The Survival Mindset: survival and fear

We have all heard of fight or flight. The innate response we have to danger. Something or someone startles you, and you either “run” or “attack.” This is how our bodies have kept us alive for centuries. But there are times when this response may not be a benefit. 

There is a part of our brain that is responsible for the scripts that we have learned and the way we respond to the fight or flight response. This part is called the Amygdala; it is ever learning and changing as we grow and have new life experiences. The cool part about the Amygdala is that you can retrain it to have a better response when future situations arise. 

When the Amygdala is activated, other things happen within the body; your heart rate rises, and your pupils dilate. Your body may start to shake due to adrenaline and the shifting of glucose to your muscles. Often times when your body experiences fear, there is a sense that time is slowing down. Some people even have reported an out-of-body experience. This extreme disassociation from what is happening is one of our natural last instincts to protect the body and mind. 

In the book Deadly Force Encounters, the authors (Alexis Artwohl, Loren W. Christensen) say, “The more prepared you are, the more in control you feel, and the less fear you will experience.” This is why active shooter and fire drills are essential. By training the body repeatedly, by knowing either how to blockade the door or where the exits are, people can be prepared and stay calm when the situation comes.

Think about this; you are a police officer or a member of the military. You often encounter situations that trigger the Amygdala and, if not trained, can result in negative consequences. Say your hand is on the trigger while clearing a house, and a door slams and startles you; if you have not trained your response, you may end up pulling the trigger with irreversible consequences. But through training, you can change your response script to be one that gives optimal outcome. This is why rather than trying to stop people from reacting, we train to work around that reaction. 

This is true in many survival situations, from being lost in the woods to a car accident, house fire, or the zombie apocalypse. (We cannot train for the last one specifically, but we can prepare ourselves mentally for a large disaster scenario). In a more everyday situation, like driving, you can do things to train your body to react correctly. When one is learning to drive, you should be put through driving in all types of situations and, if available, all kinds of weather. If you have not learned how to correct your car when it starts to spin in the snow or rain, you might freeze or correct it in the wrong manner. But by putting yourself in situations where you have to learn how to correct your vehicle time and time again, your brain will take over and know what to do when the time arises. 

By taking time to practice and be prepared, you can train yourself around your fears. Having a plan in place for all locations will help you and those around you become better survivors.

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