Fight/Flight/Freeze

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Fight/Flight/Freeze

We've all heard of this one before, and even see it all over, mostly without realizing it! But what is happening to someone who is instinctively responding to stressful situations? Some people automatically jump into a fighting stance and flip the switch from friendly to the enemy without flinching. Others shift into 5th gear and blast off faster than most modern race cars, and some even "freeze" completely and don't budge until they figure out it's time to act or already took the brunt of the blow.

What is it?

The fight/flight/freeze or acute stress response is an automatic reaction/response that takes over when a person suddenly comes under a form of distress. It could be something that causes physical pain, a mental breakdown of some sort, or a sudden rush of emotion, like being frightened, and of course from a psychological threat like having to present a very important presentation in front of people. It is a rush of hormones that are released by your body, to activate a series of reactions, which is intended to help you perform better.

The signs of stress:

It is easy to recognize, and many different signs show up when the response kicks in. Such as:

  • Increased heart rate and fast-paced breathing: Your heart rate increases and the rate of breathing increases to rush more energy and oxygen to strengthen the muscles and brain function.
  • Pale/Flushed Skin: Because blood is now flowing at increased rates through your body, you might become pale or flushed. Another bonus of this is that the clotting ability of your blood increases to help prevent blood loss in the event of injury.
  • Dilated Pupils: Dilated pupils allow for more light to enter the eyes, and that makes for better vision. Better vision helps to see incoming attacks more easily and be more vigilant of your surroundings.
  • Trembling: Trembling is normally seen as bad, but this means that your muscles are ready for action!
  • You don't seem to feel pain: Ever heard someone say they only started to feel the pain after the confrontation? It is not uncommon, and it can be of great advantage when faced with a life-or-death situation.
  • Heightened senses: Our senses are natural and under subconscious control, and under stress, they take over. Some smells might draw your attention, some colors might trigger emotions and the slightest touch on your skin can make you react.
  • Memories can fool around: Depending on the situation, you might remember things clearly, partially, or nothing at all!
  • Uncontrollable bladder: Sometimes your body wants to get rid of extra weight or unnecessary tension. That means, you might urinate yourself or worst-case scenario, find a nasty, smelly surprise waiting for you after the initial brunt of reactions.

Positive stress reactions:

Physical:

  • Pale Skin
  • Sweating
  • Fast Breathing
  • Watery eyes
  • Trembling / Facial Twitches “grimacing”
  • Major muscle tension
  • Dry mouth & Throat
  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Faster pulse
  • Impaired vision
  • Stomach & Bladder stops functioning

Mental:

  • The subconscious mind takes over “instinct”
  • A dramatic decline in conscious logical thinking
  • Loss of concentration
  • Highly tensed and emotional
  • Rapid brain function

Negative stress reactions:

Visual:

  • Tunnel vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Magnified vision
  • Loss of vision

Auditory:

  • Selective hearing
  • Hearing is blocked or dampened

Mental:

  • Heightened fear, anger, resentment & anxiety, etc.
  • Increased cultural sensitivity
  • Reaction due to social conditioning more evident

Physical:

  • “Freezing” - denial
  • Defecating, urinating, and nausea
  • Fainting
  • Lack of reality perception
  • Daydreaming
  • Mental Memory Flashes
  • Distraction
  • Physical Discomfort
It is common to hear individuals boldly stating how they will react when some form of stressful event occurs, such as a sudden attack. But this is just perceived control, and it can be very dangerous. How you think you would react when not under stress, is not a clear indication of how you would most definitely react when it happens. We tend to exaggerate our abilities under normal conditions, and when suddenly met with aggression or stressors, the lack of control is visible. We can either be over aggressive in non-life-threatening situations, such as someone simply wanting to frighten you, or you might be too calm when it is necessary to be more aggressive, like when facing a life-threatening situation.

The fight/flight/freeze response is an ancient and very important reaction that automatically takes-over. But, not learning how to control it and not differentiating from life-threatening situations and non-life-threatening situations can cause it to run more continuously and unnecessarily. So it is not good to run your mind and body under a constant state of stress! Not only will you be overwhelmed and "jumpy", but you will be unable to identify a real life-threatening situation when it calls for reaction from your flight/fight/freeze response.

