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Expert witness
Knives, Multiple attackers

Legal Aid/Training
for self-defense &
firearm use


Some of the authors listed in the other column also write fiction. In many ways it's easier to learn application of this information in that context.

Andrew Vachss
Burke/ Fiction

Clean Kill in Toyoko
Barry Eisler

Secrets of Body Language
Et al/ History Channel
(Non-verbal communication)

Campfire Tales from Hell
Et al
( Collection of first hand experiences)

Emotions Revealed
Paul Ekman
(Face reading. micro-expressions)

Gift of Fear
Gavin Debecker
( Mental preparation, psychology)

Life At The Bottom
Theo Dalrymple
(Life and attitudes of underclass)


Awareness without knowledge
is paranoia.

Normal, Abnormal, or Dangerous?

On this page:
Normal | Abnormal | Dangerous | Expansion on Abnormal

Normal, Abnormal, Dangerous is a multi-use tool not only for personal safety, but also useful for quality of life and reduction of anxiety and fear.

The following is an except from our book "What You Don't Know Can Kill You." The Normal, Abnormal, Dangerous model (NAD) will also be part of our upcoming book on awareness.

This categorization is a fast and easy test to help you to recognize developing danger (hopefully so you can just get out of there before it happens). It also helps you to mentally shift gears in preparation of defending yourself. During the incident, it helps you to scale your response appropriate to the level of danger. Afterwards, it establishes you had prior knowledge of dangerous circumstances and, when you saw them developing, that is why you acted. Of particular import for the aftermath, NAD also serves as a shield against a common interrogation technique used by police and prosecutors to trip you up. A technique that if you stumble over you're likely to end up in prison for defending yourself.

But – since life and death scenarios are probably not a daily problem in your lifestyle – you can more easily use NAD to reduce anxiety, stress and fear in your everyday life... without sacrificing awareness (in case trouble does show up). You can also use it to better navigate your daily interactions for more positive results.

...  Here's something easier, more user-friendly, and you can teach to your kids:
• Normal
• Abnormal
• Dangerous

This is a prescriptive model (it tells you what to look for) and a foundation on which to build actual situational awareness. Not only is it a critical tool for you to assess a situation, it's a shield against the way a prosecutor attacks you.

Remember the attorney pinging for weakness? Normal, abnormal and dangerous is your firewall against the most common pings. For example, when you say you saw your attacker "do a witness check," (1) the attorney will ask, "How do you know he wasn't looking for his friend?"

Can you explain the difference? Being able to can spell the difference between conviction and acquittal.(2)

Normal, everyday behavior, what is it? How do things ordinarily work? You’ll find many of these answers in social scripts. If you look into body language, communication, and etiquette, you’ll find you do know all kinds of ‘normal.’ The catch is it’s subconscious. You need to bring it to the conscious level to understand how much you know.

For example, answer these questions:
• What is normal behavior in a parking lot?
• How close or far from someone do you stand in line?
• How far do you stand from someone in an elevator?
• As numbers increase in an elevator how does your behavior change?
• How do you handle it when you and a stranger try to pass through the same door?
• How long do you look at a stranger?
• How does someone act looking for his friend?

If you answer these questions in detail, you have a firm grasp of normal– safe behavior. People who go about their daily businesses in ways so common you don’t typically register them. That’s not the same as not seeing it; it’s so routine you mentally filter it out of things you do notice. We all have massive encyclopedias inside our heads of what is normal behavior for different environments and situations. You use this unconscious reference guide to affect your behavior thousands of times a day. With a little effort, you can bring it up from your subconscious (where this information usually is used). An example of normal behavior is to take a step– back or to the side– when someone enters an elevator you are in. Giving that person space is a social script you follow without a thought.

Understanding normal is the baseline from which you operate in your daily life. This may sound woo-woo, but once you know what is normal for an environment something out of place will just ‘feel’ wrong and immediately attract your attention.

Abnormal behavior is a yellow flag that falls outside of normal.

