Delay. Drift. Distraction. Daydreaming.
by W. Hock Hochheim
So how do you remain cognizant during combat? In the “who, what, where, when, how and why” of life, the “what” can haunt and distract you, as in “what were you thinking?” Never mind a cold ambush. This subject matter is not really about a "zero-to-60" ambush. This material concerns itself for when you are "dressed up," there, geared up and ready for the mission at hand. You could be a cop on a stakeout, a bodyguard overseeing a VIP, a soldier in the field, a heart or brain surgeon, or building cars on an assembly line – anyone in the act of working.
They all say that action always beats reaction. We've known this for decades. Centuries even. Reaction is a “curve behind the eight ball." There are big delay mistakes and little ones all in a scale. When you are not cognizant during combat and are completely surprised and/or ambushed, it's a zero-to-60 problem. A really worst case scenario. Not only was your head not in the game, you didn't even know you were playing the game! Ambush!
If you are in the game, head up and aware, you might still have drifts and distractions that take your mind away for any period of time, short or long. You're dressed. You're on the ball field. But, you failed to watch the runner on second base. You missed something even when looking right at it. That's cognitive drift. Mini-ambushes of the mind. On a mission, but you drift occasionally making the next event, a mini-surprise, not zero-to-60, but 30-to-60 response? It is like you are streaming in a movie, and the stream suddenly stops for a second. What mechanical thing happened?
Coaches use to shout at us…“Keep your head in the game!”
…when they spotted us not prepped for the next pitch, or play or not paying attention to base runners in baseball. Keeping your mind on the matters before you is also an essentially point in the old Zen practice "chop wood and carry water," and it is smart mojo for the slick, tactical operator or for even the simple self defense and survival of anyone.
Who, what, where, when, how and why. “What was I thinking at that exact second?” "How did I miss the ball? Miss the suspect escape? Miss the critical shot? Drop the pass? Forget the answer? Lose the race? Failure, failure, choke, choke, choke, etc., etc…
Well it is not just about that split second. There is also a "before and an after" that exact second that is very much involved in performance and the preparatory training. The subjects of cognitive delay, the cognitive drift, the mental distraction and even flat-out, daydreaming which can directly cause hiccups, mistakes and problems.
Technically speaking, cognitive means: “the process of knowing and, more precisely, the process of being aware, knowing, thinking, learning and judging. The study of cognition touches on the fields of psychology, linguistics, computer science, neuroscience, mathematics, ethnology and philosophy.”
Cognitive Delay. What is it? One problem with the internet is the popular or faddish information comes up by the ton first when you search on things. For example, two decades ago is you searched on the term "hypervigilance" you would find definitions concerning physical freezing under a fast-moving threat. This has been totally buried today by the massive and increasing study associated with post traumatic stress. With PTSD now, hypervigilance now means a paranoia. You have to dig many pages deep to get to the older definitions.
Today, if you search for the term Cognitive Delay on the web, you'll see it is an popular term often used by educators of children when discussing problems with the natural progression of a child's learning. Captured in that set of study, this great expression never officially made its way over into many other fields like sports, combatives or self defense. Too bad because the very expression "cognitive delay" is just a perfect noun and study title for the before, during, and after of people whose head slips out of the ballpark. It helps define the problem and training missions to fix them.
You see the first response in any situation is often connected to exactly what the person was thinking right before the incident itself. The second before. That is why ambushes are usually quite successful and have defeated the greatest militaries of the world. A person must get in the fight, in a zero-to-60 escalation in a complete, cold ambush.
But…so, if you are staring at the stakeout, watching the heart chart during emergency surgery, whatever and you miss your move? I have also heard this called Cognitive Drift. The concentration drifts. The term fell into the emergency medical and hospital fields in 2008 when experts began to study mistakes in hospital care and surgeries. One of the big mistakes identified was this “cognitive drift.” Personnel were not concentrating exactly on what they were doing, their thoughts ‘drifted' and as our governments would say in their best third-person, elusive defense – “mistakes were made.” Abstractly taking the blame in a new, mysterious, third-person framework. Handling this drift is a big challenge for people like surgeons, jet pilots, I hate to use the term, but here goes – "gunfighters," – to name just a few who must react like lightening.
Some upper echelon bodyguard companies won't even hire people they deem addictive personalities. People addicted to simple things like cigarettes or caffeine enter into this easily-distracted category because they might have a passing thought/fancy about a cigarette or a latte too frequently at the wrong times. Given the time length of many security assignments, this mission-only mind set is a real mental challenge.
Post-cognitive, distraction and drift? Napoleon once said that one of his greatest fears for his troops was immediately right after they'd won or declared a victory. They were thinking about victory, elated, distracted and therefore subject and weak to a counter-attack.
All these interruptions. It is naive to believe that every delay in decision-making is based on some kind of Hicks Law equation. There are just too many factors involved. The human mind. Delays. Distractions. Drift. Daydreaming. About bills, shopping lists, movies, babes, hunks, cars, sex, cigarettes, coffee, clothes…all the "who, what, where, when, and how that takes your head out of the game? Identify these things and potential times and work to improve your concentration for when it really counts.
W. Hock Hochheim is a military, police and martial arts vet, who teaches hand, stick, knife and gun seminars in 11 allied countries around the world. He can be reached at Hock@HocksCQC.com
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