Tunnel Vision and Tunnel Hearing: The Survival Blind-Spots You Didn’t Know You Have


(By Dan F. Sullivan of SurvivalSullivan.com) There’s very little talk in the survival & prepping communities about these two “invisible” enemies that show up during the worst times possible: tunnel vision and tunnel hearing. I can’t figure out why, though. When you get tunnel vision, you’re blind to dangers, threats and victims in your immediate vicinity. This could be fatal in a survival situation, where making the right decisions is paramount.

What are Tunnel Vision and Tunnel Hearing?

Tunnel vision is a state which occurs under high stress situations, when you lose focus on all the things surrounding you except for the one you perceive to be a huge threat. For example, if your daughter gets hit by a car right in front of you, you wouldn’t care that other cars could easily hit you as you run for her rescue. All you see is her.

Tunnel vision is dangerous when you have more than one threat at the same time. If someone wants to harm you, they could induce tunnel vision on purpose to get you to focus on one thing while they come from a different direction and easily capture or kill you.

When we get tunnel vision, the way our body works changes. It produces more glucose, we get improved vision that’s focused on the threat, our heart rate increases and our reaction time decreases.

Tunnel hearing is, as you would expect, the “loss” of hearing in critical situations, and it’s often included in the concept of tunnel vision. If you’re under shock from a developing critical event, someone could be shouting in your ear and you might not be able to hear them.

Is Tunnel Vision Good or Bad?

There’s a difference between focus and tunnel vision. One is great, the other one can be fatal. When you’re focused on something, you devote your entire attention to it, yet your sensors are still capable of receiving information from other sources. You can still see and hear other things and people, you’re still aware of what’s happening around you.

Tunnel vision and tunnel hearing, on the other hand, are similar to blindness. An opponent could literally be one foot away from you, holding a gun to your head, and you wouldn’t even remember they were there. If you make it, that is.

How Can Tunnel Vision Affect Me? Give Me Some Specifics, Please

Even if you’re a trained soldier, you can still get tunnel vision when you’re faced with critical situations. As a prepper, you might experience it:

* in case of a flash flood (water levels can grow really, really fast)

* when you wake up one morning and see some of your backyard animals are missing

* when someone attacks you (you’re focused on the gun and could describe it in detail but will be unable to describe the actual attacker)

* when you hear strange noises inside your house (you might forget that you have a gun or some other weapon or tool (you may want to check out Karen’s article for a full list) to defend yourself with, and you’ll feel helpless)

* when you injure yourself

* when you see a loved one get injured or dies

* during a shoot-out, if you’re too focused on the other guy’s gun, you might actually aim for it and miss

* when you arrive home in a get home situation and see your house in flames or destroyed

* when you arrive at your bug out location and it’s been ransacked

* when you’re running away from an attacker, you’ll be so focused on making it out alive that you’ll be unaware of where you’re headed (resulting in you getting lost in the woods or in a big city)

* and even when you’re focusing on a certain aspect of preparedness (e.g. guns), while completely ignoring the others

Why am I giving you so many examples? Because it’s a good start to making you aware of them so you remember my advice and snap out of it when they happen. Of course, reading one article on the internet is no fix for tunnel vision but it’s a great start.

How Can We “Fix” Tunnel Vision?

When I say “fix”, I’m not talking about trying to defocus from an immediate threat. You’re as good as dead in this case. We need to train ourselves to stay focused as well as be receptive to other possible dangers.

#1. See yourself in the middle of various survival scenarios.

This is something every prepper must do. Since we’re not in the army and most of us have never been in life-threatening situations, imagining them is the next best thing. To get the most out of this exercise, choose a time and place where you can do it undisturbed. Imagine not just people and situations but also sounds, smells and touching other objects.

The more detail you put into it, the easier it’ll be to trick your brain that it’s actually happening.

#2. Play a team sport.

Football, soccer, basketball – these all require distributive attention. Of course, this doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get tunnel vision when it hits, but it’ll improve your odds if only by a little bit.

The next time you play, focus on your other opponents. Try to anticipate where on the field they’re heading and adjust your actions accordingly.

#3. Practice dealing with multiple opponents.

If you practice a martial art, you should talk with your instructor about tackling multiple opponents, particularly those who might surprise you by coming in from the sides. This video shows such an instructor in action, teaching one of his students: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBmfupjJFpU #4. Do regular survival drills.

The more you get used to critical events, the easier it’ll be to keep your cool when they happen. Your brain will get “accustomed” to danger and, in time, it’ll learn to allocate that 1% of attention to other threats and to assessing the situation. When you practice, you train your brain to respond in certain ways when you need it most. That’s the beauty of our most important organ: it’s malleable and easy to train, provided we put in the time and effort.

#5. “Break” tunnel vision.

As Phil Duran wrote in his book, Developing the Survival Attitude, what you can do is move your head from side to side whenever you’re in a stressful situation. If you have a stressful job, for instance, you can try to break the pattern by doing this simple exercise.

Final Word

As you can see, tunnel vision is something you can’t fix. We’re stuck with it for life, but what we can do is work on it to improve our awareness and our reaction to critical events.