As I watch the news, read the paper, research situations where people survived, and recount my own experiences, I frequently encounter a common theme. People who tend to respond to dangerous encounters in a way that aids in there own survival, recognize the “gravity of the situation” and are able to kick into flight or fight mode as needed. Some people recognize the gravity of the situation and under the intense stress and pressure they close down and are unable to think coherently or make rational decisions. Whereas, others are able to recognize the level of danger and still make survival decisions. And then there are those who are unable to fully grasp the profoundness of a life or death situation and may not take the unfolding events and their corresponding decisions seriously enough until it is too late.
Why is that? I have been fascinated by this fact since I was a child and found myself in a life or death situation. I, along with a friend, were in a life-changing moment in time that terrified both of us. I made rapid decisions and choices under the extreme stress, while she froze in a completely unresponsive manner. We were both from similar backgrounds, both the same age, the same sex, with similar likes and dislikes. Why did my flight or fight mechanisms kick in so well and her’s not at all?
Fast forward, years later, and I have gleaned a great deal of insight into the survival personality. The personality type that recognizes the seriousness and the gravity of the situation, but refuses to accept defeat, refuses to buy into hopelessness and will do “something” whatever that “something” is in order to save one’s own life. This life-saving ability may be innate in a manner that one either has it or doesn’t. But, that never made sense to me because it fails to explain the years and years that humans have adapted to their environments and survived and thrived among dangers, predators and each other. There is a historical learning curve that has taken place in order for you or I to even be here. If our ancestors had not adapted and developed the ability to function under stressful circumstances and make quick, potentially life-saving, decisions, we simply wouldn’t be here as they wouldn’t have survived to reproduce.
These ancient survival clues that are unearthed as we learn more and more about where we came from, are insight into our modern potential and capabilities. To me, this clarifies that the survival personality can be honed. We may not need these survival abilities anymore, on the day-to-day as we once did, but perhaps they are buried deep within us under a pile of tablets, magazines, remotes and Mp3 players.
The ability to move toward action rather than inaction and the ability to get yourself out of trouble and to make life-saving decisions are abilities that are still within each of us. These abilities are gifts, bestowed upon us from the blood, sweat and tears of the many that came before us. The fact is that the human plight has been a painstakingly difficult one. We are the ultimate survivors. We survive without actual flight, without long, sharp claws and without 6-inch canine teeth. We survive because we systematically adapted to our environment, mastered fire-craft, shelters and tool-making and responded appropriately to threats and dangers.
So, how does one hone this innate survival ability?
We hone this skill like any other life saving skill via knowledge and practice. Bush-craft skills empower you with the ability to utilize your surroundings to your benefit. Practicing these skills enables you to consistently consider every angle of a “potentially dangerous situation.” As you pack two to three ways of making fire, cordage, containers and knives into your kit, you are readying yourself to face potential odds. And you are readying yourself to recast those odds in your own favor. These skills increase your own capacity to make decisions under duress, stress and danger, by gently and systematically exposing your brain to “what-if” scenarios and responding to those “what-if” scenarios with knowledge, skill and a plan.
When I look back on my own situation, the primary difference between myself and my friend is that I had been preparing throughout my childhood for survival situations, but I never actually realized it until adulthood. The fact that I was introduced to wilderness survival techniques and situations in a timely, fun manner, literally saved my life when the SHTF in a real-life scenario. It wasn’t so much the skill, although skill is precious in saving lives. It was the empowerment and the mental preparation that I had done on my own through practicing these skills that ultimately saved my life. I had been developing a survival mindset.
If you can envision it, you can create it. The mind is powerful. Fuel your mind with knowledge and skill that will not only aid you in life-threatening circumstances, but will aid your mind in recognizing the gravity of the situation and responding to the situation. You can train your brain to be a survivor through bush-crafting, prepping and survival skills. Your life is precious. Train your brain to be there for you if you ever need to save a very important life….your own.