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The Four Stages of Mental Awareness
Whether you are at home or traveling in a strange town, the importance be remaining aware of your environment and what's going on around you can make the difference between a becoming involved in a dangerous encounter or avoiding a one altogether. Mental awareness is a state of mind, and each of us experience four essential levels: unaware, aware, alert, and alarm.
It's easy to be unaware...a casual walk in the park, a bit of day dreaming, listening to music, and even sleeping can all be examples of being unaware. It's almost a requirement to occasionally shut-down, let the world go away, and dream of something you want to do or accomplish. While this is certainly acceptable while safe at home or in a classroom, for the most part, being unaware can be a dangerous state.
Most criminals wait until the opportune time a person is completely unaware of their environment before they attack the victim, steal their purse, steal their car, or break into their home.
A person is said to be "aware" when they have a conscious acknowledgment of their surroundings. Being aware of your surroundings and the people within it should be relatively stress-free. It's pretty much in our nature to observe our surroundings and to assess any danger within it.
Typically, we become increasingly aware when something doesn't look or feel right, such as a group of teenagers who look like they belong to a gang, or the feeling we are being watched or followed. Fortunately, most of the time, it turns out to be nothing, but on rare occasions, it may turn into more than a feeling.
The alert stage is an acceleration from being aware of potential threats to identifying one or more potential, legitimate threats. For example, a group of teenagers appearing as belonging to a gang start following you once you have passed, or a panhandler on the street suddenly focuses and approaches you specifically for money, or there's someone suspicious who appears to have been behind you for a long period of time. Potential threats can also be lurking in places you may not suspect, such as behind tall bushes, around a blind corner, or a car with people on the side of the road. Potential threats can occur in a less subtle manner, such as a person approaching you for directions, someone offering you help with a dead battery, or a door-to-door salesperson. It's equally important to know the difference between paranoia and identifying a real threat. A person cannot operate for long periods of time at the alert stage, it will simply wear them down both emotionally and physically. The purpose of the alert stage is to identify, assess, and determine if a threat exists and how to avoid it when it appears real.
Preparing for Action
If a potential threat is significant enough to grab your attention, it is always best to create an escape plan, determine how and when it will be necessary to use. Equally important is having a contingency plan should the primary fail or the conditions change. Your goal is to avoid the danger, and avoid the threat, avoid the encounter at all costs. There's nothing wrong with avoiding a potential threat, appearing to be a coward, running away, shouting for help, or issuing verbal warnings as a last resort.
Awareness is that state where you're not necessarily afraid of anything, but you're aware danger could exist. It's that heighten awareness you have when on a crowded street in an unfamiliar city, entering a crowded subway, or having to go down an alley. There's no actual danger which is apparent at that time but the potential for a legitimate threat to occur is possible.
Your firearm is your
Tool of Last Resort!
Once you have formulated your escape plan, you must then establish a set of parameters in which you deem necessary to enact your plan. This can include a number of options, such as: the threat appears to be closing in at a rapid pace, the threat is within a distance you deem too close, the threat fails to leave when ordered, the presence of a weapon, or any other action or level of threat you feel has exceeded your limitations.
The alarm stage occurs once the potential for threat or harm appears to be evident, obvious, or about to occur. During this time, you want to enact your action plan to avoid the threat at all cost.
An example of creating an action plan in your home may include:
Example 1: Someone appears to be breaking in through your front door. Action: Leave your house through the rear door. Second Action: Go to a neighbor's home and call the police.
Example 2: It's late at night and you suspect someone is in your home. Action: Call the police and arm yourself with your firearm. Second Action: Listen intently, wait for the police, and determine what to do if the threat approaches the bedroom.
Example 3: The intruder is approaching the room. Action: Issue verbal warning you are armed; ordering the intruder to leave. Second Action: Be prepared to defend yourself with your firearm.
An example of creating in action plan outside your home may include:
Example 1: You are being followed by a car full of teenagers who appear to be affiliated with a gang. Action: Turn around and walk opposite the flow of traffic. Second Action: Establish what to do if the car turns around.
Example 2: Some of the teenagers exit the vehicle and begin to follow you. Action: Cross the street. Second Action: Find a public place you can go into to call the police.
Example 3: The teenagers cross the street and continue to follow you. Action: It's late at night so most the stores are closed. You must find someplace you can face the teenagers. Second Action: You will order the teenagers to leave. Third Action: You will arm and defend yourself if the threat continues to proceed.
It is important to remember the use of force, deadly or otherwise, should be avoided whenever possible. It is always best to avoid, evade, or eliminate the risk in a manner where no one will be hurt. Additionally, you have no idea what your perceived threat is capable of doing in terms of real, physical damage. You may feel you want to "stand your ground" and fight, but "what-if" the potential threat has a gun? Now you have a situation where both of you are in a very dangerous predicament.