Identifying a threat early gives you the time to decide if you must Fight or Flee. (source)
Awareness Colour Code, The Nervous System & Mental Health: Part 4 – ORANGE identified threat (or paranoia?) Audio by Jonathan Fader

In a continuation of the series Awareness Colour Code, The Nervous System & Mental Health, I will be discussing the 3rd stage of the awareness colour code Orange from both a practical, self-defence perspective but also a nervous system and mental health perspective. (See Part 1, Part 2, & Part 3)

Orange is the state you are in when you have identified a threat, whether it is right in front of you, across the street, or is incoming at a distance. This is when your nervous system will likely start to activate; your heart rate will rise, your pupils will dilate, you will more acutely pay attention to the given threat. Whether it be a knife-wielding maniac or a car about to hit you, your brain will be activating its primal survival skills and decided if it needs to fight or flight.

This is also the point in self-defence strategy at which you begin to use the Four stages of self-defence; Avoid (Run), De-escalate (Talk down), Pre-emtpive (Strike first), and Reactive (React to the active attack.) From a basic perspective, depending on your nervous system and behavior patterns, along with experience and the specifics of a scenario, your body is ready to run or fight, period. This mechanism is hard-wired into us to help us make the correct decision for better survival.

When it comes to physical self-defence avoidance is the best strategy for most people, whether that means to actually start running or just be actively and intently focused on the potential threat itself. Additionally, unless your superpower is luck, you SHOULD be letting your nervous system ramp up, because if that threat gets too close and you can’t run its time to fight and you want the faster reflexes (hopefully these were honed through training beforehand). At this point, it is both reasonable and rational not to feel very safe, because you know there’s an actual threat now. To what degree you feel safe or unsafe will vary from person to person. Regardless of experience or training, presented with a significant enough threat your heart will be racing and you will most likely will be operating without all the information, so it is normal to feel anxiety or fear. Anyone who says otherwise is either lying or has something wrong with their nervous system.

Let’s pick the example of the knife-wielding individual: Someone walking down the other side of the street waving a knife. Your nervous system is now kicking in its sympathetic mechanisms and you have to make a decision. Assuming you are an untrained civilian seeing this, it is probably the best idea that you either walk or run the other way (while still paying attention). You call the police once you reach safety.

The decision is fairly straight forward. Even with some training, knives are tough to deal with (especially without a firearm at hand). However, what if they are right behind you and you notice the knife with a quick glance? Well, you should probably just book it anyway and hope they don’t chase you.

But what if you can’t run? That’s for the next colour code Red.

Now, let’s take this same example but change you into uniformed police officer. Now the scenario is different, because its your JOB to engage the threatening person. You now should not be running (unless completely overwhelmed) and you have multiple tools and, hypothetically, proper training (usually not) at your disposal to deal with this situation. You MUST still attempt de-escalation first, but baring that you will need to jump to Red, either using unarmed methods (not advised without significant skill and training) or you must employ your tools, tasers, batons, or firearms, to stop the threat before an innocent person is harmed. All this is done while shifting between Orange and Red, while your heart is probably pounding hard, playing some bongo-like-death-metal on your nervous system, all while trying to stay calm enough to make the right decision. Tough, and complicated. This is, of course, all assuming your nervous system isn’t completely overwhelmed and jumps straight to colour code Black

Either way, when there is a literal threat a decision needs to be made fast and this is the time when you may be regretting the decision not to keep yourself healthy so that you can run, or getting the proper training in, say, Krav Maga, that would have helped you prepare your nervous system for just such a situation.

Now let’s talk about mental health and Orange. Again, if there is a literal threat such as someone uttering threats, or brandishing weapons, or someone who has already been violent to you or someone else, then Orange is a fine place to be. However, if you think everyone is a threat, or everything said is a threat, or “words are violence” with no regard for content, then you may in fact be suffering from mental health issues, as your conscious thoughts and nervous system are always set off therefore perceiving everything as a threat. The thing is, your biochemistry and nervous system will react the same and start the fight or flight process regardless of whether a threat is perceived or real. This could be you suffering from paranoia, anxiety, intrusive thoughts, depression, or even schizophrenia. Throw in the daily overstimulation of our nervous systems, due to Facebook, smartphones, and instant access to information, our nervous systems can be quickly overwhelmed if you are always in Orange. Barring being a Bene Gesserit and having near-complete control of yourself, from conscious to subconscious to the molecular levels of your body, this can be overwhelming.

This is actually where things like Cognitive Behavior Therapy come in, as they can help train the conscious mind to learn to recognize behaviors that only enhance anxiety or are perceived threats. In general such therapies, which are non-intrusive but require hard work on the part of the patient, actually have a fairly high percentage of positive results when compared to other therapies. This is because, much like Krav Maga, it’s about training, but instead of physical it’s mental thought training. It becomes mind-over-matter and mind-over-self, think The Matrix, “there is no spoon,” or Jedi who can defy things like gravity with the mind (and the Force). Your perceived reality often manifests itself in the form of mental health issues. Just remember that, just because you think everything is a threat, the fact that someone or something put you in Orange doesn’t make it truly a threat. The brain doesn’t know the difference, but you can be more, be human and overcome these primal responses to things our bodies were not originally designed for.

The bully on the internet isn’t actually a threat (baring full on doxing) if you simply ignore them (of course if it spills into the real world then it needs to be addressed properly with help). So if you learn to not let them bother you, it literally doesn’t affect you unless you let it. Remember, perceived threats are not real threats but can initiate the same processes and elicit the same responses as if a real, physical threat was imminent. It also doesn’t help that hack therapists, bad psychological ideas, and crappy education is only increasing anxiety due to lack of coping skills combined with our overly stimulating environment; it’s no shock that more and more people walk around in Orange.

Your body is a system, mind, body and spirit, if you understand how your body and nervous system works and connects to your brain, you can train yourself to take back control. When it comes back to literal self-defence, taking back control means identifying the threat and making the correct decision to optimize your safety and chances of survival. When it comes to mental health it’s about taking control so that you can live a happier healthy lifestyle, with better decision making that allows you to control when you are in the various states and not letting it control you.

Of course, when things do get out of hand and require a fight, real or perceived, that’s when we move in to RED. Which is next week’s topic. As you wait in anticipation of this fight-oriented post, consider the following: has your nervous system elevated to Orange or are you comfortably sitting in Yellow? (as you know its only a week away.)

Next Post: Part 5 – RED, time to fight (or is it just another mental breakdown?)

Written by Jonathan Fader

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