Sunday, May 01, 2016

The Victim Personality

I've used the term in writing and, judging from e-mail, haven't ever adequately defined what I mean.

If you've been victimized before, are you a victim personality? Victimized twice? Thrice? Ten times?
Maybe. Maybe not. There are victim characteristics that all predators (and all aware humans) know.

Distracted. Awkward in their physicality. Pleasers. People so domesticated to social norms that they will be predictable and nice even when it is time to be profoundly un-nice. People like this are targets, they are easy to victimize. They are often victimized. They are not what I mean by "victim personalities."

Humans are incredibly adaptable. At the same time they, like all animals, tend toward homeostasis. They have an idea of "normal" and they move toward or attempt to recreate that idea of normal.

Families have a very wide range of behaviors, widely different ideas of normal. Some are abusive, either because it is the pattern the adults were raised with and thus their homeostasis, or because someone is unskilled at raising tiny humans to be humans or because there is evil and one of the parents sees children as victims to be groomed. Other reasons abound, probably.

A child who grow to adulthood in that environment learns how to survive in that environment. That may be the only place he or she does know how to survive. The habits implanted under adrenaline, or fear of death are really strong. They rarely change. The child raised in this environment has no reason to believe that other relationships are less dangerous... but he or she doesn't know the rules of other relationships. Doesn't know how to behave. And fears any error will be punished as severely as an error in his or her family of origin.

This is the genesis of the victim personality. When you only know how to function or how to even survive by being in the exploited or victim role, you seek it out. You recreate the dynamics you know. This can sound like blaming the victim and maybe it is, but it is an outgrowth of human adaptability. If you only know how to function in a pile of shit, you will either seek out or create piles of shit to function in. It's a survival trait.

It's not permanent, or at least it doesn't need to be. The people I see break out of this (and I'd love to name names here because I am immensely proud of some people, but their struggle is deeply personal) first see or guess that maybe their experience of the world is not the world. Then they see that there are other ways to live. And that those ways are possible. And that those ways also have rules, but the rules are learnable. It takes an immense amount of courage, but they learn through experience that failing to follow the rules in a non-toxic environment has consequences, but not the harsh consequences they expect. And that, in turn, lets them be brave enough to risk mistakes as they learn this new world.

I want to say that it requires a safety net, a social network that supports, teaches and encourages, but my experience says different. There might be a few voices of aid and reason, but almost everyone I know made their first steps without any support whatsoever. They come from a world where no one can be trusted and they, generally, need to learn that trust is not a trap. Learning that is not an early step in this process. So they make the first steps alone, and it is an act of profound courage.

Slightly related, not about victim personalities but about the environment that created them. I've seen three common responses to kids raise helplessly in extreme chaos. One group become hyper-competent. A second group believes they can never control anything and become hyper-passive. A third group sees it as a natural state of affairs and transitions to the abuser role when they get to the appropriate place in the script. I see very few come out of this environment simply being normal (possible sampling error, normal is easy to not-notice.)

I would really like to know how much of this is internal wiring; how much early influence (like mentors) during the process of abuse; and how much can be affected by processing the event after the fact. Are there limits or opportunities in different time frames of processing? Can a competent foster parent do things a counselor can (or can't) do much later?

