I was teaching a ‘corporate personal safety’ course at the offices of a very well known internet search engine the other day, and one of the things we discussed was the “legal right to defend yourself”.
And when I began talking about the specifics of the self-defence laws, one of the delegates piped up with something I’ve heard A LOT before…
“I don’t think people defend themselves when they should, for fear of getting in trouble with the law”
“That simply isn’t true!”
Let me explain:
In the heat of the moment, when you’re under stress and threatened and at risk of immediate and imminent danger, the part of your brain that would process if “getting in trouble with the law” is just not functioning.
That’s the intelligence part of your brain.
When you’re in a state of near panic, survival and having to take action immediately, you resort to your hindbrain, your primitive brain: the part that decides whether you will take flight (run) or fight (survive).
You may well do nothing (what’s known as freezing) but this has nothing to do with processing whether the law says ‘it’s ok for you to do something’.
It’s the profound effect of an adrenaline dump on your body.
Following the incident, you might start to reflect and process the event, at which point the legality of your actions might become a concern, but not while you’re resorting to the hindbrain.
What you can do prior to any potentially risky situation is to check your own internal ethics regarding protecting yourself (or somebody else that you care about) by answering these simple questions:
- Do you actually want to hurt somebody else unless you absolutely have to?
- If you had to hurt someone, would you want to hurt them more than what was necessary to stop things getting worse and so you can escape to safety?
- Do you actually want to kill anyone?
The answer to all of the above is, I sincerely hope, a resounding “NO”!
Then congratulations, it is highly likely you would act in line with the principles of self-defence law.
But being in fear of the law will certainly not be top of your list when the time comes (which I sincerely hope is never!) to have to look after yourself or someone else.
Just rest assured that by being a good human being you are following the right principals anyway, without knowing legal definitions word for word!