The Five Stages of Personal Security

The Five Stages of Personal Security is a model that charts the evolution of a person in terms of self-defense effectiveness combined with peace of mind. Regardless of whether or not a person is actively involved in some type of self-defense training or education, he or she exists on some point within the Five Stages. 

It is important to keep in mind, that the path to maximum personal security is not simply a function of time and effort. A person can progress to a particular stage and not go any further. It is also possible to regress backwards along the path with time. All the stages are also governed by the Goldilocks Law of the Inverted U-Curve. That means that there is a Just-Right amount of time and magnitude of effort for each stage that is most beneficial for growth. Too Little of each stage can be as detrimental as Too Much. At the Downside of the Inverted-U, the slope points downward. That means that further progression along the curve creates a less beneficial result.


 Those that are in the first stage are in DENIAL of the fact that they are prey. Every living being on this planet is prey to some other living being. Some beings may be more predator than prey, but all are prey in some form. Those that don’t consider themselves to be prey are in denial of the existence of real risk and danger in the world from other beings.

A little denial is good. As human beings we can’t function in society if we constantly think about all the bad events that could transpire to ourselves and our loved ones. In order to drive a car safely and effectively, we cannot dwell on the prospect of dying in a fiery wreck at each moment. In reality, that horrible accident could happen to any of us, but it is unlikely on a statistical level. On the other hand, too much denial leads to taking unnecessary risks and ignoring basic safety precautions. These types of actions increase the likelihood of an accident. Thus lowering a person’s safe driving effectiveness.

Many people exist on the Downside of the Denial Inverted-U. They live their lives with the belief that nothing bad will happen to them. They create peace of mind by denial of risk and danger. They deny the fact that they are prey.

Too little denial makes it hard to function due to all your “concerns”. Too much denial makes you easy prey. You need a Just-Right amount of denial to be function smoothly a society that contains inherent risks.


The evolution of Denial is Fear. Once a person comes to realization that he or she is in fact, prey. It is natural to become afraid. In fact, in many ways, Denial is both a conscious and unconscious effort to avoid the stage of Fear. The Fear stage may last for many years. It many last so long that it is thought of as the accepted state of living. People in the Fear stage actively take safety precautions and use risk reduction strategies. These actions increase their self-defense effectiveness well beyond those in Denial.

But, many in the Fear stage progress to the Downside of the Fear Inverted-U, where their fearfulness inhibits their confidence and ability to handle situations. They are unassertive. They use submissiveness as the primary strategy for resolving conflict and confrontations. Their fear also greatly reduces their peace of mind. They have too much fear.

Many people stuck in the Fear stage are paralyzed into passivity and inaction. They accept fear as a way of life. They don’t feel they have the power to change their situation. They limit themselves to worry and passive methods of risk reduction. Others in the Fear stage buy self-defense products and carry weapons they have no intention of using in an actual self-defense situation. But the presence of these weapons helps provide them with a feeling of “security”. They view personal safety a primary concern, yet they cannot bring themselves to actively address their fears with concrete actions.

Too little fear makes you complacent to risk. Too much fear and you become either paranoid or overwhelmed. A Just-Right amount of fear encourages you keep safe.


The realization that one is prey combined with the stress of fear progresses forward to anger. The anger is necessary to provide the motivation to move beyond the Fear stage. A person dominated by fear is unlikely to have the mindset necessary to take definitive action.

The Anger stage can manifest itself in many forms. A common form of Anger is protests and demands for “someone or some entity to do something about the problem”. People in the Anger stage actively support and want to see change. Crime needs to be reduced. Criminals need to be caught and punished. Men need to stop assaulting women. People have a “right” to be and feel safe in all situations. These are common ideals put forth by people in the Anger stage.

Many in the Anger stage actively seek out means of creating personal protection. These means may involve seeking martial arts instruction, or obtaining a weapon such as a firearm, knife, pepper spray, etc. Those in the Anger stage are tired of the fear. They want to fight back against the “Bad Guys”. They want to protect themselves and their loved ones from the criminals of the world. Anger drives them to take action.

