The Predator Dial

I want to tell you about something I learned right about the 2nd or 3rd time I was killed in force-on-force training (FOF). It was one of those ‘ah-ha’ moments, and it was not a happy revelation.

I’m not a good predator.

I was pretty mad at myself, more ashamed than anything in retrospect, that I had allowed myself to get killed. I mean, come on, I was a better than average shooter and it wasn’t my first time in a scenario! How did this happen? I replayed the event multiple times, and could still feel that adrenalin dump while the memory was still fresh in my mind. I even blamed the instructors (there’s a thread of truth there, which I’ll touch on in a later post). It wasn’t that I did one thing wrong, it was more like I didn’t do anything right. I was mortified at my own performance. The cognitive dissonance with my self-image was glaring.

And that was about the time that I started to consider the predator/prey relationship, and specifically where I was on that particular scale. This is not a pleasant conversation to have with yourself. After all, in our fantasy life, we’re apex predators who save the day every single time.

I developed a theory, after I got tired of beating myself up, that everyone has a predator vs. prey dial. We spend most of our lives in the ‘prey’ mode out of necessity. Society, our professions, our personal relationships with friends and family, all these factors play into how we deal with others. And it’s important to not use ‘prey’ as a pejorative, because normal social interaction is a prey behavior.

Just to be clear, I’m not talking about the classic ‘color code’ here. You can spend your life in yellow, elevate to orange and be aware of the threat, right up to the point where they kill you. I’m talking spinning the dial up to full predator while realizing that things are going from yellow to orange to red.

We all have the dial. The problem is that it’s probably a little rusty. It may be a lot rusty. You may even have forgotten where it is.

Here’s a mental exercise that I tried when I first realized what I was missing: Imagine that an unknown contact is closing with you. You know he’s up to no good despite whatever it is he is saying. Your inner voice is screaming “THREAT!” in your ear.  Bad things are about to happen. You know you are being set up. You are in condition orange and no one is coming to help. Your body is dumping hormones and your brain is looking for a tape to play but can’t find it. He’s not stopping.

Now turn your predator dial up to 11 and replay the exercise.

He is no longer the threat. YOU are the threat. The only thing keeping him alive is your good graces. You hunt the threat like he’s hunting you. Find some cover and get him into a position where you can do the most damage and he has no escape. Check and make sure he didn’t bring anyone else for you to hunt. Take your weapon out behind cover so he can’t see it. Pick a spot to hit.

How did that feel? Remember, this is a mind exercise, not a tactical exercise. I can’t tell if you were in a parking lot or your house, whether your assailant (or assailants) were zombies or mutant hipsters, or however your mind constructed the scenario. I want you to focus on the way you felt and how your mind worked differently once you spun that dial.

It helps if you’ve been in that situation either in FOF or in life. I know that for me, it was a real turning point.

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