Fear vs. Danger

There’s a big difference between addressing fears and addressing dangers.

One requires proactive work & critical thinking and although it will keep us safe, our feelings on the matter aren’t really relevant (although it will certainly influence those feelings). One leaves us in danger, but makes us feel better by validating our fears.

Using an example I’ve heard a lot: let’s say I’m afraid of strangers robbing me, so I decide to carry a knife to protect myself.

Rationale explanations don’t factor in at this point, because emotions like terror reside in the deeper level of our brains (limbic system) that isn’t governed by “rational” thought.

And as soon as I’ve decided to carry that knife, I’ve activated the talisman.

Talismans don’t solve the problem, and they don’t even soothe the fear. They validate the fear, giving us an answer in the context of strong & unsettling emotions.

The knife will now surely appear to work, confirming that there are dangerous strangers, that they are a danger to me, and that without this talisman I am in danger.

“Talisman thinking” isn’t limited to objects – specific self defence techniques can be our “talismans”, too.

By carrying the talisman, I feel emotionally empowered without ever addressing whether or not strangers in the alley are an actual risk I face or whether carrying that talisman is at all a a prudent part of my personal safety strategy (it often isn’t).

This is fear management – not danger management.
It addresses the feelings, not the actual problem.

Using the example of a knife, this talisman leaves out even more important and useful aspects of self-defence:

– there are many strategies to be deployed before use of force is necessary
– using a knife is emotionally difficult: the human consequences are immediately and uncomfortably apparent
– not linked to a personal safety plan based on an individual risk assessment
– carrying a knife as a weapon is illegal

The worst part about talismans? Our fears are validated, but we stop engaging in the practices that will actually keep us safe from danger.

While extremely uncommon, random muggings by strangers are a potential danger.

However, if we develop certain patterns – situational awareness, watching for anomalies, recognizing pre-assault cues, planning our routes to-and-from new locations, avoiding fringe areas and high-risk activities – we reduce our chances of being mugged by a stranger to nearly zero.

Solid habits, based on proven strategies, common sense, gut instinct – and yes, physical techniques too – is danger management.

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