Train to Think.

Have you seen this video of a rural deputy attempting to arrest a EDP and having a panic attack during the situation?  Watch the whole thing.


A "Panic Disorder", according to WebMD "a panic attack is a sudden strong feeling of fear."  An uncontrollable, and sudden rush of fear.  WebMD also states that about 3% of all adults have panic attacks, so this deputy may not have known he was part of this very small group, unfortunate for him, but fortunate for us because it allows us to start to understand the "what" and the "why."  Please understand that I am not a doctor and I am not someone who would be qualified to provide an expert opinion in court on these matters on a scientific basis, I am however someone who has gone through the highs and lows of being on autopilot during dangerous situations and have first hand experiences dealing with this the information I am going to provide below.  If you are interested in this, please research it and take my opinions and experiences on this matter with a grain of salt.


We see this deputy begin to shoot his pistol at a single wide because he thought he was being shot at.  If you go back to about 1:25 and play on you'll hear the deputy breathing pretty heavily.  That type of breathing is autonomic in nature, he is sucking in large amounts of air to try to help his body from flooding his brain and heart with blood, we know this happens when heart rate spikes.  If you re-watch the first minute and half, just before the shooting starts, you will hear his breathing escalate once he gets closer to the EDP and goes hands on.  Once he starts yelling, it becomes pretty obvious he has just crossed condition black, which means he is likely in the 175+ heart beats per minute zone, this means that is he already on autopilot.  The autopilot type situation is the most dangerous type of situation any person, and especially any LEO, will ever find themselves in.  What pushed this deputy over the edge is someone walking up in his blind spot (even though they were far away) and holding something in their hands, which was probably dark or black in color and long in nature.  


To a LEO, who has been trained since day one in the academy that people walking up to you holding dark/black things in their hands is usually a shoot/deadly force type situation.  Now go back to this deputy, who is already in condition black and sees this, is startled by it, and his autopilot goes into condition black, which means in reality he went from a 175+ HBPM to 200+ instantly which caused him to pull his firearm, shoot and run away.  He likely did not know what he did, but he knew he had to go over radio to say "shots fired" because that is what is ingrained in him, he is taught to do that every single day of work, so he does that very well, except when he makes his way back and starts giving commands to the person he believed had pointed and/or shot at him he starts to calm down, and once that starts happening, the moment the body quickly recovers and his HBPM drops below 175 he starts to regain cognitive processing time, which overloads him with emotion (which was turned off during high HBPM).  Something triggered him into that fear response more so than anything else. 

According to WebMD, "Doctors don't know exactly what causes panic disorder."  I would contend that in this particular situation, the deputy was simply not trained enough to properly navigate through this type of situation which compounded two non-threats, but because the deputy was in a high HBPM he reverted to the lowest level of his training.

A higher level of training, not just tactical training, or pistol shooting, will allow wiggle room for a person during condition black and then if it happens to escalate there may be a buffer developed for such a situation.  Those who do physically taxing sports understand this very well, but it has to go beyond that, to the point that you test yourself during these high heart rate situations to train yourself to think about what is going on.  

This is where proper mindset is paramount and the only way you have a greater chance to survive or overcome a situation which may otherwise cause you to have a seriously negative reaction.  "How?"  Is probably what you are thinking.  To that I recommend doing something completely physically taxing.  I mean to the point you can no longer stand or speak without sucking air.  An activity which will get your heart rate up, through self-initiated movement, to put you into condition black.  This can be done by doing burpees until you cannot do them anymore, this can be done by rolling in a BJJ class for an hour, this can be done by doing interval sprints.  Once you do that, switch to something else, take apart your pistol/rifle and put it back together then do dryfire repetitions while in that HBPM area.  Having a heart rate monitor is invaluable for this so you can track your heart rate and see where you are when you are doing something extremely complex.  This does not have to be at a range or live fire, it just needs to be taxing on your body to the point it starts to affect your thinking negatively, then start to do something complex, hell, you could even try to read some lines out of  Meditations or Beyond Good and Evil.  The goal is force yourself to think critically and logically during a high heart rate situation.  You may not be able to do it at first, but you will as you train more.  

For many LEO's, adrenaline dumps are a normal part of life, there were days in summer months where every other radio call was a hot call due to felony level violence.  When you hear it you get a bump in heart rate, when you drive there running code you get another bump, then when you show up if it is still a developing situation you are going to get another bump because you have to start moving around, assessing and taking action.  Sometimes these types of events happen back to back to back during an active evening.  Many LEO's develop a subconscious inoculation for this just by being in the situation more often than others and naturally become able to function through it.  Some never do.  It is best to learn how to properly do it, instead of simply experiencing it and allowing it to be installed naturally, and possibly incorrectly, in you. 


In the book On Combat, there is a section about "tactical breathing" which has been adopted by crossfitter's to help them quickly lower their heart rate in order to recover faster, but it helps immensely to drop heart rate naturally by controlling your breathing.  The trick is force yourself out of autonomic breathing and into conscious breathing to control your heart rate.  This is not easy and unless it is trained you will definitely forget to do this.  I have slowly taught myself to default to this type of breathing cycle once I can feel I am in condition black, now most of the time I will remember to do it, as if on cue.  

You should always strive to push your boundaries and your limits, either physical or mental.  While the deputy in this particular situation will be fine in the long run, the fact that he experienced this may be difficult for him come to terms with, but it is a great learning experience for the rest of us.  We should use this information to help ourselves to develop and install correct processes for naturally ingrained responses.  

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