Monday, April 25, 2016

OODA Double Reversal

Just read a really terrible book purporting to be about safety. Ignorant, repetitive and pseudo-profound. According to the back cover, the guy had a resume that sounded like a god, but there were basic words used incorrectly, over half the book was word-for-word repeats of the author’s talking points. And some of the advice…. whew. Worried about freezing, fear or stressed-induced bad decisions? “Simply” divorce yourself from emotion. No idea why I never thought of that…
Anyway, pissy rant over. He had a lot of emphasis on a weirdly misunderstood version of Boyd’s OODA loop, and it reminded me of a long ago conversation with Maija (Maija of The Liar, the Cheat and the Thief fame). The conversation was about using the OODA loop as a framework to explore and teach personal safety and some other things. The conversation was almost forgotten and the bones had never somehow got written down. So here goes, and let’s see if I can make it make sense.
O is for observe. On your end— see and sense as much as you can. When static, try to be in places that maximize your vision—elevation, looking from small apertures through big apertures, position to take advantage of reflections and shadows. And use all of your senses. Practice consciously listening, smelling, feeling the wind and temperature changes. Vibrations through the floor. Learn to sense not only things, but significant negatives. Like when the crickets stop chirping or the target stops snoring or the steam is not rising from the coffee cup.
The reversal: These are the same things you want to deny others. Minimize your visibility. Watch from camouflaged places. Looking from small through big apertures puts the threat in the position of doing the opposite. Remember that stalking in the wild is about not being seen (heard, smelled) but stalking in an urban setting is about not being noticed. Blend. You want to observe the world, but to maximize your freedom of action, you want to be unobserved.
O is for Orient. Doesn’t matter what you see if you can’t figure it out. On your end, this is about studying people. How they move, think and act. In groups and alone. Musashi’s advice about know the way of all arts. understanding how taxi drivers, construction workers, criminal, doctors, lawyers, etc see the world. It is a constant process of learning. Take a good tracking class and an entire world of perception and understanding opens up. Riff off the elements of that tracking class and you can learn to see the emotional tracks left by certain events.
And denying this is a skill as well, and there are at least three ways to ruin someone else’s orient stage. 
You can simply deny them information. Nondescript clothes. Lack of facial expression. Basically, no obvious hooks.
Or you can confuse the threat by offering contradictory information. Long ago when the first crop of entrepreneurs started wearing tennis shoes with their business suits, there were news articles trying to figure out what it meant. You can have your words and actions diametrically opposed. You can wear a RTKBA t-shirt with fuzzy bunny slippers.
Or you can take absolute control of the Orient process and supply a convenient pigeonhole. One friend has long frizzy hair and wears tie-dye and a kilt. He’s immediately dismissed as a harmless burned-out old hippy. I can wear the tweed jacket with leather elbow pages and copper-rimmed glasses and be immediately dismissed as a harmless academic. Or I can put on my middle-aged tourist costume. If you’re so big and imposing you will be noticed, adopt the body language of the big, goofy, harmless guy. JA is amazing at that.
D is for Decide. You want to maximize your decision speed, which means minimize your hesitations. Comfort level with your physical skills is one of the keys, of course. But I also find a clear order of priorities to be useful. I know what is worth getting involved in and what isn’t; what I will and won’t tolerate. Truly understanding what is important speeds up your reaction time.
Also, courage. Courage can be tough to define beyond 'acting despite fear' but I mean a special kind. I mean the confidence to know that you can and will recover from fuck-ups. We all make mistakes all the time. When you are afraid of mistakes or the consequences of those mistakes, you hesitate. When you deeply believe that you can and will recover, making mistakes is less a thing to be feared and thus not worth hesitating over.
To prevent others from deciding can be a long-term or short-term route. Long term, if you have the right relationship, you can induce learned helplessness either globally or in a particular field. When someone gets punished no matter what they do, the only intelligent strategy is to do nothing. That induced passivity is called “Learned Helplessness.”
If you correct your students no matter what they do, you are inducing helplessness in that particular field. If you are in a relationship where you are wrong no matter what you do, you are being groomed for helplessness.
Short term, most of the ways to prevent decision involve adding more information to the equation. Very few people are disciplined enough to make a timely decision when there is a possibility of critical information on the way. So most of the short-term methods for paralysis involve manipulating one of the Os, Observe or Orient. All of your actions are information (Observation) so purposeful movement prevents decision. If your purposeful movement is hard to read, (“What is he doing with that cat?”) the threat can’t access the Decide stage until the question is resolved (Orient.)
Recognition of available time (what Gordon Graham calls “Discretionary time”) is a secondary skill that plays a powerful part in the O/D stages. When people envision applying Boyd’s work, they often focus on speeding up the loop, “getting inside the opponent’s loop.” Sometimes recognizing that there is no immediate need to act is a super-power. While others are frantically trying to respond, you can gather information and resources and make a better plan. Often, if your calmness is hard to read, it will invoke rash action in the threat. Always let your enemies make mistakes if they are inclined to do so.
A is for Act. Part of this is possibility for action. Whenever possible, place yourself for maximum options and freedom of movement— have multiple escape routes, see that none of your limbs or weapons are hindered. There’s no point in having a weapon you can’t access. At closer range, this is the kind of stuff we play with InFighting. In order to deliver a strike, you need power, a target and a weapon, but you also need empty space to move the weapon through. This can range from managing the voids infighting to creating empty space to exploit while grappling
Another part of Act is having a physical skill to apply. It doesn’t matter how well you can OO or D if you don’t have the necessary skills to execute your decision. And it’s not just skills, it’s comfort level with skills. Knowing how to do something because you’ve read about it or watched videos helps if and only if the situation gives you enough time to move from the cognitive to the physical plane. Reading about how to make a shelter can work, because hypothermia can take hours to kill you. Watching videos of knife defenses, on the other hand, is almost if not completely useless. Physical skills must not just be practiced, but played with. It’s the only way to cross that gap into adaptability and access under pressure.
Note- Operant conditioning can skip the two middle steps of the OODA loop entirely, but conditioning correctly is pretty stringent and it only works on very simple responses to relatively clear-cut situations.
Efficient action hinges on having a broad range of applicable skills that you have tested. Ideally skills you have tested to the extent that your lizard, monkey and human brains all trust the skills.
It doesn’t hurt to make a habit of decisive action, either.
The reversal. You can deny the opponent’s ability to act by controlling his avenues of movement, filling the space either he or his attacks must move through, by physically disrupting his ability to act (injury, handcuffing, etc.) by disrupting his base mentally or physically, by blocking his access to resources (tools, funds, people, advice, information…)

