Emotional Self Defense

Emotional Self Defense Curriculum. This can be used for women and men, or girls and boys ages 12 and older. You can use this as either a discussion or lesson plan.

  • Introduction
  • Intuition
  • Warning Sings
  • Communicate
  • Find Solutions
  • Be Strong
  • Summary Questions 

Introduction  Emotional self defense is the first step in preventing violence. Prevention is the theme of this curriculum. If you can keep yourself out of violent situations and learn different ways to handle harassment you will save yourself, your family, and your friends a lot of pain. In this curriculum you will learn to use your intuition to be aware of warning signs. You will also learn how to be strong by communication and problem solving.

Even with precautions and smarts, anyone can be a victim. If you do all that you can and you are still abused, it is still not your fault. Abusers come in all colors and cultures, they choose to hurt and that is their fault, not the people they hurt. Victim blame is a popular phenomenon of making those who suffer feel as if they did something wrong.  Do not fall into this line of thinking. Yes if you juggle saws and cut your arm, then it is your fault, but getting hurt by someone else after you went into a situation that may or may not be dangerous is still not your fault. We each choose and are responsible for how we treat others. We cannot blame someone else if we hurt them or say they were asking for it.

There are three main keys to prevention.

  • Be aware of warning signs
  • Keep an open mind about following your intuition.
  • Have a strong sense of self worth so you can stand up for yourself and fight back.

Intuition  Intuition is not some magical quality that only certain people are endowed with. EVERYONE has it. You simply need to be aware of your inner guidance system. Intuition is also called “following your gut” or “listening to your heart”.  Label it however you want. You have it and you have the ability to use it.

  • Do you ever get that feeling in the pit of your stomach or those thoughts in your head that something is not quite right?
  • Have warning bells gone off that are telling you to get out of a situation as soon as possible?
  • Do you think maybe this person has an ulterior motive?
  • Does a story you are being told sound untrue?

Ask your intuition “What should I do in this situation? What will be the best first step?”

These are all feelings of intuition and you can follow those feelings to keep yourself, your friends and your family safe. Sometimes intuition can also feel like nerves. So until you are really in tune with your inner guide you can look for warning signs.

Record your intuitive decisions in a journal. When you encounter an important event write down what happened, how you felt, what your intuition told you and what action you took. Did you follow your instincts? Did you ignore your instincts? What was the outcome? You can later return to your journal to look for patterns and to see how often you do or don’t listen to yourself and whether that was a good or bad decision.

Warning  Signs  When you are with new people it is important to listen to what they say, watch their body language, and be aware of what they want from you. You can get warning signs from people and places.

  • How do they treat you? If someone treats you with respect you are not as likely to be used or abused. However even in that relationship there are warning signs from people who suddenly change their attitude around you. Do they act different around their family or friends compared to when you are alone?
  • Are they being more friendly than usual? A manipulator will often charm you into doing what they want without considering how it may affect you. A popular example of this is when someone you admire asks you to do something that you are not comfortable with, but you do it anyway to prove your worth. Often the asker knows very well that you are going against your gut, but feel they can make you do what they want anyway.
  • Did they just guilt trip you? A manipulator will use guilt as a tool to make you feel as if you should do what they want. They usually cry “poor me” or insist that you always get your way.  Guilt is used when someone feels bad about what they did, to deflect blame, or to get revenge. When you are assaulted with guilt turn the tables. Ask the other person if they are purposely trying to guilt trip you. Ask if they are feeling bad and would like to talk about it. These questions let the person know that you are not visiting guilt town with them. You can then try and find a solution together.
  • Do they say disparaging or negative remarks about others, about gender or race? If your date puts down your gender than they probably will not respect you later on in the relationship.  If your friend has prejudices that you personally find offensive, their view is not likely to change. People often have this idea that we can change someone else so that person is more like us and thus easier to get along with. The flaw in this idea is that real change must come from the individual.

Strange Places and Faces

If you are in an unfamiliar area be aware of your surroundings. Only you can decide if this new place is safe.

  • Is it clean or dirty?

If the area you are in is in disrepair or very dirty than the people who are there may not have respect for that area, other people who live there, or visitors. This is not a safe place to be. If the place is clean, but the people have a negative attitude it can also be unsafe. So it is important to pay attention to the people and your surroundings.

