Another Page in the Book of Knowledge – Tim Boehlert

When we discuss the many and varied aspects of violence dynamics, including preferences, techniques, styles and more, we should also keep a few key points in mind:

[01] Violence is different with every encounter. What worked once, may not work in a similar situation somewhere down the road, which effectively forces you to pick alternative responses, preferably before-hand, and no matter who you are or how good you give yourself credit for being. Don’t believe your own story, that’s the first thing that will get you in trouble.

[02] Limiting what you learn may be a great choice, but it could also cost you. For instance, if you choose to limit your exposure or your training for only specific types of encounters, you’ll come up empty when that doens’t happen, but ‘this’ does.

Perhaps you should consider reading more about the differences between possible and probable events, and change your training, or modify it to the most likely (probable) scenarios primarily, but not to entirely discount the other possibiltiies?

[03] Violence in the form that most of us will encounter is going to be social-based, and not asocial violence. Thus, your goals may be merely to set social status, or to protect property, or maybe even to send a message/threat, implicit or otherwise that “it would not be wise to cross this line” or some such similar reasoning.

[04] Having a weapon on your person at the time of any encounter may determine to a judge/jury an outcome that you didn’t expect, foresee or plan for. Think of how others will see your actions – “You planned it.” Thus, a pre-mediation factor creeps in by the other sides legal team. And again, you need to understand your laws, because I can guarantee you that the arriving officials may not, and/or do not understand the laws concerning the UOF and threat of UOF when displaying/brandishing as an example a ‘pocket knife.’

I will give you an example of how and why my path differs from yours. In one of my jobs in a Security force function, we had to follow policies (those of the institution – the employer.) We were never allowed to strike, kick or throw anyone. Now if you’d already learned your ‘art’, a lot of your go-to options have effectively been taken off the table. What now? You’ll spend a lot of time un-learning everything you know about your MA or your combatives training.

We were also limited in our responses and options by local, state and federal laws. Have you got any familiarity with any of the typical laws regarding the use of force in your community? If you do, that’s a good start. Now, throw in dealing with a vulnerable population – the homeless, those with substance abuse issues, those with mental health diagnoses, those showing altered mental status (AMS) symptoms – which could include some of the above, but also consider the autistic, those with dementia and those with alzheimers disease.

Now, add these restraining factors:

[a] You are being watched and recorded in almost every interaction – by the institution, and many times by the public. And while the institution may back you up in your response, the public likely won’t. Why? because violence is ugly, no matter who you are. And the only way that you can even approach ‘getting it’ is by studying it, doing it and learning from it all, good and bad.

[b] You could be reprimanded, suspended, fired, sued or some combination of all of these possible ‘disciplinary’ actions. And then there may be the media exposure…

[c] There’s also a toll you pay – with every, single transaction. With some, you may feel confident beyond a doubt that your use of force (violence) was justified. but with many events, you’re going to question what you did, how you did it and more, if not now, based on how your work develops and the amount of support or lack of support that you receive along the journey. Unfortunately, you still need to make your own choices with almost every encounter. The toll may be feeling guilty, or bad, but another cost is in your future performance factors – will you step up the next time, will you throttle back your response stance for better or worse? Again, these are personal choices based on several factors – the law, the policy, your moral compass, the views of your peers, the views of the public or other employees that surround you.

[d] There are also environmental factors that need to be considered, maybe specifically in my model, but I’d say likely in yours as well. As a much used training example: after hitting another combatant, he goes down, and hits his head on a curb. He dies as a result of his injuries, and your actions. Your life as you knew it ended when he died.

Now of course there are times when you may have no worries, but I can’t think of a specific one at the moment. Even as an employee, whose job description cites protecting property and the public in/around your facility, and even if he’d pulled a knife on you, and you may have legal grounds to justify your actions, it’s not over – not by a long shot. Knowing your environment may convince you to re-think the options you choose to deploy in all or most of your actions. Sometimes that’s not possible, but you may have to plan that into your ‘threat response kit.’

Violence is an ugly option, but it’s also a necessary one when dealing with violent people. The only outcome should be in your favor, and in conjunction with all of the legal and moral lines that we all typically follow and/or are held to. There are more mental aspects to dealing effectively with violence than there are physical aspects perhaps, but years of study has shown me that, and your experiences may be different. One quote that I learned early on was: “to stop a violent act, you need to be better at violence than they are.” For me, that set the tone of every encounter. It started the ‘conversation’, helped set my mindset when ‘the dance sequence’ began, and added confidence at the beginning of every dance.

I dealt with hundreds of acts of violence over the years that I was active, and I can honestly state that I never had a plan other than to end it in my favor. I never used more than a few go-to techniques. I transitioned into control after the ‘attack’ with no abuse, no ego issues, and no threat of retaliation or to punish. It was never about punishment. When it was over, it was over – not personal, just a business transaction between two parties that didn’t view the transaction in the same terms you might say.

I can also state that I dealt with a varied population – MH patients, family members, friends and acquaintances, but also substance abusers, those at risk, child molesters, murderers, rapists, thieves, juveniles, men, women, transgender ad all of it’s associated labels and children. They all had one thing in common – they were all violent. The one takeaway for me is that it was a great learning time, with either willing or unwilling participants that all had one thing in common: they knew how to use violence. It mattered just a little about why, but you need to let that go too. Rather than to reject their reasoning, or to argue about it, you just need to embrace the fact that you may not change their minds, and when it’s time, it’s time. You need to pick the when, where and how. Everything else is open for discussion, but perhaps afterwards.

