Mindfulness and Hostage Negotiations with Yourself

We have given several seminars recently on the psychology of captivity to mental health professionals, law enforcement, missionaries, and everyday travelers. One of the key things we talk about in our seminars and in our Anti Kidnapping and Hostage Survival course is using mindfulness to help counteract your captors attempts to cause you to feel alone and helpless. I would offer that mindfulness is also relevant to all of us in our everyday lives. How many of us hold ourselves hostage?

Hostage Negotiators use an amazing tool called the Behavioral Change Model to negotiate with hostage takers and people in crisis. The Behavioral Change Model begins with active listening skills and empathy to create a change in behavior. I have seen this model work several times as a crisis negotiator and am a firm believer in using the model in everyday life. I have also been using mindfulness meditation every morning for the past six months and have seen a marked difference in my life since starting this practice in my daily life. Interestingly, there are some strong similarities between the Behavioral Change Model and Hostage Negotiations except you are using the model on yourself.

Mindfulness generally works best when you can find a quiet place where you can relax. However, I have used it in Washington DC rush-hour traffic. Hostage Negotiators use active listening skills with hostage takers, one of which is called emotional labeling. Emotional labeling is incredibly helpful because it often helps the person in crisis understand what they are feeling. They may be enraged, upset, and irrational. How many of us can say that we take the time to listen to ourselves? When is the last time you took the time to listen to your own internal dialogue and used active listening and empathy to change our own behavior? These are the steps I use daily:

  1. I set aside 10-20 relaxing minutes in the early morning quiet to meditate.
  2. I start my meditation by using a technique called “Combat Breathing” to relax. This method helps lower the heart rate and causes the body to relax. “Combat Breathing” is normally used in long range shooting to prevent breathing and heart rate factors from effecting the shot. The method I use is to breathe in deeply through my nose for four seconds, calmly hold my breath for four seconds, and then slowly exhale through my mouth for four seconds. I use this technique to calm myself down in traffic all the time.
  3. I focus on my breathing for a while until I am calm and relaxed. I then take note of my thoughts and feelings as they come without focusing on them. I simply acknowledge the thought or feeling as it comes and then let it float away. My internal dialogue sounds much like a crisis negotiation as I identify my feelings to myself by labeling my emotions. I might say “you are fearful”, “you are upset”, “you are angry”, and a list of other positive and negative emotions.
  4. As the process continues I focus less on perfect combat breathing and more on feeling myself relax by envisioning myself sitting and noting how my body feels, taking note of aches and pains and acknowledging them as I let them go. Picture this as a self-body scan to determine areas where you might have an issue that needs attention.
  5. The last portion of my daily meditation is to pay attention to my internal dialogue. What are the themes of my conversations with myself? I acknowledge those themes and let them go. Perhaps someone has caused me to feel angry. I simply acknowledge it and let the thought float away. Perhaps something made me feel happy. I also acknowledge that and let it float away. This is a great time to make a mental note of the themes of your thoughts. Are they positive or negative? As you actively listen to yourself, you may be able to reframe your thoughts and find a way to change your own behavior.

The sad reality for most of us is that we do not make time to listen to ourselves and we never develop the ability to understand who we truly are. You may be holding yourself hostage and not even know it and mindfulness might be the right tool to help you change. Mindfulness is the key to staying calm in any survival situation in which you may find yourself. Mindfulness will teach you how to stay calm, relax, and understand your feelings. We recommend finding a good Mindfulness app to use at home and to take our Anti Kidnapping and Hostage Survival Course. Our next course in only a few weeks away in the Hudson Valley on New York. Please check out the link https://www.nyoffroaddriving.com/survival-class-anti-kidnapping-hostage-survival/

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