  • Are you in a well lit or public area with lots of people milling around?

If you are in an isolated area and something happens to you such as an injury, harassment or an attack there may not be anyone to help you.

  • Are other people friendly and polite?
  • Do you feel ignored or are people rude towards you?
  • What will you do if a problem arises?
  • Do you see a place to go for help such as a police station, hospital or welcome center?
  • Are you with someone you trust to stay with you and stand up for you?

Communicate  Use your voice. A lot of problems can be prevented when we clearly communicate what we want, need, and do or do not like. People are not mind readers. You may feel like your attitude is telling people what you think, which is often true but this is a dangerous idea. Saying one thing and acting in an opposing manner will give other people a chance to take advantage of you or think that you want something you don’t.  Keep your words and actions in sync.

When someone is harassing you tell them that you do not like it and ask them to stop. It is important to use an even tone of voice. Sometimes when we get upset we use a mocking or angry tone. This tone will only escalate the situation by creating a defensive feeling in the other person. Staying calm is also important if you need to report harassment to the authorities or a supervisor. There are occasions where letting your anger shine through can protect you, but this is generally in the face of immediate physical danger, not emotional abuse. Emotional abusers want to rile you up and make you do something that looks bad on your part. Keeping calm and speaking in an even tone prevents your abuser from holding the power. If they cannot get a reaction out of you they will most likely leave you alone. I have had several instances of harassment where I ignored the person and this has worked almost every time. Here is a list of what you can say to an emotional abuser.

  • I don’t appreciate that sort of talk about women (people/race/religion/orientation).
  • I don’t feel that is funny.  That is not funny to me.
  • Please stop doing that. Please stop saying that.
  • You do not have a right to harass me.
  • This school or job is not an appropriate place to say those things (act that way).
  • I will report you to a supervisor if you continue to harass me.
  • I will call the authorities if you continue to harass me.

It is imperative when dating or in a relationship to communicate your wants and needs in the beginning.  From violent break ups and stalkers to date or acquaintance rape many situations can be avoided by simply communicating and being up front about your feelings, expectations and limits. If you are not looking for a serious relationship than tell your partner from the start. If you do not want to have sex with someone tell them before you go to their apartment.

  • I like you and want to get to know you, but I am not ready for a sexual (physical) relationship.
  • Kissing does not mean that we will have sex.
  • I don’t want to see you anymore.

If the other person refuses to let you go or leave you alone yell for help.  It is said that yelling the words Fire or Police are more likely to bring help than Help or Rape. If you are in a place you know than seek help from an authority figure. If they cannot help you find the next person in charge and so on until you can find someone to help you.  Asking questions and communicating your distress is important if you need help.

Find Solutions  It is important to figure out if you are dealing with a difficult person or a difficult situation. Think of all the times you have lost your temper or became angry because you were in a situation that felt dangerous?  It is very easy for well adjusted people to use their cool and this is different than someone who is simply being difficult. It is also easy for people with mean intentions to use and hurt us. We must be our first defense against them. If you are being harassed or feel like an assault is coming use the steps below.

Take these steps to find a solution and keep your cool.

  • Neutralize your emotions. Allowing your emotions to run wild causes you to become irrational.
  •  Identify if this person is being difficult because of the situation or because they are purposely being difficult.
  •  Control the situation before it gets out of hand. Do you need to move to a safe space or a neutral environment?
  • Consider your different options to reach a solution or compromise.
  • Walk away without burning bridges.


Consciously make a choice to calm your emotions. Neutralize by visualizing how you want this situation to end and reminding yourself that you are in control of your reactions. In the beginning it is important to not get caught up in all the little points. Focus on the biggest point or the root of the problem and go from there. Don’t get caught up in fighting a war. Instead neutralize the first disagreement and turn it into a discussion.

Identify the type of person you are dealing with.

Is the situation causing problems?
Is the other person being mean or just reacting to the situation?
Is the other person acting difficult and arguing because this is how they solve their problems?
Is this a person who is always difficult?
Are they in a position of power and used to taking what they want no matter what?

Empathize with the other person instead of opposing them. Ask the other person questions.

