• Charlie Jasper

Resiliency and Trauma (Pt. 2) - Pushing Bang to the Right

In the security and tactical fields, people often speak of "left of bang, bang, right of bang." Left of bang is today, it's your life as you know it. Ready or not, here life comes. Bang is, of course, whatever is unexpected and possibly violent that is happening (robbery, earthquake, riots) right now. But what that bang is, is something specifically happening to you. People in Pismo Beach were not affected by the LA riots except as maybe tertiary trauma, or some other level so far removed as to not warrant any attention. Ideally, you want there to be a long "left-of-bang," a short "right-of-bang," and an even shorter "bang."

At some point in your life, "bang" is inevitable. Car crashes, muggings, home break-ins, natural disasters, and so forth. At least one, probably two or three, of these is going to affect every single human being in this country. The least you can do is maintain a vigilant, confident mindset and develop the skills necessary to defer that incident as much as possible, if possible. And if you can't defer it, shrink the shock time and bounce back as soon as possible. To do this, you have to build your individual and community resiliency.

Skill-building is a great way to improve your individual resiliency and lets you get to better levels of vigilance, your confidence, your mindset. If you do things to counteract trauma, these same things should also be able to mitigate the effects of tragedies that may come to pass in the future.

The best way to counteract trauma is to do things that empower yourself in the present. -- Dr. David Gordon, PhD

Trauma and tragedy cause you to feel helpless in the moment. It's crucial that you not carry these feelings through to avoid falling into the sick-role. If you minimize your feelings of helplessness, not only will you rebuild neural pathways, but you'll build better ones and mitigate feeling helpless. Eventually, through these practices and appropriate therapy, the pain will dissipate. The memory will never go away. It absolutely should not. But feeling helpless must end. You don't "imagine" not being helpless. It puts you into the feedback loop. So empower yourself.

The more the mind is focused on empowerment, the old feedback loops associated with helplessness and trauma that had been reinforced by hypervigilance, rehearsing the helplessness over and over, begin to dissipate. -- ibid.

I had previously discussed how vigilance is natural. Hypervigilance is only slightly natural. It has a logical basis, whereas paranoia does not. The logical and natural actions to take when you find yourself living in a state of hypervigilance is to empower yourself, improving your individual and therefore your community resiliency.

There are three "easy" steps one can take to do that:

Physical fitness - more than just running and lifting weights and doing plyometrics. Your fitness regimen should be focused on something beyond just "looking good." There are plenty of men out there who look like an Adonis who couldn't do what I, or other men I know in similar shape, can do. Don't get me wrong, it helps, but a purpose beyond "vanity" and generic "health" really help drive it home.Skill building (again and again and again!) - in pairs or small groups. You are building a community of people you can rely on. At different points in your lives you will be able to help pull each other out of the (real or metaphorical) rubble. And you're more likely to be able to "dust yourself off." Whitewater rafting, karate, orienteering, knitting, urban homesteading, forming a jam-band. Any of these will help you build or improve skills in a small community.Strong communities - is your "tribe" or "community" full of truly strong people, or is it wishy-washy and full of whiners? Find that strong community and put yourself in it. People get better when they surround themselves with better people. Choose the better sparring partner, listen with both ears and no mouth, and so forth.

We are fortunate enough to live in a peaceful and stable society, so much so that what is actually the human norm is considered out of the ordinary almost everywhere else. People walk down the street, faces buried in their phones, blasting music, completely cutoff from their environment, and usually, they get from point to point without incident! The downside of this is, it's becoming the American norm. We have created a comfort zone that is actually very uncomfortable. This leads to reduced resiliency, and then you have people walking out of necessary meetings and training programs because they feel a little discomfort just talking about workplace violence. Well, it's important. In 2015, 9% of workplace deaths were due to violence. In 2016, that number almost doubled to 17% and it's only going to rise.

This makes the job of a security training professional even more difficult. Already, we are trying to reach the largest audience possible at once. But a disengaged public lacks resilience. A disengaged public also means "bang" moves "left."

Understand that these "left" and "right" parts of the scale are not time-based, they're more like states of being. I can't walk up to you and say "in five weeks, you're going to get into a car accident on 3rd and Main." Imagine them in terms of preparation, resolution, recovery, and improvement. "Bang" will last as long as it will last. And think of it this way: if you aren't dead, you aren't out of the fight. You must win. Win the fight, win the recovery, and improve. A small left-of-bang on the scale has more to do with your preparation and your mindset than it does time. A large right-of-bang has more to do with how quickly you resolve, recover, and improve. You want a large left-of-bang, and a small right-of-bang. You are prepared, and you are resilient. At some point, that right-of-bang becomes your new left-of-bang. This should all be implemented in your business continuity cycle.

Military, fire/rescue, and police forces, and yes, businesses and education facilities that establish and rehearse and improve plans for worst-case scenarios fare much better than those that don't. If you failed to plan, you've planned to fail. There are a myriad of resources for you to just get the basics instituted so you can build a resilient, vigilant culture within your sphere.

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