We all know what it is like, one second things seem to be calm and going well and then within a split second everything seems to hit the fan at once. I have referenced in past articles that training will, hopefully, take control in these instances. There are instances, however, in which hesitation may occur. I need not go into hesitation within this article, for that has previously been covered. What I am seeking to reach at a more in-depth level is instinct and the “gut feeling” we all know too well.
Instinct and the “gut feeling” goes beyond training and hesitation. While the gut feeling you get in certain situations, that may be the basis of a split second decision, may be formed and molded by training, it is largely based upon our root instincts, morals, physiology, psychology and biology. As intelligent mammals, we have a natural process that cannot be un-programmed (for lack of a better phrase). It is important that we understand where our instincts and gut feelings come from. It is a largely formed opinion that instincts come from an ingrained “will to live”. Almost all animals have this base instinct. As police officers we are frequently approached with situations that will tap into that will to live, our natural process. This natural instinct and gut feeling may also be based upon our fight or flight mentality which has also been previously touched on.
What is important to note, is that our instincts have been continually formed since the day we were born. As police officers, it is safe to say our morals and instincts have been formed on solid ground. That is why, in this profession, it is important to trust your instincts. How often have we hesitated, second-guessed ourselves, made a decision and then come to find out we should have followed our “gut feeling”? How often do we go into a situation, no matter the capacity in which you serve in law enforcement (corrections, probation, parole, patrol, traffic, investigations, etc.), and you get the feeling that something is just not right. This is the gut feeling I speak of. Your natural instincts (a cognitive process) are signaling your body to start a physical process or symptom that takes the form of the “gut feeling”.
It is literally a feeling.
Our brains are naturally preparing us to enter into fight or flight scenario. Our brains are serving as a natural alarm to danger. It is vital we allow our instincts to create the gut feeling. Take solid notice of this natural alarm and subsequently allow your training to enter into your operation. At some point, everything begins to flow in a complete continuum, allowing you to make sound decisions.
Second-guessing your instincts or gut feelings is a process that must be overcome. You have to trust yourself. Do not allow outside influences take control. It is far too easy for us to second-guess what we are about to do. Realize that no one, but you, is in the exact situation you find yourself. You must ensure your safety, along with the safety of your brothers and sisters. Your instincts, along with your training, will surely lead you to success.
Yes, there are times where we have a gut feeling that something is not right, when, in fact, all is secure and well. The fact of the matter is that following your instincts, even in these situations where it may be slightly wrong, will no more damage your safety than disregarding it all together.
I am not suggesting that police become over zealous or go into every situation with service weapons at the low or high ready. I am simply suggesting that you put full trust and faith in yourself. You ensured your safety up to this point in your career, there is no reason to doubt yourself now.