I have 2 questions for you: 1. Do you believe that our intuition on issues of threat, safety, risk, and violence can be wrong? 2. Do you believe that violence, in the form of sudden human violent behavior, can be predicted?
Here’s my take on this, for anybody interested, so take with a grain-of-salt. Intuition can absolutely be wrong and consistently shows as much. Not all intuition is “good” intuition. It has an element of evolution, yes, where we’re wary of snake-bites, being burned, sensing predatory danger/being hunted, etc. It’s hard-wired. But the daily intuition in modern context that we refer to is developed over time and intricately personal…soft-wired. Important? Well, I think it’s important for people to understand that it’s prone to various types of personal biases and that it’s not a magical mystical thing always designed to protect us. Like adrenaline, the more knowledge one has, the more one understands, the more chance of calm(er) response to it and what it means. How is it developed? By experience, exposure, knowledge, training, nature, nurture, environment, culture and, when those change, so too does intuition over time. (also meaning that feedback from your past ‘can’ be very helpful if those personal biases don’t cloud things and you’re aware of them – thus, the paranoia) It can be very right or very wrong so simply “trust your intuition” or “go with your gut” or “I had a feeling” are only partially-true and shouldn’t be the fallback many instructors tell you. It’s not some magical 6th-sense that most claim….it is grounded in elements very tangible.
We are prone to errors but higher-stakes pattern-recognition (and let’s face it, intuition is a big part pattern-recognition) comes from a place of prior data/stimuli/experiences, which is greatly diverse from person-to-person. My intuition on night-club interview violence simply won’t be as honed as a bouncer’s due to his past. (which doesn’t mean I won’t have alarm-bells go off from my own experience/experiences) His/hers for particular Central-American issues won’t be as honed as mine for the same reasons. (Ditto on the alarm-bells for him/her) So, that being said, “thinking it first” has every bit the chance of success on many occasions as “feeling it first” if the perceptual filters listed above are present and there’s time. Thinking doesn’t make one paranoid, it just means it’s a situation where there’s greater time to assess and make an educated decision – whether right or wrong, like intuition, is another thing entirely. Generalizations.
One question on prediction. Can violence be predicted ahead of time to the point it can be stopped before happening? When we see “PINs” or “ritual signs of violence” or “body language/intent”….it’s at our doorstep and about to happen. It’s too late for mitigation, prevention, or prediction. It’s here and we need to deal with it…OR we simply don’t see or acknowledge these things and bad things happen. But can it be predicted prior and stopped? If there’s a lead-up or high-stakes predictions (long-term planning, manifestós, social media info, loved-one concern from signs, diaries, prior like-behavior), I’d say a far greater chance. If not, I’d say very difficult. Risk-analysis, threat-assessment, safety-precautions to mitigate threat….absolutely. To predict outright? I’d say pretty damn difficult. Trends, environments, statistics, signs all help to mitigate and risk-downsize….but it’s super-, super-difficult to predict individual human behavior what with urges, irrational behavior, impulse, momentary need, states, moods, etc. Maybe with the new brain/neuro technology that’s being developed but the risk of this (privacy-loss/mind-invasiveness/corporation-government misuse) is pretty damn horrifying. Lowering the odds is definitely achievable, however, to be certain.
Regarding definitions, I’d say (for me, from my perspective) “intuition” would be something on the short-end of time….something momentary, in-the-moment, situational, soon-to-happen..or not. “Prediction” longer-term, with a lead-up. Can we “predict” what will happen on the stock-market? How someone will handle traumatic bad news? What the future will hold? I’ll leave a few of very good, easy-to-read, and very up-to-date articles on intuition below for curiosity.
There are a lot of similarities in the grooming-cycle between narcissists and sociopaths and both have many similarities and overlap to predatory behavior and predators themselves – who will often be narcissists or sociopaths. I have intimate knowledge of the first two, studied the third intensely over the years. They may be of the “new person in your life” variety or within your very family construct. Regardless, the progression is extremely subtle, even for the sharpest minds…at times, completely invisible. Remember, this is from my experience – yours may be different. I have not researched much on this outside of my living in the midst of it and reflecting back on that living experience.
