Thursday, May 10, 2012

Adrenaline - What you Need to be Aware of !

(This post by K.C. - ex-Army VIP Protection)

It's important for anyone working in Executive Protection to understand the physical and psychological effects of adrenaline on you, and on your client :
  • firstly, a surge of adrenaline will make you (and your client) faster, stronger, and feel less pain
  • however your vision (and your client's vision) can become tunnelled in a forward direction - often causing threats from the side to disappear from your field of vision
  • your hearing (and your client's) can also become tunnelled - sometimes preventing you from hearing attacks or warnings that come from the side.

All this is a survival response - something that's hard-wired into the human brain.

The after-effects of an adrenaline surge are also something you should be aware of.  After an incident, it may even be necessary to explain this to a client who experiences either of these physical responses :
  • Firstly, there can be a sleep-inducing effect from the adrenaline wash-out and endorphin rush, which triggers a cut-out switch in the brain.  This sudden fainting episode is simply caused by a drop in blood pressure and heart-rate, and should not be confused with a fear response.
  • Secondly, an unexpected release of strong emotion (anger) that was suppressed during the adrenaline surge.  Most often this erupts in the form of crying - which shocks and embarrasses people when they don't know to expect it.

Here's a personal story of how adrenaline can affect you in a confrontation.  In the Army I had fought for my life in a jungle fire-fight, but this was different... it was close-quarters hand-to-hand combat :

I was in Vietnam and travelling through a semi-rural area on a mini-van bus.  These buses are pretty bad to be honest, and the driver didn't want to drive all the way into town just to drop me off... because all the other passengers were headed in another direction.  So he dropped me off on the side of the road and left.

As I got out of the bus I had a gut feeling that something wasn't quite right, and as I started to look for a taxi-bike to flag down, two guys came out from the long weeds growing on the side of the road.

Sensing a confrontation, I calmly removed my backpack and put it down... all the while trying to seem like the friendly dumb tourist.  

Then one of them suddenly pulled a knife and started yelling "Money, money!!!" 

I created distance, adopted a side-on defensive stance and said "Ok, ok, wait a second...."  

He slackened a little and looked across at his buddy... and as he looked away I made my decision to draw my Spyderco folder, which I always have clipped on my jeans pocket.

His head snapped back.  Suddenly I had gone from a friendly dumb tourist to a determined aggressor.  I shaped-up to him in a combat-ready stance, my left hand across in front of my throat, and my knife held low and just outside his field of vision.

Now I don't recommend that anyone do what I did.  But for me it was as if a switch was flicked in the back of my head.  As far as I was concerned, I was miles from anywhere safe, and I couldn't afford to be stranded with no money, or worse.  I was also aware that a girl had recently been murdered in a road-side mugging after she got off a bus.

What exactly happened is still a little blurry, because it was all an instinctive survival response.  From what I can remember he stepped forward and threatened me with his blade.  I quickly trapped his knife-arm, smashed him in the face with the butt of my knife, threw him down hard onto the bitumen, and quickly stomped him to take the fight right out of him.  The other guy was obviously shocked, and immediately took off!

The knife fight was all over in a matter of seconds... and I was left standing on the side of the road, shaking with the effects of the adrenaline surge

I took a few deep breaths to pull myself together, picked up my backpack, and started walking quickly down the road.  Eventually I managed to flag down a taxi-bike, and got the driver to take me all the way into town. 

Once I was home I had a shower, and to be quite honest, I cried a bit.  It was crazy, but the emotion just poured out of me.

After I had that release, things suddenly became quite calm.  But then all the "what-if's" started coming out : what if this had happened? ; what if he had done that ; what if I had been stabbed? ; what if I had killed him?

Looking back now, what saved me was reality-based training and the mental discipline to control emotional extremes such as fear and anger.  I had reacted with just the right amount of force to ensure my survival. 

Also, I understood the effects that adrenaline would have on my body and my mind.... so I was prepared to cope with the psychological aftermath.

Summary of points about the nature of adrenaline :
  1. it will make you (or your client) faster, stronger, and feel less pain
  2. however vision can become tunnelled
  3. and hearing can also become tunnelled
  4. there can be a fainting episode after an adrenaline surge
  5. or even an outburst of strong emotion (crying).

For another interesting story about the aftermath of adrenaline, click on the link below :

No comments:

Post a Comment