For your own security
15. Going for refuge
The need for security, according to Maslow’s hierarchy, is one step up from food and water in importance for survival. Having always to watch your back takes up an inordinate amount of energy and attention and places a huge burden of stress on the body’s stabilising parasympathetic nervous system. It can also interfere with thinking and subsequently, actions taken. When mental and physical integrity is compromised, accompanied by unsafe feelings and experience, behaviour may seem chaotic just when the one thing desperately desired is order. Beliefs, positive or negative, held about likely outcomes when the critical incident is over, also profoundly influence decisions. They’re a good place to start moving forward, by avoiding what shakes confidence and cultivating hope while taking practical steps concurring with this mindset. Ways for law officers to handle aggression without resorting to violence but by transforming and healing instead are explored in Thich Nhat Hanh’s little book, Keeping The Peace.
Events or people inciting fear, whether related to acts of God, armed conflict, evictions, stalking, accidents, disease, violence or unexpected losses, may strike unprovoked. The way to turn the situation round, however, is to find ways to regain control. Tapping into instinct rarely relied on otherwise can produce surprisingly sound guidance about what to do, often leading to a discovery of the resilience required to pull through. Going for refuge inside to be protected from danger is an age-old Buddhist practice and reminds practitioners that they will generally make it through easier with support from other reliable people than on their own.
This is particularly true in cases of actual or threatened domestic and criminal violence, above all for perhaps the most statistically at-risk category: young women who’ve just broken up with abusive partners. In his book, The Gift Of Fear, Gavin De Becker discloses the unfortunate reality of the prevalence of violence in society and how to spot subtle signs of danger to avoid harm. If a partner’s turning aggressive, go to parents. If parents are the torturers, go to friends. If friends torment, go to police, refugee agencies or kind strangers; even stay with benign so-called ‘cult’ communities for a while if necessary. If the state tortures, flee. Do what needs to be done when basic freedoms, even life, are under fire, and get beyond reach of pursuers.
Underneath imposed regimens of social etiquette, tune in to the promptings for self-preservation everyone is born with. Remember the sixth commandment that bans killing applies to the self too. The various arts can be very comforting to carry people through turbulent times. Even the psalms share struggles with faith and can buoy readers up in hope. It takes time and support to replace terror with ease, so make allowances.
In less ominous cases, such as burglary, temporary acting-out because of mental illness and so forth, by consulting the relevant local professionals and acquaintances, effective actions can be taken as soon as possible to prevent repetitions. Spending every waking moment terrified makes it impossible to be healthy and happy. The source of fear has to be faced and dealt with carefully but with determination. Everyone around drowns if no one’s able to reach dry land. As airport stewards instruct, affix own life-jacket first before attempting to interfere with any one else. Be safe and stay safe, please.