Mental Preparedness

This guest post is by Scott G and entry in our non-fiction writing contest.

In many years of law enforcement experience, I’ve been in some pretty hairy incidents where I had to think quickly to resolve some bad situations. In spring 1989, I had a contract out on my life after I put a man’s wife in jail. In 1990 I was in a shooting during which I was wounded and shot another person. It was no fun. I’ve been in tons of fights and during January 1991, I had to fight hand to hand – and I mean FIGHT – for my life. In 1997, I arrested a man for DUI and got into a nasty fight during which I broke his arm. After getting out of the hospital and jail, he stalked me for seven years.

My dad taught me from an early age that I had to make up my mind now, before the SHTF as to what I would do in a given situation. If I waited to make up my mind until an aggressor was staring me in the face, I had already set myself up for failure. It would be like a deer caught in the headlights. However, this is only half the battle. It was good that I’d already decided to fight in a given situation, but I also needed further preparation.

In the police academy, I was taught to prepare myself ahead of time by playing the “What If” game. Any good cop plays this game every chance he gets. He thinks up a possible scenario that could go wrong then comes up with some specific solutions. He comes up with as many scenarios as he can imagine along with the proper reaction, then goes over them time and time and time again.

Any good prepper will do the same thing. The problem with emergency situations is that they never pick an opportune time to present themselves. The shooting I was involved in happened when I least expected it. I was off duty and not paying as close attention to the situation as I should have, then BOOM. I was shot and the other person was sliding down the wall with my bullet in her.

I was mentally prepared for just about anything and I didn’t panic, but the aftereffects lasted for years. The one thing a cop fears the most about a shooting is the review board. The aftermath of a shooting consists of everyone second guessing you. Every decision you made leading up the incident is reviewed, reviewed and reviewed some more, even if the shooting is blatantly righteous. The same thing will happen to you if you discharge a weapon.

This is why mental preparedness is the key to survival. You’ve got to be READY for anything, especially the aftermath. I lived through the stressful head games of Army basic training because my dad taught me to survive. The military lives for head games, because war is hell on earth. I was taught that you can deal with stress by doing two things: Change your situation and if you can’t, change your perspective, your outlook on life. One other thing that helps deal with stress is knowing about a stressor ahead of time.

In the police academy, I was taught that you can survive some pretty horrendous injuries simply by truly believing that you will live when all others will die. A tape was played of a 911 call in which an undercover officer had called in after being shot. Heart-breaking can’t even come close to describing the tone of the dying officer. The problem was that this officer had been hit in a non-vital area. It was a survivable wound, but he faded out and died.

An after action report consisted of interviews of his friends and fellow officers, and a minute by minute reconstruction of the incident. The wound was caused by a 9mm and was lower down on the side of his body near the hip. A drug buy/bust went bad after the officer was made by the suspect. A shoot-out ensued with the officer being hit and the suspect fleeing the scene. In the tape you could hear the officer giving up. No amount of encouragement by the dispatcher got him to change his attitude. Interviews with his fellow officers revealed that he talked about how horrible it would be to get shot and how very few people survived a shot to the torso. The report concluded that because he was shot, he expected to die.

Being determined that you will live through any situation is the key. On September 21, 1876, the remains of the James/Younger Gang were tracked down to the Hanska Slough after they attempted to rob the First National Bank in Northfield, MN. A gun battle ensued during which Cole Younger was shot a total of eleven times. He lived to be sentenced to life in prison. James Brady and Gabriel Giffords both lived through head shots. Just because you’ve been shot doesn’t necessarily mean you will die.

POW’s from every war lived and even thrived in spite of brutal treatment. Yeah, they had years of PTSD, nightmares and continual hyper-vigilance, but they survived. For a while after my shooting incident, I had nightmares, but I did not suffer from guilt; I never have. I am hyper-vigilant; I’m constantly looking around for any possible threat, but I am alive. I wake up at the slightest sound. When I had the contract on my life, I didn’t run and I didn’t quake in fear. I lived and I thrived.

