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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Concern Contraction

Concern contraction is what I call the focusing effect that a crisis can have on your mind. (I don't know what else to call the phenomenon; I couldn't find an existing phrase, so I made one up.) I bring this topic up as a warning to our readers, in the event that any of them have been fortunate enough to have never experienced a truly life-threatening or hazardous situation.

We've previously written about situational awareness, the need to stay aware of your surroundings (and the activity of others) in order to detect or predict threats. Over the years, I have seen concern contraction reducing or eliminating a person's situational awareness. These are often incidents that sometimes make the local news, like a policeman getting hit by a passing car while he's conducting a traffic stop or a witness to an accident getting injured while trying to render aid. Times of stress tend to focus our awareness to an extreme that has to be experienced to be understood, but knowing that it can happen may help you avoid the negative effects.

Levels of stress or crisis come in various intensities and the contraction of concern is tied to the intensity. Since I made up the phrase, I get to make up the levels of intensity and some examples as well. Of course, these levels only apply to those of us who are nominally aware of our surroundings -- the average idiot with his face buried in his cell phone is oblivious to the world and has no situational awareness or level of concern (until the battery on his phone dies).

Level 0
You're sitting on the beach with the sun warming your skin, the water is a few yards in one direction and the buffet is a few yards in the other direction. You literally don't have a care in the world and your mind is free to wander as it may... you might even attempt to care what the Kardashians are doing this week! At level 0, the few concerns you may have are diffuse and spread across a wide field of possibilities. Situational awareness at level 0 can be a problem because you're too relaxed.

Level 1
You're at work on a normal day, the coffee tastes okay and the boss isn't in town. Your concerns are going to be focused on getting your work done so you can get home, but you have time to contemplate the upcoming ball game. You're aware of your surroundings as much as you need to be to get the tasks at hand completed. The policeman getting hit by a passing car falls into level 1, so it is important to stay on your toes and not get complacent.

Level 2
A loved one or pet has a minor injury and you're worried about getting them the proper care. The upcoming ball game has been forgotten and your area of concern is starting to contract a bit, your world getting a bit smaller. The route from your current location to the needed aid is about the extent of your concern at level 2, but you need to pay attention while you're traveling.

Level 3
The power went out during an ice storm or thunderstorm. You know it will be restored within a few hours at most, but you have to figure out how to get by without lights and the distractions that modern life has provided us. It might be getting colder in the house and you need to dig out a coat and some blankets. Your world has shrunk down to the size of your house/apartment and you definitely aren't thinking about how many rhinos are left in Africa.

Level 4
Your car dies or gets stuck in the middle of nowhere. You have no cell phone service, and you were taking a “shortcut” so nobody really knows where you are, so it could be a few days before anybody sees you. Things are starting to get serious -- your concerns are food, water, and shelter, and your world is no larger than what you can see. Nothing beyond your vision matters; your concern has contracted to a small area of space. The two ladies who survived for two weeks in the woods in 2015 come to mind as an example.

Level 5
TSHTF and you are alone, tired, hungry, and lost. Your world has contracted down to the next meal or the next drink of water. You're in trouble and nothing else matters, especially other people. At this level, people start to lose their humanity and act more like animals because survival is the only thing on their minds. Donner party, anyone?

The Last State
Not really a level because it can occur either suddenly or over time is the state known as “shock”. Physical or psychological shock will blow your world apart and you will lose the ability to care about anything. Shock is a medical issue that generally requires the assistance of others to recover from, and can be life-threatening by itself due to the effects it has on your body. It deserves mention because it eliminates all situational awareness and should be watched for in others.

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