Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Fear and the COVID-19 War

Mike Anthony: Nurses take fear and dedication to the front line of ... 

War had been declared on COVID-19 and war time restrictions imposed.

What do professional warfighters have to say about fighting a war? The US Marines Warfighting manual has this to say about the human dimension in war:

Since war is a violent enterprise, danger is ever present. Since war is a human phenomenon, fear, the human reaction to danger, has a significant impact on the conduct of war. Everybody feels fear. Fear contributes to the corrosion of will. Leaders must foster the courage to overcome fear, both individually and within the unit. Courage is not the absence of fear; rather, it is the strength to overcome fear. Leaders must study fear, understand it, and be prepared to cope with it.

The COVID-19 war is not a violent enterprise, however, danger is ever present. Fear, the human reaction to danger, is having a significant impact on the conduct of this war. We are all potential warfighters, however, there are those how are all ready on the front-line. We must all study fear, understand it, and be prepared to cope with it.

Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said that there is nothing to fear but fear itself. All very 'positive' and motivating, however, it is just as much rubbish now as it was then. Of course there is something to fear - COVID-19 which has killed 75,000 and counting (although the Chinese seem to possess a different counting system).

Colonel John M. House in Why War? Why an Army? explains that fear is a natural response resulting from the instinct for self-preservation. 'Only a fool would face combat unconcerned for his safety.' We are seeing many fools in the COVID-19 war.

Don't fear fear as Roosevelt suggested. Fear is a gift according to Gavin de Becker in The Gift of Fear. Fear is a gift that is not to be feared.
Fear is an emotion that was selected for in nature because it conferred a survival advantage on an individual. Without fear we and the human race would probably not exist. When people advise us to trust our instincts, they are in fact advising us to trust fear for instinct is fear whispering in our ear.

Fear does not say lie down and die. Fear says there is danger, let's do something about it. Even if that something is freezing in place. Fear is always trying to protect us. As Fear says in the Oscar award winning movie Inside Out, 'All right! We did not die today, I call that an unqualified success.'

Fear and hope are opposite sides of the same coin. There is no fear without hope and no hope without fear. Fear and hope are are both anticipatory emotions in that they are emotional responses to something that might happen in the future. Uncertainty is a defining part of the emotions. Fear and hope are both attempting to make a bad situation better.

Fear is not our enemy. Fear is our ally. Always has been since the dawn of human existence. Get to know fear and make it your friend.

Where fear can become problematic is, as Arne Ohman puts it, when there is a conflict between evolutionary and cultural agendas. The evolutionary agenda is survival,. The cultural agenda is either something else other than survival or survival in a particular way (by fighting).

The Warfighting manual refers to courage to overcome fear. Courage is that nurse who is risking her life tending that COVID-19 patient and says to Fear, 'Thanks, but I've got this from here.' That nurse is courageous because without fear there is no courage. Fear enabled courage. Fear enabled courage by the decoupling of stimulus and response in emotion. This decoupling provides latency time where alternative actions may be considered in addition to the actions provided by nature.

This is not theory for me. I live with fear's close cousin, anxiety and on occasion I have been visited by fear's big brother, panic. I don't necessarily like this family, however, since I have no choice I've learned to live with them. They are not as scary as they first appear and they do have a bad reputation, however, they mean well.

When you study fear you get to know fear and you get to know how to cope with fear. The Warfighting manual is spot on in that respect and it is sound advice for all of us in this COVID-19 war.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Chemical Soldiers and Mushin no Shin

I was talking to a friend who served in Afghanistan about my work concerning fear, how it impinges upon a person's readiness and ability to engage in and succeed in a fight, and the military's efforts in overcoming or counter fear in order to fight and fight effectively.

Colonel John M. House wrote in his Why War? Why an Army? that soldiers need to overcome the fear of death and injury in order to act and survive on the battlefield. How do our troops do that in Afghanistan? How do their adversary, the Taliban, do the same?

When I discussed my work and those questions with the abovementioned friend, he said that the Taliban fought under the influence of drugs.

This set of a 'What's going on here?' reaction in me which research psychologist Gary Klein explains in Seeing What Others Don't: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights is the curiosity pathway to gaining insight.

There were many questions posed by this reaction, however, at around the same time I was prescribed sertraline for my generalised anxiety disorder. Sertraline is one of the most highly prescribed medications to reduce anxiety, fear, and panic.

Fear (anxiety and panic) impinge upon a person's readiness and ability to engage in and succeed in a fight. Sertraline is reqularly prescribed to reduce anxiety, fear, and panic. Why aren't the Army providing sertraline or similar medication to their troops to enhance their fighting performance? If the Army are not prescribing sertraline for their troops who can live and die based on their level of anxiety, fear, and panic, why are we being prescribed this medication?

