(Editor’s note: This is Part 2 in a series on the psychology of violent confrontation. Read Part 1 here.)
Fight, freeze or run?
Last week, I relayed the story of two heroes, Justin Schneiders and James Barnhart, who encountered violent confrontations and essentially won. Still, both men agree that even they were underprepared for their confrontations, and injury and delay could have been averted had they taken time to condition more tactically, defensively and psychologically.
Many of us practice target shooting but never really get to practice tactically, in a realistic likely setting where a confrontation might occur. So I decided to inventory my own preparedness, and that of my family.
Psychological Inventory of Mental Preparedness, or PIMP:
1) Write the five locations where you spend most of your time during the week, each in separate circles, spread apart on a sheet of paper. Add the approximate percentage of time spent daily in each location.
2) Write the five locations where you spend most of your time on the weekend, with an approximate percentage of time you spend in each location.
3) Next to each of your locations, write the names of the people who are most likely to be with you at those locations.
4) Next to each of your locations, name the clothing items you wear, down to your shoes and your holster or weapon, handbag, wallet and jewelry (a likely motive in a confrontation experience).
5) Use asterisks or stars to symbolize higher risk situations where a confrontation is more likely to occur.
6) List each and every time you will likely enter and exit a vehicle, and the sort of confrontation that could occur in that moment. Write your likely entrance/exit time at the top and bottom of each location circle. Visualize your most efficient and effective reaction in each scenario.
7) Research crime statistics on the places you frequent.
8) Looking over your list, create your training priorities, and include your family in your planning, risk assessment and drill planning.
I did mine on the back of my latest M-16 paper target. It just felt good.
In my study, I learned a lot about the risks and habits of where I go and what I do. We were missing a lot about the dangerous daily encounters in our lives. I realized through my research that the mall where I shop has one violent crime per day! Obviously, that is among the items I will reconsider. I also realized when I forced myself through the exercise of No. 6, that we might be at the most risk in our own church parking lot, due to lack of secure parking and the fact that we have our children with us – a favorite target for criminals. I plan to speak to my pastor and church security about this. Many churches, such as ours, have armed security in the sanctuary, but the parking lots are a different matter.
One great piece of advice I received recently was from Larry Bohannon in Houston, Texas. He has trained his twin 10-year-old girls to fall to the floor when he yells “duck.”
He actually used this a month ago when another car pulled up quickly next to him in his driveway. He jumped from the car, his girls hit the floor, and he was ready to draw his pistol. The man in the car realized there were no victims to be found in that driveway and he sped off.
He and his girls were ready to change from a green/passive situation to a red/threat situation in an instant, and it paid off.
Good can be better
Schneiders says his training did serve him in his confrontation. He knew that since the gunman had all of his friends lay down, execution style, that he had to confront him because it would likely end in bloodshed. He knew from his training that either the gunman or the victims would likely die there that night. He knew from that deduction that he had no choice but to risk his own life to take a bullet for his friends.
But he could have psychologically prepared even more. He could have possibly even prevented the bullets he took that night, had he mentally inventoried his week (as above). He knew, for example, that he and his friends gathered in the prosecutor’s office to enjoy the downtown scene every Tuesday night. He knew that he wore the type of outfit he wore, which holster and gun he ordinarily carried and who was usually with him in that office. He could have prepared for the precise confrontation he encountered, had he done the psychological exercise of walking through his week, where he went, what he wore and who he was with.
Barnhart’s military training prepped him well. Most people in his situation would not have been so quick to mentally engage and react so effectively. But Barnhart was frustrated with his own reaction time, and it would have been shorter had he already mentally prepared. Many robberies at gunpoint occur as people are entering or parking their vehicles. (Women toting small children are especially vulnerable.)
If Mr. Barnhart had completed our inventory, he would have known that he enters and exits his car in an unsecured driveway several times per day. His diagram would have demonstrated the risk, so that he could go through that scenario in his mind. This may have reduced his reaction time.
Real-life practical applications
This week, we looked at condos on the beach. We have been looking for weeks because we need more space, but it is hard to find the right space, exactly on the beach we love. My oldest daughter, Lyda, is tactically trained and an ace shooter. I noticed this time, after helping me with my inventory of our lives and risks, when we looked at condos, she viewed each and every room as a combat zone. We would walk out on a balcony and she was lining up her shot. When she saw the closet, she was devising her weapon storage. And when she was evaluating storage and parking, she spoke in terms of security and possible gaps. I didn’t tell her to do this. It was natural for her to think in terms of security and defense conditioning as she considered the place where she would spend most of her life.
She was the one who did the research and learned that our favorite “retail therapy” outdoor mall has a violent crime almost every day. We still go, but we don’t bring the younger children, we park strategically and we plan accordingly. (Concealed carry is virtually illegal in our state of California; that needs to change, and it will if constitutionalist Tim Donnelly is elected governor.)
Good resources and catchy acronyms
We can’t avoid the mental rehearsal of confrontation simply because it is an unpleasant thought. We must teach this skill to our children and instruct them in such preparation, as well, if they are comfortable and competent in these arenas, as age appropriate. There are many good resources. After completing your PIMP (well, you won’t forget that, will ya?), get to know the resources available and share them with those you love.
James Barnhart and Justin Schneiders, and those whose lives he saved that night, will live to share another Thanksgiving and Christmas with their families because of their ability to react well in a confrontational situation. What better gift could you give your family this Holy Season than that of a solid security plan?