Regardless of how advanced in self defense or martial arts you are, you deal with fear. All of us deal with fear. Period.
How well you deal with your fear is what separates the survivors from the cannon fodder.
Those that train with me or at Magic City Dojo know that I am a fan of Tony Blauer and his research on the psychology of combat and self defense.
One of the main principles that he writes and teaches is fear management. How to understand, manage, and work through your fear.
Fear can have a debilitating effect on your performance in any situation. Not just a threat to your physical being. You can fear a mugging, failing a college exam, blowing a job interview, moving to a new city, ending a bad relationship, or having a wisdom tooth extracted.
That last one was my situation this past Thanksgiving weekend.
I started with a mild toothache on Monday. It didn’t really get any better or worse on Tuesday. Wednesday started out the same and gradually got worse through the night. Wednesday night I barely got any sleep. Thanksgiving day I woke up from the pain. It was bad enough to give me a tension headache and even made me nauseated. It sucked!
As a kid, I hated going to the dentist…with a passion! Mind you, this was probably 15 years ago at best. It was always an awful experience. Dental medicine has certainly progressed in that time, so I was told. I had not experienced it myself directly. The F.E.A.R. was still there. But, the direct experience of the pain outweighed my F.E.A.R. I had to see the dentist and take care of the problem.
The Self Defense Connection
Tony Blauer has a couple of acronyms to explain F.E.A.R.
F.E.A.R. = False Expectations Appearing Real
F.E.A.R. = False Evidence Appearing Real
From what I have viewed from Coach Blauer, the most succinct way of expressing this in terms of self defense is as follows:
Ask yourself honestly…are you afraid of a knife? Think about that for a moment.
Do you own a knife? If you have a kitchen, you probably own at least one steak knife if not several types of cooking knives. So, you don’t really fear knives. You fear a knife fighter…right?
Say your martial arts teacher, someone you trust with your life, is holding a live blade. He is an experienced knife fighter; he has the means and opportunity to seriously hurt you, but you implicitly trust him. So you don’t really fear a knife fighter. You actually fear getting cut.
Have you ever cut yourself with a knife by mistake? I certainly have. Sure it hurt, but it wasn’t that bad. You actually fear getting cut in a life threatening way.
How many of you said yes to the first question, “…are you afraid of a knife?” If so, the issue is with understanding what your fear really is.
Say you’re facing a buff, athletic guy that is pissed at you for whatever reason. He says he going to kick your ass into next week. Are you afraid? No? Maybe? Probably? Yes?
What actual evidence proves that he can do what he says he can do? Maybe he hurt someone else. But that was someone else. What is the proof that he can hurt you? What is the scientific evidence? Has he hurt you before? If the answer is no, then what is your F.E.A.R. based on? If the answer is yes, what is the evidence that he is capable of doing it again?
The fact is that there is no evidence or proof until it actually, physically happens. So, in reality, your F.E.A.R is your own ego projections of what you think will happen to you. Before the incident, there is no proof!
In the Dentist’s Chair
I finally got an appointment the Friday morning after Thanksgiving. Sitting there in the dentist chair, the thought’s raced through my head:
“This is going to hurt for days on end. The actual tooth extraction is going to be so painful. This is going to suck so bad (the false expectations/evidence), but I have to do something. I can’t deal with the evident pain I was actually experiencing from the toothache (the proof).”
My F.E.A.R. wasn’t anywhere near the phobic level, but it was there.
Then I remembered the F.E.A.R. acronyms. I controlled my breathing and got calm and focused. I gave myself positive self talk. There is no proof that this is going to be unbearable. I told myself that the experience would be a piece of cake. Positive motivation. In Coach Blauer’s terminology, I had gone from the victim mindset to the victor mindset. Rather than feeling threatened, I chose to feel challenged. I was going to conquer this experience!
In the end, it was in fact a piece of cake! No real pain at all. A little minor soreness that Friday night. I didn’t even need the pain meds that they prescribed.
The hardest part was the post extraction maintenance. Don’t spit. Don’t drink through a straw. Swish gently with warm salt water X amount of times a day for the next 7 days, etc. More of an inconvenience than anything.
The next time you are experiencing F.E.A.R., take a breath and ask yourself, “What am I really afraid of? What is the evident proof?” Are you psyching yourself out, or are you psyching yourself up?
What have been your experiences? Leave your story in the comments.
For more info on Tony Blauer, F.E.A.R. Management, PDR (Personal Defense Readiness), and S.P.E.A.R., please visit www.tonyblauer.com