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Stopgap

Posted by on 2012/11/01

Alright, so I’ve been traveling for a bit, and doing life things that don’t involve keeping up with my blog posting responsibilities, but since I don’t really have much of a readership, I’m not going to get down on myself about, nor am I going to try to make up for it with an epic post about survival kung fu (because it’s really long and I’m not done with it yet) but I will say this:

I was walking with a friend of mine one night, and we were (as guys do) telling one another fight stories, and something he said kind of burned into my memory and stayed there. You see, my droog, let’s call him Ving Rhames, just totally at random, because he isn’t Ving Rhames, has pretty much been a badass since birth.  He came out of the womb with a flying sidekick and never landed.  Anyway, Ving was telling me that since he’s been a monster martial artist his whole life, he’s never really been afraid of being jumped, strong armed, bullied, or otherwise put upon in the dark of night by a stranger or even a group of strangers.  He can walk to the ATM at 3AM through the bad part of town and not check back over his shoulder to take a second glance at an odd shadow.

Personally, I’ve never been the afraid for my life type, but that’s more because I’m a solipsistic narcissist, and it never dawns on me that some stranger will actually do me harm; but the point is, he drew my attention to the fact that yes, some asshole who’s had a bad day can just come along at some point and steal your stash, ruin your face, and whistle as he walks away.  I have to say, I wasn’t afraid of the idea, but I was afraid of being afraid.

Now, most of you survival nuts are just itching for the day some  loser tries to mug you, but most rational humans do in fact experience some trepidation about being thrust into a conflict situation.

Here’s what happens:

A stress response is triggered, a cascade of neurological activity that changes the way your body works, immediately.
There will be a sudden change in your heart and lung activity, preparing your cardiovascular system for increased demand.  Your stomach will feel tighter, as intestinal action will slow or stop. Your pupils will dilate, and subtly, things will become brighter, you’ll be more apt to notice movement, and less apt to pick out details.  Your bladder may relax, you may piss yourself.  Your peripheral vision may be reduced. You may freeze, or start to feel shaky, or both.  As adrenaline flows through your body, you may become numb to tactile sensations.  In some cases, these involuntary reactions may be  a boon, or they may trigger a panic response, you may find it difficult to organize your thoughts, or think about anything other than the immediate threat.  If your body is ill-equipped to handle this reaction, in some cases, you may faint.  It’s a shitty system if you don’t know how to handle it.

The only way, in fact, to prepare yourself to handle the fight-or-flight reaction that occurs is, like all things, to acclimate yourself to it.  Experience it. In a survival situation, if you don’t know how your body reacts to dire stress, it may cripple you, you might become careless, reckless, stupid.  Part of any survival preparation regiment, maybe one of the more important parts, is to prepare yourself to be caught off guard, to be surprised, to be afraid.

Fear is normal and healthy, it’s a primordial aspect of the human experience which is designed to keep us alive.  Heed it, respect it, and don’t be afraid of being afraid.

When an opportunity arises to do something that you are afraid to do, it may be to your benefit to savor that moment, to feel what that moment does to your body, so that when you don’t have the choice, you’re not unprepared.

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