Sunday, January 15, 2012

Shock and other comments on my research - reply to a comment

I received a comment to my previous blog that I thought would be better replied to in a dedicated blog.
Thanks John for the great posts on this subject recently, its certainly provided plenty of food for thought and discussion.
Thank you for your kind words and support. I do aim to provide 'food for thought and discussion', as well as to inform.
I was having a discussion with a couple of training partners just the other day with regards to your work in this area [(Fight and Defence)] and we came to a couple of interesting questions where your expertise would be very welcome:
'Expertise'? Hmmm. False humility has never been an attribute that has been often associated with me, but I confess to being a little uncomfortable with the label 'expert' - at this point in time. I do consider myself a bit of a pioneer, as I am attempting to shine a light on physical violence (defensive and offensive) which has traditionally been left to 'masters' or 'instructors', who have no real study of the theories and concepts they espouse. I gain confidence that I'm moving in the right direction, authoritatively wise, because my contact with experts in the various academic fields has been met with a collegial reception. For instance, a biomechanics professor and author invited me to co-author a book with him, even though I have absolutely no biomechanical formal training or qualifications. I've been invited to submit a paper, any paper, to be presented at an predominantly biomechanically-based academic seminar for judo. I've been invited to submit an article, any article, to a semi-academic journal dedicated to the martial arts. A US military organisation has expressed an interest in the work I'm doing on 'stress training' for Beyond Fight-or-Flight. Etc.
The first was the condition of shock - shock is obviously a debilitating reaction, sometimes even deadly, and has physiological effects on people that are wide ranging - where do you fit shock into your understanding of responses people have when 'the sh@t hits the fan'?
Socrates said: 'The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.' Always, always, challenge 'terms' when they are imbued with some special meaning. What do you mean by the word 'shock'? ONLY to respond to this comment, I've referenced an unauthoritive source to progress the discussion - an approach that is definitely NOT representative of my work.
The most important distinction to make between the different forms of shock, is between psychological (or mental) shock and physiological (or circulatory) shock:
•Psychological shock can occur after a physically or emotionally traumatic experience but it effects your state of mind (although this can give you symptoms such as palpitations and feeling faint, it doesn’t usually lead to serious physical collapse).
•Physiological shock is a dramatic reduction in blood flow that, if left untreated, can lead to collapse, coma and even death.
My focus goes immediately to the 'emotional' reference. Emotion is considered more than subjective feeling. It is a process which involves an appraisal that may or may not elicit a subjective feeling and associated physiological response and action tendency, that may or may not result in a behavioural response. Emotions are evolved mechanisms designed to help us survive and reproduce. The behavioural response (and emotional expression) are designed to deal/affect the initiating stimuli of the process. The first question is, 'What emotion are we talking about?'

Stress training, stress inoculation training, stress exposure training - it has to be understood that the underlying assumption in these training methods is experiencing the emotion of fear. The training and theory tells us where we don't want to be, fear, it doesn't inform us at all about where we want to be. It is the blindman feeling the ear of an elephant and suggesting an elephant is like a fan (see previous posts re blindmen and the elephant analogy).

The 'shock' you are referring to might be, and I could be mistaken, the evolved tonic immobility (TI) strategy in the 'defence cascade' (see previous couple of posts). TI is an evolved fear response which is an involuntary catatonic state when fight (associated with anger and not fear?) has unsuccessful provided the option to flee.