Briefly looking at this issue, I came across the work of Dr. Richard Gabriel (Colonel, U.S. Army Ret.): https://www.perfectkiller.com/gabriel-afterword.shtml

Gabriel explains that the next frontier in warfare is not technological but biochemical:

But what modern armies have in mind far surpasses anything tried in the past. Biology and chemistry have combined in the modern age to produce the science of biochemistry. Armed with this new knowledge, the military research establishments of the United States, Russia, and Israel have set for themselves the task of abolishing fear in the soldier to make him a more efficient killing machine. The next revolution in military power will occur not in weapons technology, but in biochemistry that will make it possible for soldiers to better endure the conditions of modern war. If the search is successful, and it almost inevitably will be, the fear of killing and death will be banished and with it will go man's humanity and his soul. The chemical soldier will become a terrifying reality.

It's a thought provoking read. The holy grail of military research is biochemicals that eliminate fear, anxiety, and panic, producing 'chemical soldiers' as Gabriel describes them. Without anxiety and fear war will become wars of attrition. We need anxiety and fear to retain our humanity.

What does Gabriel's work then say about the samurai's mushin no shin, mind of no mind, where warriors are trained to fight without fear or anger? The war of attrition based on mushin no shin, no fear, is dramatically portrayed in the final battle scene of The Last Samurai. Are the Japanese atrocities during WWII attributable to the successful training of mushin no shin?

Gabriel makes another interesting point in the context of my book in that the 'brave pill' will render military concepts such as bravery and courage obsolete when bravery and courage are conceived of as acting in spite of fear.

Needless to say, this has added another chapter to my book, Fear and Fight: Understanding Our Natural and Learned Responses to a Threat.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

An easy way to overvome fear in order to fight :)

I am currently working on the conclusion to Fear and Fight: Understanding Our Natural and Learned Responses to a Threat. An interesting question has arisen.

Colonel John M. House explains that soldiers must overcome their fear of death and injury in order to act and survive on the battlefield (Why War? Why an Army?). The way I describe it in my book (this week) is that fear impinges upon a person's readiness and ability to engage in and succeed in a fight. The same is true of all violent encounters.

I explain in the book that ironically, I had my first panic attack and was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder and panic disorder while researching and writing that book on the mechanism responsible for those disorders. While distressing and debilitating, this condition has enabled me to study our inherited survival mechanism from the inside out, which in turn enabled me to study our learned responses to a threat because they are often designed to thwart nature's survival efforts.

I have recently been prescribed sertraline. Sertraline is used to treat depression, panic attacks, OCD, PTSD, and anxiety disorders. It may decrease fear, anxiety, unwanted thoughts, and the number of panic attacks. In 2016, it was the most prescribed psychiatric medication in the United States with over 37 million prescriptions.

Soldiers must overcome their fear (and anxiety) of death and injury in order to act and survive on the battlefield. Fear and anxiety impinges upon a person's readiness and ability to engage in and succeed in a fight. If sertraline reduces or eliminates anxiety, fear, and panic, and is safe, why aren't soldiers and others such as front-line police officers given sertraline in order to counter fear and anxiety? Its legal, it just needs a prescription which I am sure is not an issue for the government. It'd be far easier and a lot cheaper than training such as stress exposure training that is designed to less negative reactions (anxiety and fear) under high stress conditions (combat) that impinge upon performance (fighting).

Women enroll in women's self-defence classes in order to reduce their anxiety and fear of being attacked. A big part of their training is overcoming fear in order to fight. Why not provide sertraline to manage that issue? No need to be threatened in training in order to learn to deal with fear.

Martial arts are supposed to teach ways to overcome or counter fear in order to fight. Sertraline would appear to take care of that problem.

A book on the short history of emotion suggests that these magic pills gets rid of Stoic and Buddhist teachings and discipline in terms of managing emotions, and of course you have to question the usefulness of psychotherapy given this magic pill deals with these issues. :)

It is an intriguing question. :) ... more so for me because if soldiers are not provided with sertraline given their line of work, why am I being prescribed sertraline to deal with my anxiety and panic disorders?

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The best advice EVER for managing fear, panic, and anxiety

I'm working on the conclusion to Fear and Fight: Understanding Our Natural and Learned Responses to a Threat. Our principal natural response to a threat is fear. Fear and anxiety are similar but different emotions, as I explain in my book. Panic is an extreme version of both fear and anxiety.

While researching a way of concluding the abovementioned book, I came across Schwartz and Vecchio's 'The basics of survival' in Schwartz, McManus, and Swenton's Tactical Emergency Medicine.

They explain that the first and most important element of survival is getting control of your thought processes. When perceived threats escalate,

How does one control these feelings of fear and panic? The British SAS recommends sitting down and making a cup of tea. This is a great response. Sitting down will stop one's haste ... Making tea forces one to break the chain of thought, which will continue to escalate toward panic. Once this chain of thought is broken and one's mind can be redirected, the person can later return to the original situation with a controlled and rational thought process.

Simple, effective. No jargon. No new world metaphysical concepts. Thousands of dollars in psychotherapy boiled down to a cup of tea by the British SAS. It is simply brilliant.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Holistic Martial Arts

I'm working on a chapter on stress training which is being increasingly used by the military and law enforcement to better prepare their personnel for operational deployment.

The first phase of stress exposure training and stress inoculation training is information provision which includes indoctrination where the usefulness of stress training is demonstrated to the trainee.

This can be achieved by explaining the relationship between stress training and learning to fight.

