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    Black Dogs

    Jamie Clubb

    Posts : 259
    Join date : 2008-06-16
    Age : 42

    Black Dogs

    Post by Jamie Clubb on Tue Jun 17, 2008 2:51 pm

    In Geoff Thompson's book "Dead or Alive" he addresses the aftermath topic of the black dog. Up until that point I only associated the black dog with the fascinating myth of the spectral hell hounds, viewed on as omens of death in a lot of UK and Irish folklore. However, Geoff took his black dog metaphor from Winston Churchill in reference to the psychological trauma someone feels after an event, where they feel they did not deal with the situation in a "manly" fashion. I say "manly", but women also experience this type of aftermath too. I believe it is a heightened version on the old "wish I said that when he called me that" situation. The irony is that in most cases your "failure to act" is often the right thing to do. In a self-defence context you fight only when you know things are going to get physical anyway or you feel it is your duty (personal decision).

    Nevertheless, at the time this is a small consolation. There appears to be a deep genetic desire to have acted when someone has threatened you or coaxed you to fight them. "Turning the other cheek" might make you the "better person", but there is a good reason why this is case - because it is difficult! It is difficult because you may question yourself, was it cowardice or was I truly "letting him off". When someone has been abusive, you feel that they should not get away with it. Perhaps you imagine making them say sorry. Worse still, if the whole incident happens in front of your friends, members of your family, loved ones or people who respect you, the feeling really eats into your ego. So, how do we deal with this? I think we need to understand what is really going on below the surface if we are to really send this black dog running off with his tail between his legs.

    Like many animals we are naturally tribal and we have a type of hierarchy. Using the phrasing of Sgt. Rory Miller here, the top monkey position is claimed by the biggest, strongest and toughest monkey. He leads the group and gets to do all (or at least most) of the mating. That means his genes get passed on and his line prospers. Other monkeys are challenged or challenge to get this position, they need to in order to mate. If they are defeated they get passed down the line and are less likely to pass on their genes. Such feelings apparently remain in us during modern times. We live in an era where brains have routinely beat brawn and our intelligence has created a self-awareness that has helped create laws, rules and morals that have pushed us further and further away from the primitive times, where "only the [physically] strong" will survive. Most of us want a society where the weak are protected and the strong protect. We have created rights that reflect this ideal. Nevertheless, the monkey mind mentality persists and when situations come under stress our "forgotten" animal side rears its ugly head in many forms.

    The trouble is that times really have changed since we were all just hunter-gatherers with clearly defined tribes and strict hierarchies, so these "natural" impulses have a problem fitting in with the more complex circumstances of today. For example, we would fight another tribe member differently than we would a member from a rival tribe or an animal we were trying to eat or defend ourselves against. We would fight our own tribe member unarmed in some form of grappling contest for mating rights. We see this across many different species of animals, as it is a method whereby dominance can be achieved without necessarily killing your opponent - this is not to say opponents don't get seriously injured or killed, just that this isn't the intention of the "top monkey" fight. Fighting another species of animal is an entirely different mentality. This is the predator/prey mindset. Fighting a different tribe is a combination of the two.

    Today we face a situation that could turn violent in a very different manner. We identify the person as a member of our own species, so we do not adopt the predator/prey mindset. Tribes are clearly defined in a time where television, globalization and the internet have helped alienate ourselves from each other. Therefore we adopt the "top monkey" mentality. This also, I hasten to add, comes out in a lot of martial arts training. This creates several problems. In ourselves, we are not used to fighting for our life on a daily basis - unless we work a seriously dangerous nightclub or serve in the military in occupied territory - and we are conscious of the laws and morals of our society. All these things create inner conflicts. First of all we are not used the adrenaline dump that is charging our body ready to act as our ancestors would have done and secondly the logical/moral front part of our brain is weighing up all the consequences of our actions. Acting with this type of mental dilemma can be terrible for you. As John "Awesome" Anderson told me during my interview with him back in 2005, "if you are going to hit them, hit them hard without regret, don't half-hit them" - or words to that effect. However, the bigger picture is that you are often going into a situation you instinctively feel is a "top monkey" type fight when, in reality, it is a rival tribe or, as is often the case, a predator/prey situation.

    As the black dog comes barking at you with taunts like "You should have shown that tw*t who was boss" and "people will think you that you are coward for not fighting", think about what the benefits of walking away have done. No police knocking on your door, no comebacks from a gang of your aggressors mates and you are not seriously injured or dead. Yes, this last one has to be considered. When you act violently against someone you do so with the full acceptance that your "opponent" will probably be carrying a weapon. That is if statistics are anything to go on. Furthermore that today's enemy has few qualms about having his mates join in and it is likely to be actively encouraged. Why do you think we have younger and younger people posturing? Why does that skinny looking reed of a bloke with a disproportionately sized gob think he can "have you" in a fight? Being unarmed or alone in today's street fights carries far less credence than it once did. You are looked on as stupid more than courageous and, the wrong circles, those who gave you beating are celebrated for taking advantage.

