The Physiology/Psychology of an encounter






The 'Fight or Flight' Syndrom


"Fight or Flight"
The Physiology/Psychology of a Gun Fight


In any self defense situation, your goal is not to maim or kill your assailant.  It is rather to stay alive, and survive a desperate confrontation.  If flight is possible, escape by any means.  If you are trapped, be prepared to fight.  Proper application of deadly force, through use of a firearm, may represent the only viable means by which the intended victim can expect to have a chance of living through an assault by an aggressively determined, physically powerful, possibly armed attacker.  


The mere presence of a gun in the hands of a law abiding citizen often prevents the occurrence of bloodshed on either side.  However, if you are ever required to fire a gun to save innocent lives, including your own, keep shooting the assailant in the chest and head until the conflict is over and the criminal no longer represents a threat.  Do not issue any warnings.  You should not be firing unless the situation has degenerated to a matter of life or death. 


Before bringing a firearm to bear for personal protection, quickly determine if the following three conditions exist:


By means of their language, actions, behavior, or demeanor, another person has demonstrated their intent to kill or severely injure you; This person has the means at hand to carry out their intent, because they are armed with a knife, gun, club, or other lethal weapon, or, if unarmed, they are physically capable of overpowering you; The physical conditions of the encounter are such that the other person has the opportunity to carry out the attack.


These conditions warrant the use of deadly force on your part.  Keep in mind that all three criteria must exist.  Such conduct is not warranted merely to protect property.  You must, unequivocally, be in fear of your life.


When the conflict is over, put your firearm into a safe condition, secure it, contact law enforcement officials, call for an ambulance, and retain the services of an attorney.  You have acted in a proper manner.  However, the judicial system in America tends to favor the criminal rather than the victim.  It is wise to become familiar with state and local statutes, codes and ordinances regarding the use of deadly force ahead of time to ascertain your rights and responsibilities under the law.

In self defense, preparedness and practice are paramount.  Become familiar with your firearms operation.  Be alert.  When outside the home, the importance of maintaining an awareness of one's physical surroundings is obvious, with increased vigilance required under unfamiliar or suspect conditions.


In a like manner, it is just as important to understand  and anticipate the instinctual alarm reactions your mind and body will likely assume in the event you ever experience a violent attack.    

In a life threatening situation, the intended victim's "fight or flight" reflex manifests itself.  This reflex, honed by millenniums of adaptive human survival behavior, results in increased heart rate and cardiac output, higher blood pressure, accelerated respiration, greater carbohydrate metabolism, and virtually instantaneous supercharging of the body.  


This stimulation is attributable to the adrenal glands above the kidneys which produce steroidal hormones, and the hormones and neurotransmitters epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine, responsible for constricting blood vessels and dilating bronchi in the lungs.  


The stress, rage, and fear which overwhelm the intended victim thus create a bodily alarm reaction which expresses itself as a period of greater strength and faster speed, accompanied by near impervious reaction to pain.  At the same time, fine motor skills grossly deteriorate, dexterity noticeably decreases, and the hands, arms and legs may tremble.  The intended victim will also likely experience an altered state of perception as well.  One, indeed, is not calm, cool and collected.


The perception of time may become distorted.  With the body alarm reaction, the mind processes stimuli at a fantastically accelerated rate when compared to normal.  The result may be the perception that activities are occurring in slow motion, even though movements of the event may actually be extremely fast.  The reverse may also occur: the event may seem to transpire faster than one would expect.

In its in incredibly heightened state of awareness, the mind of the intended victim tends to focus with tunnel vision on the identified threat.  This results in the exclusion of normal peripheral vision.  Knowledge of this potential visual reaction to an attack is valuable in the event one is ever faced with multiple assailants.


The perception of hearing, like vision, may also be drastically affected during a life threatening encounter.  The mind screens out everything that is extraneous to immediate survival, resulting in auditory exclusion.  The distorted perception of hearing may mute shouts, sirens and screams.  You may not even hear your own gun fire.  This sensory response was employed with considerable dramatic effect by Steven Spielberg in his motion picture "Saving Private Ryan".


The "fight or flight" reflex allows the mind to draw upon memory resources that are not normally used.  The intended victim may experience a sense of precognition, an anticipation response to a subconsciously perceived sequence of circumstances.  You "see it coming", even though to the casual observer no violent threat as yet exists.


Be prepared to experience a denial response to a life or death situation.  One tends to seek mental and emotional shelter in normalcy.  When this state of mind is horrifically shattered, the intended victim's reaction may be "this can't be happening".


One may experience "hysterical blindness" during or after an attack.  Essentially, the mind refuses to visualize any longer a terrifying event perceived by the eyes.  This may translate into fleeing the scene of an attack, even if one successfully, and legally, used lethal force to survive the incident.  Needless to say, law enforcement officials will take a dim view of this evasion.


In a highly trained person who has practiced to a degree that the body's reaction to a stimulus is automatic, the "fight or flight" reflex may create the illusion of "watching one's self ".  The body movement is so fast, without the guidance of deliberate thought, that one's conscious mind can't keep up.


The highest manifestation of the phenomenon of observing oneself occurs as an "out of body" experience.  Due to trauma, the mind's survival instinct drives all senses into a state of profound and unparalleled perception.  From sounds and recalled sights, the mind is able to generate three dimensional images.


The out of body experience is often combined with a "celestial death".  During this state, one sees a brilliant, bright tunnel or vortex of intense white light.  One may also spiritually encounter loved ones who have passed on.  The celestial death may be  experienced by those who are clinically dead, who miraculously recover, as well as by those victims of an attack who believe themselves to be mortally wounded, near imminent death.  


After a life threatening encounter, the intended victim may occasionally revert to a state similar to that of sleep walking, seeming to be in a zombie-like trance.


Confusion is a state of mind commonly experienced by an intended victim who has survived a life or death encounter.  Manifestations include remembering events out of sequence, exaggerating the importance of trivial incidents, and forgetting important events due to short term memory loss.   

The ramifications of the foregoing physical-psychological aspects of encountering, enduring, and evading a life threatening violent attack are obvious: recognize in yourself how your body and mind may react, and prepare yourself accordingly to the extent possible.  Mental preparedness is one aspect of self defense.


Likewise, it is apparent that an intended victim who has survived a violent encounter is not going to be in the best frame of mind to immediately recount details of the incident to law enforcement authorities.  Physically, the adrenalin rush which supercharged the body has given way to a precipitous decline in energy, and the intended victim is likely exhausted and confused.  For these reasons, it is not a good idea to give legal statements regarding an attack right away, especially if the attack was terminated by the justifiable use of deadly force on your part.  Rather, politely advise the police officers that you understand your rights and immediately consult with or request that you speak with an attorney.
"NOT" talking to the Police isn't a crime, it's Law Enforcement decides to do with the information you provide.  The 'ONLY" thing you are required to do is give a brief description of what happened because there will be an investigation especially if the event ended in the death of a human being.   Even if you

feel like you are being 'forced' to talk and made to feel like the guilty party rather than the victim, stay calm, composed and polite.   The second you say 'Attorney' it is illegal for the Police to continue to question you and at this point you have all the time in the world.

Remember this;  Even a trained Police Officer has emotions and are required to receive any necessary
counseling so don't dismiss your ability to seek out professional help.  We are ALL Human!