A passionate pursuit of all things related to self-reliance and surviving any circumstance, the psychology of survival, having a survival mindset, being prepared, survival skills, gear and, of course, bread. Bread and Country is where: The staff of life meets the stuff of life.
The Stuff of Life
For those of us who find nature to be both aesthetically beautiful and life-sustaining.
Monday, July 21, 2014
Harnessing Fear In Survival Situations: How To Use Fear To Create Change
"Everyone experiences fear. Do not allow fear to make you inactive. Activity harnesses fear and uses it as a catalyst toward change."
In any survival situation, whether that situation is "daily life survival", wilderness survival or surviving a catastrophic event, fear and how you manage fear, may be the number one predictor of whether you get through the event. Fear can be crippling, leaving you frozen, inactive and unable to think or act coherently. Fear can also be life-saving and give you the heightened mental awareness necessary to move you into action. Everyone experiences fear. Differing events create different levels of fear in each individual. What may instill trauma and terror in you, may be fascinating and exciting to me. And, while you may enjoy sky-diving and swimming with sharks, I'll pass.
Survivology broken down:
"Ology" is a suffix that means "the study of" and to "survive" is to endure, get through, and overcome a situation. Survivology is the study of survival and the ability to get through stressful, changing circumstance. That circumstance can be bad things that happen in your daily life or more serious things that disrupt your entire world as you know it. Survivors often have particular mindsets, qualities or actions in common. And, we can all learn a great deal from studying the way that people who have survived being lost in the wilderness or diagnosed with cancer behaved or thought during and throughout the circumstance.
In facing similar circumstance, how do some people come through events empowered while others either perish or are severely damaged from trauma? There are many factors that go into the study of survival situations and sometimes it is a combination of behaviors, actions and luck. None of us can know for certain how we will behave in a survival situation without having been through one. But, one thing you can know with certainty is that if you have the ability to harness fear to keep you mentally active you are more likely to get through everything from job loss, divorce, and health issues to being lost and cataclysmic events.
Fear can be crippling or it can carry you into a level of functioning that enables you to endure things you never thought possible. When faced with a survival situation, you will be frightened. Harness that fear and use it as a catalyst toward change and you will more likely find yourself a survivor rather than a victim of circumstance.
How do we harness fear?
Let's start with a common life situation: You have children, jobs, a mortgage, more bills than you can shake a stick at, you are out of shape and have been in a long-term relationship that is beginning to go south. You find out that your partner or spouse is leaving you. You are panic-stricken. You are thinking you will never make it through this. You don't have enough money. You don't know how it will affect the children. There are many unknowns which terrify you. You wonder who will want you as you haven't dated in years and haven't been actively putting effort into your physical appearance. You find yourself going through the stages of grief. You plead with them to stay. You go through denial and bargaining before settling into depression and allowing your fear to cripple you.
This is a classic example of a life situation that can either cripple or empower you. The inability to harness the fear and use it as a catalyst through the circumstance and as a change creator can leave you forever damaged. You may never love again or trust again. You may never be able to have a healthy relationship where you feel safe. Or, you can use the fear of the unknown to spawn your ability to face the adversity head on and actively do something, anything, but actively working to keep your mind busy and forward moving.
The same situation faced with a survival mindset and the ability to harness fear:
You are still frightened because change is always scary, but you are keeping yourself busy. You begin to list your fears and you know that money, the children, your ability to find another mate and your ability to move past the anguish of losing someone you love are high on your fear list. You then begin to face these fears in a very matter-of-fact manner. In looking at the monster under the bed, you are now less afraid of that monster. Now, your monster has a face and a name. You can now begin to strategically use that fear to face these monsters and plan your way through them using activity. You begin job hunting for a better paying job, or you take on a part-time job. You begin to have honest and encouraging conversations with your children and you help them adjust in the healthiest way possible through the adversity. You role-model someone who is strong and can do this. You begin to believe in yourself. You begin to work out and even though you can't afford the gym yet, you do what you can at home. You begin to look into downsizing your home. One by one, you use activity as a mechanism to handle your fear and slowly, but surely you begin to get through it. Once through it, you are empowered and have a new-found sense of self-esteem and self-reliance that you never had before.
What did you learn from facing the adversity?
You learned that the worst thing you can do is to do nothing. You learned how to use activity to avoid wallowing in your circumstance and to avoid freezing and becoming a victim of your circumstance. You learned that you are strong. You learned that activity is like a brain-aid that keeps your mind active and keeps you forward moving. You learned that you do have what it takes to survive bad or traumatic events and have gained skill in using that adversity to become a survivor and to be empowered.
This same concept of using activity to harness fear and create change can be utilized in extreme situations as well. Practice this idea and this philosophy in your behavior in your day-to-day circumstance until it becomes habitual nature. When faced with adversity, your brain will more quickly move into activity mode and problem solving mode as you slowly modify your behavior under stress. Survivors of various wilderness survival situations have one very common bond: they kept their mind active, they didn't allow themselves to drown in their fear, they used that fear to create change even if that change was simply a mental shift. That mental shift may be the change that saves your life or gets you through.