There are two tried, proven, and scientifically-documented ways to program the unconscious mind. Any professional or Olympic athlete will tell you that visualization works. If you watch winter Olympics downhill skiers stand at the top of their run, they are moving their bodies imagining the run as they want it before they even start. This programs the unconscious to see the same picture that the conscious imagines, and when the two work together amazing results follow. The other way to reprogram the unconscious mind is also well known and documented, though few have applied that knowledge to shooting; it’s positive affirmations. If you continually bombard your unconscious mind with verbal suggestions, what you are essentially doing is brainwashing yourself. If the unconscious mind hears it enough times repetitively and over a long enough time span, it begins to believe it. To be effective, your self-talk should be short, simple, and to the point. For instance, let’s say you aren’t the most observant person in the world. Your self-talk statement might be something like this; “I am always alert”. Your positive affirmations should be spoken several times a day and as often as you can. Remember repetition and time are the proven basis for brainwashing. If you do this, you will find that over time you will be looking less at your shoes as you walk and instead looking around at your surroundings more.
If you are one of those people who have less-than-excellent situational awareness, it’s critical for you to improve in this area, because you can’t defend against something you don’t notice until it’s too late. You’ll find that as soon as you say it, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy, because you can’t make that statement and not involuntarily (unconsciously) start looking around. If you routinely look down while walking on a flat surface, like a sidewalk or road, and say something like that to yourself or even just think it, an autonomic response will follow that makes you look up and around. You don’t have to consciously do a thing or think a thought, it just happens. This is your unconscious mind working FOR you instead of against you.
If we fast forward from WW II to Vietnam we find something totally different, because now 90% of the riflemen are shooting the enemy. What’s the difference? Once the military learned about this phenomenon, we found ways to correct it. We did that by reprogramming our unconscious mind and also by temporarily bypassing it altogether. Training (correct training) is the key.
During WW II and the Korean War, we trained men to shoot paper bull’s-eye targets. They were encouraged to take their time, pull the trigger slowly, and breathe correctly; sound familiar? They became very good at taking their time, breathing correctly, and hitting paper bull’s-eyes, even at distance, but that training did not translate well into real combat. While there were other minor changes, the two big changes in military training that resulted in such an increase of the effectiveness of the riflemen were:
- They now shoot at paper targets that are of real people, not bull’s-eyes. That conditions the unconscious mind to shoot something much more similar to the real thing.
- If you fire the shot within three seconds, the unconscious mind is bypassed, because it takes 3-4 seconds to kick in what you’re doing and the consequences. By the time your mind decides that you should probably miss that target and just try to scare him away, the shot has been fired. When a bad guy is drawing a bead on a team member, you do not want to start thinking things like: “He probably has kids at home”, or “I’ll be widowing some poor woman”, or “He’s just hungry”. With training, your conscious mind will be screaming, “He’s drawing down on my friend; I have to shoot him or he’ll kill my teammate and me too, take my wife, and eat our food.” Your unconscious mind will cause you, at the very least, to hesitate for a few crucial seconds while it searches for alternatives to killing a human being.
After the collapse of society and in the absence of any effective law enforcement, we’re not talking about facing a military unit that possesses military-grade weapons, military training, and military vehicles. If you are, give it up; you’ll lose. What you are very likely to face, though, are individual criminals and gangs. These are “animals” and easier to “put down”. They may even make it easier for you by looking the part. However, what if it’s your neighbor, with whom you have refused to share what little food you have, and he has returned, armed and desperate? Can you shoot “Fred”, who you’ve known for years and who used to bring the cold beers to all your barbecues? What if your spouse is in the garden collecting vegetables for dinner and an old, frail, skinny man is drawing a bead on him/her? What if it’s a lady, a pregnant lady, or a thirteen-year-old boy who is starting to squeeze the trigger? Could you really shoot that pregnant lady or that child? If you hesitate for even a split second, your spouse just died, and it’s your fault. Still think this is going to be easy?
So, let’s talk in more detail about those solutions.
- Stop right now and throw away all your bull’s eye targets; buy human targets  to shoot at. I’m not talking about silhouettes or zombies either. I’m talking about real, human-looking targets of people posing as bad guys who are facing you. Start that process of reprogramming immediately, because it takes a lot of time, a lot of ammo, and we may not have all the time you’ll need if you procrastinate. That’s the easiest part.