Your mental state of mind will allow you to live through the worst privations and abuse imaginable, whether physical or mental, but you’ve got to prepare ahead of time. Because I’m a Christian, I would say that the single most important thing you can do to mentally prepare is pray. Don’t just pray mechanically, pray as if you were in the same room as your Heavenly Father and were talking to him face to face. Pray about all your decisions and ask Him for advice. Prayer got me through the absolute worst time of my life.

One last thing: listen to your gut; it will not lead you astray. I have a finely tuned sixth sense, which I attribute to a different source: the Holy Spirit. I’m not getting all religious on you; I’m simply telling you what works. During all my time as a police officer, I listened closely to my gut. I can tell you that with one exception, I listened to my gut. Not one single time (except for the shooting) did I ever get surprised by anyone. I always knew of danger ahead of time and I truly mean this; I was NEVER surprised.

If what I sincerely believe will happen in the next five years happens, you will need to be mentally prepared. If you wait to mentally prepare till the SHTF, I suggest you dig your grave now because you won’t have time later.

This contest will end on December 16 2012 – prizes include:

Well what are you waiting for – email your entries today. But please read the rules first… Yes

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. As a former LEO, my attitude was that I am cloaked in authority granted by the people grateful or not whom I am sworn to protect and serve and therefore God’s hand is always on me and I will survive no matter what. Guess what, It absolutely works and reinforces the perception that you are truly the meanest SOB in the valley of death as resulting in walking away from every confrontation with having to draw my service weapon in my three years of service proves.

    • A most excellent post. And all of it true, haven’t lived exactly this way but have seen situations often enough that I know it works this way. Thank you!

    • Oh, yeah! I always made sure that a potential trouble maker knew that I was seriously bad news to mess with. One thing I learned is that if you act like a victim, people will think you’re a victim. If you act confident and that you aren’t to be messed with, people will leave you alone.

      • You got it Scott. Worked like a charm for me with all of the local “would be” badasses.

      • As a woman, I was taught that walking with confidence was the best way to keep people from bothering you. It worked for me 99% of the time and that other 1%, I had someone available to walk me to my car.

        • GA Red:

          According to my wife, having a 45 within easy reach helps her walk with a very large degree of confidence!

  2. Well the numbers on shootings show the path: handgun survival rate is near 80%; long gun survival rates (shotgun and rifle) 30% or less and even less over time. Energy matters in weapons.

    Scott G. what area are you working in? In 35 years LE I have not had those numbers of incidents in one much less a three year span…

    • I worked in PA and CA. You wouldn’t think that something like this would happen in a bedroom community, but it does.

  3. Scott G, thanks for this article.

  4. Thank you, Scott. This is a great post. When I think of being mentally prepared, I think of having to take the life of another person–someone’s son, daughter, husband, wife, mother or father! I had not thought of preparing myself mentally to live through being shot, knifed, etc. I guess I just thought if I lived, I lived; if not I died. I can see where we can will ourselves to live just as we can will ourselves to do whatever is necessary to protect our loved ones…

    • Most people never think of themselves getting hurt. My dad taught me that if I was going to fight, expect to get hurt. Those movies that show the martial arts expert never getting hit were made by people who never got in a fight. I’ve been kicked in the knackas, bit, punched, kicked, spit upon and had a guy try and stick me with a knife.

      Since I expected to get hit occasionally, I wasn’t surprised when it happened. I didn’t like it, but I wasn’t surprised.

  5. This is something I will definately work on; and explain to everyone I can. We have not discussed (probably not even thought of) this. Thanks so much!

  6. livinglife says:

    a positive attitude is the best tool you have.

  7. j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

    I play the ‘What If’ game a lot when on deer stand, keeps me mentally sharp and as alert as possible. I’m not a LEO nor do I have any military service experience behind me so I wondered if I would ‘freeze’ if confronted when under attack.