McCaughey explains that learning to fight involves the coordination of thinking, feeling, and acting. She also explain how most self-defence empahsise the physical but not the emotional and thinking. Various papers on stress training for the military say the same thing of traditional military training.

Stress training distinguishes between training and stress training. The way I explain the difference is that training is learning to fire a gun at a target whereas stress training is learning to fire a gun at a target that is firing at you.

Training = physical. Stress training = mental + emotional. Training + stress training = physical + mental + emotional.

This is an attempt at adopting a holistic approach to preparing a person to engage in a violent encounter.

The fighting trilogy also explains our natural response to a threat. The objective of our natural response to a threat is survival. The objective of 'Fight Activities' is to fight. To fight for a variety of reasons, including survival, but to fight nonetheless. They have to develop ways and means to counter our natural response to a threat. The target there is primarily the mental and emotional elements in the fight trilogy.

LeDoux refers to that as the conflict between evolutionary and cultural agendas. The evolutionary agenda is survival. The cultural agenda of Fight Activities is fight. They develop ways and means to resolve this conflict in agendas in their favour.

All Fight Activities training, including martial arts training, is at its heart a fight between our natural and learned responses to a threat.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

In response to a comment on post questioning when teaching martial arts became not enough

My previous post was regarding the focus, marketing driven, on fitness when teaching martial arts: 'When did teaching martial arts become not enough?' That focus is exemplified for me with the rebranding of my old school by its new principals from Jan de Jong Self Defence School to Jan de Jong Martial Arts Fitness.

I am pleased to say that my post attracted a comment from a knowledgeable and thoughtful student of the martial arts. They referred to Kano's Kodokan Judo, a text that needs to be studied rather than just read. Kano was a man and martial artists far ahead of his times, as I demonstrate in my The Science Behind All Fighting Techniques.

The second chapter of Kodokan Judo is titled: 'Principles and Aims of Kodokan Judo.' The first section is titled: 'Judo as Physical Education.'

What has to be understood is that Kano was on a rescue mission when he developed Kodokan Judo. He studied traditional forms of jujutsu and despaired at the decreasing number of students studying jujutsu. Jujutsu was a Japanese cultural institution that was in danger of being lost to the Japanese people so Kano developed Kodokan Judo to appeal to the Japanese people in order to be a vehicle for them to then become interested in studying the traditional jujutsu.

One of the main marketing strategies that Kano adopted was to turn the traditional fighting art of jujutsu into a sport, and, a form of physical education. These were marketing strategies to generate interest by the current generation of Japanese so that they would then go on to study traditional jujutsu, the traditional cultural icon of the Japanese.

Those martial arts schools today who rebadge, rebrand, or focus on physical education, physical fitness, do not have such noble motives. It is purely a cynical marketing exercise to attract new students who are not necessarily interested in studying martial arts per se.

I will leave you with a comment that I received from a grand child of de Jong regarding this matter: 'I recall someone speaking of a conversation they had with my grand father who had come from another martial arts school and asked “why don’t you condition your fighters” and his response was something to the effect of “why would I condition my students when the intention is for the fight to go for the shortest time possible.”' De Jong to a T.

Monday, September 23, 2019

When did teaching martial arts become not enough?

When did teaching/learning martial arts become not enough? Is teaching/learning martial arts relevant anymore?

I am continually seeing fitness appended to martial arts when advertising or promoting one's teachings. My old school, or at least the school that emerged from my old school, rebranded itself from Jan de Jong Self Defence School to Jan de Jong Martial Arts Fitness. The WA Institute of Martial Arts advertises 'Martial Arts Fitness is here.' I just saw another advert/promotion directly coupling martial arts with fitness.

Is a dojo now also a gym? What is the focus of the teaching, martial arts or fitness? Do you ever see cricket, football, basketball etc directly coupled with fitness? 'Football fitness is here.' 'Netball fitness is here.' You don't see other physically activities desperately trying to establish relevance by appending their activity to fitness.

If the focus is on fitness, what impact does that have on martial arts teaching?

Efficiency is a feature of Jigoro Kano's teachings. Efficiency means less effort. The more efficient your tactics and techniques the less effort required to execute them. Does that mean that teachings which teach efficient tactics and techniques are less because they don't focus on fitness which requires more effort?

I understand the marketing impulse to try and extend the brand from martial arts to the fitness industry given the interest in martial arts appears to be waning. But does extending the brand mean that the brand loses meaning? Or that the product is over extended? Is aikido a means to get fit rather than to learn aikido?

When I teach, I am only interested in fitness insofar as it contributes to martial arts effectiveness. I am not interested in teaching fitness for the sake of fitness. If you are unfit and effective, it's all good to me. If you want to get fit, for whatever reason, join a gym. Go for a run. Stop driving your car and walk to work or school.

The two best instructors in the Jan de Jong Self Defence School were Shihan Jan de Jong and Sensei Greg Palmer. Nobody would ever accuse them of being fit, however, they were extremely effective as practitioners and most definitely as teachers. When I wanted to learn martial arts, I'd go to them before any of the other 'fit' instructors.