The scariest moment is always just before you start. – Stephen King
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we are conditioned by society to try to get along, not make waves, and are pressured not to stand out in social settings. I guess this varies by the rules of your society (e.g., what country or part of that country you’re from) as well as your age, personal upbringing, social circle, and genetic makeup but in general it’s safe to say that we are not in a position to jump up on the middle of a school play or town hall meeting and make a scene, creating a focus and center of attention on ourselves. I know a bunch of people who fall outside this statement but I stand by it being pretty much dead on for the rest of us. Lots of people won’t get involved and it’s been proven that the larger the crowd the less likely people are to get involved and help someone in trouble (see the “Genovese syndrome” for more on that).
These tendencies are not our friend when it comes to defending ourselves or loved ones in trouble. It’s even worse when — in addition to these tendencies — we are also highly prone to freeze when attacked abruptly. A lot’s been written about freezing (Rory Miller’s got some great material on this and some ways you can minimize the freeze) but suffice it to say that it’s when you’re confronted by immediate danger (say, a mugging) and turn into a “deer in the headlights”, unable to snap out of it. As I’ve read it, this happens to everyone, despite their training or preparedness, and can only be lessened, not eliminated. (more…)