You need to learn more about yourself, both mentally and physically. What triggers your response, how can you minimize it and what would be a more preferable response when you are triggered to react. Is it more beneficial for you to relax completely and hand over your possessions when confronted, or will putting up a fight for your life be the sure way to react? The answer will change from situation to situation. So you need to learn more about the types of situations you might have to face.

Another way to gain more control over this natural reaction is through physical training. Fitness can decrease stress overall, by improving heart-rate, better sleep, and increasing endorphins. Also doing practical training, such as first-aid training, any form of martial arts or even regular visualization can greatly improve the way you react under stress.

It is also beneficial to maintain a good amount of social support. You might find that spending time with certain individuals or groups, such as friends, family members or your spouse reduces your stress levels. It might also help you remember why it is that you do what you do and boost your motivation and will power to tackle stressful situations.

Conclusion

It might not seem so significant to try and improve your stress reactions and take more control over your natural responses such as the fight/flight/freeze response. But it can certainly help shave off some very crucial seconds to your reaction time, and help your decision making when you need to think ab=nd act fast, whether you determine it is much better to run or to stand your ground. Every decision will differ from the previous, you might want to react more carefully when you are around family members as to not provoke aggressors, and you might want to react more aggressively and jump into action when you are alone or the situation calls for you to be the aggressor. Studying your own body and its natural responses are great fun and improve your skillsets indefinitely!

Interested to learn more? See the following links:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response

https://qz.com/841879/by-taking-advantage-of-the-bodys-fight-or-flight-response-we-can-enact-change-in-the-world/

https://leadchangegroup.com/secret-steps-using-stress-advantage/

Cover vs Concealment

To cover, or to conceal

That is the question! But the answer is slightly more complicated. In basic terms, it sounds quite easy to differentiate. Cover is anything that effectively stops bullets. Concealment is anything that hides you from someone else's sight. Pretty simple right?...Wrong!
The most important thing you have to always remember: Cover is the one that's going to save you when things take a turn for the worse.
Cover
Cover is something that will not necessarily conceal your location but stop a bullet, or any other projectile being lunged toward you for that matter. Do keep in mind that some forms of cover can also deflect high-velocity projectiles and send them off into the unknown. You do not want to unwillingly send rounds to a teammate or someone else, and you probably will not be able to control this either. And, then there is the initial "kick" it will project onto whatever it is hitting, for example, a thick plate of steel hanging loosely in front of you will stop or deflect an incoming round, but will also probably kick back a bit and still send you off balance or if it is light enough, give you a nice slap in the face! The important thing, however, is to not be penetrated by any projectiles. Think of your bulletproof vest, for example, if you take a round from a 9mm at say 10m out, it will stop the projectile, but the force that was initially behind the projectile is now being spread into the size of your plates and that can leave you with a proper bruise and send you off balance.
It is also dependent on what the bad guy is shooting. Materials that will stop a 9mm or other pistol rounds will likely not stop more powerful rifle rounds for example.
In general, something that provides you with good cover also conceals you, but there are exceptions, like bulletproof glass for example. In the movies you see guys flipping dinner tables for cover or hiding behind some wooden wall while rounds are hitting it with no mercy, and walk away unscathed. That is not a good idea at all! Unless you have a table that's at least as thick as a small tee! And no, the door panels on your vehicle is not likely to stop even a .22 round! Unless you upgrade it with some good quality steel of proper thickness.
The only few things on your vehicle that will properly stop incoming rounds, are the engine, an axle (if it is big enough to hide behind anyway, and a good thickness wheel.
Keep in mind that cover should not limit your maneuverability too much, as you might still need to deal with the threat. You should either be able to shoot from behind it or when the threat changes position, you should be able to change accordingly as well. You do not want to be stuck in a small space and have a threat walk straight to you. The human body can also stop some projectiles, just do not use your spouse for that duty...

