The motivation of the individual or group plays an integral role in determining the final outcome when facing a combative or self-defense situation. Intention that is positively grounded increases focus, strength, speed, and endurance. Think of a mother lion defending her cubs. She experiences anxiety but is fearless in protecting them. People are the same. Through my years of experience, I am convinced that when we are motivated by what is good, we will eventually prevail over those who are not. We all choose to live by either service, which we might even call love, or power.

Power and the Warrior

It is for this reason that I do not consider using psychology as a weapon to be unethical. In fact, manipulation of other people for the sake of power is antithetical to these methods and always leads to failure. No matter how apparently successful they are in the beginning, those who employ power and control in order to manipulate others for selfish reasons will eventually succumb to a blindside—a blindside caused by their lack of anxiety. We need only think of the many dictators in history who seemed invincible for a time—Hitler, Mussolini, Saddam Hussein—but then suffered defeat through underestimating their enemies and overestimating their own abilities. As I have mentioned, the Greeks, wise in war, called this hubris. Similarly, Sun Tzu in The Art of War stated that we must know ourselves and we must know our enemy. If either of these elements is missing, we will eventually fail.

The problem is, though, that there may be times where I intend to act or believe I am acting from the motivation of service but instead am acting for the sake of power. As a psychologist and psychotherapist, I believe we all do this from time to time, particularly in intimate relationships. Much of the work in psychotherapy is about helping individuals to understand and work through how they are preventing themselves from developing true intimacy and love. The majority of that process entails increasing the capacity for experiencing anxiety.

I act with power in order to control, to keep the other from hurting me, to prevent having to experience suffering. If I do this, though, I can hardly get close to the other individual in a true sense. I will never really get to know another person if that individual is never able to share with me intimate thoughts and feelings because he or she is always under my control.

This is a master-slave relationship, not one of love. People did not follow Hitler because they loved him. They followed him out of fear or because he helped relieve them of their anxiety. He sold them a fantasy that allowed them to avoid doubts about their existence. He said they were the master race. He was a good salesman, like any other cult leader.
On the other hand, people followed Martin Luther King, Jr., because they loved him. They endured despite the intense anxiety they had to face as they supported his cause, including the anxiety of death. The more successful of these two individuals is clear, in terms of a lasting, heroic legacy.

We all have the potential to be a Hitler or a Martin Luther King, Jr. Being humble about this helps us to avoid the pitfalls of hubris and to act with the wisdom of Sun Tzu—knowing both ourselves and our enemy. For this reason I believe intensely that the abilities of true warriors are increased when they undergo some form of self-exploration as a part of their overall training.

As I have said, when I was training to be a therapist, I went through my own therapy. I am convinced this has increased my ability to operate as a warrior. It heightened my capacity to feel (particularly anxiety), give my feelings names, and observe myself even as I act. It made me more capable of reading and empathizing with the feelings of others, and then in some situations, manipulating an individual's anxiety in order to defend others or myself. It also forced me to accept and pay attention to the potential in myself to do harm.

In Listening with the Third Ear, Theodor Reik states, "[T]he unconscious does not know the word or concept 'no.' The frontiers of the personality reach farther in both directions: into what is commonly called good and into what is commonly called evil" (p. 174). This is why we must tap into the unconscious to be effective in threatening situations: our conscious side is more likely to freeze or fail to recognize the threat. This is also why it is vital to be in touch with our demons, our own aggressive impulses. By conditioning ourselves to the "bad guy" in ourselves, we are better able to recognize and react to this force in the enemy and make ourselves more capable of forgetting ourselves in serving as warriors.

The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once asked why a person would jump in front of an oncoming train, sacrificing him- or herself to save a complete stranger. The reason, he said, is in that moment you forget that you and the other individual are separate and instead are bonded to the core of humanity—or soul, or whatever we may call it. You realize then that you and the other are one. Lecturing on this issue, the mythologist Joseph Campbell related Schopenhauer's example to helicopter pilots in Vietnam and how they put their lives on the line to rescue wounded fellow soldiers.

If we apply the right motivation of service and the dialectic compass of compassion to using psychological principles in self-defense and combative situations, we will be acting as true warriors. No matter the outcome, we can then live with a sense of honor. To go even further, it is only a warrior who acts with honor, and so those motivated by power will not be able to apply these principles at all. They simply will not work because they are not based on cheap interpretations of psychological principles for use in "psychological operations," but instead on the difficult process of experiencing anxiety and braving reality as it is when facing the enemy.

The Mark of the True Warrior

If we want to identify one trait that distinguishes warriors from people who can simply fight, I believe we can narrow it down to this: warriors, in the act of protecting, completely forget themselves. They forget they are individuals or that they even exist. Warriors become instruments of a long history of those known or unknown who have served to protect the innocent. No titles, no trophies, no fame, no medals . . . just pure service.

I don't believe any of us lives up to this ideal all of the time. It is best to remain humble—it is healthiest—but to some extent we would all like attention, acknowledgement, and praise. Show me a person who says he is all service and no kudos, and I will show you a person heading for a fall.

What we can do, then, to maximize our effectiveness as warriors is to be humble about and keep an eye on our innate drive to be the top gun, no matter what. That last phrase is important. I believe wholeheartedly in the effectiveness of integrating competition into training, especially training that entails life-and-death situations, such as military training. It pushes us to achieve greater levels of mastery than we know lies within us. But when being the top gun becomes the guiding value in training and our lives, problems will ensue. Teamwork and loyalty become less important than selling oneself and one's experiences for the sake of personal fame and acclaim. In some cases this even leads to breaches in sensitive information regarding military operations, techniques, tactics, and procedures.

I know a guy who has become a mentor for me who served twenty-five years as an enlisted soldier in the Rangers and other elite units in the U.S. military. No one knows him. He continues to serve in a civilian capacity on the forefront of the War on Terror and just does his job—that's it. I even asked if he wanted to write a book together about hand-to-hand combat in these special types of units, and he politely declined. I have known him for several years, trained with him, and worked with him, and even as a writer, I find no words to describe the depth of his humility despite what he has accomplished and endured. There are no words for such service. You just bow and feel thankful.

I am not saying admiration for warriors, be they professional fighters, famous martial artist actors, or former military, is always a negative. I am saying you can tell pretty quickly who is about pushing his own fame versus providing genuine service by sharing knowledge and mentoring.

How? Effectiveness. The individual concerned with his own ego is burning energy that could be used for continuing to develop competence. The warrior is only concerned with continuing to develop warrior competence in all of its components. Films and books abound in the martial arts and military communities, and it is fairly easy to sense which ones are there to sell a personality, and which are there out of a continuing developmental process on the part of the warrior to deepen his or her proficiency and effectiveness to serve.

The above excerpt is from First Defense: Anxiety and Instinct for Self-Protection by David Hopkins, PhD.