Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

You Desire Safety and Security, Where Do You Begin?

Three self-protection habits to get you started today.

Photo Taken by Melanie Lentz
Finding Security
Source: Photo Taken by Melanie Lentz

Safety and security are basic needs, right on the heels of physiological needs like food and water. It’s natural and expected to want protection and for daily actions to reflect that desire.

Security is not merely protection from unfavorable exterior breaches such as bodily harm. There is also an equally important internal component. If someone or something is allowed to negatively access a person’s emotional well-being, the long-term impact of this internal security breach may be life-altering.

On the flip side, exterior security does not always involve protection from physical harm. It also includes financial security, home security, and more.

Potential security threats are everywhere. How to possibly address them all? It’s not possible. Unfortunately, this reality often engenders fear.

Personal protection can be broken down into two categories: proactive and reactive. For example, Secret Service agents create security plans well in advance of a presidential visit. There are security measures already in place prior to the president’s arrival. Even so, agents have trained and prepared for the possibility of an unforeseen threat requiring their intuitive reactions.

In other words, protection is not about living in a constant state of fear. It’s about being aware, proactive, and prepared.

It can be helpful to break self-protection down into three simpler concepts that can be immediately implemented and practiced in daily life.

1. The Importance of Awareness

In the Secret Service, agents are trained to keep their heads on a swivel, meaning they avoid tunnel vision. Tunnel vision is a fixation on a perceived threat with a disregard for the peripheral.

Fixating on one thing in particular presents the risk of missing something important.

Situational awareness is not a new concept, but it’s often overlooked with familiarity and habit. It’s easy to become distracted with routine, not to mention the hurried hustle and bustle of daily life.

For example, if you’re walking through a parking lot while staring at an important email or searching in your bag for keys, you probably won’t see another person loitering in the lot looking for an opportunity to rob someone.

The safer habit would be to start retrieving your keys and putting away your cell phone prior to departure. That way, your eyes are free to scan for the unfamiliar or suspicious.

Avoiding distraction is a simple lifestyle adjustment to make today to optimize personal safety. Stay aware of the familiar in order to spot the unfamiliar when it counts.

2. Access Control

Access control is the foundation of an effective security plan. There’s a fine, delicate, and ever-changing balance between who and what should have access granted, denied, limited, or even revoked in anyone’s life. When applied to external as well as internal protection, this concept is often the most difficult to implement.

From an internal standpoint, it’s important to recognize who and what are allowed to influence and control daily emotions and actions. Internal access control is not shutting everything out to avoid harm. It’s mindfully opening the figurative door to the people and circumstances that have a positive, constructive, and empowering effect on your life. It’s also recognizing the circumstances that may require closing this door for self-protection.

External access control involves literal doors and other means of physically gaining access to a person.

Your residence is a logical place to start. There are countless ways to secure a residence, but one step to take today is identifying the access points. These are usually doors, windows, and gates. They should all be equipped with functioning locks, and you have knowledge of all keyholders. Consider whether installing exterior motion sensor lighting or security cameras might be an appropriate investment for your household.

Bodily protection is another aspect to address. In a threatening situation, you’ll generally respond in one of three ways: fight, flight, or freeze. The key to protection is avoiding a response that results in being frozen with fear.

One practical approach to physical protection is looking at what could be put between you and the attacker or threat. In a parking lot, other cars might be the easiest barrier. At home, it might be a piece of furniture. Creating distance is a concept taught by many experts in self-defense, and it’s closely associated with situational awareness.

If you don’t have self-defense experience, look into taking a basic self-defense class. Many communities offer such courses free of charge, and many martial arts studios offer self-defense clinics from time to time.

Learning to physically protect yourself can be intimidating at first. Remember, you can prepare for reactive protection with practice. You will perform how you practice. If you haven’t practiced, how will you know how to respond if fight, flight, or freeze ever stand between you and survival?

Make it a habit to regularly assess your access control, inside and out, and act to reduce the vulnerabilities whenever possible.

3. Intuition

If something doesn’t look right, smell right, or simply doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t right. The worst thing to do is dismiss intuition, the gut feeling that is usually accurate.

Sound intuition relies on awareness and access control to thrive. When distractions are removed and access points are identified, gut instincts are provided a clearer space to identify a problem.

Self-protection is not constantly fearing the possibility of harm. It’s acknowledging you’re worth protecting and doing something about it. Today you can start with the basics by proactively practicing awareness, access control, and mindful listening to your intuition.