Situational Awareness vs. Paranoia

Situational Awareness vs. Paranoia

     Before diving in I’d like to establish the Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF) definitions first. 

     Paranoia: a mental condition characterized by delusions of persecution, unwarranted jealousy, or exaggerated self-importance, typically elaborated into an organized system. It may be an aspect of chronic personality disorder, of drug abuse, or of a serious condition such as schizophrenia in which the person loses touch with reality. (1)

      Situational Awareness: (SA) is the perception of environmental elements and events with respect to time or space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their future status. (2)

      Even though Wikipedia tends to get a bad rap, I think it has a good take on Situational Awareness.  We must understand that paranoia itself is an unhealthy state of mind. In our way of life as a gun owner, paranoia does little to nothing for us and in fact, often fosters extremely poor or irrational decisions. Why is this distinction important? A common theme in classes or private lessons is the inability to differentiate between paranoia and SA. In the age of smartphones, we tend to walk around only interacting with the world that we have created for ourselves on social media pages. With headphones locked in and batteries at 100% we cross streets, drive, cook and clean in our own little world. Try to remember the last time you spent a significant amount of time unplugged or away from a screen. (I’ll wait!)

      Many of us enjoy making plans to get out of our cities with the sole purpose of getting away from it all. As a whole, we have lost the sense of urgency and awareness our ancestors had. Can you even imagine a time when people like you and me had to worry about literally being eaten? Due to our comfortable urban or suburban lifestyles, we tend to think everything is going to be okay. We’ve all had that conversation with our trusted non-gun owner friends and I’m willing to bet they’ve responded in a fashion like the following:

  “Why do you need that?”

   “Who do you think is after you?”

     Being prepared has become the “new paranoid”.  Just because an idea is popular, does not necessarily make it correct or true. Utilizing and training your situational awareness opens the world to you. Not to get overly Zen about matters, but your SA keeps you in the moment. It’s a tool for life, not just some proverbial “Spidey-Sense”.  But, let’s stay in context: I’ll start with some easy examples, and explain there significance.

  1. Looking behind you when you’re walking while using windows and mirrors to casually check your surroundings. 

-By simply taking a moment to check behind you when you’re walking, you gain a 360-degree view of your environment. In the military you’re taught to check behind you when on patrol. This ensures there is no threat coming from your blind side and confirms your buddies are still behind you. Obviously, our needs aren’t the same as a deployed service member’s, but we can still reap the benefits of this practice. Whether it’s a biker that’s not paying attention or a possible mugger, we are now fully aware of our environment. With this knowledge we can make the best decision possible for the situation.

  • Just Leave.
  • Whether you’re at the bar, coffee shop, park etc., accept that when something doesn’t feel quite right, it probably isn’t. Trust your instincts!  Is that mocha really worth a possible altercation? Take the hard right over the easy wrong. Just leave and don’t chance it.
  • Look up when you’re walking.
  • Humans are predatory creatures by nature. The criminal doesn’t want to be noticed until it suits them. A lion’s target is not the strongest healthiest antelope, but the young, weak or sick. Be a hard target. By simply looking up when walking it shows that you’re aware of what is going on around you. 

     To some, these sensible actions of situational awareness seem completely outrageous.  Ask yourself how hard it would be to perform any of these tasks. What are the pros and cons? I’m willing to bet the pros will outweigh the cons. The long and short of it is that being paranoid is not a tool, but an unhealthy mindset that generates off-kilter conclusions to problems that usually aren’t there. However, keeping your SA switched on will help you master your surroundings and stay safe. Remember, our job isn’t to find the fight, but to avoid it until there is no other option but to win.

Prepare, Protect, Prevail

By:  Josh Sandoval – RSO and Firearms Instructor at Bellevue Gun Club

Josh Sandoval – LinkedIn

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