You’ve just picked up your coffee at the drive up, and headed onto the Interstate for the morning commute. It’s a slog…
You’ve made it to the fast..well, faster.. lane and finally you’re putting on some speed. Talk radio, or faves from your morning playlist are waking up your brain. The routine has begun.
You reach for your coffee and start it to your lips when “AGH!!” the lid not-so-securely placed by that barista with the cute eyes at the drive-up pops off. Hot (why do they make it sooo hot?) coffee spills onto your fingers and spatters your khaki clad thigh…
You shift your gaze but momentarily: cup, lid askew, brown liquid spotting your pants. And then look up to see brake lights coming on FAST!
You slam on your own brake to stop – just in time – for the traffic that has come to a dead halt.
It’s a stress spike. What would have normally been a routine traffic adjustment eliciting no autonomic nervous response has suddenly become, perhaps literally, life and death. It’s made worse because it was so sudden, even if only because of the momentary shift in attention created by the spilled – hot!- coffee.
Now, what can you do with that?
In that moment you saw the brake lights, can you report the license plate number on the car you are about to hit? Why not, it’s right in front of you!!
How about the color of the car in the lane next to you. How about the hair color of the driver?
Were you, in that very second you saw the brake lights, able to check rear and side view mirrors to make an emergency lane change? Did you have the time?
And how long after the event is your heart still racing? Some will return to stasis almost immediately. Others will need to breathe to calm their heart rate, and may still be feeling the after-effects and replaying it in their mind as they walk into their workplace.
Still others will be laying awake at night tossing and turning with an uneasy feeling over what could have happened.
What part of your driver’s education prepared you for that very moment when your stress spiked and you were still behind the wheel? Was it even mentioned? Or did you just focus on the rules of the road and the skills of driving safely?
Now, imagine instead of brake lights what you suddenly see is the muzzle of a gun coming up toward your face, from ten feet away…
How “tactical” are you going to be? Like the license plate, are you going to be able to say what color the gun is? How about the shirt of the guy with the gun? How about his age or facial features? Why not, he’s right in front of you!
Are you really going to be able to check right and left and look for cover? Really? Because in that twinkling moment in what is a routine situation on the road you did not have the time or attention-space to change lanes….Think about it.
Were you even able to get to your gun? Manipulate it properly for accurate rounds on target? Have you ever done so during a moment of spiking stress? How about a prolonged or repeated stress spike: that same feeling but sustained over a period of time? How many times have you done it under that stress?
Can you make decisions during that stress? To change lanes? To go one way and not the other, to close on the threat or back off or seek that cover you’ve been told to look for on the range? Can you make that kind of decision for other people, directing their response?
It is said that we do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. This is not true. We rise or fall to the level of our preparation.
Semantics, perhaps. Some will say training is preparation. But I have seen many instances of trained people, even well trained people, who were simply not prepared to deal with something when it was very real. Training that does not provide the spike that will occur when its most needed is simply not full preparation. It might be necessary to achieve performance, (skill drills, etc.) but it does not reflect actual conditions where stress, apprehension, mental alacrity and hesitation, and force of will (one’s own and the Opposition’s) are the programs running alongside stance and breathing and draw stroke and grip and trigger press.
This is hard to talk about in depth, which is again why virtually all discussion you see in the blogs and forums and pages is on gear and gadgets and courses of fire and workouts.
That is all well and good for training. It is not always preparation.