Gaslighting. They both make you consistently feel like your perception is off and things are not at all what you originally thought they were. They skew your perceived view of reality and make you question or doubt your own sanity, coherence, and state-of-mind. This includes expecting you to go along with their gas-lighting of others as to outward appearances, material wealth, perfection of the nuclear family. (all innocently, of course, in a “keep up with the Joneses” manner. You can become paranoid and insecure in a hurry with both.
Gifts. To distract from their behavior or manipulations, they’ll buy you lots of things, spend money on you, and buy your unconscious compliance. They believe they can overshadow their narcissism or agenda by appealing to your material or flattered side.
Guilt. Here’s where I’ve noticed a difference, in hindsight. Whenever you call out or react with hostility at the tactics or a narcissist, they crumble, put on a show, becoming exorbitantly over-emotional, and try to make you feel awful for mistreating them as it was never their goal to hurt or offend you. They can feign support when they subtly intimate things that cause you guilt, remorse, or shame. A sociopath is cold, unbending, and utilizing denial. They return to the gaslighting and show care and love to reinforce your original loyalty towards them, stating emphatically how much you mean to them and how they’d never do anything to hurt you.
Victimhood. Both will play the pity card any chance they get when feeling they’re being exposed or narrowed in on. They’re always the center-of-attention and always find a way to take the spotlight off the actual victim and make it about them. They’re the main sufferer and protagonist when something happens with their partner, child, parent, or sibling. They prey upon this and are masters at manipulating the narrative. However, narcissists lay blame at the feet of others wherever and whenever possible. Their therapist doesn’t understand them. Their family is mean to them by cutting them off. If only things weren’t the way they were, they’d be better. Everybody abandoned them. Their loved ones are what makes them miserable. Sociopaths do so in a more biting way, to wear-away the fabric of their victim’s self-confidence. Side-handed insults. Critiques. Planted rumors to others. Cutting comments.
Isolation. Sociopaths are exceptionally gifted at isolating you from your loved ones and those that will point-out what’s happening. In actuality, even minimal accessibility plays into their charade as you’ve often become so co-dependent on the manipulator that anyone doubting or questioning your relationship immediately becomes the enemy and someone trying to damage your loving relationship. A narcissist isolates in different ways, gaining your time and emotional investment by hiding their flaws and covering for them, making it seem like you’ve voluntarily taken away time from other loved ones to tend to their weak and vulnerable state.
Over-reliance. Narcissists prevent you from developing intestinal fortitude, resilience, and independence as much as possible. They intentionally prevent you from learning about life’s healthy struggle, making you dependent on them and under your wing. It also comes from a different place….insecurity. You can’t always gain attention without useful tools that can help make you a satellite to their pain or pride. Sociopaths add to your struggle. They want to subtly see you suffer and break you apart mentally, emotionally, and psychologically over time. Sometimes it’s for personal-gain, others it’s simply the power of knowing they can break-apart someone otherwise strong and confident. They take joy in the omnipotence of their ability to dismantle that self-confidence and inner-strength.
Tribalism. Narcissists stress the “family-unit” and act like there’s an unequivocal united-front in all things. They will not, however, openly go to bat for you, will scheme behind-the-scenes to sabotage you, and inevitably hang you out to dry when you feel you can count on them most. Sociopaths, too, promote tribe and family-unity, but at a moment’s notice can dissolve that dynamic with lies, deceit, and seed-planting, making you feel abandoned and ostracized when the need arises for their goals. And they won’t let you all the way in…something will be held above your head to keep you at-bay, knowing they’ll be leaving a train-wreck behind at some point and cutting-ties.
Antipathy. Both have an extremely hard time being authentic as they project a facade so often they find it difficult to authentically show empathy to the pain of others. They study that pain so that they can project it outwards to others, in the case of the narcissist, to gain sympathy for their own victimhood as they crave attention and pity, in the case of the sociopath to further goals and motivations. They both feign empathy extremely well, though there’s an insincerity about it that often goes overlooked by the actual victim…but it’s there, present and accounted-for.
