Psychology of Survival – How Your Mind Affects Your Ability to Survive.

Survival, really being prepared to survive; means being able to control your fears, manage your emotions, and put your ego in check. To truly be ready to survive, you need to cultivate a mindset that goes far beyond just having the skills to survive.

Now I’m not suggesting that knowledge isn’t a powerful ally, I’ve said many times in the past that “knowledge is the key to survival.” But if knowledge alone is enough to survive, why is it that so many people, with little to no actual survival training, have managed to survive some of the most horrific survival scenarios imaginable?

For instance, take the Uruguayan rugby team that crash-landed in the rugged snow swept Andes. You may have seen the movie Alive, which is based on the real story.

Here is a group of guys that had little if any actual survival training, no gear, and what most experts would say was no real chance of survival. The team had little food, no source of heat and lacked the proper clothing and shelter for the environment. Despite the odds being stacked against them, many of them survived and were rescued after enduring over two months of unspeakable conditions.

What is it that drove these people to survive?

In my opinion, the key ingredient was their mental attitude. They refused to accept the thought that their situation was helpless. They refused to accept the fact that they might die. Instead, the survivors had an unwavering will to survive, and they were not going to let their situation dictate their outcome. They chose to survive.

On the flip side of the coin, you can take someone with all the training in the world and give them every piece of survival gear every made, but without the will to survive that person is as good as dead. Having the knowledge of how to survive is important; having the will to survive is unquestionably the most significant factor in actual survival.

There is a mindset that will ensure survival.

Anyone forced into a survival situation, is going to experience unimaginable stressors that will ultimately influence their thinking. The overwhelming amount of stress that a survival situation will produce, and how you ultimately respond to that stress, will be the determining factor in your ability to survive that situation.

How Fear Affects Your Survival.

Person who is in Fear

In a survival situation, fear usually affects a person in one of two ways. The first example is those that let fear take over to the point that they are unable to act. These people literally become debilitated by fear; so much so that they are literally unable to make any decisive decisions until ultimately their indecisiveness becomes their downfall.

The second example is people who let fear drive their actions. These people give into their body’s natural chemical reaction, and allow adrenaline take over. They are often quick to make decisions, usually at the expense of thinking, and they ultimately fail because they get themselves into trouble that should have been easily avoided.

In both cases, the root cause of the problem is fear, and how the person lets that fear dictate what happens to them.

Developing a Survival Mindset.

The key to your survival, in any stressful situation, is your ability to manage your thoughts, your anxiety, and your fears. Your ability to take control of your mind is paramount to your ability to survive. The reactions that your body will experience in a survival situation when used in a healthy way can actually propel you into doing things you never dreamed possible.

There are a couple of things that you can do to ensure your ability to handle stressful situations.

Check your Ego at the Door

Don’t give in to, “it will never happen to me” thinking. People often fool themselves into thinking that they have no fears, especially men. Most men consider fear to be a weakness; so much so, that a lot of them never admit, or analyze their own fears.

Even the strongest man in the world can’t escape their body’s reaction to a stressful situation. It’s wired into our DNA and is a natural part of the human condition.

Don’t pretend that you have no fears. Instead, truthfully analyze what things would cause the most anxiety should you be forced into a survival situation. By analyzing your fears, you can begin to train yourself in those areas of concern and build confidence that can help you through those fearful situations.

Cultivate a positive mental attitude

Positive GuyThe ability to maintain a positive mental attitude during a survival situation is something that needs to be taken seriously. It’s also something that you need to start working on now. Being able to maintain a positive attitude in a stressful situation takes practice. It’s not an easy thing to master, but once you do, it will be well worth the effort.

Train, Train & Keep on Training

Those who prepare themselves, through rigorous training, are less likely to submit to fear. In fact, the more you train yourself – in real world situations – the more likely it is that you’ll be able to manage your feelings during a real situation.

Most survival situations can be can be overcome by practicing the basics of survival. The more you train, the better you will be able to respond both physically and mentally to a stressful situation.


  1. MCWild
    August 24, 2012 at 10:25 am

    Great topic and one that is rarely talked about on survival sites.

    I do a lot of long distance hiking. Despite hundreds of nights in the wilderness there are still nights where out of nowhere a wave of anxiety sweeps over me. Being alone in the wilderness can really mess with your mind if you let it.

  2. David Wurz
    August 24, 2012 at 10:35 am

    Did you have to use that last picture? That guys commercials are sick!!

      September 25, 2012 at 3:19 am

      A G R E E D!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Kley
        October 27, 2014 at 12:05 pm

        wait what guy I’d like to know i’m new to the survival preparedness mentality sort of well I am a Life scout but still I want to know all possible. Natural desasters are only one godstrike away and I promise this with the way the world continually heads that godstrike will multiply many thousand times over the next 5-25 years. I’m not affraid of it I plan on it and i accept it but honestly I want to be a leader so I learn what else is there to do. Lone soldier wolf squad. Right?

  3. church
    August 24, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    mental attitude….yea got it ….I ant gotta out run the bear I just gotta out run you……

  4. PreppingToSurvive
    August 26, 2012 at 5:25 am

    You’re absolutely right. As Henry Ford is credited with saying “Whether you think you can, or you think you cannot, you’re right.”

    Albert Brown, a US POW in the Philippines during WWII, also had the will to live. When he returned home from his 3 year torturous time as a POW, doctors gave him just a few years to live. He lived until he was 105.


