The Psychology of Survival – Because Sometimes Prepping Just Isn’t Enough.We are all preparing because we want to give ourselves the best possible chance when it comes to surviving any sort of disaster, but that doesn’t mean that in the weeks following a SHTF situation there won’t be people around making us ask ourselves “How did they survive this long!?”

Although the luck of the draw will play a big factor when it comes to who lives and who dies, we need to understand the psychology of survival, because sometimes prepping just isn’t enough. We can create our own luck and as Louis Pasteur once said…

“Chance favors the prepared mind.”


Old Man and CaneLet’s imagine that about 4 weeks ago there was an EMP that took out half of the country, everything is in complete chaos, looting and rioting have been going on for a while, and the stores have been empty going on a month. The only reason you are still around is because you haven’t had to leave your home for any reason other than a couple life of death situations, and those were well planned out.

You look out your window and see an old man walking down the street with a cane and you ask yourself…

“How in the world has that man survived this long, in this type of environment?” You might even think that the poor guy needs help. Luck might have a little bit to do with it, but there is probably more to the story than that.

With all those years comes wisdom, and even though we might be thinking that he is alone and needs help, he probably understands how to use everything he has to his advantage. After all, there is a reason he is still around. He might even have a sword in that cane.

Take homeless people for example, these people are is survival mode every day. Not everyone who is homeless is homeless for the same reasons though.

Some have drug or alcohol issues that forced then into this lifestyle, some have mental issues and can’t function in “normal” society, and some have made bad choices that lead to them with nothing accept the cloths on their backs. Even worse are the military veterans that have mental or physical issues as a result of their service to this country and have been left high and dry.

These people might not have the survival skills we are all trying to learn, but they do have the ability to adapt to their environment. They know where the food is, they know the best ways to talk people into giving them money, and they understand improvised shelter using only what they can find.

There are also those people where everything seems to always work out for them. Some people seem to land the perfect job, or the perfect partner leading you to ask…

“How did they get that job?” or “what does he/she see in that person?”

The reason for this is (for the most part) their mental attitude and personality. Some people are able to accept the situation and make the most out of it, while others will be constantly looking for someone to blame. Some people have charisma and a personality that makes everyone want to be around them or help them.

I’m not going to go into detail about the power of positive thinking, but positive thinking leads to positive action, while negative thinking leads to no action at all. Sometimes the best choice is just to make one.

A good indication about how someone will react in a survival situation is how they react now. If they are constantly looking for help and making excuses now, the same will hold true in a disaster situation. If they are the type of person that takes control and accepts the situation, they might be the people you want to align yourself with. Ask yourself if people would want to align themselves with you?

Survival means more than how well stocked you are or how long you have been prepping, survival means understanding the situation and knowing what the best course of action will be. It also means thinking of your supplies as tools that will help your situation…not tools vital for the situation.

Whether you are in the wilderness or in an urban setting a key ingredient in any survival situation is mental attitude and the psychology of survival. And while having survival skills is important, having the will to survive is critical.

It might be a little tough keeping a positive attitude when everything around you seems to be falling apart, but it’s crucial to try and keep a level head and avoid getting “stressed out.”

When Panic Sets In

How we react in a crisis and how we handle stress will play a big role in how the events unfold. You have probably heard that in a wilderness survival situation the worst thing you can do is panic. Panic is enemy number 1! How you handle the effects of the situation, and your ability to defeat panic before it sets in will determine your rate of success or failure in any emergency situation.

If you ever find yourself in a situation like this there a simple acronym I use, the acronym S.T.O.P. It stands for Sit, Think, Observe and Plan.

Sit: Before you do anything just sit down and collect your thoughts and think about what you have that will help you.

Think: Think about what supplies you have. Think about how you have prepared for a situation like this in advance. Most importantly, keep a positive attitude and don’t let your mind go overboard on you.

