A friend of mine presented me with a scenario recently in order to challenge my ability to survive in a bad situation. What would I do, he asked, if I were stuck out in the middle of the ocean with nothing more than a piece of driftwood to hang onto? My knowledge of primitive survival pertains mainly to wilderness skills, so this was an extreme challenge for me. I thought about it for a while and then decided that I simply did not know what I would do. If the sun didn’t kill me starvation certainly would. Of course, dehydration would probably kill me before anything else would. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to thirst to death in billions of gallons of undrinkable salt water. God what a nightmare!
Then it hit me; sometimes the answer to these questions only exist in the situation itself. In other words, you have to be present in a situation to know what it would take to survive it. Another thought came to me; survival isn’t a set of skills, it is an attitude. It doesn’t matter what situation you might find yourself stuck in, it is your attitude about the situation that will determine if you die in it or live to tell the story. I gathered my thoughts and then presented my eager friend with an answer. It went something like this:
Any situation that challenges our ability to lead a normal life can be considered a survival situation. Viewed in this context, being trapped in the middle of an ocean with no food, water or shelter is really no different than being trapped in an abusive relationship without immediate support. Physically the two situations are very different, but they both require the same mental capacity to get out of the situation alive. It is the way that you handle a bad situation that will determine if you survive it or not. If you give up or give in, then you will most certainly die. But if you stay positive in the face of adversity then you will begin to think like a survivor. That is when your primitive instincts begin to kick in and override your emotional sensibilities.
To this, my friend asked me what suggestions I might offer to someone in a situation like that. I already had an answer for him.
Stand firm in whatever the situation is that you might be going through and remember that you are going through it. You will come out on the other side as long as you keep your wits about you. You just have to keep a good head on your shoulders. Set small goals to achieve and stick with them until you have achieved them. Stay positive and look around you for anything that you can use to maintain stability until you reach those goals. Take risks, but know your limits and learn to adapt yourself to compensate for harsh environmental changes. Most importantly, stay calm regardless of what you come up against. Negativity will only waste energy and lead you into bad decision making.
This is the basic mindset of a survivalist.