I remember having a new police recruit with me one night while on patrol. Luckily, we had to do a criminal car stop shortly after the start of the shift. I had done it several times and was used to it. My recruit, however, faced her first real dangerous situation since she put on the uniform. We stopped the car and took our positions under cover while I started giving instructions to the people inside the vehicle. But something strange happened this time. There was an unusual noise that I couldn’t understand. It bothered me because my brain was dealing with a threatening situation and couldn’t figure out what that strange noise was. Turns out I heard the bullets rattle in the barrel of my recruit’s revolver as his hands shook violently in fear. That’s the only time I remember laughing at a criminal check. I wasn’t laughing at him. Okay, I was, but I was also laughing at myself and the fact that while everything was going on, my brain was working on another problem entirely.
This scenario illustrates the result of stress inoculation. My young partner was experiencing fight or flight because it was the first time he was in a situation like this. Yet, it was just another routine (albeit potentially dangerous) problem that I had successfully solved on several occasions. The fact that I had these experiences under my belt allowed my mind to focus on what was different about this situation and try to figure it out despite the danger.
What does this have to do with you? If you expect to have to defend yourself, you will benefit from a stress vaccination. You don’t have to make criminal car stops, but you must be pushed beyond your normal limits by someone trained to do so. One of the best ways to do this is to take firearms training just above your level of expertise. You’ll be forced to learn new skills, but you’ll have to do it in front of other experienced students and instructors where you’d like to avoid embarrassing yourself. Your mind will be forced to process everything under pressure, allowing you to “vaccinate” your brain to ignore “danger” while continuing to function effectively.