  5. Mike
    August 28, 2012 at 11:15 am

    Good article. It’s true as well that you need to be able to do things that you wouldn’t otherwise want to do and not balk. Like the people of alive eating the butt flesh of the dead. Or just the flesh of the dead in general. What I’m saying is eating the bum flesh is a double whammy. But they did it.

  6. Budha
    September 4, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    I firmly believe that you can not teach mental toughness. Not all soldiers fire back in combat. All recruits get the same “hooh raah!” mental training in boot camp, but many still duck and hide instead of shooting back under fire. Its a fact. You either have the warrior gene or you don’t. You cant teach heroism. Have you ever seen a body builder that can bench press 300lbs, jump up on a fence like a little girl at the sight of a snake. I have.

    • Hoolie
      October 31, 2013 at 11:46 am

      You’ve got that one right Budha. Until you face it, you can yell hooh raah as much as you want; it doesn’t mean you won’t freeze up. You have to be honest with yourself. A few weeks back, I accidentally caught a skunk in my humane trap, had to shoot it (only had a pump airgun on hand) it took me over ten shots to kill it…by which time, I was crying like a baby. On the other hand, I’ve been in situations where I had to beat seven shades of shit out of someone…never bothered me. To sum it up, all I can say is “Gnoti Seauton”-Know Thyself.

  7. Zoo
    September 11, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    Cultivate a positive mental attitude about hunting humans…..need more time for this.

  8. Mike Harlow
    September 16, 2012 at 9:38 am

    Started prepping 20 years ago. Am now ready to bug out for a long time. Trying to get others interested is almost impossible. I put out flyers in four locations… Too many have the attitude, that a catastrophe won’t happen. Virtually no one believes they’ll come for our guns and they’ll die in a FEMA camp. The water will always come out of the tap, the grocery trucks will always run and the lights will never go out. I don’t believe they’ll get it until they have to steer around the dead bodies. It seems everyone forgot Hitler………Overdog

      September 25, 2012 at 3:25 am


    • Dusk
      October 5, 2012 at 4:31 am

      Mike – Good for you, gotta prep. I’ve stopped trying to talk to people about it. They don’t wanna hear it, until the SHTF and they wanna come knocking at your door. Sorry, I won’t be there. I take classes, learn to shoot, learn to survive in the woods…the world we live in is changing rapidly. You can prepare mentally too, reading stories and how people made it helps (POW’s etc). The author is right about a positive attitude. I will survive, I train twice a day, in shape, and have a big God. Good luck out there and be safe.

    • Larry
      September 9, 2013 at 5:27 pm

      I live in southern Oregon, and as backwards as many seem to think of Oregonions, I know so many who know something is close. And prepare. Those who prepare in the city need to re-evaluate their plans. Find a location of like minded, get to know them ahead of time, because when it gets bad, and for the average mentality of those in this country, I’d say 72 hours when they can’t get food, gas, power gone, they’ll panic and when panic sets in, all bets are off. The local guy who attends church and holds neighborhood BBQ’s will be wherever he thinks there is food and will lie, steal or kill to feed himself or his family. Tell no one where you live, what you have because if you do, it will be gone. knowledge is king when it comes to survival. Fear is your worst enemy, in combat controlled breathing and useful tasks worked. At least for many. After a short time, survival instincts will take over. That is when you will find out who your are. Especially your moral character.

  9. Fran
    July 6, 2013 at 9:50 am

    I believe it essential to have faith in the Lord. when the time comes, He will send His angels to protect us. Many people are already saying they are seeing the angels that the Lord has put here to protect us from the evil ones.

    • larry
      September 9, 2013 at 5:34 pm

      Indeed, this will be the number one priority as it should be now. Because we as a nation have turned our backs on God, he has turned his back on us. And now we will have to experience the hand of God. You who think this is horse sh**, watch and see. Red the Harbinger, it gives some amazing insight. Many people are also having dreams of what is to come here in the US. It’s amazing. Not saying they’re prophetic, but it is amazing how similar many dreams from all around the world are.

      It’s gonna be nice to have like minded people within your group for long term survival. And believe me, we are in this for the long haul.

  10. Wendy
    August 22, 2013 at 11:34 am

    Really great article… I’m very interested in this. Is it possible to get references for the article?

  11. Todd Browning
    October 6, 2013 at 10:21 am

    I am mentally ready and physically able.

    • Fast Hawk
      November 12, 2014 at 5:33 pm

      How so?

  12. Someone
    March 9, 2015 at 7:33 pm

    Faith is important, but h the Lord does not dictate everything we do( no offense to Catholics, I’m a humanists)

  13. Problem Solver
    April 4, 2016 at 7:53 am

    Why wait and prep for SHTF scenarios. Why not do your part (not pointing fingers, myself included) step up to the plate. Let’s survive daily, help each other, “Love Thy Neighbor”. Have a survival of species. We should think not of saving our A**, but making our society better for our children daily. Making the right decisions, being a good example, doing the right thing. There is a reason why everyone is thinking about SHTF scenarios, our loss of hope and our inability to Think that we can take responsibility in our society and improve. If George Washington, Lewis and Clark, Martin Luther King can change society for the better. We can too. Let us really survive. Local government, Ethical Business owners, Teachers, Churches, Community leaders, our own Family. Let’s think outside the box. If you die life will go on but if Let’s think outside the box. If you die life will go on but if Humanity dies that means all the sacrifices, triumphs, and well history; will be for nothing.

  14. Ethan
    April 10, 2018 at 7:20 am

    one of these days all of our modern day things like cars, phones, lights, etc with stop or fail. Humans will have to survive and those who know how will survive and rise up.

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