"FEAR AS YOUR ALLY"
by Darren Laur (Integrated Street Combatives)
A recent study conducted by a well-respected organization
in the United States determined that in 80% of attacks on women (I would even
extrapolate this to men as well), the predator frightened his victim into
submission simply by using verbal intimidation. The mind guides the body.
The street predator knows that if he is able to paralyze your mind through
fear, your body will freeze also, no matter how much physical training you
What is fear? Most people view fear as an extremely negative
feeling which causes one to totally freeze and panic, and as a result get
hurt. Although this is a common belief, it is not quite accurate.
Fear is both a physical and an emotional response to a perceived
threat or danger. The physical reactions prepare us to confront and survive
a dangerous situation, by readying autonomic functions for self-preservation
and trauma. Heart rate increases; adrenaline and blood clotting enzymes are
released to make the body stronger, faster and less likely to feel pain. Although
the biological response to fear does not differ from person to person, the
emotional response will, based upon one's perception of threat. It is this
perception of threat that can, and will, differ from person to person based
upon training and learned past experiences in how to deal with the specific
threat encountered. What may seem to be a threatening situation to one person
may not be to another.
This emotional response to fear is both learned and voluntary.
A learned experience is generally taught to you. For instance, if you are
a parent who has arachnophobia, and you see a spider crawling across the floor,
your first reaction may be to scream and jump on a chair. Your small child
will soon begin to "model" his behavior in the same way. Seeing the spider
will trigger the learned fear response.
The voluntary reaction is what we choose to do when faced with
a dangerous situation. Unfortunately, many people use fear in a self-defeating,
negative way rather than with a challenging positive attitude.
Perceived threats trigger our learned and voluntary responses
and any three will occur: fight, flight, or hypervigilance. A lot of us know
about the fight or flight response, but not many of us know about hypervigilance.
Hypervigilance (freezing in place or taking irrational actions) is something
that we are all inbred and programmed with from the cave man days, at the
"reptilian brain" or "frog brain" level. For those of you that have seen Jurassic
Park the movie, what do the experts in the move yell to those people who were
running from the Tyrannosaurus Rex ? Why ? because it was "hypothesized" that
dinosaurs hunted via movement. Now, lets bring this to the tear 2002. Lets
say you are traveling mach factor ten down a deserted highway in the middle
of the night with your high beams on, when all of a sudden a deer jumps out
in front of your car. What does the deer do ? It freezes. Why? Does it see
the car as a car? No, it sees the car as a threat. What does Bambi do when
it sees or senses a threat in the bush? It freezes, in an attempt to not be
seen by that which is potentially hunting it. Like Bambi, we have this same
response programmed into us as well. Once caught in a state of hypervigilance,
it is a downward spiral that once caught into, is very difficult, if not impossible,
to get out of. Why is this important? Because the mind guides the body. If
the brain freezes, so will the body !!!!! Allowing yourself to become stuck
in a state of hypervigilance, both mentally and physically, will most certainly
allow the attacker to succeed, or will prevent you from becoming proactive
in dealing with the situation at hand.
The emotional response to fear, need not be mental immobility;
it can be trained and utilized as a voluntary, positive force. An analogy
can be drawn by comparing the fear emotion, with electricity. When used positively
and appropriately, electricity runs our lives; when used negatively and carelessly,
electricity can kill. The emotion of fear is the same way; used in a positive
way, the emotion of fear is a "powerizer" and an "energizer". Used in a negative
way, the emotion of fear can cause one to panic, freeze, get seriously injured,
and in the worse cases, even killed. What you choose to do with the emotion
of fear - allow it to control you, or harness the energy - is left up to you
to decide, it is a conscious choice, but the decision you make could mean
the difference between winning or loosing.
So now we know that fear is simply an "emotion", just like
any other emotion that the good Lord gives us. We also now know that although
the emotion of fear is triggered based upon one's perception of threat, which
could differ from person to person, biologically it reacts the same in each
and everyone of us. We also now know that when the emotion of fear hits, one
of three responses; fight, flight, or hypervigilance, will take place. Based
upon what I just shared with you about the hypervigilant state, I think you
will agree that we want to pick the "fight" or "flight" response. How do you
choose fight or flight and not the hypervigilance response? The answer is
simple in concept; ask yourself: " Am I threatened or am I challenged?"
