Monday, July 14, 2014

Basic Instinct

Should you be afraid?

Much of the teaching of martial arts is about understanding and controlling one’s emotions. I don’t mean ‘control’ in the same way that Spock means it, i.e. suppressing emotions. I mean ‘control’ as in ‘channelling.’

So, should you be afraid? Let’s say you’ve just left the shopping mall; it’s late at night, and the parking lot is not well lit. Should you be afraid?

Some number of years ago, the University of Iowa performed a test involving four decks of cards and the possibility of winning or losing based on selections made by the participants. The cards were stacked, so to speak, and after about 40 tries, most test participants began to glean a pattern. After about 80 cards they could reason that blue-backed cards either won them money or penalized them far less than red-backed cards.

From the onset of the test, the subjects were connected to monitors that could detect minute perspiration. Remember that it took 40 selections before the subject had a hunch something was up, and another 40 (80 total) to describe it.

But the perspiration monitors that could detect minute stress responses in the test subjects began to fire after only 10 cards. This is incredible! The mind and body, working together could detect and respond to external stimuli far sooner than the conscious reasoning areas of the brain.

Should you be afraid? Yes - but to be fair, that’s not the right question. When you sense fear, what should you do? Let’s start with what you shouldn't do - you shouldn’t ignore it, suppress it, or rationalize it away.

If you are sensing fear - there is a reason. Channel the fear into action. The exact action should be determined by the specific venue, but here is a general piece of advice ... breathe. Take slow deep breaths. What you do from there will necessarily vary, but at least you’ll have the intellectual vitamin to execute whatever plan you’ve selected.

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