The Psychology of Survival


For many in dire circumstances, just living day-to-day is very difficult.  Working in a low-income area with many who are homeless, I routinely see examples.  Others I know are unemployed, or if they work, they do so part time and/or below their skill or education level – just to survive.  Although these people have roofs over their heads, they also face day-to-day financial challenges.  Fortunately for now, most of us in this country still have jobs/income, homes, and food on the table. 
PsychologyPsychologists tell us there is a natural tendency for us to compare ourselves to others.  Studies have shown that regardless of your station in life, whether poor, middle class, or wealthy, we all consider ourselves better off then some, but not as bad off as others – we think of ourselves as somewhere in the middle.  Even the poorest of those living in developed nations such as ours, are said to be wealthy compared to most in third world countries. 
So what does this have to do with prepping and survival?  Well, when stuff hits the fan, those who have enough foresight to prepare now, know that all this will dramatically change.  Most people, if not all, will be without income, and many will be without roofs over their heads, or food on the table.  However, I dare say, few (even preppers) really understand the magnitude of how difficult life will become.  There are those of us who will become emotional wrecks, even with all our preps.  Small steps in our daily lives now can be taken to anticipate and minimize the emotional distress of a future disaster.  The following are some ideas to help you become a prepper that is not only prepared physically, but mentally as well.  
Be prepared to simplify.  Arguably, having many things that are sold to us as a way to make our lives easier or better, may not really achieve that with closer analysis.  Certainly there are things that hold value to us now, that will likely become useless in a large-scale/long-term crisis.  Smart phones come to mind as one modern-day example.  I honestly love the convenience of mine.  Sure, as a prepper, I have other ways beyond my wall outlet to recharge it.  But I try to remind myself that I’ve lived most of my life without one, so I can certainly do it again.  Learning to live without, as homeless and low-income people do daily, is a skill that can take your knowledge gained from reading survival articles or books, to a true understanding of survival and self-reliance.  Those of us who have become too accustomed to some level of luxury will find it more difficult to live without it, if forced to do so.  What luxuries do you have now that you can and will likely live without in troubled times?  While taking advantage of them now, treat them as expendable, not essential.  
Let it roll off.  Most of us have pet-peeves or annoyances that drive up our blood pressure, or just rub us the wrong way.  Living and working with other humans, it is inevitable that we will discover what these are, but sometimes self-reflection and corrective action is necessary.  Once you have identified them, accept responsibility that these are YOUR issues, not the fault of those who irritate you by their actions or behavior.  Life will be difficult enough as it is when stuff hits the fan.  Ask yourself – is it really that bad?  In the grand scale of things that includes a major crisis, these little irritants will likely become irrelevant.  Why not choose to make them so now?  Developing an attitude of ‘let it go’ beforehand, will not only help you during difficult times, but will probably lower your blood pressure a notch or two now.  
Turn your eyes on those less fortunate.  We’ve seen how Katrina and other disasters since have brought out the worst in some, but the best in others.  Among those, thousands from religious organizations around the country have flocked to these ongoing disasters to help those in need.  Many victims who lost it all, connected or reconnected to their own faith after the crisis.  Make it a practice to seek out and serve others in need, even when there is no disaster.  Try it sometime – when you’re going through your own emotional struggles, turn your thoughts and action to those who are in greater pain and need than you.  Pay attention to how it results in your attitude changing for the better.  
Speaking of religion and faith, what and where is yours?  After catastrophe hits, many who otherwise have disregarded it as an important aspect of their lives, turn to their faith.  Post 9/11, church pews filled.  Growing in your faith now – in advance of a crisis, will have far greater value to you and your loved ones when things do go badly.  It is said that we are not human beings on a spiritual journey, but spiritual beings on a human journey.  Science backs up the connection to the physical and spiritual nature of humans.  Studies show, and many doctors will attest to the fact, that those with a spiritual foundation and strong faith are more likely to recover and heal through illness and injury.  Yet many of us, living in this physical world have lost touch with this essential aspect of our lives.  The Creator desires to be close to His creation.  Ignoring this, some of us end up going through serious crisis.  When that happens, people are often either drawn closer to Him, or blame Him.  Don’t wait.  Don’t blame.  Even with a strong faith, trouble and crisis will still happen.  But a trust in God will help you get through it.  
Never lose hope.  In many ways, this is tied closely to faith, but for some it would simply be called a positive outlook.  When stuff hits the fan, a common assumption is that things will never get better or back to normal.  While that may or may not be true, YOU are in control of your resolve.  Seeking the positive may be, at times, very difficult.  Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying, “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”  Are you a person whose glass is half full, or half empty?  Having hope is something that no one, or no thing, can take away from you – unless you allow it.  In times of extreme crisis you may be the only one in your circle of influence with hope.  Never give in to hopelessness – be the one.  
Love and forgive others.  There is a famous scripture… “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.”  Many of us have lost loved ones due to accidents, illness, or just old age.  Many more will lose loved ones during a serious crisis.  As the saying goes, it is better to have loved and lost, than to never love at all.  Loving others, whether it be a monogamous relationship, children, extended family members, or just a friend, enriches our lives.  Loving others prior to crisis, by practicing forgiveness for the weaknesses that we all have, and letting go of bitterness, will increase your emotional survivability when trouble comes.  
Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.
What comes out of you (emotionally) in a disaster, will be a reflection of what you bring into it.  Don’t discount the value of your emotional and spiritual well-being before, during, and after crisis.  If you’d like a resource for self-reflection of your spiritual and emotional preparedness, send me an email – todd.greisen(at)  


Author: Todd Greisen

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  1. Well said. My mother once told me “No one can hurt you mentally but yourself” If you don’t mind – it don’t matter.

  2. TG Yes I agree with what you have said. No matter how well prepared we are in all areas it will be s very intense level of challenge to survive. Please folks read The Long Emergency by James ?? This is an exc. and realistic scenario albeit fiction.
    Keep prepping. Arlene

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