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Posted on June 1, 2020 by in Training



Part One of this article discussed the differences between the emotional brain and the rational brain, and the difficulty of keeping the rational brain in the driver’s seat during a crisis situation where the following circumstances might be involved:

  • Danger to health, life, or even ego. 
  • Limited amount of time to problem-solve.
  • A high level of anxiety.
  • No familiarity with situations that are similar to this present situation.
  • An uncomfortably close proximity to the threat.

What can concealed carriers do to prevent the emotional brain from dictating what they might do in a life-and-death situation? First of all, recognize the benefits that the emotional brain brings to the party. Contingent upon the circumstances, freezing, flight, or fight might be the perfect response required to deal with the situation. How much problem-solving is required to move one’s head if someone throws a rock at it? Obviously, a brief burst of greater strength is a plus if the concealed carrier is suddenly seized by an attacker even if the concealed carrier’s rational brain is in charge.  The rational brain is more likely to dictate the concealed carrier’s response in an immediate crisis situation if the following factors are true:

  • The concealed carrier has seen the current problem before.
  • The concealed carrier has prevailed in circumstances similar to the current problem before.
  • The concealed carrier has a plan in place that takes into consideration the circumstances of the current problem.
  • The concealed carrier has stored in his or her brain a “mental map” that the matches the circumstances of the current problem.

John Hearne believes that the most important factor is creating an accurate mental map, and goes on to write: “The term mental map is shorthand for an incredibly complicated process in which the mind creates a model of the surrounding environment and creates expectations about how that world works. When the subconscious is evaluating whether to trust the situation to the emotional or rational mind, how well the mental map matches the unfolding reality will be the deal-breaker between continuing to trust the rational mind or defaulting to the emotional mind.”

Whenever the mind is experiencing novel stimuli under stressful circumstances, there is a greater possibility that without a mental map in place the mind will default to the emotional brain.  As discussed in Part One of this article, the emotional brain is not particularly good at analyzing and synthesizing complex solutions to an ongoing crisis situation. Concealed carriers most likely to perform well under stress are those with a long history of training the subconscious to ignore the pull of the emotional brain and rely instead on their trained rational brain.

It is believed that the human brain works on the principle that if one does something over and over, it must be important. The brain will eventually begin to prioritize motor skills and tasks it deems important and look for ways to do them that are more efficient and faster. At some point, well-developed tasks and motor skills typically become far less likely to fail when subjected to high levels of stress. One of the greatest advantages of proper training is that, if relevant, realistic, and recent, is the ability to correctly perform essential physical tasks is stored in the implicit memory system.

So-called “muscle memory” is well-developed neural programs that can be executed without conscious thought that are encoded in procedural memory, which is a subset of implicit memory. The implicit memory system can perform overlearned tasks very efficiently while using less brain resources to do so, which allows the concealed carrier to direct more brain resources to choosing and implementing solutions applicable to successfully dealing with the challenges found in an ongoing crisis situation. “Overlearned” simply means that the concealed carrier has practiced the task to the point that his or her proficiency exceeds a basic level. Hearne goes on to write that overlearned skills can offer the following advantages:

  • Greater accuracy, speed, and fluidity of movement.
  • Reduced muscle tension.
  • Longer term retention.
  • Greater ability to complete complex tasks based upon the overlearned material.
  • Higher base level to which the skills will decay without practice.
  • Reduced rate of skill level without practice.
  • Greater accessibility under stress.
  • Reduced amount of mental resources to execute the task.

Concealed carriers who possess basic skills with a high level of “automaticity” (an ability to do certain things without conscious thought and allowing it to essentially become an automatic response) can significantly free up their mind and direct it towards problem-solving in a deadly force encounter. Problem-solving can come in the form of quickly drawing a handgun, maneuvering as needed, and correctly assessing the lawfulness of one or more actions while under high stress. John nicely sums it up as follows: “In order to win, I must have more emotional control and skill than the problem that I am confronting…a dominating win comes from bringing dramatically more emotional control and/or skill to the fight than the scenario requires.”

It is important that concealed carriers understand that they often have some control over the complexity of a highly stressful scenarios. Concealed carriers who remain situationally aware, see who is around and what they are doing, and then accurately process what they are seeing as early as possible can reduce the complexity of what may be a rapidly developing problem.

Based upon John’s writing, I would recommend that concealed carriers prepare for situations in which they may forced to defend themselves and possibly their loved ones through research, training, and practice that removes novelty and builds and maintains legitimate mental maps and robust motor skills. Both mental maps and motor programs should be constantly refreshed and updated.

In summary, concealed carriers who are most likely to hold up well under stressful situations where life and limb are threatened are those that are not only are able to develop and maintain an acceptable level of skill with a handgun but who are also able to maintain control through the use of their rational mind. In order to accomplish that, concealed carriers should consider training and voluntarily place themselves in stressful situations where they learn to deal with pressure and perform under stress.

Again, I strongly recommend that concealed carriers purchase the book “STRAIGHT TALK ON ARMED DEFENSE”. This particular article at best touched on only some of the high points, and it is possible that some of the statements contained within may very much reflect my perspective on a subject (and not necessarily John’s). Regardless, the old saying of “keep your head while everyone else is losing theirs” is further confirmation that concealed carriers who can think and act rationally are always going to be better prepared than those whose actions are dictated by their emotions.

Steve Moses

Steve is a long-time defensive weapons instructor based out of Texas who has trained hundreds of men and women of all ages for more than two decades on how to better prepare to defend themselves and their loved ones. Steve has completed over 80 private-sector and law enforcement-only defensive weapons and tactics classes, and has trained civilian and law-enforcement officers in six states. Moses is a reserve deputy, former member of a multi-precinct Special Response Team, competitive shooter, and martial artist. Steve has written numerous articles for SWAT Magazine and other publications. Steve is a licensed Texas Level 4 Personal Security Officer and Instructor who was Shift Lead on a mega-church security detail for seven years, and has provided close protection for several former foreign Heads of State. He is currently an instructor at Relson Gracie Jiu Jitsu/Krav Maga in Tyler, Texas and Director of Training for Palisade Training Group (