All these have something in common:
- Special Ops soldiers
- Emergency medical responders
- Martial arts students trained in reality-based scenarios
They all know things can go south in an instant. They must flow with both linear and non-linear thinking to save the day, get home safe, or at least minimize the damage of dangerous situations.
Non-linear — or outside the box — thinking is a bit like the U.S Marine’s unofficial motto: “Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.” It means taking nothing for granted and making changes on the fly if necessary.
Two favorite television shows of mine highlight this kind of thinking. One was MacGyver (1985-92) and the newer Burn Notice. Both shows let their characters save the day by outwitting the bad guys, often by using everyday items to create needed tools or distractions.
In Burn Notice, the main character is a blacklisted spy named Michael Westen. Michael and his two friends are fun to watch for a number of reasons, but I appreciate their “expedient thinking” skills, otherwise known as lying, pretending, or acting. In one episode, Michael plays a dumb guy fawning on a wanna-be criminal, but the whole time Michael controls the punk like a puppet master.
I don’t advocate following the Burn Notice way of using illegal and unethical schemes, but to Think Like a Black Belt and understand the more robust nature of self defense, it’s important to think outside the box as well. When your life is on the line, you are free to use many options, including lying to the bad guy to defend yourself. Simple lies are easier ( “Sssh! My husband is a cop, and he’s asleep in the next room!), but then there is the Burn Notice-type of Grand Lie – acting and pulling things together to make others believe you.
During last week’s episode, I wondered how the three main characters on Burn Notice would react in a road rage situation where escape was not an option. With their skills and weaponry, it could be over in a flash, but they like to outwit and use misdirection to avoid unpleasantness. If you are a Burn Notice fan or not, see if you think television is ready for these types of script options when a main character is facing a person exhibiting road rage:
NOTE: Ahem … I present the examples below as great moments in future television or movie script history and for entertainment and educational purposes only. I cannot suggest using these tactics, but only present them as educational material on how a fictional character might think outside the box.
SCENE ONE — Create an emergency
Main character: Stop! I know this was my fault. Stop! I have to get to the hospital … (then adds one of the following)
… My wife is having our baby, but the hospital staff says there’s some kind of problem with the delivery!
… My primary care physician called to say I caught the f***cking swine flu , and I need to get to the isolation ward before this thing spreads!
… I’m a surgeon. The governor was in a three-car pile up. The Emergency Room needs every trauma doc on hand STAT.
SCENE TWO — Act like you’re both in the same boat
Main character: Dude, chill! I saw a cop do a U-turn back there, I think someone called this in! I don’t want to be arrested.
Raging Driver: I DON”T GIVE A DAMN!
Main character: OK, maybe you don’t have kids, a wife, or a mom who reads the local police blotter, but I do! I don’t want them reading about me getting arrested … besides, I’ll lose my volunteer firefighter position – they hate when we get involved in traffic issues like this!
SCENE THREE — Get others to help
Main character: (To other drivers) Did you hear this guy? He wants to hurt my baby! Get back you monster! Someone please call 9-1-1.
SCENE FOUR — Act confused
Main character: (on sunny day in Miami): Hey, just because we’re in Colorado doesn’t mean I have the right to act this way! How much coffee did my mom give me?! And just because it’s snowing, too! I thought police in Argentina were crazy! Next thing you know Michael Jackson will be stopping by to visit! Did you see that? My goodness I think the aliens have landed. I can’t believe Nancy Pelosi is letting this country go to hell in a hand basket so quickly!
SCENE FOUR — Sex sells
Main character: Oh my. Your anger is turning me on! This is delicious! Say that last part again, please, with more anger this time!
Non-linear thinking in self defense — by television characters or in our lives — allows for more options. Most of us aren’t good enough actors or quick enough of wit to pull off the above scenes in real life without causing an escalation, but you can bet I’d keep even these options open – just in case they are the only ones left for me.