I’ve even had to address other Martial Artists. I had one technique that I used under those circumstances. It never got physical, despite their sometimes impressive attempts to convince me that I was not going to be able to stop them because of their knowledge, which was scary during more than one encounter. Any Martial Artist has this knowledge, and knows what my solution was. There was of course a backup plan, and that was just too easy – it makes me smile to think about it, because might isn’t always right. And that is a technique too.

Give choices – it MAY work… A lot of social violence is about saving face – learn that. Respect goes a long, long way, even when it’s not deserved or earned.

Learn to actively listen without feeling the need to respond – immediately at a minimum. Most of us listen half-heartedly while we are formulating a response. STOP doing that! Be conscious of it when you are doing it, and work at getting better at not doing it in the future.

Expand your vocabulary, expand your training potential, expand your capacity for discovering that you’ll never know it all, you’ll never be the best, or undefeated even. Embrace the possibilities, educate yourself, and share.

This knowledge, my knowledge, is specific, to and for me, because I know what worked for me. I wasn’t ever the best, but I was never the worst. I was effective, and had only a few close calls where it could have gone the other way, but the social aspect of the struggle was on the table and in play, to my advantage. I was maybe the most studied. I continue to learn, and expand my horizons and educate others based on my knowledge and experience, because it can make a difference for someone, somewhere – you’ll never know.

The book of knowledge is deep, and it needs to be shared.

Becoming A Contact Professional – Tim Boehlert

Part 2

Rory I found probably through Marc, or maybe Loren Christensen – I can’t recall specifically. I am immediately drawn to Rory because of what he does or did. He was working with the safe ‘clientele’ that I was, with the main exception being that he was in a prison setting. Without hesitation, I recommend him to all LEO, or Security professionals because his experience is directly related to what I do. Marc’s is as well, just from a different perspective. Rory was writing a blog at the time I ‘found’ him. Large parts of that blog became the first e-books that I purchased – Chiron Training. After reading the very first volume I was hooked. Here was I guy that I totally ‘got.’ I can’t tell you why in so many words, but he ‘spoke to me.’

In one of his blog/e-book entries Rory describes a ‘typical’ day on his unit. He was asked to respond to an inmate that was acting out in his holding cell. Rory headed a CERT team, and his job was to move this individual after subduing him using whatever level of force was necessary. The inmate had already made preparations for the soon-to-happen assault by unusual means. Rory’s team was prepped, kept just out of sight while he chose to offer an alternate solution before breaching the cell. In a moment of genius (and Rory really is a very deep thinker) he chose to keep the team out of sight, but ready to perform a cell extraction by overwhelming force. He pulled up a folding chair about 6 feet from the cell door, and simply sat down, crossed his arms, and waited… NOW, go find that story and learn from it what I learned. What happens next is sure to change your world like it did mine – if it doesn’t, you’re either in the wrong job, or you already possessed that knowledge and foresight, which frankly I find hard to believe. Thank you Rory.

Peyton Quinn – another of the unknowns. He is a character every bit as much as Marc is. THEY are two of the originators of what this group has been assembled because of. Violence. I have known Peyton for about as long, and did find him through my connection with Marc. Another book. Suffice it to say that Peyton is as unique as any of these commanders of violence. Peyton is also a Martial Artist, a rogue of a man with a huge heart, and some really intense depth of knowledge as well. He’s an educator, a writer, and he knows his stuff as well. He’s also willing to pass this stuff on. About four years ago I had the pleasure of working on a few projects with Peyton. Specifically a book that he was writing at the time about Musashi’s Five Rings. Peyton asked me to read it, and help him out with some editing, which I did out of respect, friendship, and admiration. Thank you Peyton.

There are many others here that have helped me along the way, and I am very thankful for all of those contributors as well. What I do is not unique, but you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone talking about let alone teaching what it takes to get out unscathed. I can only say that in 7 years, I have been assaulted more, hospitalized more, hurt more both physically and verbally, than in my entire previous life. Without the support of these proponents and educators, without their output, their advice, their willingness to share the ugly, I wouldn’t be writing anything remotely like this at all. I’d either have quit a long time back, been injured and beyond repair OR worse. It’s not an easy job, not just anyone can do it either – even if you are physically able to – and most of the young ones are that at least, it takes a LOT of maturity, it takes a lot of drive, it takes a lot of deflective capability to do this job to serve your community, and your fellow man. You have to do this job because you care, not because it pays well – it’s not even worth it for that alone. I do it to make a difference, to feel better as a human being, and because someone has to deal with people in crisis, period.

If you’re up to it, do the research UP FRONT. If you can get through several of the steps necessary to educate yourself, and still thin positively about it, MAYBE you’re the right person. MAYBE.

Becoming A Contact Professional – Tim Boehlert

I have been doing Hospital Campus security for 8+ years. When I signed on, I immediately undertook a journey into darkness. I found out within a year that I was going to need all the help I could find elsewhere. To that end, I am not a professional Martial Artist in the strictest sense. I learn from the traditional and modern martial arts. I pick and choose those pieces that I know I can use, and I know that I can justify and defend in a court of law. I train and educate myself as too many have excuses not to do so.