    I found out – I don’t think I have anything to worry about. Keeping sharp is tough as you get older – you get lazy and complacent. Thanks for the reminder.

  8. Thank you so much for writing this! This is my biggest debate with other preppers / survivalists. So many seem to fixate on one scenario that they think is either most likely or most difficult and just prepare for that. As you suggest, I try to foresee as many different scenarios as possible and plan my responses to them.

    • Getting stuck on one thought process can kill you. If you don’t think of a wide variety of probably scenarios, the one you didn’t think about is the one that will bite you.

  9. Re:Mental Preparedness:
    Thanks for this very useful, informative contribution. It re-confirmed my own beliefs and experience as to how one can best be prepared mentally and emotionally (and of course not discounting physically) to survive, but the important thing was that I needed to be reminded!

  10. GoneWithTheWind says:

    I totally agree with the point and the sentiment of this post. Attitude is probably more important then almost anything else you can control. However I do not believe you can make a case that a non-life threatening injury will cause your death simply because you “give up”. Either the medical help gets there in time to prevent you from bleeding out or they do not. Now you could argue that the officer in this case refused to apply first aid and that caused his death, if that is what happened I would totally agree with that. Maybe that was the intent and not simply “attitude”.

    • The detective in this case only had his clothes. He was not at his unit and was alone. The thing was, no vital organs or veins were hit. No arteries, no nothing. He simply expected to die.

    • GWTW – have you ever heard of someone being told they have cancer, have six months to live, then within a month they are dead? That person gave up. I’ve known people like that and I’ve known people given the same news who lived more than 10 years after the diagnosis. Some people just quit.

  11. That was very well written. Articles like that are why I come here and read and learn as if my life depended on it – because it does. Thank you!

  12. PGCPrepper says:

    That was an awesome and well written piece. Thanks for taking the time.

    You wrote: “The military lives for head games, because war is hell on earth. I was taught that you can deal with stress by doing two things: Change your situation and if you can’t, change your perspective, your outlook on life. One other thing that helps deal with stress is knowing about a stressor ahead of time.”

    I went through basic in the late 70’s and was a Drill Sergeant (yes, I proper nouned it) in the late 80’s. As a drill, I was charged with inducing a fair amount of stress on the “trainees.” Can’t call them that anymore. I have heard from old friends that basic training soldiers are allowed to ask for “stress breaks” now. LOL. I heard, but have not validated, that they have a stress card. After my drill stint, I went through what some consider a condensed version of ranger school; the Warrant Officer Candidate Course at Fort Rucker. One way I got through this “rights of passage” stress filled course was placing the warrant officer one (initial rank) bar in my wallet and to keep thinking that I will not be broken. Play the game for the reward. They tried hard to weed you out if you could not handle the stress and they were good at it.

    Luckily, unlike you, I never was in a battle within my 22 years service. I happened to have left General Abrams and crew in the 11th Armored Cavalry in Germany six months after the Wall came down to which I witnessed personally at Checkpoint Charlie, Fulda Gap, then-West Germany. They went on to Kuwait right after. I do believe I was prepared though. I believe I still am but you really do not know until put under the test. Thanks for your service as a police officer and your perspective based on actual experience. God bless.

    • Alittle2late says:

      Yes the stress cards were implemented in the mid 90’s I believe. A couple years before I got out.

  13. The Last American says:

    It’s sort of ironic that many of those who choose high stress jobs serving the Public are motivated by their faith in Christ. “Salt and Light”, that’s the mission.
    In my mind Faith is more than a belief, it’s looking into the evil things of this world and knowing that no matter what comes, it will be O.K. because He’ll never leave our side. Trust, really. (Sorry if I’m getting too preachy)

    • My faith in Christ is what saved my sanity. It kept me from getting cynical and jaded in spite of dealing with the dregs of humanity. It is what kept me alive during some of the most hair raising incidents you can imagine.

