The clock has already struck past midnight, and yet again, I am stuck in a place I cannot escape.
While tossing and turning in bed, I find myself in my nightmare pacing back and forth in a mall, trying to find a way out. Word is that someone is armed after a fight broke out. Although I did not encounter the incident face-to-face, I feel as though someone dangerous is following me or at least trying to track my footsteps.
Yet before there is even an ending to this, I wake up trying to absorb what was actually happening in the dream and putting the pieces of the puzzle together.
Time and again, similar dreams emerge, much like this one. Whether I am in an office or at home, or outside in a parking lot, the same theme recurs in my head while in a deep slumber: I am trying to run away from a suspect who is trying to come after me, but I have a difficult time protecting myself. Most of the time I cannot even speak up loudly or run fast enough away from the suspect.
Needless to say, they are the kinds of dreams that make me tremble when I wake, almost fooling me that something actually happened.
“Lisa, it’s just a dream,” a close family member or friend says to me every time I share a dream like that. “That’s not actually going to happen.”
Some call the dream a sign of fear, others may call it paranoia. But I call it a scenario that could become a reality to anyone, anywhere. What would I have actually done if someone were armed and chasing after me? Would I have reacted just in time to save my own life or would I have stood there frozen in a state of panic?
Last week, I had the opportunity to ponder those questions more deeply through a nationally-known program called “Refuse to be a Victim,” which was taught by Dr. Michael Ptaszynski, a retired pulmonary physician from Bristol.
Initiated in 1993 by the National Rifle Association, “Refuse to be a Victim” was intended to be a safety seminar for women and girls, but the program became so popular that it went co-ed in 1997.
From automobile safety to physical security to out-of-town travel security, “Refuse to be a Victim” offers participants a variety of crime prevention and personal safety tips. After completing the program, I received a certificate of completion.
The 80-page booklet has enough information to cover just about any scenario you may be in, and I wish I could share all of this with you, but it may take awhile.
But this I will share: don’t let your brain be embarrassed by your ego (as Dr. Ptaszynski advised).
The goal is to stay alert and aware of your surroundings (as my father has always said) and to use your intuition as well as to practice good safety habits. This includes practicing (vividly) in your mind how you would react if a suspicious person was planning to attack you or invade your personal space.
“People aren’t going to perform the way they expect to perform,” said Dr. Ptaszynski during the presentation.
When the crime is being committed, you have a personal choice to comply with the criminal and be passive, or to resist. Statistics have shown that fewer people died when they did not comply during a crime.
What struck me during this course was the number of self-defense tools you can use (besides firearms and pepper spray). One tool (that I could have vividly imagined using in my dream) was the tactical pen. Heavyweight and made of different materials such as aluminum, titanium, and even brass, the tactical pen can be used to strike at the soft areas of a criminal’s face and neck during a threatening situation. It also is safe and easy to carry. Although the tool appears to be a simple pen, it can be used to stop an attacker from hurting you. Using that tool alone could possibly scare the suspect away. The goal is to defend yourself until the threat disappears.
Had I carried the tactical pen with me in the mall that one time that my subconscious created in my dreams, perhaps I would have been more prepared instead of pacing back and forth in fear. Whether something bad actually happened to me or not in the dream, at least I would have been mentally prepared.
“Refuse to be a Victim” will return on Monday, April 20 and Tuesday, April 21 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Bristol Eastern High School; or Saturday, May 16 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Bristol Hospital Wellness Center. Pre-registration is required. For more information, contact Dr. Ptaszynski at (860) 582-4288.
Lisa Capobianco is a staff writer for The Observer.