Fear Paralyzes, Anger Empowers! Part II


By Linda M. Gilbertson


          Last issue I discussed being aware of your surroundings by getting your head out of the sand, and paying attention.  This issue I deal with what to do when you alert on a potential threat known as Condition Orange”,  and adrenaline starts coursing through your body.  Are you being physically threatened with a firearm, knife, baseball bat or just brute force?  If you are unable to flee, will you deal with what is presented by going to Condition Red”,  or will you surrender?   Will you allow the adrenaline coursing through your body to paralyze you and be frozen in place, or will you Angry eyestake action?  By the time you’ve gotten this far, from what you learned in the last issue, you should have pre-thought your response and visualized the appropriate action.  Will it be fear?A fearful woman

Let’s begin by dealing with fear’s components which are regulated by the brains perception and processing.  There is the Cognitive (Sensing) of the threat, Physiological (Preparing) for your response and Overt Behavior (Actual Response). As your mind is sensing the threat, your body is preparing for the response.  If your mind is focused on fear, your body will prepare in this fashion:

  1. Adrenaline, Cortisol and Dopamine are released into your system.
  2. Heart and Lungs work harder and faster. Blood pressure increases in response to the heart and adrenaline.
  3. Sweat glands kick in to cool the body.
  4. Muscle groups tighten which limits mobility.
  5. Auditory Exclusion, both physical and physiological will distort sounds.
  6. Tunnel Vision will dilate the eyes and blur objects.
  7. Things appear in slow motion.
  8. There is a time-spatial distortion.
  9. Denial and hesitation sets in.
  10. Decision process is altered.

If your body attempts to respond based on fear, it will be paralyzed unless you change your thinking pattern immediately.  Then your response will be offensive rather than defensive.

As fear and anger are physiologically and psychologically similar, the antidote for fear is anger.  Realize that you are being imposed upon by whomever or whatever has placed you in Condition Orange.  Even though women have been taught to not think of themselves but of the needs of others, you need to say to yourself, and sometimes out loud, No, I am important here, not you.  I did not invite you to impose yourself on me and I will take control of this situation.”  You will find that anger will counteract the 10 contributors to paralysis.  You’ll be able to think clearly, prepare your response and act upon it.  You’ll be amazed at the amount of strength, both psychologically and physically, that will propel you forward in controlling the situation and ensuring a positive outcome.  It is common for an individual who is properly motivated to perform magnificent feats of strength.  Mothers have lifted cars off of children trapped beneath.  People have pulled victims from burning buildings with little regard for themselves.  Police Officers, Firefighters, Paramedics and our Military men and women all recognize that, in order to function in their profession, they must be proactive rather than reactive.  You must learn to do the same when confronted by fear.  Turn it into anger, and you will survive.

Now, on a last note, once you’ve changed your thinking from fear to anger, you must start to immediately slow your breathing (tactical breathing) or you’ll hyperventilate and be unable to think clearly, prioritize the threat (How do you eat an elephant?  One mouthful at a time), or you‘ll waste valuable time and effort, visualize what needs to be done to stop the attack, and take the proper course of action. 


In Part III I’ll discuss how to manage the stress which will result after the encounter with spectators, law enforcement and the court system.