Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tunnel Vision and Situational Awareness


In the police academy, one of the biggest things they warned us about what tunnel vision. In the context of police work, it was where you got focused on one thing and lost perspective of the risks around you. You could be on a traffic stop with a sweet old lady driver and not see the bad guy with a gun in the back seat. Or you could be focused on who you think is the biggest risk and not see the person on the side lines ready to deck you in the back of the head.

And when it comes to dealing with the emotions of being in the midst of change, I am fighting the tunnel vision. We are essentially half way through this transition period, living out of suitcases and moving those suitcases every so often. We don't know when we are flying to post. We will be living in a hotel for an undetermined amount of time when we get there. Will I be employed or not? The unknowns outweigh the knowns and my emotional tunnel vision easily settles into focusing on the frustrations of everything being up in the air. And the biggest problem with tunnel vision? It only heads in one direction: towards more danger. The farther you head down the tunnel, the less perspective you have and the harder it is to get out. And the tunnel vision of negativity is precisely that way.

So how do you combat the tendency to have tunnel vision? The key is perspective. (Also, the police academy thought us to not trust anyone, but that is a post for another day.) You have to make a conscience effort to stop and pay attention to your surroundings. In law enforcement, we called it situational awareness. Situational awareness pays attention to what is ahead and what is behind you. It concentrates on more than just the immediate moment. It pays attention to both logic and gut feelings.

Focus is a good thing... except when it isn't. I could focus on the fact that we will be living in guest bedrooms and hotel rooms for three months and be depressed about the lack of space, privacy or routine. But then I would miss the adventure. I would miss the fact that I am not the only person doing house work. I might only see the fact that my son's behavior is reflecting the upheaval in his little life but then I would miss the fact that I have extra hands to help. I could be upset that we won't be able to settle into our permanent home when we first get to Guyana but then I would miss the benefits of hotel living (no making my bed for a month? pool side dining where someone else does the dishes? I have to get a little excited!)

I am not a Pollyanna. (Chalk it up to the jaded mindset that is engrained in your when you become a cop.) I believe in being realistic and calling things like I see them. But the problem with tunnel vision is that it isn't a realistic view of what is going on in a situation. But I am ditching the narrowly focused tunnel of negativity and adopting a view of situational awareness. I am going to recognize this time in our journey for what it is: hard and challenging. But I am also going to expand my periphery to make sure I don't miss anything along the way!


Janna said...

Excellent outlook! I had to remind myself of this daily when my boys were infants!

Anonymous said...

Hi Heather,

The unknown can be scary at first. I have gone throughout the same feelings before. If I may send you one piece of advise, (what has helped me a lot.) During the day, try to reach for thoughts that are making you feel better inside and concentrate on those, instead of on the once that are drag you down and make you worry.
You will adjust in no time!
I am always here to listen.

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