Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Book Review: First Defense --Anxiety and Instinct for Self Protection

Hopkins, David. 2015.  First Defense –Anxiety and Instinct for Self Protection. 177 pages. YMAA Publication Center, Inc, Wolfeboro NH

This is an interesting book. The author, a psychologist and martial artist who has worked in personal protection, has written this book to fill the need for a book that discusses some of the links between psychology and self defense from human predators. While labelled as focusing on anxiety and “instinct” the book also discusses the value of empathy, or understanding a person’s needs, fears, and motivations, when facing them as an opponent or potential opponent in a dangerous, violent, or potentially violent confrontation.

Although, in my opinion, a bit padded in places, the results are interesting. I say “padded” because the author tells more stories than I would like and in more detail about dealing with stalkers and gangsters and other predatory or dangerous people who has dealt with, usually in a manner where they were controlled without actual hands-on, physical violence. Although some are informative I felt that others went on longer than necessary.

The book presents a step-by-step program to develop a person’s awareness and observation. There are twenty seven different exercises offered in the book to develop a person’s ability to accurately be aware of their environment and choose how to respond appropriately.

Chosen at random, a few of these exercises are as follows. The first, on page 14, is for a person to spend some time each day focusing on their sensory perceptions and record the results. Others build on this. The fourth, for instance, encourages the reader to do the same, but this time also record anxiety they experience while doing the exercise. On page 57, a random selection, the reader is encouraged to do the same exercise, but this time in a public place. Page 114, another random selection, the author shares a recommended way in which to make after-action observations following a violent or threatening incident. Moving ahead, and selecting another exercise at random, this one comes from a chapter on special considerations for women and children. It encourages an adult, the reader, to think of ways in which games and rituals can help them work through and process trauma and then how these games and rituals can be adapted for children to help them work through trauma. (As an aside, it is my understanding that one of the most effective ways children process trauma is through game playing.)

Such exercises should give the flavor of the book. As stated, it’s an interesting work and someone interested in developing their ability to be aware of both their surroundings to improve their self-protection ability and to process and handle the anxiety that often comes from thinking about and being exposed to violent situations should get a lot out of this book. 

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