“The unknown always equates fear” says Cody Lundin, author of “When All Hell Breaks Loose.” While I suspect that Mr. Lundin will never successfully convince me that I should walk barefoot all the time nor am I likely to take his culinary advice on how to serve up road kill the next time the in-laws come for dinner, I must say that I wholeheartedly agree with him on this one. In fact, it’s for this very reason why I’m constantly begging our readers and listeners to practice using their preparedness knowledge and tools.
I think that one of the best ways to focus on being prepared is to look fear squarely in the eyes and then preemptively take all measures possible to beat it at every turn. How often do we get to actually know who the enemy is? When such information is laid right there on our laps, shouldn’t we do our best to make the most of it? It is my sincere belief that if any person will consider every possible, potential fear-inducing scenario and then prepare a viable counter-move to combat that fearful scenario, then a world of true preparedness can be realized.
Conjuring up potential fearful scenarios is a very personal task. What may be a debilitating fearful scenario to one person is a cake-walk to another. The key, though, is to look at a potential scenario—or even one that’s right before you—and determine whether or not it truly merits FEAR. Fear is the important identifying characteristic here, not inconvenience, anger, or stress, which are very different emotions apart from fear. While they are certainly not emotions which we want to harbor day in and day out, they don’t have the same potential to paralyze our logic and other parts of or mental capacities. Fear on the other hand has the ability to stop us dead in our tracks in spite of all of the logical reasons we may have to run. The reason this is the case is because when our minds are presented with a scenario which has never been contemplated or solved previously in our mind, the majority of our lifesaving body functions, such as blood and oxygen, are allocated to our brain while it goes into high gear to solve the problem. This is especially true when adrenalin gets involved. So, since the blood and oxygen and our muscles are taking a momentary time-out while our brain tries to come up with the right response to a scenario, we freeze.
The “freeze” response comes from the exact same part of our mind that the “fight or flight” response comes from. I’m not sure if a typesetter just ran out of room one day and forgot to include the “freeze” option, but for some reason it’s rarely mentioned in conjunction with the fight or flight response, when in fact, it’s definitely one of the options our brain will default to if it finds itself solving an unfamiliar problem. The best way to literally train your mind NOT to freeze, is to practice—either mentally or literally—what to do under “X” set of circumstances.
You might be surprised what your brain will use as resources to solve a problem. There is a scene in a movie I saw recently, “Limitless” which illustrates this point perfectly. The leading character discovered a drug he can take which enables him to use 100% of his brain (whereas the majority of us supposedly use only 10-20% of it—but if that were really accurate, brain surgery would be a whole heck of a lot easier as the surgeon would only need to stay away from 10-20% of our brain when operating in order to avoid causing any additional harm). Anyway, in one particular scene the man finds himself about to be physically attacked. He says to himself “I don’t know how to fight…or do I?” We then see his brain recalling every Bruce Lee movie he’d ever watched along with every other tidbit of information that his brain had been exposed to over the years which he may be able to use in his present circumstances. And so he does; successfully thwarting multiple of his would-be attackers.
Of course such a scenario is not simply fodder for a good movie, but my point is that our brains DO have the ability to recall all kinds of things from our past that may have seemed quite insignificant and perhaps even unworthy of any “hard-drive” space our brain may have provided. But when we’re confronted with a moment which requires competence and reason in order to conquer a moment of fight, flight or freeze, our brain will use all of its hard-drive of experiences and education to help us make the best decision. Those education experiences which are absorbed with the companionship of a physical act, will provide us with more ready solutions in a time of crisis because such learning is more quickly and easily recalled and can then provide us with confidence in place of fear.
Suppose you read a book about how to perform an emergency tracheotomy. The more you can do to provide pictures to accompany the learning, the more “hard-drive” space your brain will dedicate to that knowledge and thus the more likely it is that you’ll be able to recall such information if you’re ever presented with such a crisis. If you are able to learn such a skill accompanied by physical action, then it’s like adding 3-D pictures to your mind, and as such your ability to recall such education will more readily available to you when you need it.
There is one aspect of our bodily functions, though, that can thwart even the most practiced skills; and that is the adrenalin. When we’re practicing a skill such as boxing, driving, or performing CPR, we are doing so without the intrusion of a common “interrupter” that usually accompanies such skills. That interrupter is adrenalin. It’s this not-to-friendly constant companion of fearful scenarios that really makes preparedness for all of life’s potential scenarios challenging. Not even a highly decorated martial arts champion has the luxury of training in high adrenalin scenarios and thus even such an expert can be thwarted in a high adrenalin crisis. The counter-move solution to this “brain freeze” scenario is the combination of repeated practice coupled with more highly detailed mental practices. While not always practical, if you can create a high-adrenalin scenario to go along with your practice, then you’ll be much better armed for whatever life throws at you.
When I was a teenager my mother worked as a clerk for the small police department in Pocatello, ID. In an effort to help teach the local bank employees how best to handle a robbery scenario, the police department would periodically conduct a mock robbery on the local banks. Now, pay attention. These mock practices were specifically scheduled to take place during a time in which the banks were closed. The employees all knew when the mock robbery would take place—no surprises there. They also knew that the “robbers” weren’t bad guys in their bank; they were members of the police force and city employees. They also knew that any guns they might see would be either “practice guns” made of solid plastic, or completely unloaded, checked and double-checked firearms. Finally, the only bank employees who were selected to participate in this practice were seasoned bank employees; in fact, most were management.
