The Psychology of Survival Handling the Emotions and Challenges of a Survival Situation

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When fighting to survive, emotions can be friends or they can be life-threatening foes. Fear, anxiety, anger, frustration, depression, guilt and loneliness are enemies.

The need to prepare for survival, both emotionally and physically, was a key issue emphasized by wilderness survival expert Dr. William Forgey during an interview with Suite 101. Forgey has authored numerous books on wilderness first aid.

Psyche of Survival

“What many anticipate regarding an outing might turn sour,” Forgey warns. “Getting in and out of an area may be identified as simple. However, if something happens that causes immobility, it could be a horrendous experience. Even a simple weather change can cause life-threatening hyperthermia or hypothermia.”

“When outdoorsmen fail to think through potentially threatening situations is when they find themselves without survival materials, survival knowledge and the mental preparation necessary to live through an experience.”

John Lofty Weisman, author of the highly acclaimed SAS Survival Handbook agrees with Forgey and adds that survival training and preparation are critical. In the forward to the latest edition of his book, Weisman claims that survival training is the best insurance policy anyone can get.

Prepare and Learn Skills to Deal with Survival-Related Fear, Reality and Stress

The United States military, though its field manuals on survival, offers proven suggestions about how to prepare to survive, handle common survival emotions and develop the psyche to survive.

Learn About Strengths and Weaknesses — Develop the personality qualities necessary to survive. Identify and strengthen strong personal qualities and work on characteristics that psych you out, such as fear, loneliness or anxiety.

Plan for Fear — Don’t ignore fear or pretend immunity from it. Identify fears and work to strengthen skills that help to combat situations that create fear. Learn how to function despite fear.

Face Reality — Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Adjusting to positive surprises is easier than accepting harsh realities. Learn to realistically evaluate situations.

Engage a Positive Attitude — With a positive attitude, the odds of finding ways to survive improves. Imagination and creativity are stimulated by a positive outlook, and the determine to survive is bolstered.

Prepare Psychologically — Learning survival skills provides the confidence necessary to be psychologically prepared. Depression, carelessness, inattention, loss of confidence and poor decision-making are emotional responses that can be overcome with preparation.

Employ Stress Management Techniques — Remaining calm and focused is critical to survival. Good techniques to develop include relaxation skills, time management skills, assertiveness skills and cognitive restructuring skills (the ability to understand and turn around negative thinking).

 Begin to prepare. Prepare to survive.


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