I learned from a young age the world was not a safe place. There were people who were not just willing, but eager to hurt you. Some of them were your own family. Others were your peers you saw at school every day. Others were strangers or minimal acquaintances. Nowhere felt safe.
When I was a boy, there was always a roof overhead, and food on the table, and we celebrated holidays. I went fishing and on picnics, and there were presents and cake at the correct times. There was the appearance and trappings of normalcy. But I grew up with violence, witnessing it, being subjected to it, or threatened with it as a regular occurrence. It got worse as I got older, until it became an everyday occurrence.
I began to study human behavior, particularly when the human mind malfunctioned. I learned the theoretical basis of what I had been experiencing since I was five years old, attaching nomenclature to the realities of addiction, violence, hatred, cruelty, sadism, bullying, abuse and neglect.
Then I chose a career field where I practiced what I had learned in theory and experienced in real life, counseling addicts and alcoholics in their struggle for sobriety, and career criminals looking for a way out of the life, or trying to dissuade young people from getting into the life.
I also sit with the victims of criminals, who have experienced rape, molestation, incest, assault, theft, and domestic violence, and are now traumatized and trying to shut off the world with drugs and alcohol.
As an adult, I learned how to protect myself and take care of myself because sure as fuck no one else was going to do it for me. I have taken what I have learned the hard way and pass it on through teaching, writing, and counseling crime victims.
I want to present here some of the miscellaneous habits I have developed over the years that lend to personal safety, and what I have culled from many hours of learning from experts on self-protection. Some are about mindset and attitude; some are about behavioral changes and habits.
I realize a lot of this will be obvious to some, but for others it will be new information. I have also made a lot of general statements, and have left a lot of stuff out. This is not intended to be comprehensive, or all inclusive, but rather food for thought.
Value yourself enough to protect yourself.
This is the psychological foundation of self -protection. If you do not value yourself, it will be easy for others to victimize you, and you will not have the will to protect yourself. Those who grew up being abused will typically develop the mindset that they deserve it. They will expect it and accept it as normal.
Work to break out of this type of thinking, through psychotherapy, confidence building activities, good self-care, and surrounding yourself with people who value you and treat you well. Do not tolerate mistreatment from anyone, not matter who they are. Respect yourself and distance yourself from anyone who is shitty to you.
Never show fear, doubt, or hesitation.
Never look like a victim. Weakness only encourages aggression. Displaying vulnerability draws predators to you. This becomes a cycle. The child that is abused and maltreated at home goes to school looking hurt, scared, anxious and tearful.
They are going to be spotted quickly by the bullies and singled out for abuse. Abused and bullied children quickly become demoralized and vulnerable to victimization by strangers or associates.
Listen to your intuition or deductive reasoning.
Never second guess yourself. If something feels wrong, then it’s wrong. Period. Get out of wherever you are, or away from whoever is near you as quickly as you can. We have a very good inner sense of danger, but we choose to ignore it because we don’t want to over react; we don’t want to be rude.
What if we are wrong and we are embarrassed? People will think you are a weirdo or paranoid. Who wants to be around a rude, embarrassing paranoid weirdo? That fear of what others may think of us and how we will present ourselves can cause us to ignore our intuition.
Vary your routine. There are many ways to get to and from work or school every day. There are many different places to get gas and coffee, groceries or to do laundry.
Mix it up, taking different routes to and from places, departing and arriving at different times, and going to different places.
Keep your mouth shut, your hands to yourself, and your eyes to yourself
One of the best self-defense lessons I have learned and which has stuck with me for 25 years came from a third degree Black belt in Okinawan Karate & Kung Fu. It was not how to kick, punch and strike.
Paraphrasing as I recall it, he said, “keep your eyes open and your mouth shut. It will keep you out of 99% of all violent situations”. I have practiced this ever since, and kept out of 99% of potentially violent situations. The few and far between tight spots I have been in since then have been because I didn’t follow this dictum.
Be aware of your surroundings and the people around you. Never start a conflict with someone which can escalate to violence. Always let the other guy be the asshole. I would add keep your eyes to yourself. There are some people who are so sensitive, unstable, altered or eager for a fight that all they need is a prolonged look.
Don’t live, ride, or work in a pig pen, or look like a slob.
Keep your home, car, and office and yourself clean. If your surroundings are dirty, cluttered and disorganized, it is often a reciprocal reflection of your life and habits. If you look like a slob, as way too many Americans currently do, it can encourage predators.
Predators intuitively look for people who are unkempt, slovenly, and sloppy. This can reflect lower socio-economic status, addiction, and being accustomed to deprivation and violence. This makes a predator see you as someone they can take advantage of, or someone who will be safe to victimize because they are in the life as well.
If you have been in the life of addiction, violence and crime, part of getting out of it will be changing your appearance. Active addicts, dealers, and low-level habitual criminals are very good at spotting others who are in the life. Someone neat and clean, and squared away looks like they have their act together. This also helps you carry yourself with confidence.
Always lock the door when leaving your home.
I am aghast at how many people I speak to in rural areas, or who are now urban dwellers from a rural area, who leave their home unlocked when they go out. Don’t make it so easy for the bad guys.
Park your vehicle front end out…
…backing into the parking space. This will enable a fast getaway if necessary.
Never sit with your back to a door.
When you are in a café or other public place, select a seat which gives you the best view of the entire establishment, close to an exit. Observe the people around you, and their energy for lack of a better word. Is there anyone who looks tense, hostile?
If a stranger approaches you…
…look at their hands, do not let them get too close, and do not engage if they look suspicious. A stranger has no business getting within five feet of you unless you are in a crowd.
Lastly, Learn from experts
You can never learn enough. Here are the ideas of some of the most reliable experts on self-protection that I have been following for as long as 20 years.
- The Gift of Fear
- The Little Black book of violence
- The Big Bloody book of violence
- Meditations on Violence
- Facing Violence: Preparing for the unexpected
- Scaling Force: Dynamic Decision making under threat of violence
- Street E & E
- Violence, blunders, and fractured jaws
Be aware there are those who teach ineffective methods that may give you false confidence, and will get you hurt, or worse. For something enlightening, watch this video:
And for a good laugh about this serious topic, see this video: