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Psychology & personal defense

DoctorWhoDoctorWho Senior MemberPosts: 9,496 Senior Member
Psychology & personal defense a topic not covered as well as it should be in the magazines....

However a recent post got Me to thinking more about it, I have always thought of a firearm as the best personal defense option for most if not all personal defense encounters / situations, however sometimes laws do not allow this option, and sometimes people would rather obey an unjust law than deal with the consequences in the aftermath of a shooting involving an "ILLEGAL FIREARM".

Psychology is an important aspect, your mindset and that of the bad guy you face can have consequences too, if you can't or will not field a firearm, a handgun, what other options remain ? an edged weapon ?

The question is, is that person fielding the edged weapon willing to actually use it, ie. actually cut someone ? I think this is a most important consideration, especially when you intend to arm lets say a family member that is not familiar with any real street fighting and only intends to carry a weapon of some type, as a deterrent, expecting that the bad guy will run away as soon as that knife or pepper spay is offered.

When I was 9 y/o, I was visiting relatives, due to an oversight, the servants of the house were away, and there was no one available to slaughter the chickens for the Noonday meal, I was hungry and realized that it was up to Me, so I grabbed a kitchen cook's knife and slaughtered the chickens, when they were cooked and served, at first I picked at My meal, then finally ate heartily and enjoyed it once I sucked it up got over the whole killing blood & guts thing.

It made for a rather poor "what I did on My summer vacation" story, it went over rather badly at My school.

There are people that simply want a weapon of some sort, but are not willing to invest the time or develop the needed mindset needed to field a weapon, and actually follow through, is this person, just going to half- or heavy-hearted swipe at someone, and the attendant bad guys screams of pain, be unable to follow through, or finish the task ?

This is the reason why I eschew the less than lethal portions of personal defense, too much is reliant on the defenders skills to use lets say an edged weapon and the willingness / ability to follow through, same thing with pepper sprays, if they fail, what then ?

If that person has not studied unarmed fighting techniques, they are SOOL ! Arming up without adequate training is not enough of a real option, training is needed for any personal defense option to be effective, otherwise the chance of failure is very high.

I also believe personal defense should be taught by someone that has had first hand experience in personal defense, how can you teach something you have never practiced ? I have heard the analogy of three blind men feeling an elephant, one has it by the tail, another by the foot, and another is feeling its trunk, each of the three describe the elephant according to what they have in their hand, and of course they all think they are right, but they can't see the big picture, never actually having seen the elephant.

Book knowledge is like that, never having seen the elephant is a poor start, if you need to describe one or teach people about elephants.
So is handing someone a weapon, when that person is not willing or capable of investing time in themselves to acquire the skills, if not the mindset needed to use said weapons in personal defense.

Edited to add:

Determination is important, "Grim determination" as I have often called it, it took grim determination for Me to kill those chickens, and the animals on My first hunt, sometime people are just not willing to do what it takes to survive, so simply carrying a weapon is not enough.
That is another aspect of the psychology of personal defense.

Your attacker will be determined too, and once he is cut, there is no telling how the attacker will react to being cut, so the defender must be determined enough to follow through, hence why I believe a firearm is the best defense, when you consider all the other options and what it takes to field them.
"There is some evil in all of us, Doctor, even you, the Valeyard is an amalgamation of the darker sides of your nature, somewhere between your twelfth and final incarnation, and I may say, you do not improve with age. Founding member of the G&A forum since 1996


  • DoctorWhoDoctorWho Senior Member Posts: 9,496 Senior Member
    Also, when a determined attacker has invaded your personal space, the window of successfully defending yourself has narrowed exponentially, so your response will need to be swift and decisive with little margin for error, and also result in "instant" effects either stunning or otherwise rendering an attacker unable to continue the attack, since the most reliable method is a firearm, edged weapons and chemical agents even in the hands of carefully trained and physically fit individuals is marginal at best, and worse if in the hands of the untrained, the advantage will go to the attacker, who most likely will have experience gained while attacking other victims under his belt.

    A firearm requires skill and training to master and use successfully, other weapons such as edged weapons not only require skill and training, the bearer of said weapons needs to be in top physical condition as well, as the time needed for the effects to be felt sometimes will permit a certain amount of grappling time with ones attacker.

    Drug addicts for one may not feel pain and may still kill or maim a victim using less than lethal personal defense options.
    "There is some evil in all of us, Doctor, even you, the Valeyard is an amalgamation of the darker sides of your nature, somewhere between your twelfth and final incarnation, and I may say, you do not improve with age. Founding member of the G&A forum since 1996
  • Mr.FMr.F Member Posts: 89 Member
    This is very well thought out & makes alot of sense . This should be published in G&A or at least as an online article .
    Jermanator : You might talk about Tauruses around your wife, but that just doesn't fly in my house.
  • BlitschBlitsch Member Posts: 31 Member
    Great point! I am in the process of finding a class that trains on self defense and the use of a weapon in my area. I have never had any formal training on carrying a weapon for self defense, ie military or law enforcement. I have been around guns and shooting them since as long as I can remember. I believe that the mindset you talk about is an important part of defending yourself or your family. In my state you are only allowed to meet force with equal force. So if someone attacks you with nothing but his hands you can't pull your gun and shot... I think it would be beneficial to have the mindset before being in a situation to know when and how to react to it.
  • ZeeZee Senior Member Posts: 23,988 Senior Member
    "To Hell with efficiency, it's performance we want!" - Elmer Keith
  • KSU FirefighterKSU Firefighter Senior Member Posts: 3,249 Senior Member
    "Just a flesh wound!"
    The fire service needs a "culture of extinguishment not safety" Ray McCormack FDNY
  • samzheresamzhere Banned Posts: 10,923 Senior Member
    Doc, your postings are some of the most insightful and interesting I've read in ages. MrF is correct, this should be submitted as an article to a gunmag. Heck, if I can get published in NRA, anybody can!

    Okay, about your ideas -- I've been thinking about your posting all afternoon and I'm still tossing around the excellent points you made, so my comments are a work in progress...

    The will to proceed with self defense, especially something that may have a lethal endgame, is something that we need to have as an image in our minds. If we cannot pull that trigger, having a gun for SD is a false protection. As for learning from someone who's experienced this, agreed it's a good idea but not necessarily required. If the instructor is competent and has skill, the concept can be taught. Still, it helps a great deal if the instructor has had to face the tiger.

    I might say that SD via firearm is possibly easier than that via blade or hand-to-hand, not just from the physical difficulty, but from the thought of cutting or stabbing into someone. We've all been cut and therefore realize how it hurts, and might be reluctant to swing away. What few of us know is that it really, really hurts to get shot, too. A Nam vet pal of mine said it was like getting a redhot rod shoved through his leg (bullets are hot). Yes, we all "know" this intellectually but maybe not with "body sense" like getting cut with a blade.

    Regarding your facing the chicken rendering and so on, I'll give you a personal observation... I myself am not too keen on cleaning game or fish. It's part of the task or the situation, so I did it, but I wasn't happy. But strangely, it wasn't the blood. As someone who's worked in hospitals for years and was pre-med, I've seen dozens of autopsies and fairly gruesome dissections, and have never felt any queasiness -- this was to the point where some of my fellow students said I was a "cold fish". And yeah, I've done my own share of dissections, too, although never on humans (I wasn't that far in med school when I changed majors). I've hacked away on cats, dogs, pigs, whatever, and never felt anything. Why I wasn't as cool minded about cleaning a deer or fish, I don't know (I've been covered in blood from lab animals). Weird, maybe.

    But I can say this: as a total civilian, I've for some odd reason been in more near-shooting incidents that most anybody I've talked to. I've "drawn down" on 3 or 4 people and the next step was the trigger pull, and I can tell you that I've genuinely been ready to do so. Thankfully I didn't have to.

    Mindset for this may have come from my upbringing, myself and family from Kentucky, my Dad having been a "special deputy" for the sheriff, and my shooting handguns since I was a kid, under my Dad's instruction, about bullet placement and so on, and this was all about shooting at people who were threats (Dad wasn't much of a hunter). So, oddly, the majority of my shooting upbringing has been related to SD and personal shooting, mostly with large caliber handguns. So I'm a bit of a special case.

    Re. the blade or other close-in defense, it's an option but I sort of think that knives are a unique situation -- in most places, having a fairly large knife is equivalent to a gun, legally. And it really takes skill, maybe even more skill than a gun, and perhaps more willpower. After all, shooting someone at a distance, even just a few feet, is less personal than a knife fight.

    Unarmed SD is something that most people should learn while young and fit. Back when I was actually somewhat fit, I took a couple years of Shotokan karate and although I never once used it, it did help my confidence level and let me moderate my hot-head attitude. If you study REAL martial arts (Shotokan being one of the genuine disciplines), you quickly learn humility and common sense. Otherwise your instructor will make you regret it.

    Excellent posting, Doc! Thanks.
  • samzheresamzhere Banned Posts: 10,923 Senior Member
    More... and I've talked about this before... with my overall body strength being impaired (chronic weak heart) and increasing arthritis, I am simply unable to defend myself physically. If attacked, maybe I could get a punch in, but not with any authority. So, for me, it's firearms.

    I don't hunt anymore (never was much into it anyway) and can't shoot long guns due to my shoulder bones/muscles being too weak. I can however shoot handguns quite well, usually .45acp or .357 Mag. Not all day, but I can at least fire a number of mags of "hot" ammo without a lot of strain. We've talked about this before. I can review my practice methods more in another thread.

    Doc's post is mostly about mental images/purpose, not especially the weapon. So...

    No one really knows whether he/she will be able to actually pull that trigger, when and if. Hamlet says "the readiness is all" which is good advice here. In other words, practice, practice, practice.

    But that's only part of it. Much is the mental image, the "act" in progress, your actually pulling that trigger and firing with deadly intent into another person.

    None of us here is pathologically incapable of feeling terrible about such an act. So how to proceed (aside from physical practice)? You must have a mental scenario about self defense that is logical, reasonable, and morally justifiable (hopefully legally justifiable too). This is so very clear to us responsible gun owners and self defense believers, and totally incapable for anti-gun people to understand.

    We're not swaggerers, mall ninjas, guys (or gals) who wander around looking for an excuse to shoot someone (Houston recently sent a jerk to prison for that behavior). No, we love peace and want nothing more than to simply be let alone. Unfortunately that's not always possible, and we therefore take protective measures.

    Part of this (we all understand this) is to know our legal rights and be clear on them. We study our local/state laws and carry weapons within this understanding. Either from an instructor or from much personal study, we also have a mindset regarding when and where we would use our legal right to defend ourselves, even if it comes to shooting another person.

    Like training on anything -- from armed combat to tournament chess to painting houses -- if we're mentally prepared, we can then act decisively and quickly, and not hesitate if it's necessary for us to defend ourselves or loved ones.

    After you "present" your weapon, draw down and aim, there's not a lot of further physical action left in the hopper. A flick of the forefinger. But to do so with moral certainty, you have to do your "homework", not just range practice, but mental imagery of "the event" that, if ever necessary, will carry you through.

    Armed self defense by a civilian is different from LEO shootings -- there are a whole different set of rules. But if we're mindful of those rules, and have gone through the process mentally (hopefully with a trained instructor as aid), then you will have the confidence to act.

    Better still, you'll have the knowledge and confidence to NOT act if not justified. That's equally important -- to know your limitations, as Clint recommends. So taking advice from Hamlet and Clint, maybe we can get through it.

    Your thoughts, friends?...
  • DoctorWhoDoctorWho Senior Member Posts: 9,496 Senior Member
    Having spent a fair number of years in EMS later Fire rescue, and I can tell you that an emergency call involving many cars and trucks is the ultimate proving ground for a trainee, you can pass the tests and clinical work, however, once a trainee experiences the trial of a real incident involving triage of and treatment of many wounded patients, you can tell if the trainee will be successful.

