Self Defense Success – It’s All In Your Head

by John Guthrie

Mental Gun Health
Self Defense Success – It’s All In Your Head
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USA – -( For nearly all of my life, I have been fascinated by the human psyche. In particular, how numerous activities require or employ similar thought processes in order to be successful. After several decades as a flight instructor and hunter education volunteer, patterns have emerged that re-enforce some of my long held beliefs.

First and foremost. whether you are a shooter, athlete, pilot. or whatever, “you’ve got to be willing”. That is a quote from a John Wayne wester n that has stuck with me, because of the profundity of the statement.

There is a difference between desire and “willing”. You can desire a pilot’s license, but you must be willing to focus your entire being on your eventual success. Many have gotten the license because of desire, and many have died or were lucky enough to survive a situation, then give it up.

The same holds true for concealed carry. “Buying a gun for protection” is NOT a magic solution in and of itself. If you are not willing to invest the mental and physical preparation, or have any doubts, take up knitting.

By the same token, I don’t believe this necessarily requires a “warrior” mentality, rather, a quiet confidence born out of discipline and preparation. Those who are willing to become a properly trained and dedicated concealed carry holder, should be an asset to the community, not a detriment. Preparedness should always embody the highest standards of responsibility and restraint.

A key part of that preparation is the function of the subconscious. Recently, I attended a concealed carry class, with the usual mixture of students, including brand new shooters. It was fun to be a student instead of some type of instructor for a change. Because of a last minute development, I had to take a firearm and holster I had barely used. I soon realized that I was going to have to put more effort into simply being able to manipulate these components, and do it safely. Others were in the same predicament, plus had little, if any experience to draw on.

Fortunately, this instructor liked drills. I found that after a relatively short time, I was beginning to do more things on autopilot. Watching the others, I could see the same result. Muscle memory is often touted as the main result of such practice, but I have to disagree. It is what you see, experience, and feel, that become part of your mental state.

I know some of the fastest hand gunners in the world, and I assure you, their performances are not largely due to conscious thought or muscle memory. Once the buzzer sounds, all of those preparatory bits and pieces float up from the deep recesses of their mind and they are off and running . Likewise, when you are in the last seconds of landing an airplane, it is largely(or should be) an automatic process, born out of dedicated mental preparation and repetition. There is no time available for the luxury of a checklist or philosophical discussions.

While you are building your mental and physical skills, you should also be visualizing different scenarios in which you might be forced to make the ultimate decision. This is not necessarily a pleasant exercise, but a necessary part of your ongoing training. One of the things stressed most often in flight training, is emergency procedures. Everything about stalls, engine failure, electrical failure, and fires, among other things are covered. Surprise and fear play the primary role in any emergency. Both affect your mental and physical abilities to deal with a life threatening situation.

One of the best ways to combat these things is to rehearse different scenarios in your mind, even if you can’t physically perform a simulation.

To begin, think of the locations you frequent and visualize various circumstances that might occur. Retailers and restaurants are no doubt at the top of the list. Mall parking lots would be another. And on the most basic level, is the home invasion. In every case, THE OVERRIDING CONSIDERATION IS ESCAPE. Escape and a plan for your family members or friends, if present, should ALWAYS be the first consideration. If the situation deteriorates, what about those family members? What about the possibility of injuring an innocent bystander? All of these things MUST be considered in ADVANCE. The thought processes involved with these issues should become automatic. There will be no time when/if you have to make a life altering decision.

One thing I was surprised to find as I journey into concealed carry, is the perception by some, that this is a dark, dangerous, and unnecessary thing to pursue. In my case, having been around hunting, competition, and shooting for most of my life, it has been most pleasant, satisfying, and something I didn’t think I would ever see (my state is a little backward in these matters). To me it is almost an obligation. If, for whatever reason, you have no desire, that is fine, but to refuse to be able to protect family and friends when you are able, is irresponsible in my opinion.

No normal person wants to be involved in an armed confrontation, however, when there is no other way, it should be considered a life saving effort. Like most everything in life, your perceptions, emotions, and for the most part, your abilities, are all in your head.

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Thank you, John, your self-defense missive is timely. I’m sure you are aware of the term “when your antenna is up..” Well mine was up, and you had me at “Self-Defense Success…” And, surprisingly, our interest is not-so-much about concealed carrier as it is Self-Defense for Seniors. We are in the process of writing a curriculum for a course which will offer a number of levels of commitment (willingness!) by using the NRA Refuse to be a Victim course along with the Isreali Krav Maga self-defense tactics, then the next level would include a basic pistol certification, and lastly onto… Read more »

John Guthrie

Thank you for your kind words. I have a variety of experience to draw from and would gladly add any information you might desire. I am working through the newbie CC experience myself and am encountering many others running into the same questions. As a Hunter Ed. instructor, I have had many opportunities to study the average shooter. I hope I can help.