Overall, maximize your adaptability (skills, awareness) and resources. Minimize your opponent's.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Animal Farm

Two observations, unrelated to each other except for the barnyard metaphors.

1) I have officially decided to quit making fun of the chi-meisters. You know, the guys who send their students spinning with a look or stun them with a gesture. The ones demonstrating and teaching no-touch knockouts. As some of you know, I've offered my support to a few of the big names if they'd just come with me on public transportation, let me pick out a couple of subjects who had no idea who they were or what was supposed to happen and then knock them out. Should be easy, right? Every other way of knocking people out is easier by stealth, without the big show... so far, no answers.

Anyway, I've decided to exercise gratitude and see the chi-misters for what they are and appreciate what they contribute. The rest of us are trying to make people stronger and tougher. They are the ones with the foresight to create a new generation of victims. Think about it-- it's not about the instructors, it's about the students. Always has been. And these guys are breeding the human equivalent of fainting goats.

2) When we take a young creature and lock it up, remove it from challenge, deny it any exercise or even the mild challenge and irritation of sun and wind, we call that veal. It gets fed a rich diet, treated like a baby long after it should be. It's straight up animal abuse. Tasty, tasty animal abuse, but there's something fundamentally not right about it. We know that babies-- animal or human-- need to move and play to be what they are. And we all know that growth in anything comes from challenge.

People demanding places where only one opinion can be heard, where they will be shielded from any thoughts or ideas that might actually make them work, people demanding a right to a perpetual comfort zone-- they are insisting on a right to be veal. Mental veal. What they can so clearly see as animal abuse in the outside world, they are demanding. Or begging for. Begging for the resources and demanding the right to be soft, helpless and probably tasty.

One of the poignant/funny scenes in the Hitchhiker's Guide trilogy was the beef who was bred to want to be eaten. Well, the american educational system has gone one better. We have trained our children not just to be the mental equivalent of veal, but to demand their own helplessness as a right.

