From the January 2007 Idaho Observer:
Some thoughts on fear and survival
by Kevin Swindle
The motto for my preparedness newsletter, the first edition of which is scheduled to be available next month, is "Knowledge is the killer of fear." Why did I choose this motto? There are many scary things out there in the world. As if this were not enough, there is a constant effort being made by both corporations and government to scare people even more. However, no matter what the threat is, understanding the threat makes it less scary. As knowledge about the fearful thing increases, fear decreases.
In survival situations fear can be a double-edged sword. If your fear is rational, meaning the fear helps you recognize threats and act appropriately, it is good. For example, in my state, Alabama, we have a creature called the timber rattlesnake. Itís common to see them get to 5 or 6 feet in length. Imagine you are walking through the woods in Alabama. You stop for a moment to observe the beauty of the woods. Out of the corner of your eye you see something coiled on the ground beside you. Suddenly your brain perceives that it is a rattlesnake and that it is coiled in striking position. Your brain tells you to move away from it very slowly. You do so, and you come away unharmed. This is rational fear in action.
Here and now
So what exactly is irrational fear and why is it bad? Irrational fears are the fears you create in your mind. Irrational fears are bad because they almost always take your mind off the present and into the future world of "What if?"
In survival situations, the danger(s) exist in the now, not the future. If you are focused on the future, you cannot be focused on the now. Since the danger exists only in the now, focusing on the future puts you at risk of not perceiving the danger in the nowóin the present.
Note that I am not saying you should not look to the future and plan appropriately for your survivalóquite the opposite. You should look to the future and try to anticipate your needs BEFORE YOU ARE IN THE DANGEROUS SITUATION. But for the purposes of this article, it is assumed you are already in the dangerous situation.
Here are a few general tips on handling fear.
1. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE COMFORTABLE TO FUNCTION. In my home, on the inside of the door, I have a paper with some statements I find valuable. I put this paper there so that I will see the statements every time I leave my home. One of them comes from a U.S. Army Ranger manual. It states:
"Two of the gravest general dangers to survival are a desire for comfort and a passive outlook."
If you like slogans, here is a new one for you: Comfort Kills. Purge the idea from your mind that life on this planet should be or has to be comfortable, because it just ainít so. This applies to survival situations AND life in general.
2. AVOID PASSIVITY LIKE YOU WOULD AVOID THE PLAGUE. Being passive gives your mind time to wonder off into irrational fear, the world of "What if?" If you experience fear, anxiety, or stress, DO SOMETHING! Your mind cannot focus on two things at once, so if you are focused on accomplishing a task, you cannot focus on irrational fearsóthe "What if?" world. This also applies to both survival situations and life in general.
3. MAKE A CONSCIOUS EFFORT TO BE ADAPTABLE TO CHANGE. Change is the order of the universe. In survival situations, change occurs at an extremely fast pace. Make a conscious effort to be adaptable, even to small changes.
For a long time now, Iíve believed that, pound for pound, the most dangerous animal on this planet is the chameleon. You may ask "Why?" When compared to the tiger or the king cobra or the cape buffalo, a chameleon does not seem so dangerous. THE CHAMELEON IS THE MOST DANGEROUS ANIMAL BECAUSE IT ADAPTS TO ITíS ENVIRONMENT. Unlike we humans, it does not shake itís fist at the world and shout "Mold your environment to suit my needs!" Instead, it MOLDS ITSELF to fit itís environment making it able to meet itís needs. BE THE CHAMELEON (Iíll bet you never thought you could learn something from a lizard with a brain smaller than a peanut).
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