The analogy of sheep dogs and sheep has been under discussion since Lt. Col. Dave Grossman raised it in his book titled “On Combat.” Published in 2008, the book describes three psychological approaches to threats of violence.
A “sheep” is a person who is mentally unprepared for a violent confrontation and usually in denial that the potential for violence even exists.
The “sheep dog” prepares to confront aggression when necessary.
The “wolf” is a violent predator with little regard for the rights of others. The wolf only respects the man or woman that will meet force with force.
Grossman and his co-author primarily focused on law enforcement officers and soldiers in combat. The concept of civilian “sheep dogs” is a popular source of discussion among some armed citizens, but also can raise legitimate questions.
A certain aggressive type of civilian sheep dog is looking for a confrontation and may even insert himself irrationally into a situation by trying to do something inappropriate — like making an arrest, for example. Such inappropriate decisions demonstrate wolf-like tendencies bordering on vigilantism. The fact that such individuals apparently want to act in the role of police officers raises the issue of what it takes for such folks to get a life.
I asked my fellow members of the Armed Defense Training Association what they think of the concept of “civilian” sheep dogs. ADTA Vice President Chad Hiatt’s analysis makes an important distinction between aggressive sheep dogs versus rational sheep dogs.
The rational sheep dog, however, takes steps to protect his or her family. Any decision to protect others outside the immediate circle of your loved ones and others who are depending on you is fraught with peril. The woman screaming rape in the parking lot may be getting arrested by plain clothes officers. Things can get very complicated very quickly for a citizen that rushes in armed with a pistol and without all the facts.
Several levels of preparation are worth thinking about. An individual may not be aware of the potential for violence. Adults in this category are in denial and most children are in this category.
The individual who delegates his or her own protection to others is also in denial. Many women to whom I speak tell me that they have never shot a gun and are scared to handle a gun. This is not denial, but simply an honest statement of the facts that can be easily remedied with the right kind of training.
Many urban men, on the other hand, will state that they have no use for guns. They may even explain that they have shot firearms in the military, but that there is no place for an armed citizen in a modern “common sense” society.
I am convinced that these are men that are just as nervous about handling a gun as the ladies but are unwilling to admit it.
There is little hope for such an individual because denial has made him bullet proof in regard to further discussion.
An honest man or woman who realizes the need to prepare for potentially violent encounters begins to consider options to gain necessary skills. This individual would gradually become what Chad calls “rationally prepared.”
The rationally prepared individual is aware that predators make up a small percentage of society, but that they do exist. The rationally prepared individual considers options on how to safely get out of such situations. This individual is committed to not becoming a victim and develops the means to protect loved ones.
The rationally prepared person benefits the whole community and is not someone who becomes irrationally aggressive by displaying a weapon or committing some other dangerous act that could result in criminal charges.
I have often suggested that the whole political spectrum can be more rationally configured from just such a perspective.
If your strategy for dealing with threats is just to remain within the false security of the herd, you may fall into the sheep category and may become a victim.