There is no desire for weakness in our nature. That has to be taught. So maybe there is more of a connection between the fainting goat breeders and the veal producers-- it is learned behavior, and the product of systems that ingrain weakness as both a behavior and a virtue.

Think about this-- who hates and fears you enough that they must brainwash you to believe that weakness is a virtue?

Friday, April 22, 2016

Course Correction

Huh. Fell into a trap. This blog started as an anonymous place to unpack some stuff in my head. To think about events and ideas out loud and on paper. Or screens. Whatever. To get out of my head.

The anonymous part is done. Too late. Might go and start from scratch elsewhere, but not yet.

Here's the deal, I've been writing less because I've been trying to be a writer. Classic trap. Trying to say the right thing, of the right relevance, in the right way...

That's not what this corner of cyberspace is for. It's not for marketing or branding or useful insight or polished anything. Time to let it be a little more internal vomit (writers would say stream of consciousness) and about what fascinates me, not what I think would interest readers.

Since the ICITAP contract, I've been playing inside my comfort zone with maybe 3/5 of my life. That's not me. Time to cut closer to the bone in writing and in real life.

More to follow.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

VioDy West

VioDy West in Oakland is coming up in three weeks, and Keelin, the coordinator, ordered me to write about it. So here goes--

Long ago, somewhere in the mists of time, Kasey Keckeisen, a SWAT leader, sniper and training coordinator thought it would be really cool to have a couple of his favorite SD writers come out to his neck of the woods and play. One was Marc MacYoung. The other was me. Kasey was an experienced officer and a lifetime martial artist, so he wasn't just a host, he was a third instructor.

It was the seminar where we unveiled the first public ConCom class. Civilians got to train with the local SWAT in environmental fighting. It became an annual thing. It's also why I am no longer allowed to name things. (Come on, if you are doing a workshop on Violence Dynamics, you'd call it the VD Clinic too, right?) Over the years, people who originally came as students have stepped up to teach sections-- Randy King taught counter assault and Dillon Beyer* taught power generation last year in Minnesota, and Querencia Fitness did classes on functional strength and training despite age and injuries.

This all happened in Minnesota...

Last year, Keelin suggested a Bay Area version. I assumed (my mistake) Kasey and Marc wouldn't be available. Kasey is a full time officer with limited vacation time, Marc had a host of other concerns. So I floated the idea to two of my favorite people, Terry Trahan and Kathy Jackson. They were in. Then miracles happened and Marc and Kasey could make it as well. So this is what we have:
A six-day seminar covering physical skills including: leverage, power, targeting, fighting by touch, using the environment, ground survival...
Practical skills like ConCom and people watching in the field...
And a few lectures, like threat assessment and legal articulation...
And even a range day, led by Kathy Jackson

Five instructors, and maybe some guests. I know of people flying in from Sweden (Toby!) The UK (Anna!) and Cypress (Dan!) There will be separate OG classes by request... (If you know what OGs are in this context and you are one, contact me for special pricing.)

And the sixth day-- people watching. Small groups. You get to see how a sniper sees architecture and space, how a former criminal sizes up marks, some other stuff I won't go into here.

Keelin has set up a website with more details and sign-ups.
This will be fun.

* Look at the VioDy NextGen on that link.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

"In the Real World..."

Thought for the day.
In the martial arts and self-defense, you hear a lot of crap about what will and won't work in the "real world." Everything is as real as it is, and no more. All things are what they are, and all only extrapolate so far. Written about all that before.

So everything happens in the real world, whether it's on the mat, in  a cage, around a poker table, over a chessboard, or in a mass holding cell. None of this is happening in the virtual world. (Yes, I know, you can play video versions of all of these, quit being cute and pay attention.)

Here's the thought. Instead of defining what the "real" world is, look at all the things we say aren't the real world and you notice that they all have the same things in common. When someone says, "that's not the real world," what they mean is a place or endeavor where:

  1. You know the rules and 
  2. The rules are the way the game is really played
Monopoly or chess-- everyone plays by the same rules and if you cheat you forfeit. But college grad goes into business, goes into his first negotiation and gets played--
College grad: "That wasn't fair! He lied!"
Boss: "Welcome to the real world."

