Psychology of Survival Part 1

                            PSYCHOLOGY OF SURVIVAL

Part 1 of 3

This was written for the combat soldier, but as you read you can apply the very same principals to your survival situation. I have underlined text that is vital.

It takes much more than the knowledge and skills to build shelters, get food, make fires, and travel without the aid of standard navigational devices to live successfully through a survival situation. Some people with little or no survival training have managed to survive life-threatening circumstances. Some people with survival training have not used their skills and died.

A key ingredient in any survival situation is the mental attitude of the individual(s) involved. Having survival skills is important; having the will to survive is essential. Without a desk to survive, acquired skills serve little purpose and invaluable knowledge goes to waste. There is a psychology to survival.

The soldier in a survival environment faces many stresses that ultimately impact on his mind. These stresses can produce thoughts and emotions that, if poorly understood, can transform a confident, well-trained soldier into an indecisive, ineffective individual with questionable ability to survive. Thus, every soldier must be aware of and be able to recognize those stresses commonly associated with survival. Additionally, it is imperative that soldiers be aware of their reactions to the wide variety of stresses associated with survival. This chapter will identify and explain the nature of stress, the stresses of survival, and those internal reactions soldiers will naturally experience when faced with the stresses of a real-world survival situation.

The knowledge you, the soldier, gain from this chapter and other chapters in this manual, will prepare you to come through the toughest times alive.

A LOOK AT STRESS

Before we can understand our psychological reactions in a survival setting, it is helpful to first know a little bit about stress. Stress is not a disease that you cure and eliminate. Instead, it is a condition we all experience. Stress can be described as our reaction to pressure. It is the name given to the experience we have as we physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually respond to life’s tensions.

Need for Stress

We need stress because it has many positive benefits. Stress provides us with challenges; it gives us chances to learn about our values and strengths. Stress can show our ability to handle pressure without breaking; it tests our adaptability and flexibility; it can stimulate us to do our best. Because we usually do not consider unimportant events stressful, stress can also be an excellent indicator of the significance we attach to an event–in other words, it highlights what is important to us. We need to have some stress in our lives, but too much of anything can be bad.

The goal is to have stress, but not an excess of it. Too much stress can take its toll on people and organizations. Too much stress leads to distress. Distress causes an uncomfortable tension that we try to escape and, preferably, avoid. Listed below are a few of the common signs of distress you may find in your fellow soldiers or yourself when faced with too much stress:

  • Difficulty making decisions.
  • Angry outbursts.
  • Forgetfulness.
  • Low energy level.
  • Constant worrying.
  • Propensity for mistakes.
  • Thoughts about death or suicide.
  • Trouble getting along with others.
  • Withdrawing from others.
  • Hiding from responsibilities.
  • Carelessness.

As you can see, stress can be constructive or destructive. It can encourage or discourage, move us along or stop us dead in our tracks, and make life meaningful or seemingly meaningless. Stress can inspire you to operate successfully and perform at your maximum efficiency in a survival situation. It can also cause you to panic and forget all your training. Key to your survival is your ability to manage the inevitable stresses you will encounter.

The survivor is the soldier who works with his stresses instead of letting his stresses work on him. Survival Stressors Any event can lead to stress and, as everyone has experienced, events don’t always come one at a time. Often, stressful events occur simultaneously. These events are not stress, but they produce it and are called “stressors.”

 



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