Concealment

If it doesn’t stop a projectile, then it is only hiding you. Which essentially is concealment. If you had to quickly hide behind a couch, you are concealing yourself from who/whatever is trying to find you. You know, like when the debt-collector makes a visit and you quickly lock the door, dive behind the couch and wait for him to leave. If he had to fire off a few rounds into the living room, you would likely have been hit behind the couch. Using darkness or shadows to hide in during the night or in poorly lit hallways are also a favorite way to go for criminals. You often do not see them there, but if you had to throw a rock into their direction, you would probably get a reply. Whereas if they were behind cover as well, you would have a hard time to know they are there.
It is just like the camouflage hunters use, they blend into the environment and conceal themselves from the unsuspecting game. Here in SA for example, our police forces wear a kind-off light blue uniform, which is not that easy to see during the night and is not reflective at all.

I often talk about not setting up bright lights facing toward your home, rather than facing outwards toward exterior walls, as that can be a great form of concealment for criminals scouting your home. Just as much as you cannot see a person from behind a flashlight during night time. The same concept applies. See this post to read about lighting up your yard.

Two dead giveaways exploit you from behind concealment: Noise and motion, Heavy breathing is very audible, and shaking from fear tends to shake and rattle lighter concealment, like curtains for example.

Conclusion:

Good cover is not that easy to find, especially when you are inside a building. So for this reason, you will need to utilize the concealment you have access to and move unnoticed to a place with decent cover, or to escape the threat. So if you're thinking about adding some decent cover to your home defense plan, I would suggest adding some bulletproof vest or blanket of some sorts in your safe room. If you do not have a safe room, I suggest you make one! However, adding some simple pieces of furniture, filled with something like solid wood, cement, or plating.

For more on home defense, read here.

Know yourself

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Question

So the last few weeks have been interesting, to say the least. All around the world people have come together to make great change and unite for a single cause, and although it means keeping your distance from family, friends, and co-workers, most spouses found themselves face to face for a few weeks (depending on which country your in any way), and this has made them either re-spark their interested in each other or a lot of cases spur a bit of anger and frustration amongst each other. Hubby can no longer claim he has no time to tick of the evergrowing list wifey has made up and wifey had to implement a few changes too. So this has led me to think, how well do you know yourself? And, do you know how to control, disarm, and de-stress yourself?

Easy right?

To some, it might sound like an easy question right? Whether they are just ignorant or cocky, or maybe they do invest a lot of time into their own mental and emotional well-being, and they probably do find it to be an easy question. Even if you do, have you ever come to face the type and the scale of the current challenge we find ourselves in?.  Especially as protectors in an active field, we tend to witness and endure some things we do not wish to talk about and humanity, in general, is not supposed to be imposing on each other. Early on you get taught to not attach yourself emotionally to any client, victim, or perpetrator. But, as protectors, that is just not always possible, as we feel duty-bound to care, and for that reason sometimes unintentionally find ourselves attached to some situation. And until that situation has been resolved, we rarely find true peace.

More questions

So again, I want to bring another question to you. Have you ever taken the time to sit with yourself and run over a little assessment on yourself for a change? How great is the risk on yourself, both mentally, physically, and emotionally? And what if one of these underlying stressors jump out one day at the wrong time, under the correct circumstance? Say for instance in a supermarket, an argument with a family member or as mentioned above, in the instance of a lock-down where you can not run and hide from facing your spouse or children?

Many a man/woman have ruined their lives because they have lost control, even for just a second or two. Learning to control our own emotions is something that we seem to have lost during the recent generations. And in the times we find ourselves in nowadays, we must regain control.

It's the challenge we all face

What makes this challenging is that even when you can control your emotions during a challenging situation and act rationally, others will not see it the same way, and ultimately might blame you for any negative outcome. Think of a policeman for a second. At some point in his/her career, he/she will be faced with a decision, such as having to take a young man's life, perhaps even the same age as his child. If he does take the shot, he will save the lives of many, and if he does not take the shot, well who knows how many innocent lives could be lost, especially if it involves explosives or other lethal weapons. Sounds simple in words, doesn't it? Well place yourself in his shoes for a second and imagine that young man is your son? Would you be able to pull the trigger?

Will it impact you?