This is a subconscious distinction for people. If it's predictable, it's not the real world. If it's predictable, it doesn't count. And of course it all does count, but only so far. I'm not arguing for the truth of this, mind you, just pleased to have found the words for a nearly universal unconscious distinction. 

This does have some implications.

Even in games with rules, things are never predictable, but the rules are there to limit the unpredictability. In a match, no matter the sport, you can't be sure what your opponent will do, but you can be pretty sure of what he won't do. The boxer won't kick, the the judoka won't punch you in the face, the fencer won't pull a gun.

We teach children through games with rules and the children are punished for cheating. Because we want them to grow up and not be cheaters. We want to condition them to believe that cheating is punished, because your brain equates punished with "doesn't work." This allows them to get along with other adults. This keeps people from screwing each other over. It also makes them patsies when someone else understands that the rules are artificial.

Yes. Artificial. Rules are not real, they are magical spells used to control the behavior of others. And like magic, rules only work on believers.

Because we start kids on rules and social conditioning so young, they all go into the real world carrying around a personal list of largely unconscious personal rules. Rules that control and limit their options, artificial restraints on behavior that can be used against them by anyone who doesn't share the same internal rules.

The fifth implication. The real world is the place where, often, cheating isn't punished, but rewarded. This is the elephant in the room. Cheating works. In the real world.

Unless someone better makes it not work.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Triple, Again

Mac says most things can be broken down in threes. Speed, surprise, violence of action. Power, speed precision. Move, shoot, communicate. Awareness, initiative, permission. It works quite often, and sometimes it doesn't. I guess the rule is to never fall in love with a model to the extent that you try to force the world to fit the model.

Another one came up last week. I'd been asked to advice a young man on designing a defensive tactics program for a certain profession. Have to be a little obtuse here because there are programs that exist for this profession, but no one (and I mean no one) who actually works in that profession is happy with the current programs. The programs I have seen and heard about are classic "liability reduction" training, designed for the express purpose of keeping organizations from being sued, regardless of whether what is taught actually works.

I'd been thinking about it for weeks leading up to the meeting. These are people doing important things with small budgets, a lot of scrutiny, and very limited training time. And whatever program comes out of this, if one does, will have to be effective (or it's not worth my time) but also palatable to the administrations, the media and the public.

Snapped awake the morning of the meeting. When a problem is hard to solve, it's often because you are trying to solve the wrong problem, asking the wrong question or asking the right question in the wrong way. My contacts had been always talked about managing aggressive behavior, and all of their programs failed against assaultive behavior. Duh.

So the triple for this one:

  • Managing aggressive behavior would be the tools, verbal prevention before, verbal and possible physical redirection during. Qualitatively different from...
  • Managing assaultive behavior. Under attack, your solution won't be verbal. Always good to augment physical responses with verbal skills, both to direct the threat and for the benefit of witnesses. But when someone is trying to stab you, you don't have the time to try to calm his mindset. The third though...
  • Managing destructive behavior. Including self-destructive, but the difference between Assaultive and destructive is the focus. No matter how violent someone is being, you have an entirely different suite of options if he's focused on someone or something else.
Nothing new here. The physical, interpersonal and tactical skills for each type are pretty well known. But I haven't divided things this way before. And I think it's telling that multiple systems shared the same failure point and it was a simple recognition that teaching people how to handle aggressive people won't translate to handling an assault.

More came up in the brainstorming session-- Gordon Graham's discretionary time concept and how it applies. Training methodologies for improvising and adapting under pressure. Power dynamics that will have to modeled in the class before they can be mirrored in the mission. An ethical framework that ties a lot together. Gotta love curriculum development.

Lots of stuff coming up:

VioDy West in Oakland (This will be a big one!) April 12-17
 Plus Alaska and Pennsylvania.