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Personality type, Faith, The Third Man and the Temporo-parietal junction

barefoot dave

Ray Mears
Jan 1, 2014
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or ‘Ramblings on Survival Psychology’

This started out as a short response to trailrider in the ‘Living alone’ thread:
It got a bit long and there was also a lack of specific talk on this subject so I let my ego free to post a bit about it. Much of what I discuss will be familiar to you. Many bush/ survival Rules or SOPS are grounded on the following. This may explain Why they are.

Firstly, I am not a psychologist or neurologist. I am an inspired amateur who has been seeking to understand these strange creatures I share the Earth with, called Humans ;) It also seems that in my journeys, I have misplace my own user’s manual and have to learn how to get the best out of my systems by observing others and applying this to myself.
As a child, I came into contact with some ’interesting’ people that didn’t match my previous experiences of ‘normal’ behaviour. In my adult years, I spent a long time involved with recon/ surveillance and Intelligence types (now referred to as ISR) and later still in the Security industry. I now work in the area of Emergency Response Leadership. I am also pre-wired to pull things apart and observe why they work a certain way. What am I gonna do? Fight all that?! ;)
In short, I do not post this info authoritatively, but as stuff I have found and observed.

Personality type (whatever scale you use) and learned behaviours are an extremely important affecter in Emergency Situations, be they spontaneous (accidents) or planned (remote operations).
My definition of an Emergency situation differs from many but is based on the stakes at risk. In normal circumstances a small error of judgement has small consequences, in an Emergency it has disproportionately large (even fatal) consequences.
By definition, Remote is considered to be where External Emergency response is > 60 minutes.
I consider remote work, solo or small groups, equal to a classical emergency in that your risk/ consequences are so much higher. This necessitates that your safety margin needs to be increased exponentially.
eg: around the suburban house- if I slip with a knife and end up with an arterial bleed, I can have a paramedic here in 10 minutes.
On the Upper Noosa River, that might take 6 hours. In the Simpson it might be 14hrs+
This is where the Alpha male rubbish that BG demonstrates is so dangerous to the audience. Yeh, yeh, I know, he frames the show with his "must reach help in 72hrs" myth.

Simplified version: The greater the risks, the slower you move and greater your safety margin should be.

Personality types.
Now I am not here to engage in any Dogmatic/ philosophical debates about the accuracy or misuse of the Meyers Briggs Type Indicators (MBTI), but to simply offer this info to provoke thought.
According to the Jung/ Myers/ Briggs template there 16 common personality types made up of a combination of the following;

Introvert Extrovert
Sensory (5 senses) Intuitive (6th sense)
Thinking (objective) Feeling (subjective)
Judging (Organised) Perceiving (adaptive)

We can be anywhere on the line between the two extremes and all of us move along those lines as we age or alter our behaviour. The results do not lock you in or type-cast you. This is where some managers (not leaders) run into trouble. They use the MBTI to assume that you will always be this or that and can only operate in that way. What rubbish! I won’t go into too much detail, but focus on the Intro/ Extro traits.

Just as in society, Introvert and Extrovert traits are both valuable at the right time.
For those that don't have a background in psychology/ personality studies, The use of terms like Intro/ extrovert are not prejudicial, but based on sound research and understanding there are many different ways that people see and understand the world.

An introvert is not always someone who is painfully shy and retreats from all social contact, though some do. They process data and experiences through their own filters and analyse this before acting. This process may take years in some cases as they weigh up all of the finer elements of the decision. They need this alone time to recharge as many find emotional types and complex social interaction tiring or confusing.

Extrovert personalities 'draft'. Verbally working through a situation and bouncing off others. They are more action oriented, often finding solutions by getting hands-on (kinaesthetic learners).

Both types can learn the others behaviours to be able to understand and work with each other and the world in general. When you understand your pre-disposition and control it, you are inhibiting. When used consciously and productively, it is very effective. When inhibiting from fear or shame, there lies danger and anguish.