  14. My father, a 3 times decorated 101st Airborne Ranger, 2 Bronze, 1 Silver, Korea, always told me to approach every fight as a fight to the death, prepare your mind for it and do it, become an animal if needed but do it, destroy your opponent in any way and means possible.

  15. “PRAY AS IF GOD WERE IN THE ROOM WITH YOU”. Man that is the most awesome advice ive ever heard in my life.The whole article was fantastic but that gem will remain with me for all my days. that is how i intend to pray from now on. Boot camp showed me what strength humans who wont give up, are capable of. i suprised myself when i made it through. to this day i dont know how i did it. i went into boot camp (also in the 70,s)with asthma that i managed to conceal and a back that had already started to rupture its discs.

  16. Thank you for the great read. It shows a level of understanding about an aspect of survival that is rarely discussed – mental preparedness. Even in daily life, it helps to do it. I benefitted from reading your article.

    Surviving combat, catastrophe or a life-threatening confrontation starts within the person. We must know who we are emotionally and mentally. I have known people who were thought by the experets to have been physically unable to survive such events, but they did. They had an internal strength, an ability to keep their wits, and it sustained their lives.

    I hope that this forum will start a thread of WHAT IF scenarios. We can learn from each other in ways few groups can.

    Thanks again, and God Bless.

    • Mental preparedness will help you through a divorce, the death of a loved one or losing a job. Your attitude determines your happiness.

  17. Scott – Excellent advice from someone who has obviously “been there/done that”. When the DEEP S Hits The BIG Fan, it’s going to be more like Mad Max than Little House on the Prairie I’m afraid. We’d better have our heads wrapped around it before it happens….

  18. Encourager says:

    Thank you, Scott, for this article. I have to agree with you that your attitude is so very important. Twice I have been near death due to illness. The doctors had given up, family was crying ~ then I got good and mad. I spoke to the illness and told it no, it was NOT going to win. I WAS GOING TO WIN. I prayed and reminded God of what His word says – by His (Jesus) stripes I WAS healed, it was a done deal. I refused to agree with anyone I was dying and told those who tried to ‘talk some sense into me’ to shut up. Both times I walked away from that sick bed completely healed.

    Same thing happened to my son when he was in the hospital with kidney failure. Medical staff came in the room on the hour, to talk to him about ‘accepting he needed a transplant and needed to start dialysis’. Finally I went to the parent shower, sat on the floor and bawled. Heard that still small voice remind me of Who the healer was, and it wasn’t the doctors. Dried off, got dressed and went to my son and told him what had just happened. I asked him if he could believe his kidneys could be healed and made whole. He thought a moment then said yes. From that moment he was healed and walked out of the hospital two days later – with totally functioning kidneys. At every checkup, the head doctor would introduce him to the medical students as a walking miracle.

    It is what you believe, and Who you believe in. God has never changed. It is up to US to change our beliefs and attitude. Don’t speak sickness to yourself, speak life.

    Okay, enuf preachin’…

    • In 1998 I contracted meningitis. I spent several days in ICU hovering near death. The doctor told my ex that all he could do was make me confortable until I died. He said I was in God’s hands now. The ONLY reason I survived was because of prayer.

  19. Thanks for the post! Attitude is everything. I have also seen people survive when they “shouldn’t” have and people die for no apparent reason.

  20. Hopefully this can help someone. Yesterday I mentioned the Tattler sale. I could not get to it on their website either, but you can reach it if you go to Rawles site, then go to postings for Monday, 10 Dec. Under that scroll down to “Odds n Sods:” (This will be a long scroll down). In that section, the third post provides the link. Click on that and it will take you to the Tattler website sale.

  21. “Captain, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me.” He added, after a pause, looking me full in the face: “That is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave”

    Commonly attributed to General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson

  22. amen.

