Rangemaster article #2, Imagery

May 10, 2006
Memphis, Tn
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Visualization, or Mental Imagery
by Tom Givens

Visualization, or imagery, is one of the most effective tools available to you for mental conditioning. This is vital to success in a fight. Under stress, your subconscious mind will immediately take over and direct your body to do whatever the subconscious has been programmed to do. If you have been programmed through training to respond correctly, you will. Panic is simply the lack of a pre-programmed response. Since your subconscious doesn’t know what to do, it does nothing. (When in danger, or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout!) Obviously, your odds of surviving improve drastically if you have pre-programmed the correct tactical responses before a crisis.

How do we program these correct responses until they become automated? There are three ways. First, you could engage in about a dozen gunfights. You would then be adept at making rapid, sound tactical decisions, if you are still alive! We don’t recommend this method because the test comes first, the lesson afterward. This is a painful and expensive way to learn.

Bismarck said , “A smart man learns from his own mistakes, a wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” This is especially true in this business, where mistakes can be fatal. The easiest way to learn from the mistakes of others is to read a big city newspaper each day as you eat your breakfast. Look in the local news and select two instances reporting the criminal victimization of some unfortunate person. Take five or ten minutes to read these two accounts and actually analyze them. Ask yourself two questions, and make yourself come up with an answer.

The first question is, “What did the victim do to put himself in this situation?” . Once you learn a bit about criminal behavior, you realize that above all, criminals are opportunists. They capitalize on circumstances created by inattentive, complacent, lazy, and unobservant victims. Very soon you will learn to recognize the behavior or activity on the part of the victim that facilitated or even precipitated the crime. This will hold true in probably 95% of the cases you study. Once you have identified the specific victim behavior that caused the attack, you are reinforcing in your subconscious that this is negative, or harmful behavior. Day after day, by doing this, you are programming your subconscious to avoid that type of behavior. If you don’t present the opportunity, the criminal cannot take advantage of it.

The next question is, “Alright, I was stupid and got into this mess, how do I get myself out of it?” Make yourself think up a solution to the tactical situation. In this manner, you are getting practice every single day in making tactical decisions. If you make tactical decisions every day of your life, they will come easily to you if you find yourself in dangerous circumstances. If you have never practiced this decision making process, how do you expect to do it well under extreme stress?

The last technique in imagery we will discuss has to do with mentally rehearsing confrontations, to prepare beforehand for a confrontation. In your mind, as a normal, healthy person, there is a very fine line between reality and fantasy. A psychopath no longer has this distinction in his mind, and his fantasies become his reality. A normal mind blurs this distinction under several circumstances. If you are an avid reader, for instance, you “see” the action of a good novel or historical account unfolding in your mind as you read. You form mental images of the characters and events, as if you had seen them yourself. How many times have you wakened from a vivid dream and took a few seconds to orient yourself? These are examples of that blurred distinction between reality and fantasy.

Airline pilots periodically receive training in a flight simulator, which is an enclosed box mounted on hydraulic jacks. Upon entering the simulator, the pilot is seated in a cockpit seat, a control panel is arrayed before him, and the “windshield” has a back projected image on it, just like the view from a plane. As the pilot applies control movements to the stick and so forth, the “plane” responds with motion. Within a few moments, the pilot’s brain is fully convinced that he is flying a plane, although intellectually he knows he is bolted to the floor of the training building. At some point, the control panel will advise him of an emergency, and the “plane” will simulate the movement involved, as in a sudden dive. The pilot must immediately take corrective action to keep from “crashing”. Although they are in no real danger, these guys come out of the simulator white knuckled and sweating, because the mind blurred the distinction between reality and fantasy. If, at some future date, the pilot is confronted with that actual emergency in a real aircraft, he will automatically respond, quickly and correctly, because his brain has learned that the correct action will save its life.

You can do the same thing with your mind in a self defense context by using visualization exercises. Go to a quiet room and sit in an easy chair. Relax, and clear your mind of all thought (easy for some of us!). Now, in your mind vividly imagine a tactical scenario. Think of it as a daydream, if you like, but get into it and project yourself into the action. For every imagined action by the bad guy, direct yourself through a proper reaction. “If he does this, I’ll do that.” Always direct the action to a successful outcome.

Let me give you a couple of examples. If you work in a retail environment, ask yourself, “What am I going to do when they stick this place up?”. Visualize your work station, and the surroundings. Where is cover? What direction could you fire in without endangering coworkers? Is there an escape route available? Don’t wait until a hold-up man is standing across the counter from you to think about this. If you are a boss, ask yourself, “What am I going to do if a disgruntled employee comes plodding down the hall with a shotgun?”. Is there any other way out of your office? Is there any real cover available? Where is the secretary? You might find you want to rearrange your office. Find out now, not while under fire!

Of course, another form of this sort of “crisis rehearsal” involves realistic training and practice at the range. Work from concealment, practice movement off the line of force, and strive for fast, accurate multiple hits! Avoid “plinking” in place of practice. Once the basics are mastered, force on force scenario training equips the mind with simulated experience against live opponents, a huge step forward in your preparedness.

There are really only a dozen or so ways for a thug to criminally victimize you. White collar crime has endless opportunities for innovation, but street crime is pretty straightforward. Over a period of time, you can visualize your way through just about all of the likely forms of street crime, and have pre-programmed responses filed away in the back of your mind (the subconscious) ready for deployment if faced with a similar circumstance.

If you are faced with a life threatening crisis in a form you have never seriously considered or given any thought to, you will likely hesitate just long enough to lose. If, on the other hand, you take a little time to practice these “simulations”, you can program ready responses and be able to retain control of yourself and your actions. Your mind needs to know that there is a way out, and that you know what it is. This avoids panic, and allows you to act decisively, which is your salvation.

Training for the real world.
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