For many it is counterintuitive to respond to a difficult and risky situation with 'Don't just do something, Sit there'! (inhibiting). Reducing the Adrenaline, disengaging the basal ganglia (Fight/ Flight/ Freeze) and engaging the Pre-Frontal Cortex (Reflective/ analytical coordination centre) of the brain.
That said, there are many who are alive today because they acted immediately and with total focus, there are many more that are dead for the same reason.
Simplified bit: Know thyself and others, seek to train the ‘unnatural’ behaviours and practice these skills.
Faith. This has often often made the difference between Life and Death.
Now, let’s be clear here. I am talking about active Faith, not Fatalist ‘I’ll just sit/ lay here and my God(s) will provide by dropping a rescue team from the sky’. Neither am I only referring to religious faith. In this context Faith/ Trust/ Reliance on yourself or others (including a Deity) is critical to maintaining a positive mindset. With a positive mindset you will continue to see options and a way out. This is where being able to make a fire and/or shelter is very important. Being the master of your situation and the elements will reinstate your faith in your ability to overcome and, in turn, open you to the good stuff around you. In many ways it is a self-fulfilling prophesy that we see every day. Know anyone that ‘Only bad stuff happens to’? I’ll bet you do. Buddha reputedly stated “With our thoughts, we make the World”. Humans have perception filters, no question. Take control and make them work for you.
This is where things get a little ‘out there’ and curious, but stay with me.

Simplified bit: Learn, practice, experience

The Third Man effect.
The above phrase comes from a reference by TS Elliot in ‘The Waste land’, inspired by comments Ernest Shackleton had made earlier. They referred to an experience of Shackleton and his team on their, ill fated, Imperial Trans-Antarctic expedition 1914-16 and incredible journey to salvation in South Georgia.
This was the sense of another presence that accompanied and guided them at times. This phenomenon is not new and is quite common throughout humanity. Science now refers to ‘The sensed presence during extreme and unusual circumstances’ but many of us have felt something. Guardian angel, Gods presence, familial ghosts, Ancestors or just outside ourselves are a human experience
Up until recently, it has been the Elephant in the room among those that have been in life threatening situation, particularly under extreme physical hardship and environments such as Arctic or very High-altitudes. Often put down to fatigue or stress induced hallucinations or psychosis, it sort of is and isn’t.
Simpified bit: If you find youself out there and a mysterious stranger offers a solution, you still have to assess the options.

Temporo-parietal junction
Many studies are showing the effects of the above environments/ situations on the brain, particularly the Temporo-parietal junction. This part of the brain is involved in processing data input (what our 5 senses provide) with our previous experiences and memories. The latter are the templates that help us frame our current experience and assist with making judgements about a response or course of action.
When you find yourself Waaaaay outside any previous experiences and there are no templates within cooee to apply and speed the response, something extra-ordinary occurs. The brain starts to interpolate or make an educated guess.
Now when you think about; how complex our brain is, how complex our invented existence is and how much collated date the human brain has after a few million years of data acquisition, it probably shouldn’t be too strange. But it is still very cool!
Being a social animal we are most open to these alternative, seemingly external, solutions from something familiar. Remember, our brain is seeking to find patterns that it is familiar with which to create a course of action. It is working very hard to provide an answer from insufficient data, so give it a break. For many, these Out-there solutions created by our subconscious really do seem to be Out there!
Now, if this is sounding familiar to anyone who has experience with schizophrenia, brain injury or psychosis then you won’t be surprised to hear that there is a clear causal link between these issues and damage to the Temporo-parietal junction.

Simplified bit: Your brain is an amazing and complex place!

Some light reading:
The Third Man Factor, John Geiger.
Suedfeld and Mocellin: ‘The sensed Presence in Unusual Environments’

Cheers, BD ave
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Mors Kochanski
Sep 24, 2011
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Hey bd. i'm surprised to see a post like this on BOz - not sure exactly why tho.

I've been MBTI accredited for about 20 years and although I have a number of other 'go to' frameworks for interpreting human behaviour MB is still a fave in many situations to understand operational style and communications.

