The mental process that keeps you safe – it isn’t what you think it is

Right off the bat let’s just clarify, there are many parts to winning (vs. surviving or losing), everybody pays lip-service to knows things like situational awareness and boundary control (it’s just a pity so few people tell you WHAT to be aware of). Where most people fall down is when it comes to escalation. Let’s say a BG’s interviewing you, and as part of the interview he’s also establishing attack positioning. Let’s also say that you’ve cottoned on to him and you’ve begun Shadow Dancing with him. But the problem is, it hasn’t worked so far, he’s still closing. So what do you do? Should you start your Tape Loop? Put up a Fence? Try walk/run away? Maybe you should shove him back. Maybe you should clock him one? What if his hand’s in his pocket? Do you use a push-pull to take his back and hold him on the verge on landing skull first on concrete? Do you put a hand on your weapon? What do you do? How do you know?


This is the mindset and process our social conditioning has programmed us to go through. An uncomfortable situation pops up (Uncle Jack is drunk and unruly; someone farts (loudly) in a restaurant), so you search for the gentlest (social) way possible to handle the discomfort. You run through options from weakest towards strongest and choose the lowest-on-the-scale option that will work. You’re seeking a comfortable solution. The problem is that when a BG is closing in, he’s thinking to whack over the head with the pipe he has under his jacket and you’re wondering if you can stop him with words. His mindset is at a level way above your’s and you’re playing catch-up. The other problem is that this is the same line of thinking as a monkey dance – it’s an escalation. Because you start off with low level (usually social) responses you’re putting yourself into your monkey brain. So now you’re looking for a comfortable solution while maybe putting yourself in a monkey dance. Not good. He didn’t even have to trick you into a monkey dance (to make any violence you might muster ineffective), you did it for him. Essentially this is fearful thinking (slowly adding worse and worse things in your mind), and the BG can likely see the fear (or at least you grappling with unpalatable responses).


So how do you stop yourself from:

  1. playing catch up to someone who’s already further down the road than you;
  2. looking for a comfortable (palatable) solution;
  3. putting yourself in a monkey dance?

Easy. You start at the other extreme. You spot an approaching BG so you ask yourself: “Do I need to kill him?” If “yes”, then drop him. If the answer’s “no”, then you work backwards towards the lower end of things. Do I need to take his eye out? Do I need to drop him on his spine? Do I need to break his knee? Will an arm bar work? Until you get to the right level for what’s developing. This way you’re not starting at not-effective-enough and working up to looking for weapons (and hoping he doesn’t pull one before you get there in the mental process). Instead you’re starting with checking for weapons and working down. Processing things this way makes certain that, at worst, you’re mental processes start at the same place as the BG’s. At best you’re contemplating whether (and how best) to kill him quickly while he’s only thinking about slapping you up the back of your head to create enough confusion for him to grab you phone and run. He wants your phone and he sees you making the decision of whether he goes home or to the morgue? Not so enticing for him.

So now the mental game plan has reversed. In escalating (addition) thinking the BG is operating at a higher level than you. In subtraction thinking, you are starting with a head start over him. You’ve steeled yourself in preparation for murder to more than match his fortitude for a mugging.


An extra benefit of this way of thinking is that it helps prevent sliding into a monkey dance. When you’re thinking about whether killing this dude is appropriate, it puts his insulting you into perspective. “Hey asshole, who you lookin’ at?” causes “Stab him in the neck? No, he’s only starting to puff up, he’ll hit me at worst. Next lower step?”


Likewise “Excuse me, do you know where the nearest B and B is?” While walking too close and closer still leads to “Back of skull into road? No, he’s still interviewing and positioning, I can go lower, let’s start with a solid boundary enforcement”


Yet another really cool thing that comes from thinking this way is flipping the switch. When you’ve been running through escalating options, it can be hard to flip the switch and turn into a nightmare because you’ve started with (and reluctantly escalated from) comfortable options like “make eye contact”. Jumping to a much higher level on a moment’s notice is more difficult when you’re mentally half asleep. Starting at “Does he need to die” is like mentally waking up because of a bucket of ice water. And because you were already mentally at a much higher level, jumping to a higher level later on is easier because it’s jumping back up to a higher level. You were there a few moments ago, checking for weapons. You didn’t see any so you drop a level. If he goes for his waistband later, it’s easier to go back to “put him on the ground, face first.”


So what am I rambling about?

  • Starting from low level responses and going up from there is a recipe for the BG to take control.
  • Figuring out your response in an escalating manner puts you in monkey dance territory, where your natural instincts are to ineffective violence (punch-him-in-the-face type). This makes it harder to flip the switch and come up with highly effective violence later on.
  • Starting at killing him puts you in effective violence mindset, and makes it easier to access that state if you need to.
  • Thinking from murder backwards puts things nicely in perspective. It helps keep you out of monkey dances and overreacting territory because it mentally contrasts the most severe possible consequences with some dude’s trivial insult. (killing someone in self defense is homicide, it’s just justifiable homicide)
  • Deescalate your thinking rather than escalate it.

5 thoughts on “The mental process that keeps you safe – it isn’t what you think it is”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s