Aggression. Narcissists exhibit passive-aggression in the form of sabotage, truth-manipulation, and partial-truths. They will black-list you quietly and, upon discovery, apologize without genuineness, not knowing exactly what it is they’re apologizing for when grilled. Sociopaths are a little different animal here. They can convince others to do their revenge bidding should vindictiveness boil over. Intimidate subtly (eg. standing over you while sleeping, brandishing a weapon in a subtly-threatening manner). Get people within your dual sphere to conspire against you and alienate you….or become aggressive in their own right. Death threats. Middle-of-the-night silent phone calls. Remember, if they can gaslight, manipulate, con, or hypnotize you….they can certainly do it to other people against you as well.
Money. Both like the outward-perception of doing well. They like their material things, the projection that they’re well-off, showing-off new toys. I’ve found, however, that narcissists can be very good with money, very capable of balancing budgets and saving, and restraining themselves when needed. Sociopaths tend to go the other way. They are not good with money, buy often on impulse, and can siphon money out of joint bank-accounts pretty quietly while using some of the same tacts above – gaslighting, denial, lies, etc.
Recklessness. Narcissists, from my experience, are not reckless as outward-perceptions are so important. They do not want to ruin the facade and exposure runs the risk of preventing others from that pity, empathy, and attention they so need. Prim and proper is the game. Sociopaths are more reckless, with sex, money (as mentioned), affiliations. They play with fire far more and become bored with their current status-quo after a time – they cycle and repeat patterns over and over.
Opportunity. They both profile well instinctively. They know when someone fits their description and they learn quickly the weak links in the chain. They see victimization possibility from early-on, thus the grooming strategies. The bigger the fish, the greater the challenge, but there have to be certain traits available that open the door. Insecure. Low self-esteem. Simple. Moral. Decent. An “in”..
Patterns. I should be clear that both narcissists and sociopaths are completely capable of functioning under-the-radar in society for lengthy periods of time. They can raise families, hold jobs, be pseudo-responsible parents, protecting and caring for loved ones…even show their version of love in their way and within their capability. There will always be something lacking in the authentic sense and they each have their own way of breaking the boredom of “normal urban living”…but they keep up the charade for an exponentially long time before needing to break routine again.
As you can see, there’s a lot of overlap here with child-grooming and relationship-grooming, and flat-out predatory behavior….as there would be. This is not an exhaustive list, just the elements that I’ve experienced first-hand. You may have experienced others. This, however, can be a template of signs to recognize for loved ones, your children, female (or male) members of your family or circle, or others you see in situations similar. If you’ve got a number on this checklist, pay attention, it’s not coincidental. Go with your gut. I learned a lot the hard-way, even in spite of a strong support-staff; this was not easy to write, trust me. In the end, I uncovered both, developed powerful strategies to manage and keep them at-bay, and set clear-and-reinforced boundaries….but it took years. I always say, though, in the end, by learning the intricacies of the game, even by learning it the hard way…you learn to control the game…though sometimes at a very high cost.
I come out of the house in the morning and approach my car. I take a quick look to make sure the tires are full of air. Check the oil and transmission fluid. Make sure there’s enough gas in the car, with gas to spare should I break-down somewhere or a strike prevents future random fill-ups. I let the engine warm up for a short time before moving.
I lock my doors. Buckle myself into my seat-belt. Check my rear-view mirrors and shoulder-check before I start backing out of my parking-space, testing my brakes as I go to make sure they’re working fine. I continue to do this as I back-up past the neighbor’s driveway and out the gate onto our side-road. All these are routine by now, after 30 years of driving, procedural. They’re not paranoia-inducing, they’re just soft-wired at this point. Via minimal training and a whole ton of experience. Daily procedures I do that exponentially increase my chances of not having an incident.
When I get out the gate, I look both ways for dual-lane traffic moving in opposite directions before I move onto the street, utilizing my signal-lights and giving as much congruent body-language I’m able to let the other cars know my plans in-advance so they can either continue unabated or adapt if necessary. (Most, too, have learned to read the tells of others both from their eyes, rear-view mirrors, head-and-hand movement, or vehicle micro-movements, I’m not at all unique in this)
While in-traffic, I’m experienced-enough to split my attention (remember, attention can be split, focus not so much) on numerous things that may come to my attention: erratic drivers, sudden lane-changes, accidents and police-stops up-ahead, movement-blockages, heated moments between other motorists that may develop, body language of other drivers beside/in front-of/behind me, etc. etc. If there’s nothing of-note, I continue on my leisurely way. If it’s something that might be of-note, I pay greater attention to it as it unfolds to see if it’s important or plan-altering. Many times it turns into nothing, in fact, the majority of times considering how many times we do this when leaving the house in a vehicle and how often we’re out-and-about. So, I carry on my way.
