Sunday, January 4, 2015

Pearls of Wisdom: Self Defense: Pearl One

Our best weapon in self defense is, and always is, our brain.

    With less time available to the internet, and to blogging in general, I have needed to focus my posts a little better.  This begins an episodic series which I believe will run for some time with regard to practical and psychological aspects of self defense.  When I say self defense, I am extending this to mean self defense as it applies to your family also.

                     When the shooter at Virginia Tech killed and injured so many, some mistakenly said that "he just snapped".    When employees come in to the office where they have just lost a job and fire a weapon on those who still have one, the news crews will often say, "He just snapped".   Yet, there really is no such thing.   If we were to thoroughly investigate the interviews with family, neighbors, acquaintances, co-workers, teachers etc. and guaranteed them anonymity,  we would learn that almost all of the people who took egregious homicidal actions showed erratic behavior or signs of overt mental illness, often for many years prior to such an event.  Some of them had attempted treatment, but many had not.

                      In point of fact, truly "warningless" attacks on companies, and on individuals are quite rare.   Most people with some form of mental illness have indicated that they are disgruntled, and many have actually threatened others, and yet those of us with a "normal" mindset are more comfortable discounting the warnings.   Most of us with a healthy normal mindset have our attention taken each day by a variety of professional relationships and activities.  We don't think much about those who are angry with us.  We move through life just getting everything done, and hoping for enough time to have fulfilling interactions with our families..  However, many of the mentally ill people who fixate on corporations, smaller companies or individuals whom they mistakenly believe have caused their difficulties, don't have as much going on.  This leaves room for mental energy to be focused on the obsession of those who, in their minds, "deserve to be taught a lesson".   Healthy people don't see this because life keeps them busy, and obsessive people of this type, see little else.  They become enmeshed with a system of disordered thinking which allows them to blame their object of blame for everything from the weather to inflation, or their most recent parking ticket.  Since they tend not to share their thinking with others as much as others do, there isn't anyone to call attention to how disordered their thinking might be. There are no reality checks, which are so frequent for you and I who are involved in a professional or personal networks of some type.

                      In addition, people who exhibit bizarre behavior often frighten physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners or physician assistants.  They often think that the person is a little odd and might have been having a bad day.  Even psychiatrists can miss a person who is on a fast track to being homicidal. Most of us are happy enough just to have such a person out of the office. Many health care practitioners don't take the brave action needed to place someone on an evaluative psychiatric hold.   If our mental health systems were truly effective then far fewer of the attacks on schools, colleges, employers, and family members would occur.   Sadly, in the US, the newest strategy is to blame the guns and let the people who are ruled by disordered thinking run free.  The reality is that a mentally ill person can kill with rope, steak knives, hammers, tire irons, motor vehicles, or a myriad of household products added to food without the recipient's knowledge.

                      How can we as individuals avoid becoming a statistic ?    First of all, place denial aside and think about your relatives and then your friends.  Most of us know someone who has "lost all their friends" in the past few years.  Most of us know someone who lost a job and then has exhibited behaviors which made getting a new one unlikely.   Most of us know someone whose behaviors have become more extreme or bizarre, sometimes following a genuine or a perceived loss of some kind. These are all risk factors for either a suicidal or a homicidal event.  Most of us ignore these risk factors, just hoping that the person involved chooses to get help.  Most often, because their thinking is already disordered, they won't. Their paranoia will prevent them from trusting the systems in place enough in order to get help from those sources.  You may need to talk to their spouse. You may need to talk to their parent and suggest that they get some help because you have seen how unhappy they are.  Certainly, an economy off the tracks has made the stress on such individuals far worse, and it has accelerated the descent of some into madness. There are effective treatments available for many people and yet many of the sickest people have never tried them.

                    Sometimes by "doing the right thing" and noticing that your cousin, your father-in-law or best friend is having a mental health issue, you will become a target yourself.  Sadly, this does come with the territory of doing the right thing sometimes.  "No good deed goes unpunished" should be a mantra for me, and many others, yet we still must do the right thing.

                    Once we have tried to get help for those who need it, then we have to ask ourselves reasonably,  who would like to kill us if they had half a chance ?     The reality is that more people would probably like to do you harm than you realize.   People often don't hate you, for you.  They hate you because you remind them of their ex-wife, or their mother, and they hated those people with passion. Sometimes you simply fit within the box.    Sometimes your husband's ex-wife hates you because she thinks her kids share more with you than with her.   Sometimes the person you work with who was not promoted when you were, hates you.  Many women (and now men also) have been the object of the affections of an obsessive lover who was either rejected, or who never really was a love interest of ours.  Sometimes, we have to assess who has exhibited bizarre behavior and who would do us harm if the circumstances allowed this.

                    In order to prevent becoming a statistic ourselves, we need to being mental health issues to the attention of the family member who is in the best position to induce the individual in question to get help.   If this doesn't work, document everything you are seeing.  Sometimes, the police can be helpful.  Most of them know that a household that has a bevy of domestic disturbance calls down the road becomes a call for a homicide.  Many of them are willing to arrest such individuals and in essence, force a mental health intervention.  Next, you should always be in your very best physical shape. This means that you are more likely to notice someone waiting outside your place of employment. You are more likely to be able to run or fight off a known, or an unknown attacker.   Lastly, if you are located in a place in which a concealed weapons permit is permitted, consider one.   A weapon, such as a firearm is a big responsibility.  You must train in order to be comfortable with one, and to ensure that no one could ever rush you and take it from you, allowing them to use it on you.  You need to be able to keep your weapon secured at home sufficiently to avoid children or anyone else from accessing it.  You need to be competent enough to handle your weapon to avoid accidental discharges.

                 A professor I once had in college who taught me self defense once said that the most important aspect of self defense is in fact, situational awareness.  Without being paranoid, start noticing the cars and license plates which accompany you each day on your drive to work.  Notice who is around you in the grocery store.  Noticing what is normal around you will help to go a long way to helping you recognize when someone, and most importantly, when something isn't.