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Columns : In My Sights

The Real Fear Factor

Eating worms is not a display of courage. Going after the bad guys is a display of courage.

January 01, 2007  |  by Dave Smith - Also by this author

Fear is a funny thing, not in the “ha-ha” way but in the “sheesh,” eye-rolling way. It has been the focus of countless books, poems, and songs and has probably motivated more innovations than any other human emotion. Philosophers have argued that without fear we cannot have the virtue of courage; for courage is the Golden Mean between cowardice and recklessness and fear is your guide.

Experts tell us that when we list our fears, we all have some pretty common ones. Remarkably, we rank fear of death between seventh and 12th, depending on who is writing the book.

Yeah, right. I call 15 yards for BS on that. I think those folks need to get sent to a “shots fired” call or “robbery in progress” call to experience some good old fashion pucker factor. “Pucker factor,” great term. It figures it would be law enforcement language. We don’t get afraid. We get a pucker.

Pucker makes us safer, faster, stronger, more tactically sound; it is our friend. It’s amazing what it can do. I was jogging near my former home in Tucson and my right foot landed next to this odd looking tail with rattles attached. Pucker factor took over, I set the world long jump record. I swear my left foot came down near the Mexican border. What I would have given for some witnesses for that feat.

All of you have similar stories of remarkable feats you have performed under the influence of pucker factor. Recently my wife, “The Sergeant,” was attacked by an emotionally disturbed bodybuilder who attempted to disarm her. Both ended up in the emergency room but the dirtbag stayed. She used her pucker factor to turn herself into 118 pounds of really ruthless butt-kicking crimefighter.

The key to dealing with fear is not in avoiding it, but controlling it. In fact, we often get hurt when we ignore it. There should be a healthy amount of pucker factor whenever we get ready to search a building, make a traffic stop, cuff a subject.

It is the absence of pucker that often causes the careless and lackadaisical mistakes that injure and kill us all too frequently. So I think we should change lackadaisical to “lackapucker.”

One antidote for lackapucker is to read the officer killed and injured summaries and then visualize what really happened and what it would have been like if you had been there.

This little exercise is also essential in controlling our pucker factor. When fear takes over, our performance drops like a rock and the best way to control it is through training, both physically and mentally. If we have faith in our skills and abilities, we can use our pucker factor to make us stronger and faster and safer.

Finally, I am not a fan of all these reality shows on television and one that really gets my goat is “Fear Factor.” I mean, come on, let’s get some real fear going on this show, not some silly exercise in eating worms, holding one’s breath under water, or high-altitude stunts in which the participants all wear safety gear. Let’s see some pucker: Take off those safety lines; chow down on something that you have to eat before it eats you. Heck, let’s add some real intensity and send the “Fear Factor” contestants on a “man with a gun” call with you. That way they will know true pucker and see its greatest result: Courage.

Dave Smith is the creator of “Buck Savage” and a retired law enforcement officer from Arizona. Currently, he is the lead instructor for Calibre Press’ “Street Survival” seminar.

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