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Lost in The Wood -- Leonard and Ann Marie Wilson

Social Self-Defense is a Critical Survival Skill

Woman in black blazer wearing eyeglasses Photo by Maksim Chernyshev on Scopio

An experienced martial artist doesn't have to wait for a blow to land to know what's coming. He doesn't have to be told. He watches. There are only so many ways a human body can move. His opponent is going to telegraph what's about to happen based on little cues of stance, momentum, etc., so he analyzes his opponent's position and capabilities to predict and counter what's coming.

Social combat works the same way. When someone wants to bend you to their will for any reason, there are only so many moves they can make to achieve that—and there's no substitute for experience when it comes to being able to predict and counter those moves through context.

Experienced social warriors around the world have been watching in horror for years now while political extremists land blow after blow after blow against the people who don't know how to read their moves. We want to warn their targets about what's happening—we try to warn them—but they react to our warnings like we're practicing some sort of witchcraft because society doesn't teach even the most basic arts of social self-defense.

So here's lesson one. If you don't already know it, learn it. Memorize it. Burn it so deeply into your mind that you can never forget.

The lie any human being is most susceptible to is the lie he wants to believeand every successful social predator in the world knows that.

Nearly everyone is familiar with this sort of lie when it takes the form of flattery, but it still it works a treat on most of us. We all want to believe the good things people say about us--even if sometimes we can't bring ourselves to.

Far more insidious are the lies we want to believe even when—on the surface—they seem only to make us angry or scared or miserable.

Inside your head you keep a working model of who you believe you are and how the world is supposed to work. Everyone does. Those models anchor us and empower us. Without them, our brains couldn't function. We'd be adrift in a raging, relentless storm of chaos. We cling to those models for dear life. We will react to any information that threatens their integrity as a personal, violent attack. 

Social predators know this too, at least instinctively. They don't fight against our models. They graft new, supporting beliefs onto them. They sculpt the information in our heads like topiary figures by feeding us harmless little lies that will support the weight of progressively larger and more audacious ones.

Whether you want to protect yourself from street hustlers, fake psychics, domestic abusers, cult leaders, or political propaganda, it's all the same. Learn your own weaknesses. Learn your opponent's moves. Stop focusing in on the specific lies and start watching the patterns of behavior.

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