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Old February 15, 2013, 03:24 AM   #1
pax
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Join Date: May 16, 2000
Location: Washington state
Posts: 6,917
Good books: Train your Brain

Everyone watches videos now. But books are still good. They convey a lot more information than you can get in a video, and in more depth. Plus, you can always set the book down to think deeply about something the author wrote -- something we rarely or never do with information that comes in through the tube.

Here are some I've read or re-read recently, and would recommend.
  1. Extreme Fear: the Science of Your Mind in Danger, by Jeff Wise. This one takes you through some fascinating research at the edge of human experience. It explains the reasons why your body and brain act the way they do under extreme stress, and how you can use those reactions to improve your own ability to cope with danger. It's a very academic work, but lively with lots of stories and anecdotes to pull you along.

    An excerpt:

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Extreme Fear by Jeff Wise
    If military trainers have agreed for two thousand years that automatizing a soldier's skills is the surest way to keep him useful under intense stress, a corollary question has been much more hotly debated: Is it better to train to high proficiency before trying to use those skills under stress, or to train from the beginning under intense stress similar to that in which the skills will have to be used? Better, in other words, to drill frightened or calm?

    Several studies into this question all support the conclusion that trainees should be allowed to gain proficiency before stress is added to the learning environment. Getting a student's cortisol flowing before a task has been fully automatized yields poor results, since high stress shuts down the C-system before the skill has been transfered to the X-system. A study of skydiving students, for instance, found that novice jumpers had a hard time memorizing lists of words while falling through the air. In their paper, the researchers quoted the wisdom of one of their skydiving instructors: "No matter how smart you are on the ground," he said, "you get stupid the first time you fall out of a plane."
  2. Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal about Getting it Right when you Have To, by Sian Beilock. Another brain science book, this one explores the question of how to perform well under stress -- in sports, in business, in academic settings, and in life. It would be a very helpful book for a competitive shooter, I think. It wasn't as easy a read as Extreme Fear, but still very accessible.

    An excerpt:

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Choke by Sian Beilock
    Choking is suboptimal performance, not just poor performance. It's a performance that is inferior to what you can do and have done in the past. We all have performance ups and downs, but choking occurs when performers perceive a situation to be highly stressful and, because of the stress, they screw up. Choking is most noticeable when an opportunity to win is squandered, perhaps because this is when the pressure to excel is at its highest. Choking is not random.
  3. Mass Murder in the United States: A History by Grant Duwe. Another academic study. This one is a fact-filled look at the statistics and trends in multiple-victim murders from 1900 through 1999. It's a tough read, but a good reference book, if only to show your friends that everything they "know" about mass murders -- is wrong.

    An excerpt:

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mass Murder in the United States by Grant Duwe
    This study has shown that, contrary to popular belief, the mid-1960s did not mark the onset of an unprecedented and ever-growing mass murder wave. Rather, mass murder was nearly as common during the 1920s and 1930s as it has been since the mid-'60s.... After mass murder was redefined in the early 1980s, claimsmakers adduced the surge in high-profile cases since the mid-1960s as evidence of an unprecedented mass murder wave. Drawing upon the high-profile cases, claimsmakers typified mass murder by characterizing it as a gun and, to a lesser extent, as a workplace and school violence problem. Claimsmakers were modestly successful in constructing mass murder, as they were able to use high-profile cases to bring about a federal ban on assault weapons and changes in policy concerning workplace and school violence.
  4. Force Decisions: A Citizen's Guide -- Understanding How Police Determine Appropriate Use of Force by Rory Miller. This one is a must read! Miller has written several books on violence and its proper use (Meditations on Violence, Preparing for Violence, and Scaling Force). He's not a mere theoretician, but a skilled martial artist who spent decades in law enforcement as a corrections officer and tactical team leader in a medium security prison, and who "stopped counting" his own uses of force at over 300 events. The book very clearly articulates what standards law enforcement officers must meet, and why those standards are important.

    An excerpt:

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Force Decisions by Rory Miller
    Hard Truth #1 -- The only defense against evil, violent people is good people who are more skilled at violence.
    Throughout history, civilized people faced with people willing to use violence to attain their goals have tried a number of strategies.

    .... The ideal of peaceful resistance only works when backed by the big guns of public opinion and economics, and only then if those two things matter to the person or institution that one is trying to change. ...

    Hard Truth #2 -- In a truly totalitarian environment where the authorities cannot only kill, but have control over who finds out about it and have control over the means to respond, the populace is helpless.

    .... If a person can do so safely, it is easier to steal food than to grow it. It is easier to beat the weak into submission than to earn their respect. It is far easier to rape and abandon a woman than it is to raise children. All provided it can be done safely. Society, or someone acting on behalf of society, must make that kind of behavior unsafe.

    A peaceful individual is ill-prepared to deal with a violent human being. The tactics of the courtroom, the boardroom, or the mediator simply don't work on someone who wants something and has no problem injuring someone to take it. A peaceful society compounds this by allowing the peaceful individuals to believe that their worldview is normal. It is a beautiful ideal, but for most of human history, and even within individuals in the most civilized of societies, it doesn't hold true. There are people for whom violence is a natural way to get what they want.

    Civilized people must come to terms with the fact that only force, or the credible threat of force, could stop a Hitler, a Pol Pot, or a John Dillinger.

    It's often been said, "Violence never solved anything." The simple truth is that when you are slammed up against the wall and the knife is at your throat, when a circle of teenagers is kicking you as you curl into a ball on the sidewalk, or when the man walks into your office building or school with a pair of guns and starts shooting--only violence, or the reasonable threat of violence, is going to save your life. In the extreme moment, only force can stop force.
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