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Auteur Sujet: Fight or flight , and the threat pyramid - Peter Consterdine, BCA.  (Lu 909 fois)

05 octobre 2016 à 01:03:09
Lu 909 fois

** Serge **

In 1932 a psychologist named Cannon introduced the world to two now familiar terms when used in an emergency context, FIGHT or FLIGHT. Cannon was, in fact, researching the body's response to stress, shock and high emotion - all conditions we may experience in combat. He was interested particularly in the role and processes of what we call 'emergency hormones'. At very stressful times the body's endocrine system and parasympathetic nervous system take over and we are put on an 'auto-pilot' system by our body's reaction and often over-reaction to events.

Losing effective control of our actions is not a good thing, especially if our life depends on correct action. Staying in charge of what happens to us is a product of a number of things - some mental, some emotional and some reactional, but however we achieve this measure of control, one thing is certain - the sooner we see it coming the better chance we have of handling it.

Someone said "shock is the fastest route to fear". What we need to understand is that when we are in a frightening and shocking, high stress environment, we often place blame on our inability to act promptly or correctly on fear and associated emotions. This is wrong, fear is simply the stressor, the button pushed, which instigates the body's chemical and neurological reactions. This is the Chemical Cocktail. The constituents of this hormone cocktail, their benefits and negatives, I've outlined in detail in my book - 'Streetwise' - space does not allow a detailed account here, suffice to say that the feelings we get are often so distressing and foreign that we simply shut down. In effect we have discovered a third F that Lazarus didn't deal with and that's FREEZE.

An academic study of kidnappings and assassinations over the past 30 years or so reveals one singular, unavoidable truth; all the attacks that were successful contained one element - SURPRISE! The shock created by the attack was such that valuable seconds of reaction time were lost. VIP drivers ran into blocking vehicles, back-up drivers ran into the lead vehicle and bodyguards were shot and killed with their weapons holstered and their safety catches on. Their inability to function correctly was not a reflection on their vehicle and weapon handling skills, which they would have practised ceaselessly, very simply they never got a chance to do either. Drivers who had been taught evasive driving skills, both offensive and defensive, didn't get to do either and escort members didn't get the chance to do what they had drilled for, which was laying down return, suppressing fire and give body cover to their Principal, whilst they removed them from the danger zone.

They were taken by surprise and by the time they adjusted to the shock of the attack ad realised what was happening, it was too late.

To compound the felony, studies show that the attack would have been preceded by possibly months or weeks of in-depth surveillance, yet this had not been detected. Surprise led to shock, led to the button being pushed leading to hormone release and major psychological factors occurring to those involved, such as tachy psychia, cognitive dissonance and others. Regrettably, because these feelings are so unfamiliar, the adjustment takes too long and our bodies are shocked into inactivity.

So few people truly understand the nature of the problem, preferring to labour on solutions based on physical skills which, consistently, fail to work and do not stand the test of the attack. It is not that the skills being taught are inappropriate or ineffective, it is simply that the attack is over before the victim gets to use his skills.

Current police defensive tactics training falls foul of this and is devoid of information on stress responses and personal security. The swing has been towards a kit-based solution to problems, as well as an array of unarmed tactics, with no recognition, unfortunately, of the vast subject of personal security, which if addressed, would have a substantial impact on officer safety. Being professionally involved in the instruction of police personal safety, it has been my goal to endeavour to redress the imbalance, to change the emphasis from the reactionary, tactical approach to AVOIDANCE of threat through the application of broader strategies, psychology and pro-active personal security procedures.

Those of you who have read 'The Modern Bodyguard' and 'Streetwise', will be familiar with this particular theme, but it is so fundamental that it cannot be emphasised enough and that is the way the process of risk reduction takes place.

The process of Personal Security starts with a definition and even though this relates to the Close Protection world, it is relevant to every walk of life:-

"The object of personal security is to reduce the risk of kidnap, assassination or criminal act by the application of certain principles and procedures to normal daily life".

Let us distinguish first between Principles and Procedures. The first, Principles, are, if you like, the overriding, guiding rules and we can reduce these to just three:-

1. That the individual is responsible for his or her own security - in other words we cannot look to others to be ultimately responsible for our own personal safety.
2. That security measures must be commensurate with the threat - simply this implies that too much in the way of security procedures will be as ineffective as too little security, as it will be unsustainable in the long term.
3. That Constant Awareness is the cornerstone of good personal security - more later.

Procedures, on the other hand are the structured, routine do's and don'ts we should apply to normal daily life, such as vehicle security drills or the vast range of procedures for office security. Some years ago when I wrote 'The Modern Bodyguard', I separated the areas in which we operate into two broad divisions. This was based on the fact that a client is only ever doing one of two things i.e. they are on the move (Travel Security) or they are static, in other words located somewhere (Location Security).

Location Security sweeps up all security matters as they relate to fixed locations such as residence, office, hotel, public venues and restaurant/social venues.

Travel Security on the other hand covers all aspects of vehicle work from the security of the vehicle and mobile security, through to aircraft procedures, train, boats and public transport, as well as security whilst on foot.

The vast array of procedures which have been established to provide a safe environment whilst located or travelling are not in truth personal security issues, rather they are specific to the task in hand, such as all the rules which may govern access controls of a building. The procedures for the areas above are very comprehensive and effective, but only if one overriding factor is present - AWARENESS.

This brings us back to the third principle above about awareness being the cornerstone of good personal security and nothing could be more apt. Remember one thing if you remember nothing else - "security procedures are blind to reality". What this means is that we can carry out a procedure with absolute diligence, but if we are switched off and have our minds and observational skills in neutral, then the procedure itself is worth nothing. Patrolling a key installation is a function that can be performed to the letter, yet intruders, who could have been spotted, go unnoticed and gain access.

