Preparation or Paranoia?

Paranoia photo

Preparation or Paranoia?

Is it better to be prepared or paranoid? Can you be over-prepared? Well, it might be more of a matter of perspective. Being paranoid can actually help you identify gaps, it's just easier to assume everyone is a threat. But, some-times being prepared is much easier to maintain than having to be paranoid and unsure that your mitigation rules and procedures will be able to stop an attack in time, or perhaps even before it can realize.

Why does this happen?

Why do we fall into a state of paranoia? Is it really paranoia when we evaluate the state of things in the world we face today? I sort of want to say that the fact we need to barricade ourselves in our own homes should probably tell us that we might be way past the point of paranoia. Of course it would be unhealthy to constantly be in that state. But, how do you move away from paranoia into a state of preparedness? Will you ever really be prepared for everything? Sure, being properly prepared can help reduce strain and stress, and direct more attention to where it is more critically needed. But then what is it you need to be prepared for? The truth is, you simply cannot always be prepared for everything, all the time. I certainly do not want to feel more stressed out on a family trip out to town than actually relaxing for a change. And if you ask any CPO, it gets tiring to be on a constant state of awareness. And although I do stress the importance of awareness, I also need to warn about the dangers of paranoia. I mean, is that six year old really planning to mug me? Or is the over dressed dude with the baseball cap and aggressive stance really just a friendly by-passer in the parking lot?

Will it make a difference?

It's never a bad idea to know what your go-to action should be with possible scenarios you might encounter. It's dangerous to assume that what we train for will be the only reality we will get to face. So, when you are certain of what is going on and what is not, you can overcome the state of paranoia and rather focus on things that require more of your attention and things you can have some form of control over. I do not want you to try and control everything. But make sure you have some form of control, like having a task covered by a team-mate or spouse or outsourcing it. Preparing a detailed risk-assessment will help identify where you need to focus on and what measures need to be trained and perfected more.

Think of it as a type of contact sport

If you want to score, you need to be on the attack. But, often you will need to defend your post as well. Proper, prior preparation will determine how quickly you neutralize the attacking team, regain control and get back on the attack. The reality is you will take some blows. But you can greatly control the outcome of those blows, with blocks and countermeasures.

This is where some of us tend to overdo it and look more like we are moving into a state of paranoia. We carry 3 sets of briefs and plan our routes in such order that we will get the opportunity to use them after we wet ourselves. And while we over plan for the most common things, we neglect to properly align ourselves to the actual threat (that was supposed to be identified with proper risk assessment) and make the one with a greater probability of realizing our main focus. Maybe I could avoid needing three pairs of briefs and identify the threat moving into position. Then I can act on it before it can realize.

Just like our contact sports, we practice different plays beforehand. And we try to stick to them rather than work things out whilst on the field. But if we only focus on our play, we potentially miss what the opposing team might be positioning us to do. So it makes sense that a lot of us tend to lean more to the side of paranoia. We need to have basic plays in our arsenal that are tested and perfected, both for defending and for attacking.

So it gets confusing, right?

It doesn't have to. The key is to identify common plays that you will need to succeed in. In boxing, for example, you might be able to use one block more effectively than another. So use that as your basis, as your go-to block. Something you can always rely on to keep you in the fight, no matter what the opponent throws at you. And perfect it. But never stop there, that specific block might be in-effective against another type of martial arts or weapon. So for that reason you need to know what type of opponent you are likely to be facing, and prepare for that. Think about the whole "never bring a knife to a gunfight" type of scenario. Whenever I get into a self-defense training type of talk with someone, I always coin what Bruce Lee taught the world: Focus on a handful of things you can master and execute with perfection, rather than try and learn every move. This eliminates the probability of your mind getting cluttered and possibly creating a delayed response, which we all know in our environment could prove fatal! Focus on, for example, five things, create the neural pathways, and hone them in. And when you need to act, your options are limited to just those five, thus reducing your reaction time. Think about the fight/flight/freeze response again.

Whenever I have no idea what to do with specific information. I pass it on to another teammate or outsource it completely. Like having someone to do some background check or research on a specific name or company etc. This might give you a better idea of what to look out for while on the task and what to pay more attention to. You do not want to be on a task and having to spend more attention on every little person and thing around you and not have much attention span left to focus on the actual threat determined by your preparation tactics (pre-determined threats). So while on the task, your mind will not need to wander all over the show and start questioning things that could have been mitigated before-hand.

If you want to know if you are over-prepared, ask a colleague to review some things for you. Doing this, helps you get more professional insight and, the colleague might identify some spaces you do lack in and help identify sectors you tend to overdo. Who knows, maybe that just might shed some weight from your tasking. Or perhaps it helps indicate something you might have missed initially?

When you operate in a team environment, everyone must be aligned. Why should each member plan their luggage when one or just a few more extra hands can manage and transport kits and or equipment? Or you might want to make sure you mention your concerns to the team, no matter how ridiculous it may sound. You never know how the risk that you're thinking of, is being mitigated by another member if you never ask.

Conclusion

Do what you are tasked to do and do it well! Only then can you improve on less-likely sectors that can be improved or perhaps cut out completely. Like having to carry a first-aid kit on your person, but you spend most of your day inside a vehicle or office space. So you can rather have a more sophisticated kit stashed at one of these locations or in the vehicle for example. I sincerely hope this was more informative than confusing, and if you feel that you still don't grasp it yet, comment below or drop me an email and I'll get back to you with more insight.

