There are five psychological responses to a threatening encounter – fight, flight, freeze, posture and submit. Every encounter is different and there is no way that you will be able to predict your response regardless of your previous experiences. This is where your versatile training and becoming flexible in your response comes into play.
Fight – the fight response is using whatever force is reasonable to prevent harm. Deadly force may only be used in the event of an imminent threat of severe harm or death. You must become familiar with your local laws and what is to be expected from the legal process if your plan includes deadly force.
Flight – also known as retreat. Fleeing is not always possible without incurring injury to yourself.
Freeze – in the event of a life threatening encounter you may be taken by surprise and incapable of any action. Be aware that this is a possible reaction and train to reduce its effects.
Posture – is combat without contact. In the animal kingdom, this is usually seen as puffing up, growling, baring teeth, but not actually fighting. The end result sought is for one side to back down or retreat.
Submit – is completely giving in to the adversary.
In some cases, these responses may lead to another response and escalate the situation. Know what you will do in any of these cases, role play and discuss your plan with others who may be available during an emergency.
In addition to the mental state, you should also be aware of your physical responses to a stressful life threatening encounter. These include loss of fine motor skills, tunnel vision, auditory exclusion (unable to hear/speak), time dilation (time slows down) and adrenaline rush.
Both psychological and physical responses can be a battle to overcome in your practice. Training for stress is crucial to prevail in an encounter. Your goal is to acclimate yourself to performing under stress. This can be done through timing yourself while you shoot, raising your heart rate through exercise prior to shooting or entering a competitive match.