Because of my love for martial arts and my hatred for violence, I’m often curious what hypnotic skills I could use when confronted by a potentially threatening situation. I was inspired to write this post by Jamie Lynn Spears’ (Britney’s sister) recent act of heroism that has been trending on social media. For those of you who don’t know, Ms. Spears broke up a fight at a Pita Pit by going behind the counter, grabbing a knife, and waving it around while yelling at everyone. As I watched the video I wondered what she was saying, if they suddenly realized how stupid they were being, if they were just calming down anyway, or they suddenly realized they could find their picture next to a “Washed-Up Teen Idol Stabs Herself in Fight” headline. Either way, the event inspired me to speak on the topic of non-violent ways to avoid violence.
The most basic hypnotic skill that I can think to apply is what we call a pattern interrupt. If the phrase isn’t quite self-explanatory enough, a pattern interrupt is any means of interrupting the pattern of a particular thought process. Sometimes when I have a friend or client who I can tell is sending the conversation down a negative path, I’ll say something interesting enough to grab their attention but random enough to get them to switch gears.
Richard Bandler said that he was inspired to utilize this technique when he made his first trip to Japan. When he met a Japanese man there, he automatically reached his hand to shake and say hello. When the Japanese man bowed leaving Bandler with no idea what to do with his hand, he instantly went into a trancelike state.
Another famous hypnotist, Derren Brown, once said that when he worked in pubs in London he would often be confronted by belligerent drunks who he could tell were looking for a fight. As they would begin to initiate trouble with him, he would calmly look them in the eye and calmly say something along the lines of “There’s an avocado tree that grows 6 feet below my front door.” Now that doesn’t make much since, especially given the context, so the instigator’s unconscious mind is stuck having to figure out why those words make since or are relevant, leaving him to lose original violent state of mind.
Something along these lines could change a persons though process long enough to make them forget about being violent and calm down, or it could simply give you enough time to get away. Sometimes you could simply interrupt someone’s state of mind by exemplifying a different state of mind. Maybe you remember the guy who breaks up a fight on a New York subway car simply by eating his chips, standing between those who were fighting, and remaining calm.
The Right Kind of Crazy
A martial arts instructor once told me that when someone wants to fight you, it often helps to convince him/her that you’re even crazier than they are. He told me that he’s even taken that to the extreme where he’ll start rolling his eyes, grunting, and drooling. That’s a pattern interrupt for ya! He said that some of the time, who ever is instigating will think “This guy’s lost it, and I’m not going to mess with him.” He then said other time the instigator will be crazy enough to identify with him, and a new friendship is borne. (Of course, if that doesn’t work, he is a martial arts instructor and doesn’t have a lot to fear.)
I’ve heard that surprise is the best way to deter violence. Next time you see a fight break out consider wearing your shoes on your hands and running around the fight yelling the lyrics to “Oops I did it Again.” I found a video of a man who was in the process of attacking a woman on the subway when another man comes up behind him and pulls his pants down. Now the hero who steps up, doesn’t take the fight further; he just stands his ground and makes it clear that he can’t get away with harming someone else. The aggressor is caught off guard, pulls up his pants, and walks away. It’s hard to look tough when someone’s caught you with your pants on the ground.
Kill with Kindness
Someone very wise once spoke about turning the other cheek and loving your enemies. I take that teaching very seriously, because I believe that we are all part of this human family and that causing harm to others is causing greater harm to you. Now, I don’t believe that turning the other cheek is about passively letting harm come to you. I think it’s about looking your abuser in the eye to show your humanity. After all, being broken, hurt, or sick enough to want to harm you fellow man is animal logic. Sometimes a reminder of that humanity is all that is necessary.
The best advice I could give you for defending yourself is run and hide. However, if that isn’t an option or that person is preying on someone more defenseless than you, it helps to have techniques for defusing tensions before they rise to a level that is dangerous. So practice interrupting patterns, be willing to out-crazy someone, and once you’ve distracted them, offer to buy them something to eat or drink. If someone walks up and insults you, ask them to sit discuss it in more depth. Everyone has a struggle that you could learn from. And who knows, you might meet a life-long friend that way.