Interested to learn more? See the following links:

Principal profiling

Physical security threat assessment

Fight/Flight/Freeze

Awareness training

Action plan

Awareness training (part 3)

Awareness

Awareness Training (part 3)

Nice to see you again! I trust you read the first and second parts of this series on awareness before you ended up on this one. If you haven't read the first two parts, then I strongly advise you to give it a read! If you've already done that, then let's continue.

As stated, I will now explain the skill-sets that professional individuals have developed over time (and I believe quite a few nerve-racking experiences).

Colonel Cooper's color codes:

Colonel Cooper had a great impact on the firearm and defense training industry, most of his teachings are used by highly trained teams of today. That says a little something of his findings. In essence, he developed the 4 stages of awareness:

  • White - Unaware and unprepared
  • Yellow - Relaxed and alert
  • Orange - Specific alert
  • Red - Fight

Some may want to go the extra step and add Black - Total ignorance to that list. But I encourage you to go read more about Mr. Cooper's work and decide for yourself, you will notice that I used his specific notations as I feel they will be more easily interpreted by someone, not in the security, military or law-enforcement industry.

White - So at this stage, you are completely relaxed (as you would generally find yourself when at home or a BBQ), and you do not care much about what and who is moving around you.

Yellow - Without acting paranoid or driving yourself insane, being constantly aware of what is going on around you and always thinking of your next step or move and mentally being ready to counter any threat that might pop up. The idea is to see, feel, hear, or smell a risk before it turns into a threat. Yes, I said that, use your senses!

Orange - At this stage, you have already identified a possible threat while you were in the Yellow stage. Now your attention is more focused on that threat while moving yourself into a position to strike/defend or by removing yourself from the imminent threat.

Red - At this stage, the game is on! You are no longer scanning for threats, you are now engaging the threat, or if the opportunity presents itself, removing yourself from the threat! This stage is not necessarily attacking the threat, but it demands action from your side, whatever action you might choose.

Most people find themselves in either the White or the Red stage, they have a complete lack of awareness, until an attack happens or a threat presents itself, and then they have to suddenly jump into action. The problem with that, of course, is that they now have no preparation at all! So their chances of survival or escape become very slim! As someone who aims to have a greater level of awareness, you would want to be dwelling in the Yellow and Orange stages. That gives you the most reasonable chance of survival or escape! Read more here.

The OODA Loop:

Next, we need to discuss Colonel John Boyd's OODA loop. No, not those annoying plastic circle things you could never master as a teenager! Were talking about a decision cycle. If followed promptly, this cycle can most likely place you in a position of advantage when you need to act on a prevailing threat.

  • O - Observe
  • O - Orientate
  • D - Decide
  • A - Act

The concept is quite simple. Observe (awareness) your surroundings and the possible threat that is unveiling itself to you, then you need to orientate yourself towards the threat (or away if your escaping), you can turn to face a threat head-on, or so that you can have your full attention towards a threat. After that you need to decide what are your best options and possibly their consequences, then lastly you have to act on your decision. You simply do what you decided to do and deal with whatever comes next, by restarting the loop. The OODA loop is a constant process, you have to be working through it every minute of the day! I like to see the loop as a distraction from paranoia when I tend to over-analyze things. I have found that by the time I reach the decision stage, the threat I was looking at simply is irrelevant to me at this moment in time. That in return allows me to more efficiently direct my attention to more serious threats and restart the process again and again, without wearing myself out.

Awareness aims to create time!

So using these techniques is just a start, situational awareness can be complex. Think of someone you know who can make assumptions on things just by the sounds they make or the way they smell, like what type of car is approaching or who's perfume they smell in the next room. Your level of awareness can improve significantly when you start to pay attention to patterns, shapes, general behaviors, sizes, and so on that you encounter regularly. You always neglect to see the beauty around your home town but can be easily captivated by surroundings in some other town right? Think about it... The aim is to create time! I always teach self-defense students the importance of time in a fight. And that applies to each of us! I'm not saying you can in any way alter, manipulate, or restructure time. I'm simply saying that you can use it to your advantage. Here's the formula:

  • Time = Distance = options

With more time (awareness), you can create more distance, or close the distance if need be (OODA Loop), and once you're in the ideal or advantageous distance you have more options! Simple as that! The threat is too close, close the distance, and reduce exposure. The threat is too far, close the distance and strike/act first! The threat cannot reach you, get out of there!

Closing off:

As we're reaching the end of this series now I'm going to fall back to what I said in the first post. For an attack to take place, a criminal has to go through those initial stages. Your job is to break that cycle and not allow an attack to proceed. Every attack you manage to foil even before it happens is a victory to you! To give yourself a better chance at surviving an attack or avoiding being a victim, you need to be aware, but being aware and not acting on your findings will help no one! And the same the other way around, it does not help if you are highly trained in any form of martial art or "whose your uncle" defensive system, but you cannot recognize a threat in time. Practice these techniques as often as you can, invite the whole family and see who can identify the most possible risks and threats around you.

Till next time, stay sharp!