How do you combat TI? Unbeknown to most women's self defence (WSD) course developers, they have built in a training method to reduce the risks of experiencing TI when threatened. How? By teaching their students to turn fear into anger; or to at least experience anger along with fear. TI is not associated with anger, only extreme fear. So, in addition to the many other aspects of the adaptive emotion of anger, and its strategic use by these WSD courses, manipulating our emotions to experience anger reduces the risk of experiencing TI. (By the way, anger is a fascinating subject - more on that later)
This leads once again to the question of training methods - will your work once it has outlined a model for what may be / is happening to people at these critical times go on to use this to improve the outcome for people at these times - do you see value in any singular or combination of training methods that can improve peoples ability to deal with things?
My work was intended to provide the knowledge to understand what and why the various methods taught by those activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter teach. It obviously provides the information to expose the charlatans, the ignorant, the misinformed or uninformed. And yes, it can be applied to either support or improve training methods and combat techniques. And as I will outline in future blogs, even at this embryonic stage, I'm finding my work is helping people to deal with aggressive situations, and post-aggressive situations. Stay tuned.
Lastly, and reflecting on the stories and statistics you recount in your last few blogs, and especially WSD, people obviously react in different ways - do you think an individual is prone to act in the same way? What I mean by this is for instance, if someone freezes at a critical point, will they usually freeze or is the response a lottery - are responses a bit like allergies - should you test for your predisposition to certain response types and modify your training accordingly? And at what stage do you think these are programmed - is it a wiring issue we a born with, do we settle on a response type in childhood etc - these questions could have a lot of ramifications in terms of targeted training, and depending on how these responses are programmed, identify critical early training times for children / young adults.
Firstly, great question. Secondly, regarding WSD. Often, my work leads me in very, very interesting directions. I'm now very attracted to the subject of WSD. Even for the simple reason it puts my theories into sharp relief. As life would have it, for me, circumstances have conspired to fuel my interest. I was tackling the problem of the associating with the evolved fight response with the evolved fear response. As I explained in a previous blog, I witnessed a normally pleasant, intelligent, 7 1/2yo girl attack an adult surrogate uncle in a fit of jealous rage. This provided the opportunity of applying my knowledge, theories and concepts, to analyse and understand the situation, and examine proposed methods of dealing with the issue. Then, as (morbid) luck would have it, I was contacted by an acquaintance who had just emerged from a decade plus long abusive relationship. Again, opportunities of applying my knowledge, theories and concepts, and one which provided food for further research. Research that is leading to unique explanations - more on that later.

I'm not a huge fan of opinion, unless it can be demonstrated it is informed opinion. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, 'opinions are like arseholes, everyone has one'. That's kind of true, the difference being, very few people have informed opinions. I don't know the difference between an informed and uninformed a**ehole. I don't tend to give opinions unless they can be substantiated by verifiable fact.

There are definitely predispositions to act in a particular way. For instance, males fight or flee; females tend and befriend (see previous blogs). But they are only predispositions, tendencies. It was reported in Perth this week that a female passenger bashed a 70yo male bus driver because he wouldn't driver her to the city at the end of that buses route. Not what you'd call tend and befriend behaviour. An article I will be referring to is titled 'We Are Not Prisoners To Our Genes'. Anything involving human beings is complicated. Nature and nurture are involved to varying degrees to shape our responses to environmental stimuli. This then raises the question, how do you cope with this variety. Do you have a selection methodology? Where do you aim your training and technique selection methodology?

Bruce Siddle's proposal's in Sharpening the Warrior's Edge provide an interesting case study. He suggests that fear produces a physiological reaction that has detrimental cognitive and physical effects that negatively impact on combat performance. So, he advises (a) selecting techniques based on gross motor skills, and (b) to provide stress based training methods to better prepare the combatant to be effective in combat. Let's examine that. The underlying assumption is the experience of a high level of fear. Therefore, we use the 'lowest common denominator' principle; every one will experience a high level of fear so choose only techniques that are based on gross motor skills. However, the stress training is designed to manage, reduce, or change the emotional experience when in combat - effectively cancelling out the underlying assumption in the technique selection process.

Traits are different to emotions. They are long standing tendencies. People have traits. Then of course we have 'interventions' such as alcohol and drugs which affect the normal tendencies. Excited delirium syndrome is a fascinating subject that I looked into. It is postulated that the experience of this condition has increased due to the use of certain recreational drugs.

There are no easy answers to your question. Having said that, it is a very intriguing question. It goes to profiling and specialisation. Identify characteristics and develop more specialised programs. WSD, again, is a wonderful example. The female experience of, and response to, aggression and violence is different to men. WSD courses SHOULD, but often do not, reflect this specialised focus.
As always John keep up the great work, its so sorely needed - looking forward to buying these books one day!

Again, thank you for your encouragement and support. Believe me, this is a lonely, unrewarding 'job'. The economic, social, emotional, and physical costs are not insubstantial. But what else am I going to do, eh? Maybe this will be my legacy.

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Your comments make my work all the more relevant as I use them to direct my research and theorising. Thank you.