Are You Prepared to Use Violence to Stop Violence?
If asked, “are you willing to use violence to stop violence against you or a loved one?” many of us would answer “yes”. I know I would. The truth is, unless you’ve been tested, you really don’t know. During the last couple of months, I have put in a lot of drive time, listening to the audiobook “On Killing” by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. This book helped firm up my understanding of humans and their capacity and willingness to use violence. In short, the vast majority of human beings are not wired to use violence on one another.
Lt. Col. Grossman goes into great detail to explain how, through the earliest of American wars; the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and the World Wars, the majority of the men fighting them would purposely miss what they were shooting at. He explained how the aversion to killing another human was so strong that a trained soldier often times would not shoot another, even if it meant losing his own life.
Leading up to the Vietnam War, great effort went into figuring out how to train men, not only to kill but to do so without hesitation. Today’s military are some of the most efficient warriors in the world’s history.
Someone might say that an aversion to violence is a good thing and that Jesus said, “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword”. I would agree with Him, but He did not say we should never use the sword. In fact, I believe that if we willingly decide not to act in our own defense or in the defense of another innocent person, we have sinned. We now bare blood guilt and are accountable for all of the future acts of violence our attacker commits. We also bare the guilt of all the good that we or the person we did not defend would have done.
Less Than Lethal Force
It is my belief that the majority of humans have an aversion to using any form of violence against one another. I’ve mentioned before that I took a real world martial art called “Haganah”. I noticed that almost all new students hesitated using even minimal force to strike their partner. These are people who are aware of the need to learn to defend themselves but have to be trained that it was acceptable to strike another person. I was a wrestler in high school and had a few minor altercations as a young adult. Physical violence wasn’t completely new to me. I still had to retrain myself that using force was not only acceptable in this setting, but encouraged. I trained with some students who hesitated striking with even 10% of their force even after months of training.
In the book The Survivors Club, author Ben Sherwood explores a theory developed by a man named John Leach called “The 10-80-10 rule”. In summary, the rule states that the top 10% of people in a crisis excel; they think clearly and take immediate action. The middle group comprises 80% of people; they are “quite simply stunned and bewildered”; “reasoning is significantly impaired and thinking is difficult”. The last 10% of people are the “ones you definitely want to avoid in an emergency”.
A few pages later, he explains something called ‘behavioral inaction’; “The current theory of behavioral inaction goes like this: As your frontal lobes process the site of an airplane wing on fire, they seek to match the information with memories of similar situations in the past. If you have no stored experience of a plane crash, your brain can’t find a match and gets stuck in a loop trying and failing to come up with the right response. Hence: immobility.”
While he was talking about a plane crash, I believe the theory carries over to any type of critical incident. In terms of violence I think that the first 10% are capable of violence, either to harm or to defend. The middle 80% of people are those who will freeze either initially and then take action or remain frozen. The last 10% of people are made up of those who just shut down.
More Than Fight or Flight
You’ve probably heard of “fight or flight”, but there are at least five possible responses. They are fight, flight, freeze, posture and submit.
Fight – This is a group of people who have a capacity for violence, either to hurt or to protect. Sheep, Wolves and Sheepdogs is an excellent depiction of those who’re willing to use violence. The wolves are those who prey upon others (the sheep). Sheepdogs are those who’re capable of using violence in protection of themselves and in defense of the sheep.
Posturing – Posturing is combat without making contact, using intimidation. This is frequently seen in the animal world but can be seen in humans as well. Posturing comes easy to those who fight but I have seen some who were not typically thought of as fighter’s posture enough to prevent an attack and back a wolf down.
Flight – This is a group of people who have an innate urge to flee from harm. There are some who might initially flee, only to change to another behavior.
Freeze – People who freeze might do so for mere seconds while their brain catches up to the reality of the situation. They could also be people who are so completely overwhelmed that they simply shut down. People in this group can slide to other groups. For instance, someone might freeze for a second before being able to use violence to defend themselves. Another person might freeze before running away or submitting.
Submit – Submitting is totally giving up to an attacker. There is evidence in the FBI’s annual uniform crime report to suggest that submitting is more dangerous than fighting back. However, feigning compliance and submitting temporarily can give a person the upper hand.
Putting it all Together
I believe that the 10-80-10 rule and the five possible responses to violence can be combined. The first 10% are the people who are ready and willing to use violence and obviously have no aversion to it. The last 10% are made up of those who flee (and continue to flee), and those who submit. They are so incapable of violence they would rather perish than use force, even to save their own lives. I think that the middle 80% is on a sliding scale of sorts. There are those who, under certain conditions, are capable of using violence. There are also those who might initially freeze and later panic.
Since the majority of us fall into the middle 80% of people who freeze for some length of time, how can we make sure we override any aversion to violence? How can we make sure we don’t remain frozen? How can we make sure we snap out of it and are willing to use violence to stop violence being used against us or another human being?
Remember that the reason people in the 80 portion of the 10-80-10 rule freeze is because their minds can’t quickly latch onto something from their stored experience. What we need to do is make sure there is something in that stored experience.
Overcoming the Aversion to Violence
As I mentioned, in the book “On Killing”, it is noted that trained soldiers from much of America’s history missed their shot on purpose, even if it meant their own life. If a trained soldier had difficulty overriding the aversion, what hope can the average citizen have?
If you’re not intellectually, emotionally or spiritually averse to the idea of using violence to save you or a loved one, there are some things you can do to train yourself to act in self-defense and in the defense of others.
Lt. Col. Grossman listed several things modern training has done to make the modern warrior act, often without hesitation. I’m not going to cover them in detail, as some just wouldn’t and shouldn’t apply outside of a military setting. Many of the things that we can do are intellectual and psychological.
No, I do not mean that touchy feely, self-affirming “I’m good enough, I’m smart and doggonit people like me” crap. I mean visualize different scenarios and what you might do and say when a threat causes you to go to code orange or red. (If you don’t know what the Cooper Color Code is, follow that link and learn to incorporate it into your daily situational awareness.) For instance, thinking through the following scenario; if this person following me follows the next three right turns I make (walking or driving), I am going to do “x”.
I haven’t ever had someone kick down my door and come in with a weapon. I have thought about what I would do in many different variations of that, and Trudee and I have discussed them.
Visualization is more than just thinking through imaginary scenarios that could happen. I also think about how I would respond to violent encounters I read about, see in the news or even in TV and movies.
By mentally preparing my mind for situations where violence is an acceptable response, I am overriding the natural aversion to violence. This is something that should be done on an ongoing basis, much like weight lifting to build and keep strength.
Less Than Lethal – I am a big supporter of real world self-defense for multiple reasons. Watching a fist fight on TV or movies is a completely different thing than actually being in one. Of course, not just the physical aspect of it, but also the mental. When you’re on the receiving end of violence, there is a mental shock, which is probably why 80% of people freeze. As I mentioned earlier, there is often a hesitation to strike someone. While it’s possible to overcome that in an actual fight, I suppose, repeatedly striking someone and defending against various attacks gets one used to the initial shock and you learn how to override it and defend.
Lethal Force – If you haven’t taken a handgun training course, take one. If you’ve taken one, then take another. There are some training companies where you enter a “shoot house” and fire at multiple types of targets. There are also some places that use simunition (simulated munition), which is a paint tipped round. They put you in various real world situations and have Joe Dirtbag enter and do dirtbag stuff that you have to react to. Some places also have force on force training with Airsoft or paintball. If you can do those, great! If not, when you’re at your local range, visualize the target as the threat you visualized in the above scenarios.
The goal is not only to excel with your firearm, but also to train you to respond with violence to stop violence.
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