To understand this concept, place yourself on the following
scenario: You are in an office building that has thirty floors, and wanting
to go to the top floor, you decide to use the elevator. When the elevator
arrives, with no one inside, you enter and start your ascent. Arriving at
the tenth floor, the door opens and standing in fornt of you is an unknown
male, 6'5", 250 ponds, built like a Mac truck, brandishing a knife and saying,
" shut up and I won't hurt you, if you scream, you're dead." Now ask yourself
, "Am I threatened or am I challenged?" Most people , when faced with this
situation, will say they are threatened.
The brain makes decisions for the future based upon past experience
and training; it guides the body. No matter how much physical training you
have to deal with an attacker who is about to assault you, if you stay in
the "threatened" mindset, you will go into hypervigilance mode, come to a
paralytic standstill, and be at the mercy of the attacker. Because off this
fact, you need to get "CHALLENGED."
How do you get from a "threatened" mindset to a "challenged"
mindset? By consciously saying the word "BUT." In the elevator, when the door
opens and you are faced with the attacker armed with the knife, what should
be going through your mind is, "I'm in a bad situation, BUT if he takes another
step, I will ......."
The powerful word "BUT" challenges the brain and allows it
to work and think. When I give lectures on this topic, I always lead my audience
up to the point where I ask them this question: " There is one little three
letter word that will change your mindset from threatened to challenged, do
you want to know what that word is?" At this point I pause for about three
seconds, and then I say the word "BUT". It is amazing to see the expressions
on people's faces. I then share with them that as soon as I said the word
"BUT" most of the audiences brains asked themselves, "BUT what ?" As soon
as the brain goes "But What", the brain now begins to work. It can now find
answers to the questions it is being faced with, such as, "How am I going
to get out of this situation as quickly and safely as possible." Once the
brain is allowed to work, the physical training and experiences you may have
can now be applied. In other words, instead of freezing into a complete standstill,
you begin to take some action to protect yourself.
A good self-protection program with "realistic"" scenario based
training is beneficial not only in teaching you physical strategies, but in
helping you realize that you CAN use fear to your advantage. However, even
if you do not have the self-protection training or life experiences to deal
with a specific threat, the "CHALLENGED" brain will begin to adapt, overcome,
and improvise to find a way for you to stay safe. There are hundreds of instances
in which men and women with no prior self-protection training, have physically
resisted their attackers and "won." Why? They CHALLENGED themselves.
As previously stated, in 80% of attacks on women, the predator
used only verbal intimidation to scare his victim into a submissive state
of hypervigilance. To overcome this, you must allow the brain to work, challenge
it to mentally figure a way out of the dangerous situation, and to physically
release the "internal warrior" that the emotion of fear can stimulate. Decide
to focus and direct the mental and physical forces into a powerful attack
of your own, and allow the full impact of the fear response to propel your
mind, body, and soul against the your attacker. Fear can be your greatest
ally in a dangerous situation, but it can also be your worst enemy. THE CHOICE
IS ULTIMATELY YOURS TO MAKE !!!!!!
What I have just shared with you, you can practice in your
everyday life. I share with you, this personal experience to demonstrate this
I was one of the youngest sergeants ever to be promoted in
my police department. While in the promotional process, the last stage was
an interview in front of a panel consisting of the Chief of police, the Deputy
Chief, a Police Board member, and a City Counselor. My interview was set for
2pm, so I was there at 1:45pm. The panel knowing of my early arrival, waited
until 2:30pm to call me in. Why? They wanted to sweat me !!!! As I was waiting
for my interview, I noted that my heart rate and breathing had increased,
I was sweating, my mind was racing a mile a minute, at which time I asked
my self; "Am I threatened or am I challenged." I immediately identified the
fact that I was "THREATENED" Upon comprehending this fact, I knew that if
I went into this interview in this mindset, I would choke (go into a state
of hypervigilance) !!!! How many of you have heard of this happening to someone,
or experienced this yourself. Immediately upon recognizing my state of mind,
I said that magical, but very powerful word, "BUT". As soon as I said "but",
I stopped sweating, my mind slowed, and my heart rate and respirations decreased.
I went into my interview in a now "CHALLENGED" mindset and as a result, did
very well, and got myself promoted.
Why did I share the above noted experience with you the reader?,
because in my 15 year career as a police officer, I have been attacked with
an edged weapon on four separate occasions. In each one of these edged weapon
encounters, the biological effects of fear that I felt were no different than
those I experienced during my sergeant interview. Remember, fear is strictly
an emotion, IT DOES NOT DIFFERENTIATE. What you choose to do with the emotion
of fear, is left up to you to decide and to practice !!!!!!!!
Strength and Honor
Darren Laur (Integrated Street Combatives)
Questions or comments? Send them: firstname.lastname@example.org