What is wrong?
Why is this so important to you?
What do they feel you will lose if this doesn’t go your way?
Does this remind you of a similar situation in the past that did not work out?

Now that you have a better picture of what is happening, ask yourself questions.

What do you have at stake?
Is this an argument you can win?
Do you need to win this time?
Will this turn into a long term problem?
Is it only a problem in the short term?
If the other person is attacking you they may be attempting to control you?

Figure out how to keep the argument or problem from escalating.

Can you find an alternative solution?
Can you control the outcome by changing your view?
If this problem does not need to be solved immediately you can reach out and ask for assistance.
Who are your allies?
Who can you ask that is neutral?
Can you find a mediator?
Can you ask a supervisor?

Start a dialogue. Ask the other person to explain their side instead of simply attacking. Then explain your side.

Find alternative solutions by asking the other person questions.

What would you do in my position?
What if we took part of the problem away? Then could we find a solution to the rest of the problem?
What would be the pros and cons of doing it this way or that way?

Be Strong   Doubting our own strength and capabilities turns us into victim. Each and every one of us has specific talents and qualities that allow us to solve problems and adapt to new situations. By focusing on those skills you will feel competent and not be afraid to take action.

  • How do you react to stress?
  • In what way can that reaction be turned into a positive action?
  • Practice, practice, practice!  Teach yourself to react in a way that does not escalate negative emotions or violence.

Summary of Curriculum Questions

  1. Are there parts of this lesson you feel you need to work on?
  1. What other ways can you react to emotional abuse?
  1. Can you think back to instances when you were emotionally abused?
  1. How do you feel after someone has manipulated you or used guilt on you?
  1. How can you create a dialogue with your female friends about emotional abuse?
  1. How can you create a dialogue with your male friends about emotional abuse?
  1. What advice can you give to your daughter, niece, or younger women about your own experiences with emotional abuse?


Emotional abuse often happens before a physical assault. Learn how to fight back with Physical Self Defense.

16 thoughts on “Emotional Self Defense”

  1. This is brilliant. All things I wish I had been taught in school, but maybe things are changing. Your post opens up a dialogue I can have with my daughters.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Emotional Self Defense.. Brilliant!

    I forgive myself today February, 8, 2017 for ignoring my intuition in a very specific situation over and over again.
    My word I have come to recognize the enormous price I then had to pay.

    It’s time to now move forward looking back only to learn and grow back into what was mine to claim all along.

    Thank You for this beautiful site!
    What a blessing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Leah,
    Very helpful. I’m glad I took a moment to read your blog.
    I hope your foot is better. New Mexico balloon festival looks like fun.
    Missing your cheerful and positive attitude(:
    Take it easy girl.


  4. This is a great blog – or more like an article. I have been a counselor for 30 years and this would be great to give to clients. I would be delighted to have this as a guest blog on my candesscampbell.com site. Contact me if you are interested. Thanks for this contribution to the community!


  5. Thank you. I am always learning.
    It doesn’t always precede a physical assault, but in most DV relationships it evolves that way. I am glad you found something new here. 🙂


  6. My gosh, you have so GROWN! This is a fantastic article. Fantastic.

    You know, I didn’t know emotional abuse precedes a physical assault. That’s interesting.

    Wonderful advice here, especially about being with new people. Often you’re blind to observing those things as you’re just keen to be accepted. I appreciated this read.


  7. Staying levelheaded during emotional abuse and being aware of it takes practice and presence. It’s one of those things that most of us need to learn and some people have a more natural ability to do.


  8. This would be a great community outreach event – I would go to it if my library hosted one. Emotional Self-Defense is helpful and needed at every stage in life! I am still trying to learn it and have always been in need of it! I will have to refer back to this page often, especially to the “Neutralize” part. My husband constantly tells me to remove my emotions from the situation and I always feel dumbfounded that he is able to do that.


  9. I can’t think of a more empowering advocacy, for self and others. It is a wonderful day the day we realise that our past has taught us what we need to know to make a big difference to the wellbeing of the world! 🙂


  10. Thank you. This is learned from my personal experiences and my education. I allowed myself to be abused by my peers for so much of my early life. I really wasted so much energy getting upset over them, when all along I had the power to fight back and not take every painful word hurled my way. That is what I want others to realize for themselves.


What do you think? Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s