For the last 8 years I have sought out a different type of education and a group of professionals that ‘have-been-there-and-done-that’ – a small group of talented trainers, educators, teachers. Not everyone that deals with violence in our profession can articulate or try to explain the what, why and how of things. I trust ALL of the people in CRGI for that, as well as some other like-minded professionals from other areas of expertise – LEO, Corrections, Military trainers.

In this group I totally support and endorse Marc MacYoung, Rory Miller, Peyton Quinn. They were my first clue as to what was out there, and how I was going to deal with it successfully.

What I can bring to the table is dealing with violence in a health-care setting. The way I see it, I deal with the same people that Rory did during his career as a Corrections Officer, but from a different set of guidelines – no in-house training, no support, no weapons, no first-strike capabilities, no striking/kicking/chokes etc., no backup, no staff support most of the time, no real outline of rules, lots of cameras and lots of Monday-morning-quarterbacking AFTER the fact. In short, not a job anyone in their right-mind would take knowing all of these limitations going in. Add to that starting out at 52 years old. Getting the picture now?

So, I can share a lot of stories and examples of things that I have experienced dealing with those people that live alternate lifestyles – drugs, alcohol, abuse etc. Dealing with the physical may be the easiest aspect of this type of job, dealing with the verbal aspect IS one of the hardest, yet most rewarding aspects.

Marc MacYoung once told me that I’d already shown him enough ability with the physical aspects of the job, and he recommended getting more training on the verbal aspect – great advice. To that end, and at the time he and Rory were pairing up on a new concept – Conflict Communications is what they were going to call it. It was going to be a traveling seminar road-show, maybe a book, maybe a DVD. CRGI is one end-result of those years of collaboration by two of the BEST minds in the business of violence.

I own almost every book that Marc has produced, but not too many of his DVD’s – most of his early work was only accessible via VHS tapes. At first, reading Marc’s output was challenging. Not because it was difficult to read, but it WAS difficult to read from a ‘normal’ perspective. I had no real introduction to violence previous to taking this job. I’d led a fairly safe life – due in part to being white, middle-class, and non-violent as my norm. We’ve all seen a lot of violence, particularly of late, but in our previous adult years and teenage high-school years as well. What we were particularly not aware of though was REAL violence. The kind of violence that the mere mention of gives us concern. We don’t want to hear about it, know about, and especially see it or experience it.

Marc started to open that dark cellar door for me. SO, reading his stuff WAS difficult. Not knowing him personally, and reading how cavalier some of his thoughts were WAS disturbing to me. Kind of like sidling up next to a group of bikers – you WANT to hear some of it, but hope they won’t notice you’re eavesdropping in on them. That’s what my first couple of Marc’s books felt like. “What kind of guy DOES this shit, and then writes about it? How’d he get away with THAT?” Well, that’s how it started. Marc admittedly came from a rough up-bringing, turned his life around, and then chose to educate others that could appreciate, learn from, and stay safe based on his lessons.

Thank you Marc.

Part 2 will be in the March issue of Conflict Manager.

The Violence Triangle – Clint Overland

Fire needs three things to burn:

  1. Fuel
  2. Heat
  3. Oxygen

Without one of these components, you will never achieve flame.  Remove one of these components and you will stop the combustion.

Violence is a fire. If left unchecked it will consume everything in its path.  One of the main things I teach young Violence Professionals is to be able to spot the sources of the fire.

Whether it is a person or a reaction to a person.

You must be able to remove at least one source of the violence.

I am going to use a situation where you have all three elements of a possible confrontation and try to show you that by thinking before you act you will be able to stop what can destroy everything.

Situation 1

Cell block B

Inmates are beginning to yell and beat on walls. Officer responds

Sees two inmates arguing.  Steps in to further assess the situation.

Confirms that it’s not a set up to harm him.  Has one of the inmates step out of the cell to tell him what is going on. Inmate confirms that he has a problem with several people in the cell do to situations from the street. Officer removes the inmate and places him in another cell.

Situation calms, violence averted.

Simple right. Removed one source and the situation calms.

But what if you are no longer in a controlled environment?

Now let’s look at a much more dynamic situation.

Situation 2.

Barroom full of drunk happy people.  Everyone is having a good time.

Music’s loud people are laughing and enjoying life.

Bouncers on edge. His gut tells him it’s one of those nights.  There is going to be trouble and if he doesn’t watch close the whole damn place will erupt. He watches as there is a pause in the frivolity over in the corner where a group of bikers are partying.  People are moving away and body language is shifting from happy to on edge. He moves over quickly to find out what’s wrong.

Oh, joy of joys. It’s one of the frat rats that come in hitting on the President’s old lady.

Bouncer steps in and attempts to regain control. Hey there kid, you need to come with me right now.

Bouncer doesn’t give the kid a chance to argue. Slips a wrist control on the kid and walks him to the bar.

Shouts behind him. It’s ok guys I got this. Takes the kid to the bar and explains the situation.

Kid apologizes and agrees that it’s best if he leaves. Pays his tab and begins to walk out.  Everything is ok, right?

Not even close.

The bikers are pissed and they want to stomp the kid. Bouncer walks the kid out and faces off with the club. Hey guys, there is no need for this. We’ve all been young and stupid right.