For some people, it seems obvious, but being behind the trigger in that scenario can and will have a lasting psychological effect. Sometimes, as protectors, we have to do things or see things that are not supposed to be happening in the first place. This can be dreadful for some. As we are sworn to protect, we do not wish to harm anyone for no meaningful reason, unless we truly have to.

Your challenge:

So I want to challenge you today to take some time during this chaotic and emotional shift that is happening in the world and asses your strengths and weaknesses and develop a plan to make sure you do not crack under the pressure. You will find a great deal changes once you gain control of your emotional state and start to perform at your maximum. And yes, it will possibly push you to make challenging decisions, but in the long run, it would most definitely be of great value to you. Reach out to that position you always wanted, talk to more people, and put yourself out there and expand your capabilities. And, if you need to, reach out to others and take your problems by the horn and pin that pain in the arse to the ground! Set yourself up to attack life head-on as soon as this pandemic eases down.

If you'd like, find some questions here and see how you can make a change in yourself today.

I salute you all, and I commend you for the great change you bring every day. Even if you do not see it, you are making things better, and what an honor it is to serve those who need protection!

Don’t be that guy

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Don't be that guy

We all know him, the mister know it all. The one who never trains reads or improves any useful skill, yet he seems to think he can take on anyone from a heavy-weight boxer to a master shooter. The little Jack-Russel of security. Sound like you? or anyone you know?

Maybe you are, you just don't know it yet?

I'm not trying to make you feel like an idiot, but sometimes each of us just needs a little reality check. A little slap in the face to wake up and see the threat. What threat is that? The threat of complacency of course! Ask yourself this, do you train for survival or self-defense? Are you actively taking steps in improving your security? Or do you just accept the fact that crime is a thing and if it happens, it happens? All too often I see this, and perhaps its something most not dares to tread on, but, to me its a BIG threat. Have you ever just sat down in a restaurant and watched a few people pass by, and come to think that you could easily defeat them in a hand-to-hand brawl or a shootout in the mall? If you haven't, then you have an even bigger problem than you think. If you did, then you probably at some point in time realized that perhaps 50% of those relatively "easy" targets are trained in some form of martial arts or weapons handling themselves.

What's the problem with that?

The problem with that is simple. And the legendary Mr. Bruce Lee summed it up quite beautifully - "I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.". You could try and say the time you spend in the gym improves your overall skill set, but you won't fool me. Practice does not make perfect, only perfect practice makes perfect. Just because you drive your car every day does not mean you are a better driver than someone who only drives once a week. The same driver who only spends time once a week behind the wheel might be spending all his effort around a race track or advanced driving course for that day, and by doing such, he is actively developing his skillset, he can identify possible weaknesses and at his next driving session target those weaknesses specifically and develop them into strengths. But you, you just keep repeating the same routine over and over, thus it's safe to say, you are not improving. Experience is not always key.

Complacency - a slow creeping, yet an imminent threat.

You might be thinking that this post is a complete waste of time and why would I ever even consider spending time on this. Because it could kill you, it kills every day. Just ask around, you would be surprised at how many people lose their lives due to the fact they think they are on top of their game, they neglect simple security principles and create gaps in their defenses. I'm not the only one who thinks complacency is an issue, this is a good example of how it creeps in on any security detail or your own life for that matter. Just like hitting the shower once a day, you need to hit the training department once a day and make sure you are fresh and ready to kick-ass!

Uh - ok, what now?

Consistency equals accuracy! You simply have to consistently identify weaknesses, accurately implement strategies or training to minimize the risks, and then rinse and repeat if you want to accurately improve your security. That means hitting the gym with a plan on improving, not repeating what you know, it means studying material like this to learn more and it also means testing all of your equipment and defenses to be certain that you have it all covered! Cause if you truly know the human race, you would know that we are evil and fierce! And they will find a way, as long as the reward adds up to the effort!

Don't be that guy

So I call on all of you to get out there and improve your skills! And when the next BBQ calls on your presence, don't be that guy, accept the fact that you do not know it all and that you can and probably will be knocked the heck out! We all have something to learn from each other and something to teach each other.