Should you run towards, or away from, a policeman who is holding a gun?

Schools that send pupils on trips to London and elsewhere routinely provide their students with practical advice about security and how they can help keep themselves and their friends safe. This advice is now standard operating communication in schools.

But, to parents as well as pupils and other folk going about their lawful business, security messages have started to sound like charity appeals. They blur into one relentless monologue and, whoever we are, we generally tend to tune out the warnings unless there’s an armed policeman barking orders at us. Oh, and here’s a tip: best not run towards her or him as that can be misinterpreted as an act of aggression and end badly.

A thoughtful piece by psychologist Stephen Grosz, published in the FT Magazine in 2011, a snippet of which is below, contains important clues about personal survival. Its content communicates clearly, and illustrates vividly, why one crucial element to surviving a terror incident is to take control of your own life rather than wait for instructions; instructions which may well come too late.

You can find a full version of the piece, which forms a chapter in his book, along with other fascinating insights into the human psyche in Grosz’s The Examined Life. You never know; it might just save your life, limbs or loved ones.Page scan from Stephen Grosz's 'The Examined Life' - Should you run towards, or away from, a policeman who is holding a gun?