This brings me to an old illustration I have been using for over twenty years, but it is still relevant today - the THREAT PYRAMID.

(fight or flight)



Let's look at the building blocks of the pyramid in more detail. Whether we are security consultants, soldiers, police officers, or Joe Public, we work at the avoidance of violence from others. Avoidance of threat may mean tackling it head on i.e. fight or flight or, better still, don't be there in the first place - flight.

To be able to achieve a successful conclusion to either means that prior to action we must have gone through a period of cognition (thought process) in assessing the situation and concluding it is threatening. This means a process has taken place during which we have assessed or evaluated something we have taken in and that something is information.

It is at this point that the pyramid falls down, because to gather information from our surroundings, we need to be in a particular state and that is the state of Awareness.

My proposition has always been that whilst we can call give the impression that we are aware and alert, in reality we are actually not. One example of this is the old phrase 'Looking But Not Seeing'. For example Anti-Surveillance is a procedural skill that everyone connected with the field of VIP protection will be familiar. Unfortunately, all those Close Protection details we talked about earlier that were attacked and killed knew the drills and probably carried them out. The reason they didn't see anything untoward is back to looking but not seeing, they were simply going through the motions, but were doing it whilst their minds wandered elsewhere.

The reasons for this are many and complex, but can be summarised as follows:-
1. Routine-performance - day in and day out routines and procedures with little or no thought given any more to the purpose of the exercise - essentially people simply go through the motions.
2. Complacency - because we are not attacked on a daily basis, we cease to accept at a sub-conscious level the fact that a threat is possible or imminent. This eventually leads to a state of denial should an attack occur.
3. An inability to stay focused on being aware as a permanent condition - this is linked with the first of these headings in that we are all capable of carrying out routine functions i.e. driving, which for most of us is a mechanical, sub-conscious skill, whilst our thoughts can be elsewhere. In fact, what happens is that our minds are assailed by a succession of linear thoughts, over which we have little control, such as worries, desires, concerns, etc.

Essentially, we perform at a physical level yet we are switched off and at the risk of repeating myself - looking but not seeing. In this state should an attack or ambush occur, then the shock and surprise is tremendous, we are dragged back to reality but often too late.

So, here we are down at the bottom of the Threat Pyramid at Threat Awareness. What you should know is that awareness is the state of mind where we allow information to enter which is relevant to us and this is a two-tier process. Situational awareness is a product of having information about both the environment and the people in the environment. Personal security awareness is not simply about being able to spot the obvious such as someone with a face full of scars, a smoking bomb and a machete tucked into his belt.

It is about how the environment may be subtly changing as we move through it. It is being able to recognise when conditions favour a kidnap attempt during a road move and being able to recognise someone, however innocuous, that you have seen recently, but inappropriately. I carried out some work in Amsterdam some years back with a group of ex-pats, of whom half had been mugged in three months. What became clear was that they had no environment awareness, never mind an awareness of people in their vicinity who may have been showing an undue interest in them.

What was happening was that they were being targeted as suitable victims whilst they were walking in the well lit, well populated main streets, but they were being attacked when they had turned off into less well lit and less populated side streets, which provided escape routes for their attackers. Despite the change for the worse in their environment, this went unnoticed by the victims who, as a consequence, became no more cautious nor suspicious of people who were with them in the side streets. They were in what we know as condition white - switched off and with VICTIM written all over them.

Why they were in this mental condition was a function of their psychological make up and their attentional state. I've gone into this in detail in 'Streetwise', but this magazine article does not allow more than a brief resume. The answer lies in developing systems by which we can have a state of permanent awareness, yet without any attendant paranoia. Awareness has to function at a sub-conscious level and it has to be working for us at all times, constantly ensuring we are taking situational information in and then processing what is relevant to us. These two aspects of information are called by psychologists - Accumulation and Recognition. If this process is on-going, we constantly analyse our surroundings and how best to avoid problem areas, and take better tactical advantage of the ground in advance of us having a problem. There is, unfortunately not the space here to go into the methodologies for creating a state of awareness, but you can try to work on the problem yourself and come up with a system that works for you.

We can then link our new found awareness with a threat state or as I call it an 'action trigger'. This is necessary so as to have a reaction to events as distinct from a long period of decision-making, a process by the way which will probably fail under pressure. Coopers Colour Codes are a proven system where, by means of a colour code to denote increases in threat, we have an action trigger on which we are conditioned to act. Try linking this with the Threat Pyramid and you'll see how both systems fit well together. The colour code works up from Condition White, which is switched off, to Yellow which we can link with awareness, Orange which corresponds to the assessment level and Condition Red which is the trigger which moves us to action (Fight or Flight) at the avoidance level.

With such a system in place we can carry out all our SOPs in the knowledge we are not just performing a function.

Copyright Peter Consterdine -
British Combat Association
"The quality of your life is a direct reflection of the quality of your communication with yourself and others." - Anthony Robbins
"Communications without intelligence is noise; Intelligence without communications is irrelevant." ~ Gen. Alfred. M. Gray, USMC


Keep in mind

Bienveillance, n.f. : disposition affective d'une volonté qui vise le bien et le bonheur d'autrui. (Wikipedia).

« [...] ce qui devrait toujours nous éveiller quant à l'obligation de s'adresser à l'autre comme l'on voudrait que l'on s'adresse à nous :
avec bienveillance, curiosité et un appétit pour le dialogue et la réflexion que l'interlocuteur peut susciter. »

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