The Psychology of Survival Gaining the Upper Hand

Survival circumstances most frequently catch you off balance. They ‘re nothing like you planned and instantly the attitude you’ve always wanted to have in a crisis seems alien. As in the movies, there is no background music and there is nothing admirable about the situation at all. But maybe you can locate the inner courageous survivor with a little empathy, and carry him or her to the surface. We discuss in this chapter the mindset you need to get through a situation of survival, what you can expect to feel when the crisis comes, and how you can expect others to act when things go wrong or bad. We’ll teach you how to raise your morale, too.
Getting into the Right Mindset
The psychological element — that is, getting the right perspective on the encounter — is the most important component in any situation of survival. More essential than employment, information, experience, chances, or chance. The way you perceive what’s going on dictates your ability to perform and survive.

When confronted with a circumstance of survival, you need to note one surprising fact: Many people succumb — they give up and die — before they are physically overwhelmed. In just a few attempts, they give up trying to get into a life raft, or after a few days or even hours of suffering, they lie down on track. Their understanding, and hence their belief, is that the situation is beyond their control or that it’s just not worth the fight. If you have ever had the misfortune to see this, then you know, as we do, that it is one of humanity’s most bizarre, unfathomable features. Simply knowing that this problem exists in a survival situation can be a huge advantage for you. Moreover, knowing how to summon some coping mechanisms can help you manufacture — in the field — the mentality that gives you the ability to hold on for longer, push on, and sustain more, which is the essence of survival. This section explains how to develop the mindset of a survivor, and how to remain focused when you are in a situation of survival.

Mastering disbelief
All circumstances of survival are exceptional-particularly when they happen to you. The incidents also leave people so shocked by incredulity that they are taking steps very slowly or not at all. You need to know that most survival conditions sound impossible to master disbelief: you’ve just gone for a swim, and now you’re 5 miles offshore, pulled out by a current. Or maybe you’re in familiar territory, hiking, and you’ve got a lot of experience, but now you’re lost and there’s an unexpected cold front in. It is not fair but it is real. Some of the most horrific, nonsensical survival stories revolve around struggling to overcome disbelief. Make sure you do the following to help you get your situation fully accepted.

Realize that it’s happening to you
Some people just can’t get over the outrage of putting themselves in such a position. Don’t allow that to happen to you. It’s unfair but yet you’re in a situation of survival, so it’s irrelevant to be fair or unfair. Now that doesn’t make the experience one ounce more fun, but it gives you energy, and the sooner the idea of what’s going on sinks in, the better. Only the inexperienced think this idea is simple or obvious. Keep in mind that modern ships are still sinking, people still get lost with GPS systems, friends who are only trying to have a fun time still collapse into disaster. Immediately realize this and start planning proactive procedures to save yourself and your companions.

Dismiss the odds of surviving
Don’t think survival chances are just too low. You’ve got to discard that kind of thinking. Statistics and chances when you walk into practice mean little. If you spend enough time studying human history under impossible conditions — survivors — you start to see that people quite often survive the “impossible.” Know that thousands of people have survived these kinds of dangerous situations before you. Such people are just like you — they look like you, they talk like you — normally they are not supermen or superwomen. We are as you are. And they did.

Using humor and a positive attitude
In a second, determination and a good mindset can turn around a bad situation. We’ve seen people in the field employ positive thinking. Really the effect is incredible. Many survivors of the lifeboat will testify to the fact that a smile and a joke-no matter how strained-will give you hope.

Although a humorous joke can relieve tension and defuse a situation, it can be detrimental to joke on issues that seem callous. You have to be careful also. Pick the moments wisely for the levity. Sometimes you should try to celebrate, and be proud of yourself. More often than not, survival is an ill-fated business. You are getting very few clean accomplishments so it’s easy to see how incomplete your progress is. We had times when, faced with very grim circumstances, we were making progress, but since the progress was small, it was used by the pessimists among us to show how we failed. Don’t allow that to happen to you. Survival is all about small victories. Just give yourself credit when you win. It renders you stronger.