My mother was asked to help in this scenario (she was thrilled), and was asked to pose as “one of the bad guys.” She was to dress in normal, “matronly” attire, and she was given a thick baby blanket that covered her fake, plastic firearm, which was about 12 inches long. Mom walked into the bank in character with all of the other participants while the employees were pretending to do their normal work routine. (Remember, the employees KNEW this was a mock robbery exercise, so yes, they were indeed pretending to work.) Mom went up to the appointed teller and made small talk while she cradled her “package” which loosely looked like a baby all wrapped up in a blanket. Mom cooed at the blanket, talking with the teller all the while about being a mom, etc. Then at the appointed time Mom immediately shifted into her bad guy character. She whipped the baby blanket off of the gun and pointed it at the teller and barked loud, foul-mouthed instructions at the teller, demanding that she give her all the money in her drawer.
My mother never forgot what happened next. She was absolutely astounded. The teller let out a blood curdling scream, erupting from a part of her brain that saw this as a real threat and was from a place of sincere fear. The teller began to cry. Her brain was so fooled by this practice scenario that she forgot to give Mom the fake money that was set aside specifically for this rehearsal and instead, she gave Mom real money. She also completely forgot to trigger the silent alarm. While this whole scenario lasted less than 7 minutes, a couple of the bank employees felt like they needed professional counseling afterwards in order to address the real trauma that their brain experienced. Not a few bank employees definitely needed a cooling off period before going home to their families and carrying on with the rest of their day.
Another surprise; my mother was not a foul-mouthed person. After the exercise that day she came home and shared the story with us kids. She said that she couldn’t believe how powerful the moment was for her, pointing a gun—albeit plastic—at a bank teller and telling her what to do, recognizing that she had an amazing power and influence over this person. I remember Mom being most surprised by that feeling of power she had in that scenario and that she let some “sailor language” erupt from her mouth.
My point in sharing this story with you is to help you understand that the more practice you can engage in WITH some viable make-believe, the more real the scenario will be for you, and thus the more beneficial it will be when you need to recall the skills and competence learned with such practice. This kind of activity fosters genuine competence and confidence. Confidence is the eternal arch enemy of fear, and it’s obviously your best friend in the midst of a crisis.
Keep in mind that confidence doesn’t’ always have to come from a real-life scenario as I’ve described above. It can also come from a deeply rooted spiritual belief or value system. For example, I have to say that I truly do not fear death…not one iota. Of course it’s not because I’ve already died, come back, and died again, going back and forth from beginning to end like a kid at their favorite Disney World ride. Rather it’s because I have an unshakable belief as to what’s in store for me upon my death; I’m 100% convinced that there’s nothing unpleasant waiting for me there. As such, I’ve been able to make several critically timed decisions in my life based upon that information. However, I do have other genuine fears that take place long before me dying. For example, I have a fear of my pets getting run over, hurt, or lost. So my suggestion to each of you is that you start with what you know—really know—and have a confidence of, and then build forward or backward from there as you prepare to successfully battle any potential fearful scenarios.
For example, perhaps you’re not afraid of ever being physically harmed but you are fearful of your children ever being subjected to that. So explore what basis of confidences you do have that you and your children can build upon. Look at the worst possible scenario attached to that fear and then reverse engineer the scenario with realistic, effective counter strategies. This “Practice Makes Peaceful” strategy really, really does work wonders. (If I had enough room here, I’d write about how my parents did just that for us children in anticipation of countless scenarios that would otherwise be fearful.) It may be something as simple as using you solar oven every day for a week so that you don’t have to be fearful of starving amidst a prolonged power outage, or trying the No Commerce 14 Day Experiment so you aren’t fearful in the event that a mandatory bank freeze is imposed, or trying the “48 Hour Lights Out” experiment to realize just how fun a lack of technology might be…whatever you can think of. But if you will combine knowledge with actual physical practice as much as possible, you will find yourself not only absent of fear, but actually looking forward to some of the scenarios for which you prepare.
In closing I just want to remind you that if physical practice is not practical for making your education “stick” then work backwards from there. A movie which deals with your scenario, viewed with you mentally placing yourself in the role of the appropriate characters is helpful because then you’ve got the moving picture strengthening your mental anchor. Next choice from there should be reading a book or research relating to your intended education. If you can read it out loud or take WRITTEN (not typed) notes of the points that you really want to remember, that will be helpful. You can also act out what you’re learning in the books as applicable in order to strengthen your mental recall. And lastly, mentally practice applying what you’re learning or attempting to learn. If you can, attempt to verbally teach someone else what you’re learning in order to strengthen your brain’s ability to recall that skill or knowledge when necessary. Once you begin preparing in such a way, you’ll better understand why Spiritual and Mental Preparedness are the first two Principles of Preparedness, and more importantly why I believe that there is truly peace in preparedness.
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