Awareness and the “PING THEORY”

Here is something I put together on awareness. It is rather long, but hopefully will be of use to some.

Whenever the subject of self defense comes up, awareness is not far behind. Everything from Colonel Boyd’s OODA loop to Cooper’s Color Code, preassault ques and other items. These things, while worthy of consideration and ingestion, deal with various levels of awareness, states of readiness, action ques and the like. I would like to address something that I rarely see, the regular guy’s quandry of maintaining a sufficient level of awareness to allow use of these other tools, when necessary, and how to maintatin it longer and make it do more for less.

One of the problems with maintaining awareness is the amount of distractions that can cause its loss. Any and everything from conversation to activities like loading the groceries and completing purchases.

To maintain awareness over periods of more than a few minutes, during normal activities, it is best thought of as running in the background while you are actively doing other things. Like a project on your computer running in the background while you are actively working on something else. How is this accomplished? Like sonar, it is accomplished by “pings”. Rather than trying to watch, hear or sense everyone and everything all the time, they merely pass through your sensory input until something pings. Then the other awareness and preaction tools come into play. While you may miss a few things that are perceived by someone “turned on”, in the long run you will be better off as you will be able to maintain your awareness far beyond that of the average “turned on” individual who will quickly fatigue or be distracted.

What is a ping? A ping is any input, visual or otherwise, instinctive or programmed that causes curiosity or concern as to its purpose or intent or an instincitive alert (the hair on the back of your neck standing up or a discomfort in your gut). I catagorize pings into two main catagories, programmed and unprogrammed. Programmed are specific things that you have determined are reason for additional scrutiny or action. Unprogrammed are caused by things that you are consciously unaware of but that cause alert or alarm within you (the hair and gut thing). Listen to your intstincts even if you cannot determine what alerted them, because there are times when the subcounscious mind will ping on something befor the conscious mind does.

I catagorize programmed pings into three catagories of descending significance. Personal, other people’s and general. A group of “utes” of questionable moral character approaching me would be personal. The same group of utes approaching or confronting someone other than myself, would fall under other people’s. General are those who, at the time perceived, are not directly related to me or others. The same group of “utes” some distance away moving through a parking lot would be an example. How do you determine what should cause a programmed ping? I cannot answer that question for you, only you can answer it. Your answer will be based on your experience, training, and the environments in which you live and move. The key is curiosity. Cultivate curiosity for anything that varies from your recognized norm.

When looked at objectively, there are not that many programmed pings. Some examples would be, rapid movement, loud, boisterous or strange behavior, anyone on a path or changing path to directly intersect you. Individuals or groups positioned so that you must approach or pass through them to reach your destination. Individuals or groups who seem to have an unwarranted interest in you and your activities, etc. Once you begin specifically looking for these things, they will become ingrained and they will cause automatic recognition. When you reach that point, less and less attention will be required for their recognition, enabling longer periods of operation. As an example, you are walking through the mall with your wife, talking and window shopping. You see your friend Joe approaching from the opposite direction. Your mind pings on Joe and says, “Hey that’s Joe”. You were not walking through the mall actively looking for anyone that you knew. You were actively engaged in other activities, yet the mind pinged the recognition of Joe. This will work for pings other than personal recognition, once cultivated. There are some caveats. If you are a person who is always looking at the ground or someone so self absorbed that you never see anything until you bump into it this method will not work for you, as I doubt, will any other. If on the other hand you are fairly normal, in that you look where you are going and are at least somewhat cognizant of your surroundings, it should serve you reasonably well. It will enable you to maintain a reasonable level of awareness for an extended period of time with out the fatigue or lapses normally associated with maintaining constant awareness. In addition it will make your awareness less discernable by others and less disruptive for those like spouses who desire social interaction with you.

One point that deserves separate mention and attention is points of ingress and/or egress wherever you go. There will probably be some that are unknown to you, but to the extent possible be aware of as many as you can. One of the biggest benefits of awareness, is allowing one to avoid a situation befor it comes to fruition, or to escape from it as it unfolds. Without the knowledge of routes to avoid or escape, they quickly become an exercise in futility or worse. It is a definite cost/benefit winner as the knowledge is useful for anything from individual low level miscreants to fires, natural disasters and active shooters, to name a few.

This is not the only method of maintaining awareness, but it is a serviceable one. With effort it can improve one’s level of awareness with minimal disruption to their daily activities or social interactions.

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