I’ve talked about dry fire, and other ways to practice the physical skills necessary for self defense, especially situational awareness. All of these require you to use your imagination in a number of ways, but there is a further dimension wherein the use of your active imagination can help you prepare even better for that situation you sincerely hope will never happen.
If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about here, think of it this way. When you learn a new skill that requires manipulation of things with your hands, for instance, I’m assuming you do at least some thinking about it later, visualizing yourself going through the steps. It serves to reinforce the skill being learned, even when there isn’t time or opportunity to actually perform it physically. Some people repeat a poem or song, a speech or a script passage, aloud or silently, to cement the performance as well as the words in their permanent memory.
This kind of practice is extremely valuable in preparing for self defense too. Imagine various self defense scenarios, such as a home invasion. Visualize exactly what might happen and, very important, what you would do in response. You can create all kinds of possible experiences and outcomes, but it is probably best to keep it simple, at lest to start.
Remember that you will only have seconds to respond in most cases, so don’t clutter it up with TV style heroics. Be realistic, and remember you are going to be scared out of your mind and pumped up with adrenalin. The key is to visualize yourself working in that environment and getting through it successfully. The better your planning, and understanding of the steps you need to take, the less terrifying it would be – but don’t underestimate your emotional response and expect yourself to be a stone cold Rambo. There’s a balance there each person must find for themselves… and it’s hard to simulate this part of it.
Start by visualizing the scene, and it’s probably best if you use some place real that you are familiar with. I suggest to students that they start with their own home. Visualize the layout, the exits, the windows, and anything else that would be important in a home invasion. Think about the various barriers you have in place (locks, lights, alarms, cactus under the picture window), and how much time they might buy in the event of a seriously determined intruder.
Next, populate it with people. First would be yourself, and any others who share the home with you. Are they able to help you? Or are they more or less helpless dependents. What would you have them do in a home invasion? Where would they go? You might want to set up some actual drills with them so you can be sure that they will get to a safe place and leave you free to meet the emergency without distraction. If that doesn’t seem like an option, you might need to go back to the drawing board for a while and figure out how to make that happen. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for help.
Once you have that all in place, you can imagine the intruders themselves. Don’t forget that, more often than not these days, they are coming in groups. Dealing with two or more attackers presents some serious challenges, and will require much more than superior fire power.
So, for an example, you are in bed, hear glass breaking or the door being kicked in, and roll out of bed. You want to alert your family to start their emergency response, go into the safe room, for instance, and either call the police or have a family member do so. I would already have my firearm in hand at this point, but you have to figure out what would be best for you.
In NO case would you be wise to go toward the location of the intruder, no matter how well you were armed and, obviously, especially if you were not armed at all. If they come to find you, you will have to take positive action. If they rummage around and then leave without threatening anyone, that would be the best outcome.
As an ordinary home defender, you will likely never really need to “clear the room” or pursue the intruder in any way. It is very dangerous to try that, both physically and legally. You can and must shoot if the intruder actually threatens you or others with death or great bodily harm, of course, but that condition is not met if the criminal is downstairs and you are in your safe room with the children. Don’t leave the room until the police get there and tell you the threat has been removed or is no longer present.
And so, another serious scenario to imagine is how you will deal with the aftermath, of either a defensive shooting or simply the arrival and investigation of the police after a break in. What you do and say in those chaotic minutes and hours after the emergency will have at least as long lasting and potentially devastating consequences as the invasion itself. (I’ve addressed this in some detail in my book: I Am NOT A Victim. Read the first chapter here and follow the instructions at the end if you’d like to have a free copy.)
Think about all these things and prepare yourself in every way possible. Do whatever you can to prevent it from happening at all, of course, but be ready as you can be for whatever does happen. If you don’t even know where or how you would start this, you would probably benefit greatly from taking a class such as “Personal Protection in the Home” from an NRA instructor. If you can’t find a class, you can order the handbook from NRA.
As always, your feedback is most welcome.