Bouncer holds them at the door just long enough for the kid to drive off. I tell you what. I will buy your next round, what do you say. Bouncer knows that one or two of the members have turned and walked out the back door but he’s got to deal with the fire in front of him right now

The club agrees and returns to their corner.  Bouncer tells the waitress to take a couple of buckets over to the club. Then steps outside to see if the kid got away.

Club members are walking back in.

Bouncer checks the parking lot.  Nope no bodies.  Whew that was close.

Now we’ve looked at two situations that one thing was removed from the equation.  So, let’s examine a conflict with all three of the fire triangle in full swing.

Situation 3

Again, another Barroom.  This time there is no Bouncer.

Hard bellied Blond is on the dance floor.  Her husband is watching her shake and move. So is everyone else. A vulture (individual that swoops in on a woman hoping for an easy score) wings his way over to her.

Now the Blond is a fire starter. She likes to see her husband get jealous and save her. Vulture starts dancing with her and the Blonde replies by bumping and grinding all over the Vulture. Husband watches and begins to get super pissed off. Why is that guy trying to hit on his property?

Blonde knows the signs, he’s started to crack his knuckles and stands up. Time for the fun to start.

Husband walks over and blindsides the Vulture with a beer bottle across the skull. Blood flies.

The Vulture goes down. His friends rush over and jump on the husband.

Knife comes out and before you can blink, someone’s intestines are on the floor.

The Blonde screams, it’s the husband’s guts. He falls and the Vulture and crew run.

All because she needed to get her rocks off.

Folks, I have watched and been involved in every single one of these situations.

Now the questions I want to ask you is, “Are you one of the sources needed for violence to start?”

Are your reactions and responses one of the key components for violence to break out when a situation arises? Because if they are, then you are going to be in a continuous shit storm.

There is an adage: Don’t add fuel to the fire.

Well letting your monkey brain overload your hummingbird ass is a sure-fire way to turn a single spark into a full-on conflagration. Any action based in emotions can and will be a fuel source in one form or fashion. Whether it is intended or not.

You are responsible for 99% of the shit storms you get into if you allow yourself to overreact or over exaggerated your responses to stimulus. If you start getting angry because someone doesn’t respond to your demands or bow to your wants then you are the one responsible for any bad that happens.

  • Screaming at people has never accomplished anything other than to piss the other party off.
  • Demanding that others do what you say without the power to enforce your demands does nothing but add heat to the mix.
  • The threat of Properly Applied Violence is only useful if you have the capacity and capabilities to enforce it.

Think about it this way. Violence is either the best way for you to end the situation or the worst way to receive an education

  • Screaming at people.
  • Demands
  • Overreacting
  • Emotional outburst

All the above are fuel in some form or fashion. The Violence Triangle requires three things, same as the Fire Triangle.

  1. The Monkey Brain is the oxygen.
  2. Emotional reactions are the heat.
  3. Actions are the fuel.

Remove any of these three elements and you can remove the threat of violence.  Add to any of these elements and you will be engulfed in the outcome.


Self-Defense and the Helping Professions Part II – Alan Jensen

The Different Mindset between Social Work and Self-Defense.

Clinicians and self-defense practitioners have a very different mind frame and changing between the two can be difficult without training and real world experience.  Most individuals in the helping professions have a mind frame of providing assistance in different forms.  Whether it is therapy, substance use, case management, or meeting basic needs, the idea is that people are inherently good and we can help and because of that, we are safe.  This leads to two false beliefs: the person served will respect and reflect the work that the clinician is trying to do and that the clinician will most likely not be assaulted.  They may be “difficult” or “resistant to treatment” but engaging nonetheless.  An example of this is the clinician working in an area known to have gang activity engaging on their own terms (i.e. in gang neighborhoods).  The assumption is that the clinician is safe because they are trying to help.  This can be a big mistake.

The self-defense practitioner has a different frame of mind.  He, or she, understands and knows, sometimes too well, of the issues facing us today and is training to face it.  It may not be the best training, or the most realistic, but it is something.  In an assault, some individuals freeze, the best advice is to do something, anything.  If you’ve been training, hopefully it will come out when you need it most.

I’m not saying that clinicians or substance abuse counselors are not aware, it’s quite the contrary with multiple systems in place.  When doing outreach they go out in pairs, when doing home visits, they are available via phone, and when in clinics they have methods for addressing emergencies.  Clinicians know to be aware of their surroundings and assess for safety.  But many times, clinicians do not trust their gut or are told to continue working with an individual even after voicing their concerns.  Recently, I expressed concern when working with an ex-convict with PTSD who was sweating and becoming increasingly agitated mid-session.  When discussing his anger and my safety concerns, I was told that they could be “intimidating” and to continue my work.  My work did not continue as he was arrested less than a week later.

At this point I want to address therapeutic counseling and the inherent potential danger and why I, and others, do what we do.  We are here to help in any way, shape, or form.  We believe that humans, by nature, are good, and that sometimes people express emotions in different ways and sometimes in violent ways.  However, these instances are slim, but very real.  According to, most people with mental health issues are more likely to be victims than aggressors and that is why we need to do what we do.

This brings us to the crux of the topic.  What is the difference and what are the concerns?  Why does clinical work not mix with self-defense?  One reasons can be illustrated in a training of skills to use when physical aggression occurs.  The instructor says, “How many of you have taken self-defense or martial arts classes?”  A few people raise their hands.  “Okay, that’s good, but this is different.  We don’t fight back.”  What I am about to write is going to anger many, but to write it simply: fight back!  I do not care how good you are at blocking, or getting out of the way or trying to remove yourself from the situation.  Something is going to fail and your life is now at risk.  I would rather be alive and lose my job than to lose my life or end up in the hospital.  These situations are made even worse when you have no training or have training that provides a false sense of security.

