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  • The Survival Preppers

The Psychology of Survival

We all prepare because we want to give ourselves the best possible chance to survive any disaster. This doesn’t mean that in the weeks following a S.H.T.F. 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 significant factor in who lives and who dies, we need to understand the psychology of survival because sometimes prepping isn’t enough. We can create our luck, and as Louis Pasteur once said…


Old Man and CaneLet’s imagine that about four weeks ago, there was an E.M.P. 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 that you haven’t had to leave your home for any reason other than a couple of life of death situations and those you had well planned out.

You look out your window and see an older 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 in survival mode every day. Not everyone homeless is homeless for the same reasons though.

Some have drug or alcohol issues that forced them into this lifestyle, some have mental problems and can’t function in “normal” society, and some have made bad choices that lead to them with nothing except the clothes on their backs. Even worse are the military veterans with mental or physical issues resulting from their service to this country 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, know the best ways to talk people into giving them money, and 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 ideal 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 can accept the situation and make the most out of it, while others will constantly look 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 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 to make one.

A good indication about how someone will react in a survival situation is how they respond 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 who takes control and accepts the situation, they might be the people you want to align 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 the best course of action. It also means thinking of your supplies as tools that will help your situation.

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

It might be a little tricky to keep 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.”


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

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

Sit: Before you do anything, sit down, collect your thoughts, and think about what you have to 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 primary 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.


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.

How we handle stress will not only affect us but also the people around us. If we become careless, complacent, or make poor decisions, it could affect everyone’s survival.


  • Difficulty making decisions.

  • Angry outbursts.

  • Forgetfulness.

  • Low energy level.

  • Constant worrying.

  • A propensity for mistakes.

  • Thoughts about death or suicide.

  • Trouble getting along with others.

  • Withdrawing from others.

  • Hiding from responsibilities.

  • Carelessness.

I will not go into detail here about how people handle stress differently because I wrote this post called Dealing With Stress in a S.H.T.F. Scenario that goes into great detail about the subject.

I do want to go over stressors and what they are. Any S.H.T.F. 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 do 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 someone’s decision-making process or cause a full-out breakdown. It’s impossible to tell what might be a stressor for someone until after the fact. Still, the more you know about how people react to stressful situations, the quicker you can address the issues before they become more significant problems.


In response to a stressor, our body goes into “fight or flight” mode. Our bodies revert 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.

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. Please read the article I linked to above for more information about this.


Having the will to survive is more important than any tool you have. Managing your fears and understanding 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. Having the knowledge to make the correct decisions or making 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?


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