What’s with the chair

The other night I was sitting in a bar. As customary with me I shifted my stool to see the door and have the least amount of my back to the room. I was with a bunch of vets but one non-vet realized that all of our chairs were oreinted in such a way as mine was. What is it that makes us do that. Its not taught in any military school I know of. Its a strange habit. I mean when was the first time you used it? I don’t have any memory of using it in combat, and yet if I don’t my skin crawls. Gunfighters in the wild west did it when they were in buildings to see guys coming in to smoke them. Where did we pick it up? Was is it a cultural thing did we just see others doing it and think that’s the way? Or was it that our similar experience has led us to the same conclusion and actions? I have no clue. Anybody have any idea?

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2 responses to “What’s with the chair

  • Gene Harper

    The old “not-MY-back-facing-the-door-not-on-my-watch” syndrome. I am quite familiar with this, it is a deeply inherent symptom called “constant vigilance”, and is considered a symptom of PTSD. I think we carry this around subconsciously, and it comes from being on watch and being vigilant, when the price of complacency meant a buddy coming to harm. It takes a long time for us to “let go” even after we come back home and are in a safe space.

    All the habits that are so deeply ingrained in us, in our muscle memory as it were will not disappear quickly, but their intensity will fade over time and as we gather with other vets who have chewed the same dirt as us.

    Awareness of our behavior and thought patterns is a great help in making a successful transition to the civilian world, where things don’t necessarily need to be as intense. But know that you have friends that you don’t have to explain or feel self conscious around, we have been there, brother.
    -G Harper, SGT/USMC/0311

  • mike orban

    I agree with Sgt Harper and add this from my experience, survival techniques are no always as much conscious
    as they are instinctive. What is ‘behind you’ and out of vision is what the mind tells you is a place of concern/danger.
    With constant vigilance or hyper vigilance the mind intensely learns this awareness to keep us alive, to survive.
    I am 59 years old and still am aware of who is behind me, never my back to a door, have a hard time in movie
    theaters with someone siitingthat close behind me. I have learned to laugh at this and accept it as a fascination
    that the human brain can learn something so profoundly. I am also thankful that for the reaction because it kept
    me (us) alive. to add to this, I am still uncomfortable around balloons at birthday parties and other things that might
    create a bang. the reflex to ‘duck’ happens before my mind can stop it, but again I am thankful and laugh at this
    as something learned to stay alive yet employed when there is no danger.
    I will not walk past open alley’s, open doorways etc without being aware that and glancing in. It is not that I believe
    someone is really there, it is simply a continuation of the hyper vigilance that was so deeply learned and hasn’t left,
    but again, I laugh at this learned experience and am grateful for what it when it was needed. I could add more of these
    but don’t want to bore you!
    Mike Orban
    First Cavalry Division
    Infantry

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