My last point comes from a situation I had a few years ago.  I was working as a street outreach worker.  I came back to our hub/program to do documentation and any other tasks.  A young adult present asked me about studying psychology at a local community college.  Naturally, I engaged her in conversation.  While talking, a homeless youth runs out the door, stating that he is late for work.  He comes back in the building, gets a drink of water, and pulls a knife.  Why he did this, I do not know.  Was he trying to prove something?  Intimidation?  Maybe he was happy that he had a knife?  Or needed it for protection in a shelter?  We will never know, mainly because I don’t remember what happened next.  All I know is that I got that knife in my hands.  I may have blacked out.

My point is this: all of your trainings and understanding on why people hurt or why they express themselves through violence goes out the window when facing a life or death situation.  Compassion or empathy will not save you.  Your primate and mammalian brain is likely to shut down. Your survival drive takes over, and hopefully what training you have kicks in.  Even if I had a knife, a gun or any tactical gear, it would not have helped.  I was at the mercy of this individual.  Sometimes weapons do not help (a subject for another article), but your training does.  My brain went from clinical work to self-preservation in an instant.  Can other clinicians do the same?  Can they shut off the need to help others and protect themselves?  Can the clinician who brushed my arm at a training and profusely apologized for “assaulting” me do the same?  I know that when I train, I have to shut off that caring aspect, such that some people either do not know or do not see how I could be a clinician.

We need to be able to make that switch from helping others to protecting ourselves.  This means a shift in paradigms.  We will continue to help, regardless of the situation, we will be there to celebrate when things are good and to help you when you fall.  We will support you in your choices, even if we do not agree with them.  But, also that we are realistic and ready for when things become unsafe.

I hope that I have not increased the stigma of mental illness in this article.  I am painting with a small brush, capturing specific instances of aggression in my ten plus years.  We need to address mental illness and substance abuse as we do with any physical illness.  Mental illness and substance abuse is a serious concern with suicide being the 10th leading cause of death in the US.

Alan Jensen, MSW, LICSW

Stay Sharp – Toby Cowern

I’ll be honest, It’s a bit of a shock to me to write this article… However, we here in the CRGI have frequent conversations about never assuming what people do or don’t ‘know’.

Over my last few courses (both teaching and attending) a similar issue kept being raised, to the point I wanted to address it here.

I feel fairly confident that all readers have some familiarity with the Every Day Carry (EDC) concept and most of you have daily carry. For those that do, most likely some sort of weapon is included, be it edged tool, firearm, flashlight, or similar. (Some of you will carry all these and more)

Having these excellent tools at your immediate disposal is an excellent concept, and we are all, most likely, aware of the need for good and continuous training in the effective use of these tools. The issue that has kept surfacing, for me, as of late is the complete lack of understanding and discipline in maintaining these tools.

As dry, boring as this topic is, it is however absolutely essential to include in your regular routines, especially if you are using your tools with any degree of frequency.

Regular and routine inspection, cleaning and maintenance of your tools, will not only help identify early indicators of problems or defects, but will also ensure smooth function and operation in use.

I am seeing, on a frighteningly regular basis, people carrying knives with no means or knowledge on how to sharpen them, or if they have the means, only sharpening their knives ‘when they get blunt’…!!! For me, this mindset is exceptionally concerning and one I am now addressing more thoroughly during training.

In terms of my personal routine, I inspect and clean EDC edged tools each evening (when washing the other cutlery from dinner) sharpen as necessary, but with specific time set aside on Sundays (when I do my regular house maintenance chores) for regular or scheduled maintenance/repair.

I use rechargeable batteries wherever possible for flashlights and rotate batteries weekly (Sundays), as well as ensuring I have at least one spare set of batteries available as well.

If you are an instructor, maybe set aside 5 minutes at the end of your next class to ask your students if they are regular servicing their tools and if not take a few minutes to show them how it’s done.

If you are a student, I highly recommend you try to incorporate regular inspection and maintenance into your routines.

I feel the crux of this problem is far more lack of awareness than any sort of ‘bloody minded refusal’ on the part of the individual, so with this brief article today I hope to take one step forward in raising awareness of the potential problem and how easy it is too solve.

Regular inspection and maintenance will range from a few seconds to just a few minutes, is easy to learn and easy to execute.

I’ve included a link here to one of my favorite knife manufacturers and it highlights how simple sharpening of edged tools can be.

With all the time, effort and money we spend on being proficient tool users, it would be a terrible shame to ‘fall at the last hurdle’ by not keeping our tools in the best condition possible…

Burnout – Rory Miller

“Almost every officer on the force that has the years in, is retiring. We’re all crunching the numbers.”

“I just don’t want to do this anymore.”

Burnout. It’s a big risk in almost every profession. I’m going to concentrate on the worlds I know in this article (high-risk professions and freelance instruction) but burnout is universal. Jobs are hard. That’s why they are called work and not play. That’s why you get paid to do jobs, not pay to do them.

We think of burnout as the person who can’t do the job anymore, but almost worse is the life of a person who stays with a job he or she hates, just going through the motions. Miserable day after day until retirement, and when retirement arrives, the gift of free time falls in the lap of someone who has practiced being miserable for years or decades.