Observe: Look at your surroundings and decide what poses a threat, and what resources might be available to you. Observing will also give you a more confident feeling about the situation.

Plan: Now that you have thought rationally about the situation it’s time to take action. You have conquered the major danger of not allowing panic to cast your fate. Stay positive and remind yourself that you have the will to conquer anything else that confronts you.

You’re Stressing Me Out

Stress can be something that sneaks up and bites us in the butt before we even notice it. All people handle stress differently, some people hold it inside and some people let it affect their decision making process more outright.

Some general signs of stress are…

  • 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.

I am not going to go into detail here about how people handle stress differently because I wrote this post called Dealing With Stress in a SHTF Scenario that goes into great detail about the subject.

I do want to go over stressors and what they are. Any SHTF event will most likely lead to stress, and as you probably know one event can lead to another, events don’t always come one at a time. These events are not stress, but they lead to what are called “stressors.” Once the body recognizes the presence of a stressor, it then begins to act to protect itself.

A stressor can be a single event, or multiple events that will affect someones decision making process, or cause a full out breakdown. Its impossible to tell what might be a stresser for someone until after the fact, but the more you know about how people react to stressful situations the quicker you can address the issues before they become bigger problems.

Fight or Flight

In response to a stressor, our body goes into “fight or flight” mode. Our bodies revert back to our primal instincts and either prepares to fight, or prepares to get the heck out of Dodge. This can produce an adrenalin rush as the body releases stored fuels to provide a quick energy boost, and your breathing rate will increase to supply more oxygen to the blood as it prepares for action.

As a stressor causes you to go into “fight or flight” mode your senses will become more acute. Your hearing becomes more sensitive and your vision and smell become sharper so that you are more aware of your surroundings and possible dangers. This “adrenalin rush” does not last forever though, the human body cannot handle these levels for extended periods of time.

One last thing about stressors and we’ll move on to the survival mindset. Stressors don’t come and go one by one, but they can build up one by one. Stressors can add up, and depending on how the person reacts, their personality can change immediately, or it can be a “the straw that broke the camel’s back” type scenario. Read the article I linked to above for more information about this.

The Survival Mindset

Jack Sparrow

Having the will to survive is more important than any tool you have. Being able to manage your fears and understand how you or anyone else might react in a crisis could go a long way in keeping you out of unneeded dangerous situations.

Even though most situations can be better managed by thinking them through, you still need the supplies to make the job easier. But having the knowledge to make the correct decisions, or at least the most educated decisions possible gives you a psychological advantage that most people won’t have.

Remember, having the survival mindset and understanding the psychology of survival will not guarantee that everything will go as planned, but flipping out and giving up WILL guarantee you won’t last long. We all have the will to survive right now, but how will you react when push comes to shove?



Survival and being prepared should not only be a passion, it should be a lifestyle. The definition of a prepper is "An individual or group that prepares or makes preparations in advance of, or prior to, any change in normal circumstances, without substantial resources from outside sources" Like the Government, police etc. I don't believe that the end of the world will be the "end of the world" I believe it will be the end of the world as we know it now. You can also find me on Google Plus and Twitter

    1 Response to "The Psychology of Survival – Because Sometimes Prepping Just Isn’t Enough."

    • Mark

      SHTF moments are not all world encompassing. I have had a healthy share of those situations and my wife has been at my side. The mindset that has supported my actions is the position that I/we have choices. There was never a belief that someone or something was watching me.

      You will decide your future by the choices you make. No one will make those choices for you only you can make the choice. Even if you choose to do nothing is a choice.

      For any situation that occurs to you try using this mindset.

      I placed myself in a situation (my choice)
      I see what is happening to me.
      I must choose how to respond to this issue.
      Look at the possible outcomes to actions you might take before you do them.
      Make a choice.
      Rinse and repeat

      These steps will become a lifestyle. And if you rinse and repeat each time it will keep you level headed when an issue arises. Your entire life is based on the choices you have made and will make.

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