Saturday, January 8, 2011

Attitude Adjustment Part II

In part one, we discussed at length the Alert Attitude which helps us locate and identify potential danger. Once we find and can identify a specific danger, or if a specific threat has targeted us, it’s time to change our Attitude.

Preventive Measures

Remember that, in the Functional Edge System, Attitude is a holistic alignment of our physical posture and movement, psychological focus, and emotional purpose. With this in mind we will break down the Preventive Attitude.

To prevent is to deprive of the power to act or to succeed.  We must take actions that do not allow the threat we have identified to harm us. This does not only refer to physical damage but to psychological and emotional damage such as the effect of bullying for teens and kids, emotional abuse from domestic partnerships, and even workplace bullying for adults.

You Saw It First

If we were properly using our Alert Attitude and all the skill sets it includes, it is likely that we may see a threat before it has targeted us specifically. Here are two examples.
You are walking to your parked vehicle at night and from a distance you notice there is a stranger by your car door but he hasn’t seen you yet.

You are at a bar and notice the local tough guy is being loud and provoking other people.
We have a great opportunity and advantage in the above situations  mainly because the actions we take in the Preventive Attitude will almost always take us to safety and help us avoid harm altogether.

Which actions we take will depend on the scenario and our personal and professional obligations as well as our own moral, ethical and legal compass. For example if a lone female at night is approaching her car in the parking lot when she notices a stranger near her door, she can turn around, walk to a more populated and safe location while calling the police. The police officer that responds to the same case /call may use cover and concealment while approaching the car in order to observe or surprise the suspect.

In the case of the tough guy at the bar, the average person may prevent harm simply by moving to another place in the bar, alerting the doormen, or leaving the premises altogether. The doorman that sees the same scenario take place has a different professional obligation so his Preventive Attitude will guide his actions as he moves in the direction of the danger.

It’s clear that early detection helps us avoid a lot of the danger, and that finding early avenues of escape is the ideal strategy for the average person. It should also be clear that the strategies we use will vary depending on OUR role within the scenario and circumstances. However sometimes we are not so lucky and danger find us first.

You Are the Target

Sometimes there is another window of opportunity to act and that is when the danger has specifically targeted us but has not initiated an engagement.  In these cases, the Preventive Attitude, enables us with several skill sets to make the situation less dangerous or to escape prior to an engagement starting.

The time gap that occurs in some scenarios gives us an opportunity to make the situation less dangerous, escape the situation altogether and sometimes, if the subsequent engagement is inevitable, it allows us to prepare and shift to the appropriate Engagement Attitude.

Once we are clear the threat has targeted us there are several tasks we must perform in the Preventive Attitude.  We must quickly gather intelligence about our threat. Is it one person or more, are they overtly armed, what environmental weapons are at our disposal, at theirs?  We must also look for potential force multipliers. Are there other people in the area that can come help the threat? Are there potential rescuers or persons that may help us?

The next task is to gain the most advantageous position possible. This will be a combination of posture and movement.  Our body language to a hostile person must be Calm Assertive. Although we must not be antagonistic or instigating in anyway, being overly passive, especially when dealing with bullies or territorial and hierarchical threats, may actually accelerate a physical assault. Our body language and tone must communicate clearly that, although we mean no harm, we are not going to allow ourselves to be victimized.

Our physical posture must keep our hands in movement that is congruous with our words and Attitude, and also position our hands and arms in a manner that prepares us to easily transition to the necessary Engagement Attitude. We must also actively look for environmental obstacles, like tables, chairs and walls that can slow down or impede the threat from engaging us.

Verbal communication can be useful in this pre-engagement stage as well. If the threat communicates with us it will give us information about what they want and an opportunity to use communication to our advantage. For example if the threat demands your wallet and money, he has established that he is a resource predator. He sees you as a source of “goods” and a calm demeanor and cooperation, to a certain extent, may be the right strategy.