The key is to recognize when something isn’t within normal parameters and pay attention. This buys you time to evaluate, allows for more options, and if necessary increase your safety. After you check out what feels “off” and find what’s happening is something that has a simple and innocent explanation you go back to your business.

If what’s happening can’t be safely explained, you need to shift mental gears and prepare to act. This is especially true if the next thing he does moves into your threat model (like his attempt to develop attack range).

Dangerous behavior is all about circumstances that can and will result in harm.

Dangerous comes in two basic flavors conscious (jeopardy) and unconscious. Basically, does the person deliberately act in a way to cause you jeopardy or is he just doing the dumb? Either will kill you, but the way you handle it is different. Someone about to attack you is different from the idiot smoking a cigarette while pumping gas.

The trick is to recognize dangerous behavior before things go sideways. Dangerous (jeopardy) behavior is commonly wrapped up in abnormal (think Tyler story two where he is approached in a parking lot by three robbers pretending to be innocent).

That’s why you must consciously know normal and dangerous. This knowledge allows you to relax around abnormal behavior and spot dangerous behavior designed to appear abnormal (as it sets you up for an attack).

For articulation purposes dangerous jeopardy isn’t just generalized abnormal behavior, it’s conscious behavior specifically targeting you. Dangerous behaviors are deliberate actions
• Can’t be safely explained
• Can’t be written off as coincidence
• Conform to known dangerous patterns
• Develop the means for a successful attack
• Adapt to overcome countermeasures (especially to avoid it).

Danger has specific behaviors that stand out and make them neither normal nor abnormal. For example, a robber will enter a convenience store and pretend to be a customer. Customers are so normal they’re boring. While there are a wide range of body movements– some of which are definitely abnormal– they aren’t dangerous. But we’ve told you some dangerous behavior: his putting his hoodie up before entering, twisting his body to avoid cameras– now add putting his hands in his pockets and hunching down as he moves past the height scale by the door. That is unique behavior that only means one thing– no matter how much he pretends otherwise.

Let’s play with these ideas some more. Normally there aren’t people in your driveway. But when you see someone walk up it, pay attention. While that is abnormal what are the
• Is it daytime?
• Is he or she carrying a package?
• Is that person wearing a brown suit and driving a brown step van?

Then it’s a UPS person. There is no danger, and it’s not even abnormal once you recognize the context. This is what Marc calls “normal-abnormal.” (It’s a known safe situation, and you can move on with your day.)

Another example: While bicycles may be a normal part of the environment, that guy on a unicycle wearing a kilt and playing the bagpipes isn’t. In fact, that’s pretty abnormal. But it’s not dangerous. If you live in Portland, Oregon, it’s not even abnormal. It’s a localized normal. That entertainer is just part of the city’s color. It’s all part of the “keep Portland weird” movement. (As if Portland needs to work on that… sheesh!) Odds are you have your own localized strangeness that’s part of your neighborhood. If you think about it you have probably explained it to a newcomer.

How can you tell when things shade into dangerous? Before you can recognize this, you need to know a few violence scripts and have a threat assessment model in place.

Say you have to run to the twenty-four-hour drugstore late at night. You notice three customers’ who pay a lot of attention to you. A fast look is normal, extended watching is abnormal. As you buy what you need, you see them slowly meander toward the door. (This timing is abnormal shading to dangerous.) As you leave they follow you out. Of all the directions they could go, they ‘by sheer chance’ head toward you and your car. When you change course, they too change to guarantee intercept.

These ‘coincidences’ have crossed into a robbery script– especially if they ham handedly and covertly watch you in the store. They get closer and will arrive at the same time you reach your car door. Given the totality of the circumstances, this is clearly a dangerous situation. It’s too loaded with unrealistic coincidences, timing, and ‘known behavior.’ (Each behavior is a brick, it’s the whole pattern that makes the wall.) Remember Tyler getting robbed and beaten in story two? Now you know all the things he didn’t spot earlier.

