or her in the eyes. Your focus should be on his or her body so you'll be able to respond quicker in case of an attack.

* Emphasize with your enemy - Learn to see the inner child of the person intimidating you. He or she may scream, destroy objects, and do many things to instill fear in you but there's a hidden message being communicated. Maybe he/she has never been acknowledged as a child or bullied. Either way, try to put yourself in that person's shoes. Show empathy by thinking "it must not be easy to come from a place where you had to compete to show must not be easy living in an environment where you have to resort to violence to communicate your feelings" By showing compassion, you will become less afraid and less stressed out as you will begin to see the human side of your potential attacker.

* Don't assume the victim role - Resist the urge to fall into the victim mentality where you feel you are powerless to do anything in these types of situations. Change the way you view yourself and learn to see yourself as a problem solver. If you see yourself as a victim, you may end up blaming yourself for not fighting back afterwards.

* Focus on yourself, not on your enemy - Your intimidator will shift the focus from you to him/her and how "tough" he/she is ex. "..i just got out of prison and i've beaten guys like you to a pulp!" When you focus on your enemy, that's what creates fear. When you are facing an intimidator, keep the focus on yourself and what you've accomplished. Focus on your abilities and be confident in who you are.

* Communicate with your verbal attacker - Rather than assume everything he or she says is wrong, validate his or her words. That is, learn to see your attacker as a partner rather than a threat. Get your offender to express his or her feelings in a constructive way to get a different reaction. For example, you might ask something along the lines of:

Man: "..well i think what your learning is garbage, i think your fraud!"

You: "...thanks for your honesty, what makes you think i'm a fraud?"

This will cause the person intimidating you to process your question and think of an answer thus diffusing the situation to some degree. Continue to ask probing questions to get to the root of what the intimidating person really wants from you.

* Know your strengths and improve your weaknesses - In order for you to withstand psychological pressure and keep from losing self control, you must know yourself. What are your weaknesses? If your attacker points them out to make you feel inferior, realize how valuable your strengths are and how you are trying your best. For example, if you are insecure about your striking ability then focus on other areas which you excel at and stress their importance.

* Diversion - Shift the focus away from yourself to other topics like the sun or the police to distract the initmidator from channeling his or her energy on you. For instance when the man in the scenario above instigates a fight, you could say "by the way, there's other people staring at us.."

* Assertively set consequences - If your intimidator persists in violating your boundaries and gets physical with you, set proper consequences. Make the consequences non-aggressive but also non-submissive. For example, if he or she persists on violating your physical boundaries then you might say something along the lines of "If you don't stop, i'm going to have to call the police. Is that what you want?" This may quickly turn from violation to respect for not backing down.

During training, practice these techniques with a partner or in mental rehearsals. Go through my scenario again and see how it's different from your prior response. Remember that someone who intimidates you is acting out of inner misery. Hopefully your offender will back away after he/she realizes you aren't intimidated or you'll have an opportunity to walk away from the situation when the opportunity presents itself.

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  1. This is a brilliant article. I'm gonna run this by with some friends and family of mine, to see how these lessons might work.

  2. Go for it. Let me know the results.