Under extreme stress, your muscles contract and get ready for action. This presses the blood to your vital organs. Your heart rate and respiration increase to ensure your body gets enough oxygen to function properly for the burst of activity that is coming. There are more elements involved in the fight or flight response and a good scientist (which I am not) could go on for quite some time explaining all of these things. What I want to get into now is your understanding of the fact that many of these things happen automatically. Your body just reacts. You don’t have to tell your heart rate to increase or your muscles to contract. That stuff just happens.
Things that don’t just happen include all the other elements that go into a deadly force decision. When the time comes, you can’t count on evolution to help you make the choice between fight or flight. Suddenly, you are on your own with only the information you have at the time of the incident to help in your decision-making process.
The information you have at the time of the incident comes in a couple of phases. The first is the information you have about your local and state laws regarding self-defense. In short, you need to know your legal rights and responsibilities EVERYWHERE you carry a gun. Are you legal? Do you have the legal right to respond? Is there a legal requirement for you to retreat? Is there a Stand Your Ground law and, if so, do you understand it completely? Have you spoken to a lawyer and gotten good legal advice? This is no time to rely on something some guy at the gun store told you. You need to stay informed about every element of your legal self-defense. If you think taking a eight-hour class is too much time to devote to your legal knowledge of self-defense, well, think about this: You can bet the authorities will spend more than eight hours investigating your actions following a self-defense shooting. So you should likely spend at least that much time getting to know the laws of your jurisdiction.
The next phase of information you need is that information you have acquired through direct observation of your surroundings BEFORE you are thrust into a deadly force situation. This information is acquired through situational awareness. Where are the exits? Has anyone been paying special attention to you? Where is the closest cover? What route will you take to that cover or to that exit? Are there people in your way? What do you think they will do if things go bad? Can you fight your way through that crowd to the cover or your escape route? You need to think of these things.
The final level of information is only available to you AS THE INCIDENT UNFOLDS. This is the information you get when the attacker finally makes his move against you. At this point the situation becomes dynamic and incredibly fluid. You’ll need to assess moves and counter moves in order to come out alive. You’ll have just seconds to decide what you want to do: fight or flee.
If you weren’t thinking about this before, I hope you are now.