The distinction between the extremes of the four MBTI orientations/functions is not a mutually exclusive dichotomy. As you said we have both, MBTI merely measures which are your preferences - like we are all right- or left-handed (ie have a preference to use our right or keft hands) but are also able to use the opposite.

Extraversion vs Introversion is about where you are energised from, externally or internally. In the emergency services environment you're talking about the action-oriented extroverts are likely to react/respond and take action quicker, especially if paired with the Judging orientation and will often be the difference of success or failure in emergencies. Often though, the action may not be the best one and that where the introversion and/or Perceiving preferences might just stop and think a little deeper about the situation. Both are very valid responses and just as likely to come up with good/ bad solutions. And, by the way, both Es and Is are likely to be shy.

From a bushcraft perspective I think it's interesting to take the time to think about our own preferences. Are extraverts more likely to get further lost by reacting too quickly and taking the wrong action, will introverts spend too long understanding the problem and miss an opportunity for self-rescue. A big experience in my life is that the action-oriented extraverts (especially if paired with J) are often very dominant, and often downright bossy, in a crisis situation and won't give the introverts the opportunity to deliberate and put in their more deeply thought out solutions. I believe that we need a diversity of opinions to resolve issues.

Your thread is really thought provoking, I hadn't stopped to think about type and bushcraft before but I do know that I have seen in black & white that my MBTI type is happy to sit in the bush or drive through it and can get all the connection with nature that I need while others need to go walking through it. So true!

Another area of the brain you might be interested in reading up on is the reptilian brain - the oldest part of the brain that sits just at the top of the brain stem. What we know is that our emotional response to a situation occurs a fraction of a second before our intellectual response and often people don't get to the intellectual response but rather stay stuck in the emotional response. This is what happens when you see someone really seems to respond out of character and over-the-top about something. Quite a number of years ago I remember turning a bend on a windy mountain road to see an overturned open jeep with four young men just clambouring out of it. There was this other guy who must have witnessed the accident walking back up the road from where he had stopped his car yelling orders at these young men. I thought they must have been travelling together and related somehow because of the way he was screaming orders at them. Turned out he was just a witness but his actions were coming from his uncontrolled response to the fear he was feeling. He didn't allow anyone else to get involved in supporting the vehicle's passengers. He didn't even enquire whether anyone had any injuries, he was just intent on making them get away from the overturned car. Again, in some situations his taking over may have proven to be the right thing, but also maybe not, but the point here is that he was reacting from his fight/flight/freeze response and just not able to take in other factors at that point in time.

Daniel Goleman called this reaction an Amygdyla Hijack in his emotional intelligence work -see http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amygdala_hijack. I could imagine that you will come across people in your emergency rescue work who are stuck in an Amygdala Hijack.

Fascinating stuff bd - thanks for the post


Mors Kochanski
Sep 24, 2011
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Oh, and we have both only really referred to one of the four MBTI scales, Introversion/Extraversion, the other three will also affect the way we behave in the bush and especially in challenging situations.

Deleted member 1018

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What a completely fascinating post. It's had me thinking about it for days(with my analysing introvert brain:_sii:). I definitely work in the way that is pointed out about the introvert processing when alone in the bush. I've gotten quite lost a few times when solo and in remote areas and being able to put a lid on my emotions, I think , enabled me to sit down and work the situation out, giving me a good outcome.

One thing that is curious to me though is that I have been in several emergency situations(bad traffic accidents, climbing accidents etc) where I have taken control and become the situation leader, thinking quickly and making fast decisions. All the while with the slight feeling that It's someone else thats at the controls. Could this be the third man factor at work? Kind of feels like it fits to me.

I'd never heard of any of these psychological ideas before and it's pretty darned interesting stuff.

barefoot dave

Ray Mears
Jan 1, 2014
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G'day Blooz.
Thanks for the feedback and input. You would know better than most that scratching the surface of Human personality/ psychology is the best we will achieve in this thread ;)
I intend to cover the other traits in future as time permits, though I may defer to you !