Those that progress to the Downside of the Anger Inverted-U actively talk and write about how they will respond instantly with physical defense to any the perceived threat. Many see all threats as life and death situations. The rallying call of the Anger stage is “I would rather be judged by 12 then carried by six.” Many deep into in the Anger stage have no interest in learning about self-defense law. They see themselves as the Good Guys fighting back against the Bad Guy. Therefore, the law doesn’t apply to their situation.

Anger is necessary to employ many basic methods of physical defense and execute the concept of “attacking the attacker”. Those with too little anger are usually not able to perform the actions required such as standing up to, injuring or stopping an attacker by any available means. They have too much fear and too little anger. But too much anger leads to over-kill. It leads to training in methods of domination and punishment as opposed to deterrence, de-escalation, escape and evasion.

It is common for many self-defense practitioners to progress to the Anger stage and never evolve beyond it. The Anger stage can be deceptively empowering. Many in the Anger stage look at those in the Denial and Fear stage as weak and naïve. They see themselves as the knowledgeable and strong ones. They feel that with enough training and/or with the right weapons they will be able to stop the Bad Guy every time. They are unconcerned with thoughts of possible remorse, moral, and legal consequences from the use of extreme force.

Too little anger and you usually don’t have the mindset to take action. Too much anger and you over-react and/or over-enforce situations creating backlashes. You become a danger to yourself. A Just-Right amount of anger provides you with the motivation you need to keep safe.


Those that have evolved through the previous stages arrive at the Synergy stage. It is here they start to understand that Denial, Fear, and Anger are intertwined and interdependent. A person doesn’t leave any stage completely behind. He or she brings some of that stage with him as he moves forward. A person in the Synergy stage has a Just-Right amount of Denial, Fear, and Anger as a foundation.

In the beginning of the Synergy stage, people start to understand how all the concepts learned and skills acquired in the previous stages work together. They realize that the Five Stages of Personal Security is simply a model that helps them to create a framework for categorizing their emotions and charting their development. As the Synergy stage progresses, they learn to apply judgment to situations as opposed to reacting in a scripted pre-determined manner. They expand their knowledge and skills to new areas in order to deal with a wide variety of threats and scenarios. They understand the underlying principles and concepts that unify their various skills.

The Synergy stage has the potential to last a long time. It is a time of maximum learning and accomplishment. It is more measured and paced then the previous stages. Much of the Synergy stage consists of applying what has been learned previously to an ongoing lifestyle. Risk reduction measures become as ordinary and unemotional as buckling a seat belt.

Those that move too far to the Downside of the Synergy Inverted-U are never satisfied with what they understand and what they capable of performing. These people run the risk of becoming one-dimensional in their pursuit of more self-defense knowledge and ability. They miss out on the living the life they are trying to protect.

Too little time and effort in the Synergy stage doesn’t provide enough development. Too much and the person sacrifices his or her other interests and pursuits. A Just-Right amount provides the greatest evolution and a balanced life.


The Accept stage marks the end of the constant evolution of Synergy. It is at this stage that the person is at peace with his or her knowledge and ability. She has truly acquired peace of mind. She is accepted the reality of risk and feels prepared to deal with it. But he also realizes that not all circumstances can be controlled. That there are always situations and events that no amount of preparation, skill, or knowledge can change the outcome.

In this stage, the person has accepted that risk reduction and safety precautions are a part of life. They are the tradeoff cost of greater security. She has come to embrace her previous stages as part of her development. He no longer needs to use denial to ease function, fear to encourage safety, or anger to create motivation. She no longer needs the stead growth of Synergy. She feels secure.

But the Accept too is stage is governed by the Goldilocks Law of the Inverted U-Curve. Too much acceptance leads back to the complacency of Denial.

The Five Stages of Personal Security is a model that helps people reference their development in terms of ability to effectively manage conflict and also have peace of mind. It is not a science. No person actually exists as a point on the curve. The curve can be general or specific to certain situations. For example, someone could be in the Anger stage in terms of street harassment, while also be in the Denial stage for home invasion.

The model is a one of the many guides which help people evolve towards great personal security.