Firing is different from jumping in and going Hand to teeth with the pack of dogs. I certainly would try to use a firearm if it was feasible.
The psychological consequences are of interest to me. The motivation to save the child should be about the child and NOT about how you feel later. Theories of altruism discuss whether folks act for their own external and internal image as compared to helping someone. Which is the best motive.
I sat down with a colleague (a coauthor of mine on a major paper on police dealing with stress disorders - including what if you shot a child -also done with police psychologists who deal with this all the time). Work with numerous victims of crisis and we pondered the scenario.
The first step, if you didn't act or weren't successful (assuming you lived), would be to analyze why felt that you couldn't live with yourself if you didn't act or failed. Most folks will get over that with their own internal resources and own informal support groups. Only about 30% of folks get stress disorders that are long lasting after a critical incident. So the odds are you don't. Thus we deal with the folks on the list who think or know they don't have the internal resources to deal with the consequences.
Thus, after determining why you think such, those beliefs and the stress disorder symptoms can be effectively dealt with by various cognitive behavioral therapies. The failures, suicides and drug abuse are found most likely in those who don't engage in a proactive attempt to deal. They self-medicate with alcohol or other drugs or don't do anything.
That's why military and police (with reluctance) are instituting programs to catch and deal with stress disorders. It is the failure to do such that causes problems. Men, particularly, are afraid or embarrassed to deal with failure and/or the resulting stress symptoms. Thus, it gets them. But if we deal with it correctly, that 30% has a high probability of short circuiting the problem if dealt with early or fixed later. Avoiding it gives you the troubles. Will you not have some consequence - you will but you WILL be able to live with yourself.
In classes, I've taken from folks with special forces background, they clearly state that after a critical incident you need to be aware of such and can deal with it. You cannot avoid it by saying folks who worry about such are weaklings. Talking to police, we found officers who said that if you have consequences you are a 'insert bad word here' and then tell you about the nightmares. That's why we have mandatory police psychologist interviews.
Are we saying that the folks who say they must act because they worry about their mental health are those who can't have the strength or are afraid to seek help? That's a crappy reason for an incredibly risky action.
The only reason to act is to save the child. How to do it is a subject for debate. One accepts the risk to yourself to save the child. We can debate whether the risk is so great that an action is a futile gesture. I had a friend tell me that he is sure that if he jumped in and cut one dog with his Spyderco the dogs would flee. Maybe?
But, again, engaging in a futile gesture (if it was) because you fear that you will have stress problems later flies in the strong probabilities that it can dealt with, if you have the gumption to do that.
So folks think they have the physical ability to save the child but doubt they have the psychological strength to engage in what would have to be done if you took a rational decision not to jump 14 feet or so and go CQB with a pack of significant dogs?
Last edited by Glenn E. Meyer; November 14, 2012 at 11:19 AM.