DENIAL – THE REALITIES OF VIOLENCE

Denial of violence is a powerful psychological defense mechanism, easing anxiety and lulling people into believing they live safe, idyllic lives. They don’t want to think about the possibility of violence. Negating the possibility of violence makes them feel more secure and comfortable. They often proclaim to be strictly non-violent, abhorring violence as universally bad. They like to say that violence never solved any problem. But denial comes at a price because it dulls our awareness and our risk management abilities.

Denial also works in other ways when people deny what real violence is.

Some people confuse self-defense with martial arts or training drills in the safety of their gym or dojo. Self-defense against a criminal attack is nothing like sparring in the dojo. Even boxing matches and mixed martial arts, Muay Thai, and other sanctioned fights have strict rules, aimed at preventing severe injuries and civil and criminal liability. For example, there are illegal targets, like the eyes; illegal weapons, like eye gouges; and illegal weapon/target combinations, like stomping a fallen opponent on the ground. Fighters are matched up by experience, weight, and gender. They begin and end fighting with the bell. Referees make sure that the fighters spar according to the rules, and time limits determine the length of each round. Ambulances stand by in case anything goes wrong. Contenders consent to mutual fights at agreed upon times, dates, and locations. They study their opponent and train for the fight to be in the best possible shape on fight night.

Predatory criminal attackers on the other hand generally choose their victims based on the victims’ perceived vulnerability, surprise, and lack of preparation. Attackers rely on their own superior strength, size, and power. They choose the time and the location of the attack, preferably isolated places with easy access and escape for the attacker, and no witnesses. The environment may be a dirty hallway or a bathroom stall, not a comfortable training gym with clean, padded floors and water-filled ergonomic heavy bags. Instead, the ground may be asphalt or cement, littered with broken glass. The attacker may reek of sweat or alcohol, and have oozing blisters.

In an ambush, you may be hit first. You may be injured, in pain, and blinded by blood or tears, while trying to recover and defend and counter-attack. Real attacks cause stress reactions, like freezing, tunnel vision, and auditory exclusion. You may experience decreased pain, increased strength and speed, but also loss of fine motor control, and of the ability to think, plan, and act strategically.

The more you deny the realities of violence, the greater the costs you will pay in a real ambush by a predator. In situations where you have a chance to think and choose a course of action, for example in imminent partner assaults, you also need to weigh potential legal consequences of exceeding force justified under the circumstances. This is especially true in altercations that are more appropriately termed fights rather than attacks, such as bar quarrels. When you have a chance to de-escalate or walk away, any violence you use may ultimately be considered assault, or aggravated assault or even attempted homicide if you for example cause internal injury.

Think about denial and be honest with yourself. Do you have the attitude that you live in a safe community and that your chances of encountering violence are slim to non-existent? Do you have a realistic appreciation of your risk profile and of your ability to de-escalate or defend against and neutralize threats? Do you fantasize about counter-attacking physically, putting your attacker in the hospital with hardly a scratch to yourself, and being welcomed by the community as a local hero? Do you have illusions about your ability to flip the switch from civilized person who usually relies on persuasion, negotiation, or appeasement to asocial fighter ready to seriously injure or kill another human being?

Being mindful requires you to be as realistic about your risks and as honest about yourself, your capabilities, and your attitudes, including your hang-ups and your fantasies, as possible. Watch some videos of attacks from Closed Circuit TV cameras to see how fast and brutal some attacks are.[1] Talk with some emergency room nurses or doctors to learn more about the type of injuries they encounter. Violence can be bloody, painful, debilitating, and expensive. You may need to pay bills for doctors, hospitals, physical and other therapy, as well as potentially staggering legal bills if you are charged or sued in a civil law suit. You may lose income. In addition, you may suffer emotionally and mentally as a result of having been attacked or having injured or killed someone in self-defense. For all of theses reasons, the best defense is avoidance whenever that is a safe option.

Sometimes, unfortunately, avoidance is no longer a safe option.

When you need to fight back to save your life, it helps to have basic skills in using the tools of violence for your protection.

[1] See for example, nothingtoxic.com



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