    How do we really handle this black dog? I think a good strategy worth adopting is developing a type of internal compass. I admit to borrowing this metaphor from Dr. Stephen R. Covey's "Principle Centred Leadership". Because in reality there is no time to make any real decisions you need to have systems in place that prompt when to act. Geoff Thompson's fence concept is a great example of this. Quite simply if someone attempts to cross into your personal space with violent intentions you act physically. However, there are situations whereby your decision to act may fall outside the fence whereby you decide to engage someone. For example, you decide to aid your next door neighbour. You decide where your compass points at all times in all situations and stick to those principles. With the compass in place you don't need to think up excuses and you have no time for the black dog. I am not saying it is easy. It is very hard, but it's a start.

    Another good way to deal with the aftermath effects of the black dog is to discuss them. Anyone here care to share?
    Al Peasland

    Posts : 1051
    Join date : 2008-06-15
    Location : Northampton

    Re: Black Dogs

    Post by Al Peasland on Tue Jun 17, 2008 3:32 pm

    Nice post Jamie and yes, I do have something to share on this one - but it'll have to wait until a bit later I'm afraid.




    Re: Black Dogs

    Post by Guest on Tue Jun 17, 2008 3:35 pm

    Me Also
    Have had a couple of incidences over the years

    this one is taken from the bohomian cafe which I also post on

    Hey Guys

    it had Been one week since I qualified, and had one incident yesterday which was kinda thought provoking for me.

    I was in town, picking up some local bits and pieces as ya do on the weekends, when playing my awareness games to keep myself switched on, I notice two guys about to throw knuckles at each other. not in my close proximity but close enough to warrant their prescence. I glance over at someone who is past them, ( kinda behind as i thought it was someone i knew ) when this wookie wannabe comes running over asking in his language " wtf are you looking at D**khead "

    Nice guy I thought, maybe he not talking to me, erm no no he definately was, as he pointed out my attire i had on that day and gave his critique, which i duely noted, as ya do, with a silent thought which says, " coming from you? the man in burberry, sheesh, " guy looked like he was wearing a make shift track suit which his mother had made from the plaid curtains in his living room".

    My bags went down, fence went up, " very inconspicuously i may add just as taught "

    he 1 min mouthing off, when he touched it ONCE... oh no i thought, Touch it once more and this wont be pretty for either of us. All i heard was geoff ringing in my ears, if there is a way NOT to fight, do it.

    this guy slated everything about me, my heritage, parentage, looks, clothing, u name it he covered it. I would have retaliated with some questions about his, but since local zoo's had obviously some exotic, anthrapoligical weird new species get loose, i thought better of his communication skills.

    besides the fact, was on the tip of my tongue to tell him that with a face like his, somewhere there was a babboon wanting its fecking arse back. ( again, thought against it, )

    ANYWAY.... after asking me if i was a coward, and telling me i did not want a piece of him. something clicked. and it wasnt my fist on his jaw. it was the fact, that if i hit this person, and fully unloaded i may hurt him. he had touched the fence once, and didnt come close again, but never the less, i told him how i didnt want to fight, and i never had a problem with him. and managed to walk away.

    this was weird in a way, because after all the insults, and personal indignations, i knew he could go home and brag about what he said, but i had the satisfaction in NOT hurting another human being or whatever he was trying to resemble.

    a very satisfactory feeling even with all the insults thrown in, which at the time i did take personally I sat at home knowing I had done the right thing deep down, but its hard not to take something personally when everything about you is insulted. I spoke to Geoff about it and a few others. and was told " kick the Black Dog out the window he is not needed or welcomed but it is just part of the game "

    anyway, just wanted to share... nothing major.
    but have realised, fighting is a mugs game, and if this man can gloat, so be it, i left with pride intact, and an inside chuckle that said " you win either way, you win, your safe, and he is left looking in his own world for other satisfaction lol "

    god bless


    Re: Black Dogs

    Post by Guest on Tue Jun 17, 2008 3:48 pm

    I also had one in which I got blind sided late at night on the way home from a local take away. Got slated by a few guys for saying " Awareness is key " yet I still got hit. hey its life people I cant control everything.

    I recovered and managed to get the better of the situation, not wanting to fight at all my options had been taken away as this guy was coming in for another shot and closing fast, so drop stepped in and landed a shot which luckily enough finished it there and then.

    I came home with a nice black eye, but was kicking myself for two days because MY RIGHT to choose had been taken away, I ended up doing something which I didnt want to do. and kept kicking myself wondering if there was another way, Should I have checked my surroundings more carefully. should I have done this or that, said this or that. ultimately I had no choice. But by the time I had realised it I had wasted two days stewing on it and realised that no matter what the outcome there is always going to be something which sits and plays on your mind.

    The key is to realise that knowing you had done all you can do, and done what you had to do, walk away, talk it down. or strike, the commitment has to be 110% and you live with what you do.


    Posts : 56
    Join date : 2008-06-15
    Age : 35
    Location : N.E. England

    Re: Black Dogs

    Post by dennis_thompson on Tue Jun 24, 2008 1:09 am

    Being a self admitted coward, the capacity to run away faster than my adversary, has always been my strongest point.

    Yet I always got that black dog feeling afterwards and resultant feeling of failure and depression at not being able to look after myself.

    This took me in to martial arts at ten years, I grafted but the ma didnt work in reality!

    Late 20's got back in to ma, mix of not working and poor quality instruction made me turn my back on MA for good.

    Slowly thinking maybe I could get back in to it and my brush of training with the SDF really bolstered my belief in MA again.

    sorry for rambling but yes, experienced black dog on many occasion,



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    Re: Black Dogs

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