- The next part requires that you practice enough times at acquiring that stop watch . Then have them shout a stop order. They will stop the watch at exactly the three-second mark. Practice this with the target being at all points of the compass, as that can happen in real life.
- The next part is the visualizations. The more detail you insert, the more effective they are, but detail will take you some time to develop and add. Here’s a hypothetic scenario for you. Let’s say you imagine yourself shooting an armed attacker who has just come out from behind a tree or building, depending on whether your environment is going to be urban or rural. You easily imagine yourself raising your weapon and shooting the guy, but there’s no detail there, so your unconscious is not going to buy into that. The lack of detail is what makes visualization fail for most people. The scenario I just described is not visualization, but it is the foundation for visualization. That’s where you have to start, but that’s not real life, is it? The devil is in the details. Did you visualize the target drop? In real life, people don’t usually just drop dead. They run until they bleed out, they fall, and they scream in agony. They call out to their mother in their death throes. They beg for their life. They use their last ounce of energy and last pint of blood trying to shoot back at you. (You must make sure the people you kill are dead. Many a good cop has been shot by a criminal who was fatally shot but returned fire before bleeding out.) Imagine that the target sees you at the last moment; does he freeze? Does he run? Does he pull his firearm up towards you? Does he drop his? Does he tell you to drop yours? Does he ask you to let him go and tell you he will never come back? Murphy’s Law says whatever you failed to anticipate is what will happen, so think through all the possibilities. You also have to engage all of your senses in the visualization, to make it believable to your unconscious mind. Did you see blood oozing from his wound? Did you even imagine, in detail, exactly where you hit him? Did you see, in your peripheral vision, the spent casing go flying? Did you see the look on his face the moment he saw you and knew he was going to die? Did you hear the sound of your rifle? Did you feel the recoil? Do you feel how dry your mouth has become and how wet your palms are? Did you smell the gunpowder right after the shot? Tunnel vision is normal during an adrenalin dump, but it’s not all exclusive. Did you notice the area around the target? If you are convinced the target has been neutralized, did you immediately start scanning the environment for another person, in case this one wasn’t alone? To be effective, you have to engage as many of your senses as possible and in as much detail as possible. Now repeat all that with a woman, an old man, and a thirteen-year-old boy as the perpetrator.
- I want to add one more thing, which is the post-shooting situation and action. Please do not ignore this, or you radically increase the chances of suffering some form of PTSD. Unless you are all alone, never, ever, ever go look at the person you just shot. Let someone else check to make sure they are dead. Let someone else strip them of anything valuable, and especially let somebody else bury, burn, or otherwise dispose of the body. If you get a good, solid look at their face, your conscious mind will accept what you’ve done (assuming it was indeed a righteous shooting). However, at night, in your dreams, your unconscious mind will be thinking, “I shot the father of some kids somewhere”, I just killed my neighbor, Fred”, “I shot some lady’s husband or some mother’s son”, and/or “I shot a starving man who only wanted food” and other similar thoughts. There will likely be blood, guts, bone tissue, and so forth that can traumatize any normal man’s soul and sear it with memories that can never be purged without years on the couch of a good shrink.
Shooting another human being just isn’t built into a normal person’s DNA, unless you are a sociopath and have no conscience, remorse, or guilt. Be sure it is a righteous shooting, or you will deserve the guilt and trauma that follow. There can be a fine line between killing in self defense and unnecessary murder. We all have a moral compass, and for each one of us that compass points somewhere a little different than everybody else. I think we are all on board with shooting someone who would kill a loved one, but what about someone who is going to steal food, which is required for sustaining life and without it will result in the death of that same loved one later down the road? Is that also justified? We each have to make that decision, and I urge you to do that ahead of time, so you don’t have to work it out in your head in the middle of an adrenalin dump. Know exactly what you are willing to do, when, where, and how you will do it. Preparing your whole mind (both halves) ahead of time is your best defense. Without your whole mind behind you, all the marksmanship, training, and the finest weapons will almost certainly fail you.