Not too long ago I was trying to put my son’s thought processes into words to explain his Asperger’s Syndrome to someone. Basically the way his brain works is one long formula of If-Then statements. As I got to thinking about it, it’s the same for all of us. Our thought pattern is a series of billions of “If-then” formulas. If you’re hungry, you eat. If you’re tired, you sleep. All of these formulas make up who we are, when you get right down to it. When it comes to self defense, some of these formulas we need to adapt, or change slightly.
If someone takes a swing at you, or throws something at your head, your natural instinctive reaction is to throw your arms up to shield yourself.
There are three basic overriding If-Then statements that all animals use to survive. Fight, Flight, or Freeze. All animals will defend themselves with one of these three actions. Depending on the critter, the order changes. Some animals default to Freeze, like rabbits. As human beings, we have a much more complex thought process, and we can change our response with practice and training. Instead of throwing our hands up and cowering when attacked, (Freeze) we can redirect the reflex of throwing our hands up to drawing a firearm. This is a judgment call however, and not always appropriate. If a kid kicks a soccer ball at your head, the appropriate response is not to shoot it… or the kid.
The first step of this process is changing our default to always be “Fight.” This doesn’t mean to throw a punch, or pull the trigger, but rather to get to a mental state where we become extremely aware of our surroundings. This doesn’t even necessarily mean to draw your weapon, if you have one. Throwing your hands up defensively is equivalent to “Freeze.”
In the picture above, even though the ball player has all the appropriate equipment and could have avoided the injury he will likely sustain, his reaction was “Freeze” and not “Fight.” If his reaction was fight, he would have been able to side step the incoming projectile, or adjust accordingly and act proactively to avoid being injured. You can see by his body language that he was going to be a victim. Shoulders up around the ears, arms up close, elbows tucked in. All of this is geared towards our natural instinct to defend ourselves. Instead of “fight” the ball player “froze” to took a speedball to the face. Ouch.
Similarly, a “freeze” reaction in a life or death situation, is likely going to end up with you being injured, or worse. For a machete wielding maniac, our “Freeze” response is useless. A “Fight” response would be much better. We can dodge the ball barreling towards our noggin, and the machete wielding maniac will suddenly have his own Fight>Flight>Freeze response triggered. We have to work to overcome this natural reaction to cower and flinch though. We may be at the top of the food chain, but we are not an apex predator. Animals that are apex predators, when confronted, immediately show a capacity for a violent reaction. Think of the large cats, like lions and tigers. When cornered or confronted, they don’t cower down, they show a wicked smile, make some noise that defines their intent, and will sometimes have a paw raised ready to swat at their aggressor. This is a fight reaction, and the basic message is “Back off, you don’t want to mess with me.”
So while we humans don’t typically default to this behavior when threatened, that doesn’t mean that we cannot learn to. We are able to train, and practice, and learn to default to the “fight” response instead of the “freeze” response. Changing our reaction to a threat from flinching, to demonstrating a capacity for extreme violence and a willingness to use it, means that we have the ability to not be always be a victim, and to be the apex predator that we imagine ourselves to be.
So we can change the equation from “IF Threatened THEN flinch and cower,” to “IF threatened THEN be ready to fight.” Even if you don’t own a firearm, or don’t want to own a firearm, take an armed self defense class, or five. Learn how to change your default behavior. Don’t be the rabbit. Don’t be the guy who gets brained by a baseball. Don’t be a victim.