  23. MountainSurvivor says:

    Scott G,
    You are 100% right about being prepared and listening to God and gut. A problem that many people will have during tshtf is that after they have defended themselves and a battle is over, they will replay the situation and every little detail over and over again in their thoughts. Many people have been conned into doing that by the psycho community-you should see some of the people that I know who “live in the past”-and they have become trapped in a vicious cycle which is neither healing nor sound. For court cases and clearing someone, I understand why it is necessary but, for the real world and surviving after the world goes into hyperoverdrive with it’s head cut off, there won’t be time to be “dwelling” on the past and getting the mind and heart all tangled up in it. Have to keep the mind occupied on life, living and surviving.

    • After I healed from the shopting, one of the things I had to do to get cleared for returning to work was see a pshrinkologist. He was a former cop himself and he told me that if I told him that I was full of guilt he would laugh in my face. Unforntunately, the reason for mandatory counseling by a PD is for CYA.

  24. I really enjoyed this article, very informative. I’m new to prepping and the survival community, but determined to get my children better training than I received. Is there a practical way to get additional physical/mental training? I’m not a vet, former LEO, reservist, MMA warrior or whatever, so I don’t have the experience to drill the fam with tactical exercises. I’m a regular guy on a budget and want to promote a self-reliant positive attitude at home. Any books, blogs, articles, or advice is helpful.

  25. Hi Scott G.

    Thanks for your great post. I’m a retired LEO and understand where you’re coming from. God is my shield. Just one question: What on Earth do you see coming in the next five years? Please share.

    Pete W.

  26. Warmongerel says:

    Wow. Thank you for an amazing post. Really…wow. I’ve been “abused” by LEO’s in the past, but I deserved most of it.

    I was never in the military or law enforcement,, but barfights in the biker bars was almost a hobby when I was young. I was knifed twice. One of them was almost fatal – the doctor told me that if I had gotten to the emergency room 15 minutes later, I would have been dead. To this day that just seems almost funny (hard to explain). It just never occurred to me that I might die. I had no intention of dying…if that makes any sense.

    I knew that I was bleeding out (he got my “inner thigh”…too close to certain organs for comfort ;-), but I was gonna live, and that’s all there was to it.

    I wasn’t particularly “God-fearing” back in those days, but I have to believe that I lived for a reason. Perhaps to get my daughter ready for the coming storm. She is special, and it’s not just a proud daddy saying that. Everyone has said that since she was very young. She may not be a “Sarah Connor”, but she’ll be a survivor.

    And, yes, you’re right: having a certain walk and an attitude keeps most predators from messing with you.

    I’ve attended the Northfield, MN James/Younger re-enactment a couple of times – they do it every year – and it really is amazing that he didn’t die right there. If you’re ever up in this neck of the woods, it is really interesting.

    Thank you for sharing. I’ll remember what you went through when I think that my job sucks.

  27. I really liked this article and it is well written. Having a positive attitude is great and does affect how others with ill intent see you.
    My only critique of the article was that in my opinion you down played PTSD. PTSD is real and can lead to a host of mental health issues. For many there will be no way to steel there nerves for what they are about to see and encounter. Everyone should have a good support system in place. It is also good to be in touch with others who have had similar experiences that one can openly hash things out with. Many of my brothers and sisters will spend this and other holidays on the street or pulling perimeter checks on their property. Maybe second guessing or reliving that first trigger pull over and over. I urge all of the ‘Pack to reach out to veterans around this time. They really need to know that someone cares about how they are and how they are doing and their sacrifice for a nation that more and more has forgotten what Patriot blood was spilled for.

    • Encourager says:

      Thank you, Mexneck, and all the other veterans, for serving and protecting our country (and us!) You all deserve our prayers and support.

    • Mexneck
      I do not disagree however, I have to say what is the obvious, the vast majority of veterns are doing just fine and do not suffer from PTSD, Agent Orange, Radiation Poisoning, or any other medical condition, ailment, or wounds mental or physical. (Or homeless).
      We live fully functional and normal lives. Although proud, we do not live with our veteran status on our sleeves.
      In our haste to say thanks we sometimes treat people with Veteran Status as someone to feel pity for.

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