There are a lot of sources and models to explain burnout.  My take is that when stress outmatches coping mechanisms, the burnout process starts. How fast it builds depends on a third factory— rest and recuperation. You can hold back burnout for a much longer time with good sleep, exercise and hobbies.

In the work I know, there are some obvious sources of stress. Dangerous jobs are stressful. Perhaps more stressful are jobs that can be boring for long stretches and then suddenly dangerous. The contrast between the adrenaline-fueled moments and the tedious hours of paperwork also induces stress. In the freelance world, the instability of income can be very stressful. All of these stresses affect your support network as well, your family. For every night you’ve spent out there wondering if you’d make it home, someone else sat by the phone, wondering if you’d make it home. I suspect sitting by the phone is even more stressful than being in the action.

Some other sources of stress, drawn from both worlds:

Outlining it: Avoiding burnout:

  • Surrounded by people with less dedication than yourself. You may have spent a lifetime devoted to one pursuit, but to your student’s it’s a hobby. Your badge may represent your devotion to the sanctity of life, even at the cost of your own… but to the people you contact every day, you’re just another civil servant.
  • The better you do, the more others are driven to tear you down.
  • The top end is always lonely. If it wasn’t, there wouldn’t be any way to distinguish the top end. If you’re doing the same as everyone else, you’re unnecessary.
  • Some of the people you serve. Some of them will be goofs. Or even bad people. Or accidents waiting to happen. Working corrections, you break up a lot of inmate fights. Once, early in my career, I stopped a potentially lethal beating. Then realized the guy I had saved was just as bad, maybe worse, then the one I saved him from. What’s the karmic equation on that?
  • Some of your colleagues got into the profession for the wrong reasons, and the negative attention they get reflects on you. There are very few bad cops, but every time they make the news the citizens feel justified to treat you as a bad cop. Every time a teacher exploits students, prospective students have to wonder about you. There are two kinds of people drawn to certain jobs— those who feel a need to serve and those with big egos. Sometimes they are hard to tell apart, even from the inside.
  • Sometimes it’s too easy. Most people drawn to dangerous professions or freelancer are adrenaline junkies. And some of them are quite competent. Which means it’s possible to burn out simply because the job isn’t challenging enough.
  • Disconnect between you and your bosses. In Conflict Communication there is a section on longevity-oriented and goal-oriented groups. Line staff deal with the day-to-day job. Management deals with public perception and politics. Often, these are incompatible. In talks with officers all over the world— Hungary, Israel, Iraq, Canada, UK, US… this has been mentioned as the biggest source of job discontent in law enforcement.
  • Mixed signals. What your clients say they want and what they actually want (or need) are often incompatible. Do you teach the things that work or the things that are cool? Isn’t it amazing how one person’s riot is another person’s free expression?
  • Impossible Standards. Sometimes we even stress ourselves. You will make mistakes. If you can’t live with that, you might need to rethink your profession. You can’t undo mistakes, but you can learn from them.
  • Lack of appreciation. When you are doing important things and doing them well, it’s normal to want a thank you now and then. It rarely happens. Turns this one around: What would your life be like without your weekly garbage pick up? And when was the last time you said, “Thanks?”

Burnout is a looming threat for all of us. Study the sources of of stress in your life and work out coping methods for each.

Don’t forget the universal coping methods:

  • Get good rest.
  • Keep your fitness level (particularly aerobics) up.
  • Make sure your purpose is clear and keep it in mind.
  • Keep a solid support network and be sure to show your appreciation.

Self-Defense and the Helping Professions – Alan Jensen

In the ten plus years I’ve been in the social services field, I have had multiple confrontations and aggressors.  However, I have also had the good grace to train in traditional martial arts and self-defense for almost twenty years.  On the other hand, most clinicians in the field or in out-patient settings have not.  Most agencies, such as my own, understand the risks that we take on a daily basis and have some form of self-defense programs.  Some have been implemented for years, others were created after the deaths of other clinicians.  I can emphatically state that these programs do not work and many times, instill a false sense of security for the clinician.  But what system does and how can it be implemented?

I cannot remember how many seminars or talks I have attended where I was told by a man with a microphone and long credentials how to act in the moment, lacking an understanding of real world interactions or verbal de-escalation training under stress.  This is followed by a supposed “expert” explaining in multiple steps how to protect oneself, e.g. hair pulling, allowing staff to practice only a few times, before moving on.  This does not teach anything.  There is no practicing verbal de-escalation and no movements are done to become ingrained or could be done under pressure.

My current agency has a program called S.O.L.V.E.: Solutions of Limiting Violent Episodes.  It was developed by a former Law Enforcement Officer (LEO).  There are two trainings for the SOLVE, twelve and twenty four hours, depending on if you work in a group home.  A yearly recertification is required.  This training includes verbal de-escalation and self-defense techniques, cumulating in a written test and mock real world scenario.  It sounds like a good program on paper.  In reality, you cannot fail, all answers are given before the test, and you need to demonstrate the skills with an agreeable aggressor.  The verbal de-escalation advice is sound, but not stressed.  Once you pass the course, the recertification is around skills only.  Again, you cannot fail.  I’ve seen them pass people who don’t know their lefts and rights.  How does this help clinicians in the field?  It hinders them.  “I passed SOLVE, I must be okay.”  This is akin to the person who just got their black belt.  “Because I’m a black belt I can defend myself.”  No, you, most likely, cannot.  When that client becomes verbally aggressive, can you remember what someone said months ago?  Can you remember a skill you practiced five times?  In almost all circumstances I can say “No!”  It is a false sense of security.  The big question I have, is what can?

