In today’s world of high-probability sporadic violence, it is important to stay ahead of the action-reaction power curve. Roman Philosopher Seneca (4 BC – AD 65) is credited with saying “The man who has anticipated the coming of troubles takes away their power when they arrive.” The sooner you can hear it, see it, smell it coming, places you further in front of the curve and in position to avoid, mitigate or defend against a developing threat.

Failing avoidance, how may we then further mitigate or defend against the maladies of civil unrest? In ways are more readily accessible than you may think. They are awareness, calmness, and appearance.


Whether at home, in your car or on foot, applying good situational awareness eliminates the tactical disadvantage of being surprised or placing yourself behind the action-reaction power curve. As such it can be used to control your environment.

Protection experts use situational awareness as a deterrent. When a predator knows that you are on to them, the element of surprise has been removed and attenuates their motivation. Situational awareness keeps you informed of what your environment is telling you and a step ahead of events that are emerging around you. It keeps you connected to your surroundings and prepared. When effectively applied, situational awareness can be used to take control of your environment, act as a deterrent and make you a harder target.


The mind, your most powerful weapon, is also your greatest asset. The mind is what allows you to think, perceive and make sound tactical decisions. It is paramount to the self-protection and that of your loved ones in the event of civil unrest.

How, then, using our most powerful weapon, may control of our environment as opposed to our environment controlling us? According to second century Stoic Roman Emperor and Philosopher Marcus Aurelias, who reigned during a pandemic and civil unrest of the 2nd century AD over the most powerful empire on earth at the time, “External things are not the problem, it’s your assessment of them.”

In other words, we cannot control the events transpiring around us, but we can control our perception of them leading to sound decisions which in turn allow us to formulate an appropriate response. Sound tactical decisions are made when your mind can process accurate incoming information.

Nothing is more formidable in combat than a clear mind. Marcus Aurelias advises “It’s all in how you perceive it. You are in control. You can dispense with misperception at will [resulting in] serenity, total calm, and safe anchorage.” Your mind additionally plays a critical role in building mental resilience and confidence. Protection experts, who work in high-threat environments, are sometimes armed only with their most powerful weapon. They need to remain calm and collected when under duress, and they must have what it takes mentally to be successful.

Remaining clam is a function of mental toughness which is the measure of individual resilience and confidence that can project success at home, at work, in competition and under duress. It refers to any set of positive non-physical attributes that helps you to cope with the threatening situation and perform under duress and in difficult situations.

You must be willing to hope for the best but plan for the worst. Using mental imagery, visualize yourself in the middle of your worse-case nightmare before it occurs. What would you do? What are your options? How would you best respond?

If you plan ahead of time, run that movie clip or scenario in your imagination and work out solutions mentally, then, if it ever happened, you’ve already consciously worked through the problem and are far more prepared to engage a real-world violent physical threat. Remaining calm makes you a harder target.


Those intent on causing harm will perceive you as either a soft target or hard target. You want to appear as a hard target and make them ask the question “Are their softer targets?” and respond “Yes.” To do this, you can eliminate soft-target indicators such as “do you appear to be unaware?”, “do you appear to be weak?”, “do you appear to be alone?” You can be any one or even any two of these things but if you appear to be all three combined this is like hitting the jackpot in Las Vegas for the predator.

Another soft-target indicator is a breach of informational security (INFOSEC). The information you publicly share can be used against you. Did you or anyone in the family post anything on-line that can be used against you?

Case in point, a close family friend recently purchased a very high-end home-entertainment system of which she was so proud she couldn’t wait to post it on her social media replete with high-resolution photos and video. “Oh, it’s so amazing! It was expensive but it’s totally worth it! See here’s one of the 75” flat screen TVs in our living room, this one in the master bedroom, another one in basement, and one in each of the kids’ rooms. We keep all the audio and system electronics right here in Joe’s gun room but we’re bummed out because we won’t be able to use it until we get home next month from our vacation so there won’t be anyone here to enjoy it!” Truly a cringe-worthy security breach.

Do the bumper stickers on the back of your car tell a predator how many kids you have? Where they go to school? Where you live? That you may possibly have weapons on board? A breach of INFOSEC can cause a predator to deliberate: “Is this an easy mark?” Avoid displaying either identifying or potentially antagonistic observable messages. Be cognizant of appearance.

Our choices determine our actions and the actions of others. Advocated by one of the most revered world leaders of antiquity, such proactive measures as awareness, calmness and appearance applied during civil unrest remain as relevant today as they did in the 2nd century.