People, unlike the animal kingdom, have justifiable experiential fear triggers both based on something at least partially tangible, and with our human consciousness, some that are not legitimate or rational. That being said, and due to this, we have an abundant numbers of ways that we attempt to overcome or manage our fears (whether effective or not is another story):
1. Simulated-recreation. Scenario-training that replicates the experience(s) as close as is possible to the real or imagined fear to attempt to re-live the original or feared experience and manage it or react differently.
2. Exposure. Picking professions or activities that put one in direct and ongoing contact with the source of the original fear, eventually lessening or eliminating the fear over time.
3. Time. Gradually the fear naturally lowers or is mitigated over time as it is shown to have diminished or obliterated impact the further away from the stimulus it travels.
4. Professional therapy or assistance. Tools are given to lower the fear or put it into contextual accuracy by someone disassociated. Conditioning, inevitably.
5. Breathing or meditation. Controlling the negative mind-talk that compounds and exacerbates the problem and turns it into something far grander than its origin would’ve dictated. (passive/proactive)
6. Avoidance or evasion. Not addressing the issue in any way and avoiding any situations that could trigger that fear/anxiety. (passive/defensive)
7. Hypnosis/visualization/guided imagery. Designed to lower anxiety and alter thought patterns and state-management to mitigate the physiological effects of the source of the fear.
8. Education, information, and further study. A common sense and pragmatic self-reflection as to why you feel fear at this particular element, understanding fear itself, research on the focal-point/central-concern…all to become more educated by looking through a clear lens.
9. Empowerment. Martial arts classes, self-defense classes, combatives classes. Motivational speeches or seminars. Personal-empowerment classes. “Re-wiring” those cylinders that gave us the original fear and build independent self-confidence apart from the fear as well.
Here, on this list, we have a lot of direct correlations to the counter-violence world as many professionals delve dangerously into areas they’re simply not qualified for…like many listed above. (therapy, psychology, phobia-curing, PTSD-treatment, hypnosis, etc.) Martial arts instructors have a nasty habit of transferring capability to other arenas not within their knowledge base – philosophy, psychology, therapy, mountaintop guru, spiritual guide, life coach, and pretty much everything in-between. In other words, generally not knowing their lane. (We see the other side of this as well through combat-driving, defensive tactics, firearms courses, where instructors/clubs try desperately to “holistic” – your one-stop shop for allll things protective) This all, when done poorly and without actual education and study, runs the gamut from subtly doing psychological damage, creating (far greater) daily paranoia, conditioning unhelpful or even negligent fear-management methods…to the interpersonal side of unhealthy instructor hero worship, a co-reliant relationship, and a cult-like group environment…to outright re-wiring horrible mindsets that end up exacerbating fears exponentially….NONE of which are healthy replacements for the actual original fear-based problem.
Can you tell by an instructor’s (MA/SD/PP/CM/whatever) digital imprint and language if they’re intimating to help alleviate or subtly (or not-so-subtly) add to the fears of potential or current clients? Remember, innate/authentic fear, psychological trauma, and past emotional damage are very intricate and finicky things, hardly the realm of most self-defense instructors with no outside or supplemental training or experience. (though that will be denied thoroughly by most, whose skills transfer over to any number of abundant logical offshoots from traditional martial arts training. I’m a very good defensive driver but it doesn’t make me a combat-driving tactics instructor….) Pay close attention to the type of communication utilized and the hyperbole (or lack thereof if pragmatic and legit…), it’s very revealing as to the method of student retention they aim for. (away from fear…done out of fear….or towards self-reliance and logic)
If they’re peddling selective or isolated statistics, claiming the world is at its most dangerous point in human history, that those without their vaunted “training” are helpless sheep, that they offer something special that no other industry professional does, that they have capabilities “outside their lane”, and don’t address modern elements of personal protection that can educate and ground unheeded fear (legal, ethical, moral, psychological, physiological, fiscal, social, familial)….buyer beware. Or run. Probably better. There are other sources available with half the bluster and twice the credibility.