Many years ago, I was trained in the “spear” technique: observe and act.  It worked.  However, I quickly realized, that I would hit many of my clients when they got close in a session with no malicious intention.  The goal is psychiatric rehabilitation, not to hit someone who is already traumatized.  Recently in a master class with Sensei George Mattson, he was taking about aggressors and how much distance one should have between yourself and the aggressor.  I have some knowledge about keeping space, I have an idea of what to do if someone makes me aware that they are an aggressor, I can work with that.  It’s when people are close that I don’t know what to do; I have had physical contact multiple times before I could respond accordingly.  So I asked Sensei Mattson about this.  He told me that there was a lot of “infighting” that one could do, and continued on with the class.  What does one do when in close contact but is trying to help?  Identifying the threat and being attune to situations helps.

Gavin de Becker is right, fear is a gift.  However, those in the helping professions tend to ignore this gift.  How many times does a clinician from a psych triage program go alone into an unknown home to do an assessment?  How often does a clinician go to a new client’s home without reading anything about the person, regardless of the safety issues?  We, many times, talk ourselves out of these feelings, stating that we are in the helping profession.  I teach listening to oneself and removing oneself before the situation escalates, but only filed a Harassment Prevention Order (HPO) after twenty-four logged voicemails, multiple threats, and a death threat.  He broke part of my car and I continued working with him.  What, do we in the helping professions have to rely on to keep ourselves safe in our work?  This is the big question for me.  We are out in the home, in the community, in the school every day and there is no adequate way to address the safety issues that we encounter.  What there is to rely on is not sufficient.  Spend some time, talk with a social worker, talk with a psychologist, or a clinical nurse.  They all will have stories and their own take on this issue.


Safety vs. Security – Erik Kondo

Understand the Difference Between Safety and Security, it Might Save Your Life.

It is common for people to want to increase security for themselves, their family, their neighborhood, their country, etc. In most cases, people think in terms of adding security measures in an existing security system. The basic thinking is that the current security system has a weakness that needs to be reinforced or a hole than needs to be filled.

For the sake of this writing, I am going to talk about security in terms of a security system and/or security measures while safety is the inverse of absolute risk from a harmful event. The lower the risk of a dangerous event occurring, the greater the safety. This relationship applies to both personal and public safety.

Security is some action or measure than is done to protect against a known risk. The simplest example is a home security system which is designed to help prevent home invasions and burglaries. Another example is carrying bear spray while walking in the woods. These are two means of raising the level of your security system.

Safety on the other hand is really a function of the overall ecosystem. Safety is determined by the result of the interconnected factors that make up the entire ecosystem. One of these factors is the security system.  The level of a person’s safety is a function of his or her risk to danger. Public safety is determined by the public’s level of risk to danger.

For many, security is thought of as being like a fence. The fewer weaknesses/holes in the fence, the more effective the fence will be at keeping people out. The same thinking goes for personal safety. In this case, the person is the security system. By shoring up his or her weaknesses, his or her personal security system becomes more effective.

The preceding methodology seems to be common sense. But as compelling and as reasonable as it seems, it has a logical flaw. Measures that strengthen a security system don’t necessarily lead to greater actual safety in the real world.  The reason for this is that actual safety is a function of the safety ecosystem in which the security system is just one of many interconnected elements. The strength of the security system is NOT the only factor that determines the overall safety of the ecosystem.

An ecosystem is a complex network of interacting elements. A security system is one element of this ecosystem. Since all the elements are interconnected, changing one element has the potential of changing the other elements too. In other words, strengthening the security system may have the unintended effect of upsetting the balance of the overall safety ecosystem. In this case, the result may be an ecosystem that is less safe despite the presence of a stronger security system.

How can this be? For example, assume that you wear a padded vest as protection against being punched in the chest. It is an undeniable fact that if someone punches you in the chest, you will be more protected than without the vest. Therefore, you must be safer, correct? And if everything stayed the same, you would be safer. But everything doesn’t stay the same in an ecosystem. Its very nature is to be interconnected. Therefore, changing one element has the effect of changing some or all the other elements.

In this example, it is very possible that wearing a padded chest protector in public will influence some people to want to punch you since you now are a juicy target. Therefore, your risk of being punched in the chest has just gone up. And while you may be more protected from the chest punch, you may end up falling and hitting your head. You may end up getting into more fights then before you had the chest protector. The overall result is that your safety decreased even though your security system has increased.

Getting back to the fence example. Let’s assume that the fence surrounds an apple tree grove. The fence has the effect of keeping all but the most determined people out. These few people climb the fence and steal a few apples every day. Therefore, you decide to make the fence higher and top it with barbed wire. Now even the most determined thieves will not risk climbing the fence. Your security system is stronger.

But the safety of the apples depends upon the ecosystem in which they exist, not just the strength of the security system. Since the determined thieves can no longer climb the fence to get the apples, they change tactics and join with many others to ram a huge hole in the fence. The net result is a hoard of people who attack the fence, create a hole, and pillage the apple grove. The overall safety of the apple grove decreased despite the increase in the security system.

