Editor’s Note: This article is another excellent read that has been generously contributed by Bolo. Bolo discusses the importance of training not from the aspect of crucial skills you need, but experience and comfort with the stress you will possibly feel if you are ever called to use your training in a SHTF event.
Thanks to Egbert Throckmorton1 for the inspiration he provided in his recent article titled “How to Overcome the Paralysis of Fear.” While he focused on the criminal aspect of day-to-day life, this post will delve into fears that can affect your ability to cope with extreme post-SHTF conditions and life in general.
If I led a group to the edge of a high precipice and told them to jump over the side, secured only by a frayed rope, they would wisely decline my suggestion. If I told them they had no choice in the matter, their reaction would likely turn to fear and panic. If, on the other hand, they each had developed the proper skills of rappelling and possessed the appropriate gear (including high quality ropes), they would likely be saying “me first!”
The same could be said of a person who faces the challenge of jumping out of a perfectly good airplane with a parachute (an act which I deeply admire, but have never experienced). If I told you that the parachute had an unknown pedigree and had been purchased at a local Goodwill store, you would think me insane for suggesting that you use it.
There is a gut level place inside each of us where nearly instantaneous and paralyzing fear can arise when there is need for response to life threatening situations. This is especially so if we have no prior training or experience to deal with the situation at hand. It is a normal, instinctive reaction to the desire for survival. It is that millisecond, autonomic equivalent of saying “I am not prepared for this, I do not trust it; therefore I fear a negative outcome.” People without training or experience tend to either freeze or flee an imminent danger. Those with training and experience do not fear moving toward it.
In the days of my youth I spent a nearly a decade backpacking into one of the most rugged wilderness areas of my home state. The area can be characterized as vertically sheer canyons that are nearly 2,000 feet deep. When viewed from an airplane they appear as teeth on a saw blade. They are immensely beautiful at any angle or elevation, but they are treacherous to anyone who challenges them without possessing a certainty of technical competence. My desire to explore every aspect of these canyons, which became a true passion, increasingly motivated me to learn how to rappel, traverse ice ledges and cope with scree slopes that were hundreds of yards wide and long. Such training would enable me to reach locations that were not otherwise accessible without extreme difficulty or risk. Suffice it to say that I acquired the gear and training that I needed to safely accomplish my goal. A great friend and mentor died in this canyon wilderness, so it will always hold a special significance to me.
Dealing with the Unknown
As members of the prepping community, we try to plan for realistic challenges. We scrimp and labor to ensure that we have adequate food, water, power and other essentials to sustain our families during a crisis of any duration. Although we may each approach those needs in different ways and at different paces, there is a common underlying motivation: identify the need or risk and address it to the best of our ability and resources.
But what about situations you have never encountered before, but that could become life threatening? If you were confronted with a dire situation, would you be able to quickly measure the risk and determine a course of action? Would you have the training, equipment and reflexes that would enable you to survive? That’s a tough question, and it is made more difficult by the imprecise nature of future events.
Let’s return to my example of rappelling. Apart from accomplishing my objective, what did I gain?
- A greater understanding of the risks that go with poor preparation.
- The ability to recognize risks that were above my technical competence, as well as an understanding of what else was needed to overcome those deficiencies.
- Acquisition of proper tools and the experience in using them.
- An ability to “read” terrain in a way would otherwise have been impossible.
- A level of confidence that was based on training and accomplishment rather than an idealized notion of my capability. In other words, the realization that there is no substitute for competence.
- The realization that acquiring knowledge and experience are the surest ways to overcome doubt or fear.
Were these gains temporary in nature? Not at all – they have served me well in a variety of circumstances since I acquired them; many of which have nothing to do with jumping over the side of a cliff. Therein lays the point of this post: As you build knowledge, experience and confidence in skills, the payoff extends to other aspects of your life. Importantly, it enables you to recognize other opportunities that you might never have thought about. It increases your willingness to take on other challenges and it builds up your adaptability and coping skills.
Paralyzing Fear is a Danger to Everyone:
Life throws a lot of stuff at us. For the most part, we take it in stride; we brush off the occasional setbacks and go forward. No one wants to take on the mantle of victim-hood as a way of life. But, in a SHTF event, you may experience reactions in your group that are completely unanticipated. Does someone in your family have a paralyzing fear of firearms, of heights, of becoming lost or stranded in unfamiliar terrain? Are they claustrophobic? If you expect to include that person in your shelter or bug out plans, his or her unwillingness to overcome such fears could eventually place your entire group in jeopardy.
So, how can you train yourself or a family member to deal with a future event that may evoke paralyzing fear? I can think of only one answer, and that is to continually expose yourself (or them) to confidence building challenges, to expand your experiences beyond “ordinary” activities, to learn how to adapt and cope. I’m not suggesting that you must achieve world-class status at rappelling; it is just an example that is meaningful to me. Start with your kids or grandchildren. After all, they are the future that you have invested your life in. Learn for yourself, and for their sake, that there is no fear or doubt that cannot be overcome.