    Training is important, however, what happens when one is under fire and what happens afterwards is completely independent of ones training, there have been people in the aftermath of a successful personal defense encounter, that vowed never to defend themselves again.
    "There is some evil in all of us, Doctor, even you, the Valeyard is an amalgamation of the darker sides of your nature, somewhere between your twelfth and final incarnation, and I may say, you do not improve with age. Founding member of the G&A forum since 1996
  • samzheresamzhere Banned Posts: 10,923 Senior Member
    Doc, of course you're totally correct -- good professional training is the best method of learning self defense. I'm only saying that it can then be augmented by reading good professional books (such as by Massad Ayoob and others), then taking that instruction, book learning, and your personal deep thoughts and get the best that you can from all these sources.
  • EturnEturn Member Posts: 317 Member
    To quote one of my favorite authors.

    “Once committed to fight, cut. Everything else is secondary. Cut. That is your duty, your purpose, your hunger. There is no rule more important, no commitment that overrides that one. Cut. Cut from the void, not from bewilderment. Cut the enemy as quickly and directly as possible. Cut decisively, resolutely. Cut into the enemy’s strength. Flow through the gaps in his guard. Cut him. Cut him down utterly. Don’t allow him a breath. Crush him. Cut him without mercy to the depths of his spirit."

    You are very correct. You must not only be ready and willing to cut, but be able. Not only physically able, but mentally.

    I would argue that the person whom had that day when none were around and had to kill and dress their own meal may be less inclined to cut when the time comes even if they are physically able. It is the mental ability that really counts. Not only must a person be mentally able to commit the act but to live with the act, as others have said, after it is over. You must also be able to live with what may happen should you fail. Regardless of the your level of training there will always be someone better. You must be ready to deal with what happens when you are unable to defend yourself.

    I also honestly believe that far to many people focus too much on training themselves for the actual event. Defense does not start when the thug tries to take your wallet. It starts the moment you draw breath.

    No, no one can be "on" for their entire life. Everyone needs downtime. But being ready for the attack before it begins is even more important than how you react once it has begun.
    “Not everyone is willing to embrace liberty; liberty requires not just effort, but risk. Some people choose to delude themselves and see their chains as protective armor.”
  • ZeeZee Senior Member Posts: 23,988 Senior Member
    Very nice.
    "To Hell with efficiency, it's performance we want!" - Elmer Keith
  • DynkDynk Banned Posts: 3 New Member
    I have heard that your best weapon of defense is your brain. You have to focus on the tactics and react quickly to whatever scenario arises. Whether you have gone through formal training or just had classroom training, you have to be the one to decide how you will react, if you can pull the trigger or use the knife.

    When I was a freshman in college, I went to an evening seminar entitled, "How to Say No to a Rapist and Survive." He had 10 or 11 points or options to take to get yourself out of the situation, including injuring the guy to release his hold and allow you to escape. The things he taught that night has carried through to this day, and it involves situational awareness and imagined scenarios. How will I react if this happens? What will I do when someone tries this? How will I draw my handgun and position myself in whatever situation arises?

    Psychology is key to any self-defense plan. Understanding yourself, your capabilities and weaknesses, your attacker's strengths and possible weaknesses. Without this knowledge and quick reaction, you are just another patsy or a crazed idiot with a gun.
  • DoctorWhoDoctorWho Senior Member Posts: 9,496 Senior Member
    "Without this knowledge and quick reaction, you are just another patsy or a crazed idiot with a gun."

    That is where your well planned speech goes sour, an unskilled defense even if it is poor at best, does not equal a crazed idiot with a gun, perhaps your statement is a personal reflection.
    "There is some evil in all of us, Doctor, even you, the Valeyard is an amalgamation of the darker sides of your nature, somewhere between your twelfth and final incarnation, and I may say, you do not improve with age. Founding member of the G&A forum since 1996
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