Note that I’m never in paranoia-mode or unnecessarily-stressful (breathe…what better place to find your rhythm and put theory into practice?), and this is generally ranked as one of the worst places to drive in the world. There’s minimal driving-culture, no driver’s education, law-enforcement who are lackadaisical (at best) in enforcing traffic violations, and a passive-aggressive culture that often takes their aggression out on the roadways. This IS the #1 threat to my personal safety in this country, if I’m being honest – driving. Road rage, reckless and inexperienced driving, suddenly changing conditions (heavy rain, for instance), the majority of criminal tactics are with moving vehicles, motorcycle-robberies, heavy traffic-jams, sudden strikes, accidents. #1 by far….and driving is not optional for me.
On top of that, I take the safety elements that I CAN control into my own hands. I make sure to at least try to be a good citizen and obey traffic laws and road-signs. I signal when I’m turning. I drive defensively. I limit my reactions and interactions to other perturbed drivers. I try very hard not to cut people off. I don’t tailgate. I pay attention to pedestrian-crossings and stop if need-be. I brake for uncontrolled train-crossings. I try sincerely to slow-down when a light turns amber if I’m not already part-way through it. In a nutshell….I stay in my lane. (a phrase to remember) It’s also worth noting that, after that 30 years of experience, I have a pretty clear idea of what pratfalls to look for, don’t waste my time on tons of things that aren’t worthy of my attention, and the vast majority of this is running “in-the-background”…like an anti-virus software on my PC.
When something occurs, it’s not that it’s instinctual or unconscious…it’s that my perceptual filters have seen and been involved in such an array of diverse obstacles, dangers, risks, threats, and safety-concerns on the road that I’m analyzing, processing, orienting, deciding, and acting far quicker than someone with a fraction of that/those experience/experiences. (whether before or during a potential incident) Time-lag – when things seem to happen in slow-motion, so the more ahead of the event you see, the more reaction-time you have, the greater the chance of avoidance or evasion. Experience, exposure, environment, and others dictate this ability to perceive things happening slower than they are. It is intuitive (from that experience/those experiences) – not instinctive (hard-wired, evolutionary)…a differentiation often confused by so many. It’s quite amazing….the volume of options we’re presented with – turning, swerving, braking, accelerating, reversing…yet we do all this within fractions of a second and with inches to spare. Effectively. Sufficiently. Daily.
I can even, at times, actually divert a small part of my attention to other things like talking with my passengers, listening to music, noticing passing things and people, seeing places I’d like to eat, playing mental games with my son, counting dogs or birds we pass on the way to school, or briefly thinking on things I need to get done during my day. Translation – enjoy my time on the road.
How many elements mentioned above to you think could be transferred to personal preservation – whether literally or metaphorically? I bet more than a few….look it over again.
Sometimes industry-norms need to be challenged and re-visited. The now uber-overused “situational and environmental awareness” terms are in need of such revision. There’s a lot of value in these terms, admittedly, but it seems the longer and more that terms get thrown around within the industry, the more convoluted, catch-all, and misinterpreted they become. (To be clear, we’re talking about risk, danger, threat, safety….not actual violence itself. Think of these terms as all the things potentially leading-up to an interview/evasion/escape/concealment/cover/or violence itself) So, as “Have situational awareness”, “Be aware of your environment” get thrown around more-and-more, it seems fewer people actually know what they mean, how and when to utilize them, and think they know what they’re looking at. More and more we’re seeing these terms used as a generalized cookie-cutter approach for paranoia and anxiety, perpetuating an ongoing hyper-vigilance in martial arts and self-defense students alike along the way. What to be aware of, what universal signs there are, to be constantly vigilant on coming dangers, looking everywhere for pre-incident indicators and ritual signs of pending violence. Unnnnhealthy.
