SP ARCHIVES: Mindset Again

Paul wrote: Was there ever a time either in childhood, army, or the far east, or even over here, where you`ve found yourself in a situation and genuinely been so terrified you couldn`t operate, or have you always managed to switch on to your core powers of survival and come through?

I`ve read a lot about you and know from your site that you pride yourself on each fight being real, as if your life depended on it, but did this click after years of training, or is it more from what you learned from your dad so that it was second nature to be resilient and hardy?

My reasons for asking are very personal, many years ago I wasn`t fearful of anything but have had a couple of breakdowns which have affected my confidence, so I`m just wondering do you genuinely fear nothing, or can such a mindset be learned through acting `as if`, i.e. get on with it and things are never as bad as you first fear? I know hiding away and praying people leave you alone gets you nowhere.

Steve wrote: Personally, I’m wired for violent confrontation so it’s usually not those situations that cause me anxiety. It’s things that other people would find quite everyday that ring my alarm bells. Filling out a form just about kills me. Things to do with government, bureaucracy, stopping at traffic lights (just kidding)–that does my head in. If my kid falls down and bumps his knee I’m already going to the A&E. With the kids being small, the house is padded with so much foam and silver Duck tape that it looks like the inside of the Tardis!

I can only say that as the danger goes up something inside me rises to the occasion, at times almost to the point of being suicidal and totally oblivious to pain. As I sometimes put it, I go into the ‘fuck it’ gear. And that level of arousal has been with me since I was a child; indeed as a child teenager and young man the euphoria gained from being in such a state of mind and body often led me to seek out dangerous situations simply for the chemical gratification, like a drug. Based on the firsthand experience of training people for over 30years I know I can change people’s mindsets because I have on many occasions.

You’re right, acting the part is an important process in changing the way you respond to a dangerous situation; that’s why wearing the persona of credible role models is important and not wearing the persona of some guy who’s never been in a dangerous sitution in his life, or got the shit kicked out of him when he was. But the most important thing is to be engaged in training methods that test you. Many martial arts are focussed on ‘building self-esteem’ but in many cases, from a fighting perspective, the self-esteem is false and misleading, and could actually do you more harm than good. Although you’ve had a bad experience, you’ve got to bite the bullet and get yourself back into the mix. You’ve got to challenge yourself progressively and not accept the role that you might find yourself playing at the moment. You can learn from your experiences, good and bad, and the bad ones are sometimes the ones that teach you the most.

For example, it’s very common to have flashbacks after a traumatic experience and people feel haunted by the negative emotions of that experience. But the flashback is there to teach you. It’s nature’s way of saying, ‘This could happen again. Get ready. Deal with it.’ You’ve learnt a valuable lesson. But you need to re-edit the flashback. Play the film back over in your imagination, your visualisation, and your training, to change the outcome to what you should have done. People like Floyd Brown have compared what I do to NLP; well, I’ve been doing it instinctively since I was a kid. It’s how you progress. It’s how you get past your sticking point, whatever it is, mentally or physically.

And I’ve had some big setbacks in my life, some bad personal shit and experiences that it took time to get over. But you reach a point where you say, ‘Fuck it, I’m moving on.’ You’re not stuck with the problem, like some horses I’ve trained who’d been abused in the past. And you’ve got a conscious mind, so you can use it to reprogram what’s going on subconsciously. All it takes is the will to do it.