What this means is that the level of safety can go down as a result of the level of security going up. For some people, this is a mind-blowing concept. That is because they erroneously think that safety and security are the same concepts. And if there was no safety ecosystem, then the level of safety would be the same as the level of security.

In real life, there is always an ecosystem. Therefore,

Safety = Security System +/- (The effect of everything else in the ecosystem which changes as the Security System changes).

Therefore, it is impossible to determine whether increasing the strength of the security system will increase or decrease overall safety unless all the elements of the ecosystem are taken into consideration. Every person and every entity exists in a unique ecosystem with different factors to consider.

Let’s consider a few more examples.

  • Carrying a knife is a security measure. Doing so increases the magnitude of the person’s security system. But whether it increases their safety depends upon the person’s unique ecosystem. If carrying a knife increases the possibility that it will be taken and used against them, then it lowers their safety. If it increases the possibility that they will be shot, then it lowers their safety. If it increases the chance that they will go to jail, then it lowers their safety. On the other hand, if it doesn’t do the above and increases the chance that they will be able to use it for self-protection, then it does increase their safety.
  • Increased police firepower and body amour represent an increase in security. If this increase creates a deterrence from people committing crimes, then it increases public safety. If on the other hand, many members of the public see this increase police security methods as menacing and decide to retaliate by rioting and committing crimes, then public safety is reduced.

Don’t be fooled by those who think that safety is that is always the same as security. Or those who consider that increasing security measures is simply a matter of “common sense”. They don’t know any better.

You live in an ecosystem. Your family lives in an ecosystem. Your neighborhood and your country, both exist in ecosystems. Increasing your safety requires more than just adding or strengthening security measures. It requires understanding all the factors involved and taking into consideration how they interact.



Positive and Negative – Rory Miller

About the terms ‘positive’ and ‘negative.’

In operant conditioning, behaviors are changed by either reinforcement, which increases the target behavior, or punishment, which decreases the target behavior.

Behaviorists break down reinforcement and punishment further as either positive or negative.

Positive and negative in this context are not value judgement or ethical markers. “Positive punishment” does not mean “good punishment.” They are also not like the mathematical values of positive and negative. “Negative reinforcement” absolutely does NOT mean “punishment.”

In behavioral psychology, “positive” refers to presence and “negative” refers to absence. If I am using positive reinforcement, I am introducing something into the system to increase the behavior. If I am using negative reinforcement, I am removing something from the system to increase the behavior. Food can be positive reinforcement because it tastes good and simultaneously negative reinforcement because it removes hunger. Corporal punishment is positive punishment because it introduces pain into the system. Confinement is negative punishment because it removes stimulation from the environment.

There are some conflict and life management skills that require this understanding of positive and negative. I’ll describe a few here.

The first is a very basic positive speech pattern. You will find clearer communication if you are careful to use positive language. Again, positive does not mean happy or encouraging.

Positive speech is to give instruction on what to do. Negative speech would be to give instruction on what NOT to do.

If you tell a child, “Don’t play in the river” the child may not hear the “don’t.” The child may actively focus away from the “don’t” and honestly believe he or she was ordered to play in the river. Further, proscription is not as limiting as we would like. The child can follow your order while choosing to play on the rocks above the river or with the alligators next to the river, or decide building a dam is working on the river not playing in the river.

Positive speech is to tell the child what to do, not what is forbidden. Negative: “Don’t play in the river.” Positive: “Go play in the treehouse.”

The second. Whenever possible, use positive instruction and praise over criticism. Telling a student he is doing something wrong does not help him do it right. Even if instructions are included, e.g. “Don’t do it that way, do it this way” there are two messages to understand instead of one and all of the problems of negative speech described above are still in play. Simply saying, “Do it this way” will be far more easily understood.

Using instruction instead of criticism, has other value as well. Criticism, no matter how well delivered or well intentioned is always a punishment. It will always decrease behavior. When poor behavior need to be stopped, it has some uses, but when you are trying to increase good behavior, whether in interaction or instruction, criticism does absolutely nothing.

If the instruction is good, following the instructions makes life better in some way. Pretty much by definition, if any training or instruction makes life worse, it’s bad training. This means you do not have to reinforce behavior, the results reinforce the behavior for you. When reinforcement or punishment comes from a person (you, in this case) the lesson can always be denied by the subject if he or she decides you are being unfair or have an ulterior motive.

A third application of the positive/negative mindset is very powerful. It is easier to do nothing than something, but it is far easier to do something than to not do something. Confused?

Animals are inherently lazy. In nature, animals rarely burn calories unless they have to. It is easier to sit and watch a gazelle than to chase one down.

However, one of the hardest things for people to deal with is a void. When you are used to doing something, not following that habit becomes hard. It is always easier to substitute a new good habit than it is to quit an old bad habit.

Most people have a hard time dieting because they are giving up foods they like. It is far easier to change diet if you think of it in the positive sense: not giving up food, but looking for new foods you like better. Not buying potato chips is hard. It is a negative. Buying celery instead of potato chips is considerably easier. Quitting smoking is hard. Taking up a hobby, like knitting, so you have something to do when you want to smoke is not easy, but much easier.

Cutting bad things out of your life is the negative (absence) approach and can be quite difficult. The positive approach, substituting good things for the bad is far easier and more effective.