Right now I'm officially lurking on the site/list where the guy was talking about the aftermath of the robbery incident and his feelings of needing to "win" etc. against a robber with an assault rifle. I don't know if he realised that his issue was with his own ego (i.e. not being aware enough and getting caught off guard) and not the robber. It was a sad state with him, he just wouldn't listen.
About the "thing". It was one of the main reasons why I decided to join Aikido. I was looking for a way, in those days at least, where I could control without injuring, since the need to "injure" (putting it very mildly) was how a big part of me always wanted to react to being attacked in any form. Restraining that urge was a big job in and of itself. I saw Aikido as a means of maintaining the ability to effectively protect myself in most situations while not giving the darker side reign to escape and run rampant on people.
Through training, what I found was the best way to control the beast was to empty my cup (preconceptions), lose the ego (as much as I was able), clear my mind/spirit, look him in the eye and understand what motivated and drove the darker self. In this way, through understanding, the darkness no longer became as scary a place, but a place that if the need arose, could be relatively safe (of course to see things this way took a hell of a paradigm shift from the good/bad way of viewing things also). But it takes a lot, and removal of the ego while going through the process is very difficult, but also pivotal to any degree of success.
Contrary to Brehan's point though, I have found that the intensity, challenge to my "comfort zone" and continuously humbling effects found in competition type training very effective in helping me control my own "desire to win" and to be the ego-driven hero. Once I have resigned myself that the meeting and testing (shi ai) with my partner is not about battle, destroying my attacker and surviving in combat, I can settle down to the work and study of refining my technique to a level where I can maintain my inner calm and keep "the thing" at rest in the midst of being under a low level threat (training it to receive personal attacks in a new way). Then I can take this to another level where I begin to apply the same principles to non-competition situations, where the rules are either blurred or non existent. By exercising the muscle it becomes stronger, so too the mind/spirit resolve. Competition in Aikido is about polishing the mirror, the jewel and the sword, not winning. At least imho.
In my humble opinion I think Ueshiba M. had it right regarding training to the level where one can deal with conflict without being mentally and spiritually drawn into and controlled by it (i.e. by feeling threatened with destruction, generating a fear response). To do this realistically however requires a level of internal and external skill that is nothing short of phenomenal.
When threatened it becomes easy for our not so nice natures to come out in an attempt to win, even in an attempt to merely survive/escape. The only respite is that survival/escape may most times be easier than trying to win, which can call for a hell of a lot more energy output and skill. But there are the times when the mere act of escape itself may call for "the thing" to come out, due to the circumstances of what is occurring, so again it is not easy. Ask anyone who may have escaped from a POW camp or a killing field.
Dave's post hit at the core. It reminds me of the saying "The only way to win against one's own subconscious is to deny it battle."
Just my thoughts. I hope it adds to the discussion. To date I still separate Aikido training and self defence training. I hope I can see the day when the 2 become 1 in all encounters.