Expansion of Abnormal
In " What you Don't Know..." there is a footnote in the section you just read. It says:
Marc breaks abnormal behavior into three main categories 1) normal-abnormal, 2) localized normal, and 3) abnormal-abnormal. We won’t go into it except to say that certain abnormal situations have scripts (normal-abnormal). These scripted behaviors indicate even though it’s abnormal, there’s no danger.

 You can't really understand the expansion until you have the overall model. So now that you have that let's look at the expansion because they are the shading towards dangerous.

Normal-abnormal: If you thought about it, 'normal' behavior in a parking lot is driving, parking and walking to/from your car, getting in our out of cars.

What isn't normal is standing in parking lots. But it's how someone is standing there that tells you if it's normal-abnormal or dangerous. Is the person loading or unloading a car? Is the person standing near a car talking on the phone? Are two or more people standing in a circle near a vehicle talking/ (Do they completely ignore you or one looks up and returns to the conversation?) These are normal-abnormal subroutines. As long as the person keeps doing that or moves off in another direction, there is no danger.

Localized normal: Yes the bagpipe playing unicyclist. But what about a woman in a bikini? Are you near a pool or the ocean? That dress is common to that sort of location. What areas do you not routinely see semi and five ton trucks and where do you see them all the time? What areas are deserted at night and what areas are crowded (and until what time)? Look up and see writing in languages and alphabets you don't recognize? You're in an ethnic neighborhood.

If you think about it, there are countless little pockets like this in your life. You come in and out of them all the time. Basically, when you're in these areas, the rules change. So shift your attitudes to match.

Abnormal-abnormal: That smelly homeless guy wandering down the street yelling at his reflection in the window? Yeah, that's abnormal-abnormal. But is he dangerous? Well not if he keeps yelling at the window when you walk by (and please, walk wide). If he keeps on going then he's busy with the demons in his head and not your problem.

While such a situation is closer to dangerous than others, unless his behaviors change in certain ways (e.g., he turns his attention onto you, starts advancing and screaming at you) it's not crossed into dangerous. Go about your business. Should you be careful? Yes. Should you change your behavior? Slightly. Don't stare, walk wide or, if necessary, take another route.

Oh and as well as following you to your car, another form of dangerous behavior in parking lots is three guys spaced out along the wall, not talking but instead, watching people. When they 'peg you' as a victim, then they start to move towards you all at once. While the one in the middle distracts you the other two flank you and close the distance.  All of that screams danger. (Kinda obvious now you know what normal and abnormal parking lot behavior isn't it?)

In closing this page I'd like to direct your attention to how important this foundational knowledge is to everyday assertiveness and not being taken advantage by narcissistic and manipulative people. It's a lot easier to say "no" when you know the request is out of bounds.


Return to top

1) A Witness check is fast head swivel common among muggers, robbers and those intent on assault to 'check' there are no witnesses in the area or someone close enough to intefere with what they're about to do. Return to Text

2) The answer is in the speed and timing of the 'look.' A check's head swivel is only checking for proximity. Looking for a friend is slower and your eyes rest on people longer as you seek to idenitify your friend and dismiss those who aren't who you're looking for. That's the kind of answer you'll need to produce when a lawyer is gunning for you. Return to Text



What You Don't Know Can Kill You
(How your SD training will put you into prison or the ground)

Complete Idiot
(Boundary setting)

Ape In the Corner Office
Richard Conniff
(Human animal behavior)

Beyond the Picket Fence
MacYoung, et al
(Survival social skills outside suburbia)

Boundaries in Dating
Henry Cloud


Why Me? LEO teaches how to avoid becoming a victim

Marc MacYoung
(Crime recognition/avoidance)

Survive a Shooting
Alain Burrese
(Active shooters)


Man Watching
Desmond Morris
(Non-verbal communication)

Five Essential People Skills
Dale Carnegie
(Developing social skills) 

Logic of violence
Rory Miller
(How violence and crime happen)

In the Name of Self-Defense
Marc MacYoung
(Violence, crime & aftermath)
Read AFTER "What You Don'tKnow..."

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