I realise that many of us consider bushcrafting our recreation and switch-off time and didn't want anyone overthinking the experience.
This is more about the preperation we do prior to being 'Out there', hence the location of the thread in the Home study area.
As an Outdoor Leader, I spend a lot of time balancing Perceived Risk and Actual Risk. Adventurous activities have greater value if you can increase the Perceived and lessen the Actual without detracting from the experience. What most people don't think about is that the Lower the perceived risk, the Higher the actual risk.
EG: crossing a fast moving creek in a remote area, you are likely to be 100% focussed and have planned your actions. Walking to the shops, though, a person is more likely to be 'Thumb in bum/ mind in neutral' (as my sergeant used to say). Guess where they are most likely to trip over and injure themselves?

As we both understand, just because we score a certain Type, does not commit us to a certain course of action. Over layed on our type is a web of experience, learning and external modifiers.
Being forced by a Superior officer to NOT intervene in a stabbing because I was in uniform and in a delicate environment is an example of External modifiers that still causes ripples today. Much of the PTS suffered by our Military is about what they Couldnt do rather than what they have done.
Yes, the best team makes the most of all personality types. Not just working to their 'strengths', but challenging their 'weaknesses'.

I find myself in an interesting time and place.
I am a Group Leader within the Qld. State Emergency Service. Locally,we do not have any First responder roles so we lean more toward the considered action model. (the SES don't run!) Naturally we churn through a few new members as they are expecting Action and great deeds. We have recently been agglomerated within Qld Emergency under the overall control of the Fire Service. Natch, they have a culture based on 'Pri1' life threatening response. You may see the potential for conflict there.
THis is where self awareness and a commitment to effective communication are critical. It is too easy to leap to Prejudice: "Muscle bound Action heroes/ baggy arse sandwich makers".
Oddly, the skew toward type is not as clear as one would expect. There are a fair proportion of all amongst the 2 services. There are enough diverse roles within each organisation for those to gravitate toward a best fit. The biggest seperator is simply the amount of time an individual can contribute.

Ah, Amygdyla hijack. What fun!
Another thing I enjoy as an Leader (Outdoors/ SES) is how I still get pleasantly surprised by people. There are always exceptions to the rules of Type as detailed above, and I love to see the Quiet ones suddenly take charge and the Loud ones go quiet.
If it is not the goal of the activity, an FFF response needs to be avoided by communication and support. Preparation is the key.
I liken the response to a Smoke alarm. Just because it is making a heap of racket, doesn't mean you are going to die in an Inferno.
Hear it and engage the Conscious/ PFC to assess the threat. It might just be the toast burning or it could save the life of your family.
Empowering people to understand and take charge of the process is great to see. 'Feel the fear and do it anyway' is missing the important middle step of risk assessment.

Phrayzer, glad to tickle your neurones ;) Great work on inhibiting the Amygdyla!
The experience you describe may not necessarily be the Third Man at work (though could be).
Oher options to consider are these;
Unless you are a frontline Emergency Services or Defence member, a situation of that enormity is hard to prepare for. It becomes a bit surreal and we can withdraw a little for protection.
AS Blooz and I have talked about, different areas of the brain react at different speeds and so can contribute to a vague or disconnected feeling. In the extreme, a Medial-Temporal lobe seizure can induce severe and exaggerated Deja-Vu as your brain is running a 2 speed, parallel race to comprehend what is happening.
If you have done a lot of training or mental preparation for incidents, you may have felt 'Flow'. This is where you are completely calm and in control of yourself and your response to the situation.
We all have felt this in small or large chunks before, when everything just Works and you aren't working hard. Just in sync, mind and body. This phenomenon is the basis for the Zen state where you are at one with the univrse and some martial artists can see another moves before they make them. They have combined a few of the states mentioned above. They have practiced and studied so well that their conscious response has become a basal ganglia/ Amygdyla response and they just feel like they are along for the ride.
In the extreme it can be a state of bliss where you feel almost invincable. Sure to be the basis for many myths and legends

Thanks again for participating in this exploration.
Though a complex and difficult subject for some,I felt it was a risk worth taking.
BD ave