Going insane to save your life...

This email from my friend, gave me great pause:

From: Marc MacYoung;
While it is scary to see someone coming at you to kill you, it is terrifying to see someone who doesn’t care about what happens to himself coming at you. There is no reasoning, there are no conventions to protect you; there is only the sickening realisation that you must become as insane as him in order to survive.
You, and who you are, literally has to die in order to survive.

Stop and think about that. You have to sacrifice everything you believe in, everything you hold sacred, in order to survive. How do you hold these conflicting emotions and diametrically opposed ideals within the confines of your brain?

Are you a kind, caring, respectful, honest and loving person or are you a blind, enraged monster?

How do you balance these two contradictions?


I finally decided I had to answer: how to avoid going momentarily insane or to avoid destroying your core identity to survive a life threatening event.

I believe that (unless there is a chemical imbalance), situational insanity and death of the self are choices made by a mind that perceives no other option. If a mind must choose and all choices lead to destruction, the mind will choose something out of left field, something never tried before, something so totally creative that it will be felt as insane or a death of the self. To avoid such momentous and torturous moments, and their destructive after-effects, some training in looking at choices is necessary.

1. First, I believe, a person has to decide on their values and get themselves in sync with their G(g)od, creator and their core or deepest values.

You can only be dedicated to what you know you believe in, without wavering. Lack of dedication often results in indecision. Also, if you don’t have a definition of good and evil, you can do good or evil without hesitation. This (and the lack of empathy) allows psychopaths the ability to act without the scruples which hinder the rest of us normal folk.

(Scruple definition: a belief that inhibits certain actions, hesitation as to action from the difficulty of determining what is right or expedient; unwillingness, doubt, or hesitation proceeding from motives of conscience.)

There is a level of commitment that is taught to believers of any system, political or religious. That level is to become so immersed in your belief that it becomes your identity - you don’t need to think, decide or make judgements, you just need to BE. Scruples are there, but they are so natural to your belief system and self identity, that they are never consulted (or even recognised), They can be so ingrained that you always act right, that is, in accordance with them. This applies to martial arts and self defence training also.

A cat running across the room is not thinking about being a cat and doing proper cat form. He is just being a cat. The time should come in your training that you are not doing your art any more, but are being it; you don’t have to think about doing anything, you just are and you just do.

IF you have made your decisions about good and evil, if you know clearly what you can do and will not do and if you make such things a part of your self defence training, then such scruples can be a part of your natural life, not an overlay to be used only in emergencies. Such use of scruples to “overlay” our character, is doomed to failure in the face of great fear or rage, I believe, either to indecision or to forgetting all about them.

Done this way, your self identity need not die, although the changes it goes through may create a new consciousness so as to be such a new thing that the old feels changed, either crippled or enhanced. You do not have to go insane to achieve your goals nor die to your old self, if it has been taken care of by prior commitment and soul searching in training. (At least in the perfect world - how well your training fares at the moment of test is moot.)

2. Second, I think, it is necessary to come to the same type of commitment in regards to your loved ones. If your life is not in order you may well have to go insane or against yourself to survive. Such indecision about “How will my family do if I die?” or other such thoughts will tend to decrease your survival, forcing a radical new, creative way of coping, including the options of temporary insanity as manifested by a berserk infliction of death on the object of your fear, or the death of your emotional self, your loving connections to the very family you are saving.

The more your family understands your choices about family survival and is in agreement with all your options about when to fight, who to fight, etc., then the more you can be natural and not need to go into left field to survive. Knowing that the result of a fight is beyond guessing, you can quiet your mind if you know that your family is covered by insurance, by pension or by a support group, either your family or a social or a work group. Then you can take care of business as you see fit without resorting to extremes of emotional second guessing.

3. You must look into the pit. In his book On Combat, Lt. Col. David Grossman (reprinted in Warriors By Loren Christensen) gives us the image that people can be sheep, sheep dogs or wolves.
The sheepdog is not a wolf. He might fight like a wolf and kill like a wolf but he will never feed on a sheep so he is not a wolf. Some people are afraid that the violence that the sheepdog keeps deep inside himself must mean it is really a wolf. Others, due to the harm we have done to others we love, know that caging the wolf will never really make it a sheepdog.
In my personal large support group are many members who have caged the wolf inside  them and keep him leashed. We also have those who have met the wolf but have never uncaged him and aren’t sure if they can choose to do so without going insane or dying to self. And there are those who have no idea if a wolf lives inside their psyche or not.
Another friend, Michael Jerome Johnson, has written to me:

I submit to you, that you must become a monster, until the threat has ended. And then you must bring yourself back across that line and become human once again. Each and every time. Whatever gets you back to human form - be it morality, values, or something else - needs to be both strong enough, and loving enough, each and every time.

When you no longer use your personal system to return to being human, then you become the next monster that will have to be taken out. One way or another. But make no doubt about it, you have to become a monster.
Along with that, I believe you must also have what Bradley J. Steiner once described in one of his books, intelligent ferocity. That can also helps bring you back to human form.

Such self introspection must be a part of of our daily mind set and lifestyle or, when the time comes to let the dog off the chain or the wolf out of the cage, we feel it might be an insane decision. We feel that the uncaged animal will take over, resulting in the death of our self - the nice person we always thought we were will be gone forever. This may cause uncertainty and indecision just when we need the most to be decisive.

The attractiveness of the dark side is that when you realise what the sheepdog is capable of achieving, you may become addicted to the power and transform your sheepdog into a predator, the wolf. This is why a group involvement in such things is important, to be able to constantly check our choices and decisions against the group. When a warrior is starting to feel like a wolf rather than the protector / sheepdog, you know he is slipping in his heart to the dark side, where the need to feel the power and use it, is more important than the reason it is called into use.

Emotional survival is enhanced by emotional planning.