Have we ever thought what this mentality might bring? Like long-term health problems? Unhealthily-high levels of stress? A general forgetfulness to enjoy the moment with the loved ones we’re with? A fear of one’s shadow? Looking constantly for bogeymen? We often seem to have forgotten to see things that are important in-place of looking forever for things that aren’t there. That glitch in the matrix that stands out. The oddity that isn’t normal for the environment or circumstance. Something that catches your attention as peculiar and incongruent. (which is exactly ‘why’ it catches your attention in the first place) But instead of looking for what’s out-of-place….when it’s out-of-place….there seems to a permeating sentiment to analyzing everything in our situation or environment, scouring every single detail for something that might not fit on the chance that singularity will show up and screw with our day’s peace.
Situational or environmental awareness has seemingly become synonymous with a constant coherence of your circumstances. Back-to-the-wall in a restaurant. Closest-to-exit in the office. Weapons at-the-ready when in public. Constant assessments of body-language. (Everyone’s a micro-expressions, proxemics, and corporal-expert nowadays because you can certified in a week now, don’tcha know) Strange glances and eye-contact that’s too long. What side of the sidewalk to be on. And so-on-and-so-forth ad infinitum.
I like this diagram. Again, from the aviation industry, where risk-assessment with regularity is the norm and constant re-evaluation is part of the construct. Also, as it pertains to the self-defense industry, this is why it pays not to be constantly vigilant and perpetually looking for things that simply aren’t there (and over-taxing your nervous system and long-term healthy)….but notice things that are actually of-importance when/if they occur. The current-model of “tactical” situational awareness, formulaic “what-to-look-fors”, and pre-incident indicator regurgitation is outdated, as with soooo many other things. Each case – own volition – own merit.
First, the aviation industry is (generally) known for peer/policy review, drastic and immediate change when needed, industry-consensus, and constant simulation (scenario-training) – out of necessity. (public/client safety in an industry where the acts need constant vigilance and focus. Second, I’d say it reinforces that this is a constantly changing thing, this situational/environmental awareness. It is complex, dynamic, and your ability to see it is constantly altered by variables. It is not, nor could it be, cookie-cutter or uniform, the way so many (including big-name) instructors tell people. Sharing knowledge and experience on it is fine/great, but the minute it becomes a “Here’s what to look for…”, “This is what happens”, “These are the signs of ritual violence…”, or “This is what this always means”….we take the human element completely out of this…not to mention your student’s perceptive capability of adapting or thinking. They again start looking for things that aren’t there instead of seeing things that are…
People are becoming far too over-analytical and the self-defense industry often is guilty of perpetuating this. Feeding fear, building paranoia, and creating students that aren’t realizing the fact that the bluster and projection they sometimes inherit from their neighborhood martial-arts instructor is creating conflict they otherwise would’ve avoided in the first-place. (and assessed under the guise of “Wow, I handled that much better than I would’ve!”) This “situation awareness” thing is generalized and makes many people paranoid and anxious. They have no idea what they’re looking for, not at all knowing what the hell is actually a thing to worry about or not. My point? Just live your damn life and go out and enjoy yourself. Your intuition and alarm system will tell you when there’s a serious threat to your safety. Don’t create one.
I’m simply not always “on”, I’m not always “jacked”, I’m not always “uber-aware.” I’m aware when I have to be aware because something has made me aware. The rest of the time I go out and my focus is on my family or whomever I happen to be with…not distracted by invisible shadows. (And just because you know all about “pre-incident indicators” and know what they look like….doesn’t mean they always mean the same thing-context, environment, time anyone-nor does it mean you can do a damn thing about them if you see them just from having that knowledge).
Now, I know both the title and first sentence are somewhat hyperbolic….the terms aren’t going to change as they’re catchphrases, mantras, cliches, and soundbites at this point. I just think that, as terms become bastardized or exploited, it pays to take the time to re-evaluate exactly what it is they mean. Maybe “abnormality recognition” would
"Un-Hammering Nails: a cerebral approach to personal preservation, self-defense, combatives, and martial arts.