Saturday, September 4, 2010


Two weeks ago, I took Massad Ayoob's MAG-40 class, two days covering the Armed Citizen's Rules Of Engagement and two days of StressFire-based live fire. The material covered was incredibly valuable, both in the classroom and on the range, but the greatest benefit I derived from this class had nothing to do with either law or shooting.

On the second day of classroom instruction, Mr. Ayoob discussed the physical and emotional aftermath of a defensive gun use. As he listed the effects someone who has had to shoot in self-defense should expect, I realized they were things I experience every day but have come to think were normal. Then he described how post-shooting police officers who have the same symptoms don't recognize them either. The ton of bricks hit me, big time.

A single extremely traumatic event causes many of the same difficulties as post-traumatic stress. The only difference is in the latter case, the trauma is endured for months or years instead of minutes. What I discovered was while I thought I had done such a good job of dealing with my personal trauma, it wasn't anywhere near as behind me as I thought.

My first reaction was feeling like a failure and a fraud, that all these years I had been lying to myself and everyone else. My family did everything in their power all my life to convince me I was worthless and I should be grateful they tolerated me at all. Others tolerated me only because they didn't know the "truth" and they would abandon me as soon as they saw through my facade. My role in the family was "scapegoat" and that indoctrination made me attractive to people looking for easy victims.

When that old pattern showed up again, I felt like I had also failed to beat my family's destructive indoctrination. Failure again. See where this mess was going?

I spent that night mostly in the bathroom, getting pretty much no sleep. A great way to hit the range the next day. Monday's first live-fire day was a waking nightmare. I was in full-on adrenaline dump the whole time, shaking so hard I could barely hold my gun. My bobtail Commander Wilson wouldn't lock the slide back on an empty mag, so I shot the rest of the class with my Government-size Wilson CQB.

I shot like crap. No, I would have had to do better to shoot like crap. I had run out of adrenaline by Tuesday, and spent that day in parasympathetic crash, spaghetti arms and everything. Even so, I managed to do a bit better than on Monday, and passed the qualifier.

So what's the bottom line here? I don't know yet. I am dealing with the old problem of "shoulding" on myself: I "should" have beaten this crap by now, I "should" have better control over my life, blah, blah, blah. Thanks to the information provided in the class, I have new directions to explore toward really overcoming what happened to me.

Or maybe the lesson is that some things you never fully can forget. Maybe they stay around forever. Maybe I need to learn how to turn these weaknesses into strengths. Maybe this is one more example of the destination being the journey.

This isn't your typical After Action Report. In deference to the usual model, I will say that Mr. Ayoob is a tremendous speaker and the legal information provided in this class is absolutely essential for anyone who has and carries guns for self-defense. What comes after the shooting may well be worse than the violent criminal action that precipitated it. It gives one pause to truly reconsider what using the most effective tools to preserve innocent life really means. And that is a good thing.

There was a great guest lecture by Bill Laughridge of Cylinder & Slide, one of the top pistolsmiths in the country. He described the evolution of our modern defensive handguns, and what features help and hinder their safe and effective use.

I brought a new 70-page narrow-ruled notebook to the classroom portion of the training, and nearly filled it. I'm glad I decided against bringing my netbook, because I could barely write fast enough to get everything down, never mind typing.

The live-fire sessions were also extremely valuable, despite being something of a blur to me under the circumstances. It was a great opportunity to experience shooting under extreme stress in safe surroundings. Nothing like actually experiencing how that affects your skill. As Mr. Ayoob said, we should expect some "post-LFI stress syndrome" for just that reason. I just got a bigger dose than anyone else. I absolutely want to take the MAG-40 again, once I come to better terms with what I learned about myself in this one.

Mr. Ayoob was also presented with a certificate signed by Governor Dave Heineman appointing him to the rank of Admiral in the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska. Governor Heineman has proven himself a strong supporter of the Second Amendment.

I cannot fully express my thanks to Massad Ayoob and Gail Pepin (aka "The Evil Princess") for this training experience. I might, however, respectfully suggest that Mr. Ayoob consult with his opthalmologist after referring to me in passing as a "baby fox."


eriko said...

On occasion it is good to remember that hating yourself is not a productive lifestyle.

Anonymous said...

You need to stop being so hard on yourself.

Failure is part and parcel of life. It's the way that we learn, improve, and eventually succeed. We fail, learn from our mistakes, and live to try again. The key here is to fail in such a way that you survive the experience to give things another shot. This means that you try to minimize the cost of the failure, and try to learn from the experience.

Occasionally, you'll fail to learn the necessary lessons, which only means that you'll have to repeat the lesson.

I don't know you personally, but your narratives suggest that you're heart is in the right place, you're bright, and you have a soft spot for animals. Have faith that you'll survive all of this, and will face each day as a better person in every respect.

Besides, the past is behind you. There's no rewind button on the tape of life, so keep looking forward, and keep trying. And don't forget to love yourself, and appreciate all of the good that resides inside of you.


Anonymous said...

I don't think that anything I could say would help very much, except "you are not alone".


Be good to yourself, because nobody else will...

Anonymous said...

I have spent a fair number of my adult years badgering, berating and hectoring myself in a near constant inner dialogue that I actually refer to as 'the whisper'. I'm a child of divorce, a former alcoholic/addict and frankly, I've been a real jerk. A lot.

But over the last sixteen months, I've worked very, very hard at not listening to that inner voice. I've pulled myself up by my boot straps and invested the wasted time and energy on doing serious personal growth work. I'm not as bad as i thought I was. I've made firm decisions about some of the people I've had years of issues with, including my father, and moved on.

My value is reflected on true friends, like my beloved wife, my personal moral compass, and engaged dialogue with myself and others. I'm sorrowed to know of your inner struggle and fears. I'm heartened to know that by sharing those fears, you've started on the steps to eliminating their causes!

Be strong in the knowledge that the lord and lady are with you, as ever.