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Much like Preparing, there is no cookie-cutter mindset each person will fit into when it comes to that final decision and their subsequent ability to rationalize it. Our experiences up until that point are what mold our reactions. This thread of conversation is a perfect example. Lone Eagle (and others in this conversation) you reacted the way most people hope they can after proper training: by doing what was necessary with only a split-second to make a decision. Others like Jay (and myself) had a rough upbringing that hardens you into being able to do it because you know exactly what will happen if you don’t.

“Training” can be anything from formal instruction to life experience. I grew up in a city where fighting was commonplace for both males and females, but my defining moment was the first time I had to TRULY fight for my life. I don’t need to go into specifics, but the clearest memory was the first second when I couldn’t believe someone wanted to kill me. Absurdly, the first thought in my head was “I’m a nice person, right? Why is this happening?” It’s that critical moment where the decision is made: Lone Eagle pulled the trigger in his moment. I decided I wasn’t going to die on a filthy floor in mine. I fought harder than I knew I was capable of, and I fought DIRTY, too: it had never really occurred to me before then how effective teeth and nails are, because even on a street level, there’s usually a tiny bit of respect involved in hand-to-hand (nobody wants to be known as the person who bites in a fight). By the time I broke free I was COVERED in blood, and most of it wasn’t mine. If there had been a gun or knife there I would absolutely have used it. I would have used ANYTHING to survive.

After this, I desperately wanted to be around what I thought was a different and better class of people. As soon as I was able to afford it I moved away from the old neighborhood into an affluent area, and in my youthful way of thinking, thought people would actually BE better in a better area. When I realized they were the same type of people (albeit in nicer clothing) I was ANGRY. Jay is absolutely right: when that “barrier” is crossed, it is crossed forever. How you live your life after is your choice, but there is usually an adjustment period after your first true life and/or death situation. Your view of the world is changed, and that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.

Small example: shortly after I moved out of my old neighborhood, a female acquaintance and I were walking to my car in a bar parking lot when a drunken man approached us and was desperately trying to get my phone number. I made it clear I wasn’t interested and figured it was just a case of alcohol bravery, until he approached again and this time put his arm aggressively around me, trying to feel me up (SERIOUSLY, bro?). I firmly pushed him away, nearly sending him on his ass, and went into a calculating mode where I determined which way would be the easiest to incapacitate him. I wasn’t upset, and didn’t utter a word. I knew in my heart if I reached for my boot knife I would use it. Even in his drunken haze he could see something in my face and posture that made him stop in his tracks as he approached me again, and he slowly backed away while mumbling “I’m sorry…”. I also saw that my acquaintance was now afraid of ME. People who have never encountered true violence have no idea how your view of the world is altered by it, and to her (she was very intoxicated) it was no big deal. It’s that same mentality that creates victims: you never think something is going to happen until it actually does.

It wasn’t until I actually felt REAL fear again (during an extended Blackout) that I realized there is absolutely nothing wrong with me. I am allowed to be angry occasionally, or look at the world with suspicious eyes: people can be good, but they can also be bad. This is who I am now, there is nothing “different” about me, and a healthy balance can be maintained between those two lives. I no longer feel helpless, and surround myself with only positive and trustworthy people. Looking back now I’m glad everything happened, because it made me who I am today: 100% NOT a victim.