Mental Strength and Deescalation

Avoiding conflict is human nature, most of us would say we’d rather live a happy life than sit in a dull anger filled world. When most people are asked how they deal with conflict, most say they avoid it because it’s human nature to avoid things we don’t like (Runde, 2012). But in reality there may be times where we are faced with the challenge of having to face confrontation whether we want to or not. Some of those instances would (and could) include living in a high crime-rate neighborhood, having bad blood with former spouses whom you share parenting time, deranged ex-lovers and the list could go on. Granted we would like to change our living arrangements, but it’s not that easy for some of us.

Because we are pro-firearm and pro-safety, it’s our duty to explore the possibility that we may encounter a situation that we are carrying a firearm and face a verbal or physical altercation at any time. That being said, we also have a duty of being responsible, and that means making attempts at deescalating situations before they arise.

In every life or death situation where a gun shot is required there is the right time to pull the trigger. If you shoot too early you face the possibility that violence could be avoided, and if you shoot too late you might not have to opportunity to pull the trigger at all.

According to the National Association of Social Workers there are two critical elements that are involved in deescalation:

  1. Reasoning with an enraged person is not possible. The first and only objective in deescalation is to reduce the level of arousal so that discussion becomes possible.
  2. Deescalation techniques are abnormal. We are driven to fight, flight or freeze when scared; however, in deescalation we can do none of these. We must appear centered and calm even when we are frightened. Therefore, these techniques must be practiced before they are needed so that they can become second nature (NASW, 2011).


Our brain is like a muscle, if we don’t use it, it becomes weak. The only way to correctly judge a moment is with a calm mind, and the only way to be calm in a dangerous encounter is to be mentally prepared. In all of my classes I teach the students about the ‘what if’ game. This is where we visualize an encounter and play various outcomes based on both our environment and decisions that we would make.

Often when this technique is used we become better at critical decision making, but one of the most common initial actions is to move faster. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. When our minds are moving at higher rates our bodies actually become slower because our hyper-active minds need to act on a decision (Karmakar & Whitney, 1995). Imagine yourself in a stressful situation, if you are able to remain calm you have a strong foundation for dealing with stress. Practice doing scenarios on your own at home, or in the car and play out various outcomes.

“In any encounter,

whoever is the more calm and centered,

has the advantage.”

~ Vishnu Karmakar & Thomas Whitney



Karmakar, V. & Whitney, T. (1995). Mental Mechanics of Shooting: How to Stay Calm at the Center. Center Vision, Inc.

NASW, (2011). Verbal Deescalation Techniques. National  Association of Social Workers. Retrieved from

Runde, C. (2012). The Trouble with Avoiding Conflict. Conflict Dynamics. Retrieved from

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