As a concealed carrier, you’re already aware that situational awareness is your best friend. It’s how you know what’s brewing before it comes to a head. But how do you decide what’s the most important? This is an ongoing struggle for most concealed carriers – but for a few, it ends up being the difference between life and death.
Trusting Your Subconscious “Gut Instincts”
Your brain is way more complex than most will give credit for. It picks up every single subtle nuance of your environment and it’s your conscious mind that filters that information. The street light that just turned on, the light two blocks away that just changed from red to green — these are things your conscious mind likely filters out because it doesn’t appear relevant.
However, if your mindset is self-defense, you’ll find your mind may coalesce a number of these seemingly irrelevant pieces of information into a picture. It may cause you to develop goosebumps or a weird “feeling” that you’re not in the right place at the right time. Or more specifically – you are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
If your “gut instinct” tells you you’re in danger, don’t necessarily immediately act on it – but look to see if that’s reciprocated in your observations. Being aware of your present circumstances is the first step to avoiding a trap.
Just Because You’re Aware — Doesn’t Mean You Have To Act
There’s a number of levels of awareness. Some examples are:
- “Comatose” — You’re asleep or passed out. Threats may drift by you or around you and you’d hardly be aware they exist at all.
- “Tuned Out” — Things are happening around you but your head is in the clouds. Complacency, apathy, or just general distraction can all feed into this mental mindset. You may notice possible threats but you dismiss them. Most people walking around could be described as “tuned out”. If you see someone with his face buried in his phone — chances are he’s tuned out.
- “Relaxed Aware” — You’re observing your surroundings but not displaying any active interest in anything in particular. This relaxed awareness gives you the advantage of observing a situation emerge without inserting yourself into it. It could be described as the guy sitting on the bus, reading a newspaper while two people are arguing. He’s not necessarily interested in their situation but he’s keeping an eye out for things in his periphery.
- “Focused Aware” — This is where you’ve dedicated yourself to actively observing your environment. You’re looking around, looking for threats, keeping mental notes of what’s transpiring before you are ready to act should the need arise.
- “High Alert” — You believe there is a high likelihood you or your family is at risk. It’s like when you’re walking around your house and you hear a bump against the front door — or see a car you don’t recognize drive slowly into your driveway. You may go from simply being aware (or “tuned out”, sometimes) to high alert.
See Also: Case Study: Situational Awareness
Need Versus Want — Prioritizing Threat Assessment
We all want things and we can sometimes confuse those wants for needs. The three basic needs are food, water, and shelter. Without those three things, you’re toast. And in a civil environment, those three things are rarely in jeopardy for long. When it comes to self-defense situations, your car, your belongings, and most anything outside of life can be replaced. Your threat assessment ought reflect that.
If you see armed men breaking into a neighbor’s car – that’s cause to call the police. Observe and report. The second you step outside your door and decide to engage them with lethal force, you’re risking every single thing you need to survive. And for what? For possessions that can be replaced? Pride?
Guns have nothing to do with pride. They are instruments. Going into an armed confrontation with or without a firearm – you need to have realized your life is forfeit. You can either realize that right up front or you will realize it shortly thereafter. Under what conditions are you willing to forfeit your own life or the lives of those around you? That should be your number one priority in threat assessment. What of these threats around you can develop into the conditions where your family, your home, or your own life is jeopardized?
If you can safely escape a violent, developing situation without the exchange of gunfire — you win. The second that goes away, you are on your own until help arrives.