If the threat instead says,“Hey! Watcha lookin’ at me like that for?” this may indicate a Territorial / Hierarchical assault.  This is a person seeking status or displaying dominance. In this case some Calm Assertive reasoning and rapport building may get the job done.

If we are threatened by a stranger that displays a weapon and says “Get in the van.” We may now be confronted by a process predator, this is someone for whom the act itself is the goal. Serial rapists and serial murderers are among the ones that fall in this category. These instances are very rare but preparation is useful. In these cases rapport building, calm assertiveness, and sometimes trickery and lying may be the strategy of choice.

Like when applying any strategy, we must be ready to shift our focus as the interaction between us and the threat continues. Simply put if you notice that a line of conversation agitates the threat, carefully redirect and shift the conversation to another subject.

Although, at first glance, the above tasks seem like a lot to accomplish simultaneously, we must have faith in our body/mind systems’ ability to perform under stress. We are designed for survival and our practice and training will be there, especially when Fear raises its ugly head.

Afraid. You’re Right.

Subconsciously or cognitively identifying a direct threat to our safety starts a physiological sequence of events that prepares us for action. Chemical compounds that make us more pain resistant make their course through our body. Blood flow concentrates in the extremities in preparation for explosive action.

Accompanying that response is that sensation in our stomach and torso we call fear.
As I stated previously in the Alertness Attitude, we don’t train to manage fear in the Functional Edge System. We can only manage our cognitive responses to the sensation brought on by fear.

Much has been written in the past about the fear response. Clever acronyms have been developed around the word FEAR such as False Evidence Appearing Real, False Expectations Appearing Real and my personal favorite Fuck Everything And Run! Humor and clever acronyms are descriptive and fun but they do not define a strategy.

The biggest obstacle to overcome when facing a threat and feeling the sensation of fear is the common human condition of cognitive labeling. That is, we feel this Subconscious response to danger first and then our cognitive brain wants to create a reason why we are feeling this way.
If a very large man screams at us as he approaches, our body prepares for action but as we get that queasy, shaky feeling in our gut and legs respectively, our conscious mind says “He’s huge!” Suddenly we have a label or reason for that queasy feeling and our consciousness latches on to it. “Oh I’m afraid because he’s big” . which leads to “big people can hit hard” which then expands to “I’m scared of big people” and on and on into what we call a downward performance spiral. We become internally fixated, we lose track of our changing environment, become intimidated and take no action.

The remedy for this in the Functional Edge System is a bit surprising yet simple. You see we are aware of the problem, it is not the subconscious emotion of fear but our Cognitive interpretation of that emotion. The answer is a simple two - step process.
Step one is to remember to breathe. Yes, it’s almost over simplistic but taking deep slow breaths will help keep you relatively calm and focused.

Step two is to cognitively go through all the Preventive Attitude tasks. Within the Attitude in which we encounter the “fear problem” lies the necessary skill set to solve it. Yes again it seems like too easy or too good of an answer, but it is that simple. Since we know that our cognitive interpretation of the fear response is the biggest obstacle, keeping our cognitive process on the tasks of threat assessment, rapport building, intelligence gathering, and strategic positioning, allows little room for thoughts of doom and destruction to creep in.
We are not perfect however and sometimes negative thoughts of our demise wiggle up to our conscious brain, when they do, we must recognize them and immediately choose a relevant cognitive task to focus on.

In the Functional Edge System we are aware that only rarely will we face dangerous physical harm. By using  the Alert and the Preventive Attitudes at the right time we decrease the opportunity and ability of threats to get to the point of an engagement. We also prepare for that engagement with training drills that develop the three Engagement Attitudes which we will discuss in future articles.

Tony Torres
Copyright Tony Torres 2011


  1. Great stuff dude. It's amazing that after all these years, you can still elicit lightbulb moments. You're really taking this to a whole new level.

    This was awesome: Fuck Everything And Run. Never heard that acronym before.

    Very proud of you. Keep up the great work.