The first outlying incident that comes to mind for me was when I was maybe 17-18 and my dad had death threats coming to him from an employee he fired. We had a sheriff guarding our house on several occasions, and then one day with no guard present, a truck pulled into our driveway. The driver and the vehicle both fit the description of the fired employee. As he walked up to the front door I heard my dad’s girlfriend announce, “Ed, he’s here” and I got sinking feeling about how unprepared mentally and physically I was for something bad happening to me. Everyone else bolted out the back door into the backyard but I was panicked in fear and paced back and forth between two rooms, unable to decide between whether to run or hide, which were the only options I had at that time; fight had never been a consideration.
The person that arrived ended up being in-house security from my dad’s company, not in uniform… poor decision to arrive unannounced as a substitute for a sheriff, since he looked like the other guy and drove the same type of vehicle. We were fortunate this was a fluke.
Many years later I can understand why I reacted that way. My inaction and lack of options were in alignment with how people with no training think… “it will never happen to me.” The thought of something bad like that happening had never even crossed my mind.
The last few years have been happily uneventful with respect to extreme stress; however, I have had situations recently that were high stress and required full sprints under difficult conditions with no preparation of the event, where something else was at risk.
For example, chasing our foster dog that escaped out of my back door required a full sprint in my socks in several inches of snow for about 150 yards. Chasing my girlfriend’s dog, through rain and mud at night, initially wearing flip flops, when he broke the leash, and doing it again a week later again, in socks (yeah, some repeated patterns here…and please don’t ask me to dog-sit for you).
The main difference with these examples is that in the first story I believed my life was in danger, so the stress was extreme; in the dog scenarios, though I believed the dogs were in danger of getting away or getting hit by a car, the stress was less than when I perceived my life was in immediate danger. In retrospect, she would have killed me if I was the reason she lost her dog, so my life was at stake.
Also, by dog escape incident 3, I had built up experience on what had worked for me under stress and what had failed, and how to adapt and resolve this specific incident to get the dog back safely.
So what do you do with these assessments and reflections from your past?
Learn from them and consider what your options would be in a similar situation or how you can extrapolate useful information from how you handled certain stressful events.
You are the summation of your training, mindset, and useful experiences that you can draw upon in need.
If an event happened to you where you perceived your life was in danger, reflecting on it and learning from how you felt, how you responded, and how you handled yourself is a huge learning opportunity, and it is something that only you can do. If you are in a profession where emergencies are prevalent (law enforcement, first responders, military, etc), you likely have a lot more experiences to draw upon.
It's important to know what you are capable of in situations that you would never otherwise test because of the inherent risk. I would never sprint as fast as I can in the snow wearing only socks without any warming up. There’s too much chance of injury: pulling a muscle or slipping and injuring myself, but I can do it, I have already done it, and if I had to do it again to sprint away from danger or towards it, I know I can.
Train smart, stay safe, & don't clip the leash to the small key-ring on the dog's name-tag!
NOVA Self Defense