Magical Thinking

I had a challenging conversation yesterday about my interest in safety and self-defense, and the end result left me feeling frustrated and bewildered.

“I believe in the Law of Attraction“, this person declared, “and by focusing so much attention on this negative and scary stuff, I think you’re attracting danger and violence into your life. If you don’t spend so much time and energy thinking about bad stuff happening, it won’t happen.”

I was momentarily stunned into speechlessness. It was clear from the conversation that the person I was talking to genuinely believed what he was saying. It was equally clear that he had no idea how absolutely ridiculous this idea sounds to my ears. The empirical evidence is vast, it seems to me, to support the proposition that trouble finds us whether we expect it or not, and that it’s better to have it find us prepared than unprepared. And besides which, all the evidence I’ve seen suggests that being aware and confident and prepared makes us less attractive targets for the predators, not more attractive. When I’d regained the ability to talk, I said so.

“Well, what does it matter – we’re all going to die anyway someday, so if it’s my time then it’s my time,” this person said. “And besides, it’s better not to fight back because at least then, the attacker is the only one using violence. If you fight back, you’re not any different morally than they are.”

Speechlessness, again. And those who know me know I’m not usually one who’s at a loss for words. “So,” I asked the person, “you’re saying it’s morally better to passively allow someone to rape, torture and kill me than it is for me to fight back?” Because surely that couldn’t be what he meant. Could it?

“Yes, I think so,” he replied. “If the criminal’s the only one who’s using violence, then they’re morally the ones at fault. If you fight back, then you’re using violence too. Maybe you’re even hurting or KILLING someone.” Said with eyebrows raised and horror in his voice. “So then you’re no better than the criminal.”

We changed the subject after that, because I’ll admit that I was getting angry. Angry that someone could seriously suggest that I should submit to whatever violence the wolves want to inflict simply so I can die smug in the knowledge that I didn’t use aggression or violence. Frustrated that these words could have come out of the mouth of someone who knows me, who knows not only about my interest in shooting and self defense, but who knows enough of my history to understand some of the events that motivated. Baffled that there are people out there who really think this way. I don’t believe the person I was speaking to was saying stuff just to get a rise out of me; I believe that he sincerely holds those views.

But I cannot for one second imagine living my life that way. I figure that if the Law of Attraction has played any role in my life, it’s to bring more “gun folk” into my circle, and considering that those are MY people, I feel only positive about that. I also figure that if being prepared and aware does anything at all, it’s to make me more self-confident, more capable, more independent, more self-assured, and much less likely to become a victim in the first place. (This is one of the ironies for me: The very steps we take to improve our skills, tools, training and awareness also serve to reduce the likelihood that we’ll need those skills and tools in the first place.)

I have a better understanding, now, of the mindset of the sheep (and I use that word in the sense Col. Dave Grossman did, not in a pejorative way.) They genuinely believe, I think, that the way to stay safe is to keep your head down, try to blend in, be inconspicuous, and hope that you’re lucky. They believe that, if trouble finds you, there’s nothing you can do but to submit and hope for the best. And, because they don’t have the training and tools to create other options, that belief might well be true.

As for me? I’d rather choose awareness, training, skills and equipment over passivity and luck. I shoot, I train, I learn. I go out into the world with the sincere hope that I will never have to use those skills to defend myself or my loved ones, and the knowledge that if I do, I’ll be prepared. That knowledge doesn’t trigger stress or paranoia or fear for me, as the reverse knowledge seems to for my friend. Instead, I feel calm and relaxed and capable and empowered.

I can’t see any way that magical thinking does that.

Photo credit: stock.xchg


  1. Mark Cronenwett says:

    You are right on, and now you have seen what my wife saw when she was at that congressional meeting that one night long ago. THAT is why she was so angry..

    I do believe that you will be a product of your beliefs and acquaintences, in that if you go to bad places, and stay around bad people, you chances of something bad happening go up. Surround yourself with good people, and things will be a little brighter.

    • Yup, that’s true. The trouble my friend may one day run into is that NOT doing dumb things in dumb places with dumb people is no guarantee that something bad WON’T happen. And, denial doesn’t protect us, either.

  2. Amen, sister. Remember that you are worth protecting and there is no moral ambiguity about that.

  3. Jessica says:

    He’ll continue to think this until something happens to him or someone he loves and then he’ll change his tune.

    Especially if he tells that person they shouldn’t have fought back, or should have just sat there and took it. And that person stops associating with such an ignorant person.

  4. Trey Hall says:

    I sincerely hope that the man you with whom you were speaking is not a father or husband. No decent man, worthy of the name, COULD believe that, or worse act on that belief. As a father, and as a husband it is my MORAL obligation to protect my children and my wife, if that means having to put myself between them and a dirtbag and using violence and risking injury (or worse), then morally I could do nothing else. Now before I get into trouble with any members of the opposite, fairer sex, part of that obligation is teaching my kids (and my wife if she chooses) to defend themselves and each other if I am not around or something happens to me. What scares me about this guys response is that he may teach this to someone, like a daughter, and in doing so he has done a horrible disservice.

    • It’s a tough thing, Trey. I recognize that I have an obligation to protect myself and my loved ones, too, but not everyone is willing or able to take on that responsibility. To use Col. Dave Grossman’s analogy, not everyone is willing or able (emotionally or physically) to be a sheepdog. I don’t know what the solution to that problem is.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

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