Mental Survival Kit
Mental Survival Kit
What do we mean when we talk about your Mental Survival Kit?
When venturing into the outdoors, you should always have some sort of emergency survival kit. However, the most important part of your survival kit is in your head - your mental survival kit.
The experiences of hundreds of servicemen isolated during WW2 combat prove that survival is largely a matter of mental outlook, with the will to survive the deciding factor.
So, what should be in your mental survival kit?
If you find yourself isolated in an emergency survival situation, try to remember the keyword:-
- S - Size up the situation
- U - Undue haste makes waste
- R - Remember where you are
- V - Vanquish fear and panic
- I - Improvise
- V - Value living
- A - Act like the natives
- L - Learn basic skills
Some of these are more applicable to combat personnel who find themselves isolated behind enemy lines, but they are all useful to remember.
Let's go through them individually.
S - Size up the situation
Size up the situation by considering yourself, the country, and the enemy.
Yourself. Hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. Recall survival training and expect it to work. After all, you have been through this before and the only difference is that this is the real thing. In this way you will increase your chances for success by being confident that you can survive. Get to a safe, comfortable place as quickly as possible. Once there look things over, think, and form a plan. Your fear will lessen; your confidence increase. Be calm. Take it easy until you know where you are and where you are going.
The Country. Part of your fear may come from being in strange country; therefore, try to determine where you are by landmarks, compass directions, or by re-calling intelligence information passed on to you by your leaders.
The Enemy. Put yourself in the enemy's shoes. What would you do? Watch the enemy's habits and routines. Base your plan on your observation. Remember, you know where the enemy is but he does not know where you are.
U - Undue haste makes waste
Don't be too eager to move. It will make you careless and impatient. You begin to take unnecessary risks and you might end up like these men -
"All that was on my mind was to get away, so I just rushed headlong without any plan. I tried to travel at night, but I just injured myself further by bumping into trees and fences. Instead of laying low and trying to evade the enemy, I fired at them with my carbine and was caught the second time."
"I became very impatient. I had planned to wait until night but could not. I left the ditch about noon and walked until I was captured."
Don't lose your temper. It may cause you to stop thinking. When something irritating happens, stop. Take a deep breath and relax; start over.
Face the facts - danger does exist. To try to convince yourself otherwise only adds to the danger. Don't be like the soldier who was captured by a child because he thought, "capture is the last thing I have to worry about. This is merely a game. It really is not happening to me."
R - Remember where you are
You may give yourself away because you are used to acting in a certain way. Doing "what comes naturally" may be the tip-off that you don't belong there.
One soldier, captured because he whistled a song, reported, "Everything had been going well on the train. Suddenly an ugly little woman started whistling 'Tipperary'. Immediately, I unconsciously began to whistle with her. It gave me away." If he had been one of the "enemy" the chances are he would not have known the song.
V - Vanquish fear and panic
To feel fear is normal and necessary. It is nature's way of giving you that extra shot of energy just when you need it. Learn to recognise fear for what it is and control it. Look carefully at a situation and determine if your fear is justified. When you investigate you will usually find many of your fears unreal.
When you are injured and in pain, it is difficult to control fear. Pain sometimes turns fear into panic and causes a person to act without thinking. One pilot, downed during World War II, might have saved himself had he been able to stop and think when his parachute caught in a tree and he was suspended head down, his foot tangled in the webbing. Unfortunately, the pilot's head touched an ant hill and biting ants immediately swarmed over him. In desperation he pulled his gun and fired five rounds into the webbing holding his foot. When he did not succeed in breaking the harness by shooting at it, he placed the last shot in his head.
Panic can also be caused by loneliness. It can lead to hopelessness, thoughts of suicide, and carelessness - even capture or surrender. Recognising these signs help you overcome panic.
Planning your escape will help keep your mind busy. Find things to do and watch. One soldier, not knowing what to do, decided to kill all of the bugs. There were a lot of spiders, the big ones that do not hurt a human, so he killed the flies and gave them to the spiders to eat. He found something to do. Prayer, reading the Bible or other religious observance will help calm you. But miracles work best for those who prepare carefully and do all they can to save themselves.
I - Improvise
You can always do something to improve the situation. Figure out what you need; take stock of what you have; then improvise.
Learn to put up with new and unpleasant conditions. Keeping your mind on SURVIVAL will help. Don't be afraid to try strange foods. One survivor reported that some men would almost starve before eating strange food. He said they tried a soup made from lamb's head, with lamb's eyes floating around in it. When a new prisoner came in, he would try to find a seat next to him so he could eat the food the prisoner refused.
V - Value living
Hope and a real plan for escape reduce your fear and make your chances of survival better. Just beginning to plan his escape to friendly forces made this solder feel better: "I went outside one time and saw a powerful search light from a distance. I realised this was friendly forces. Immediately I transferred all my thoughts from my personal miseries to escape plans and began to feel better."
Conserve your health and strength. Illness or injury will greatly reduce your chance of survival and escape.
Hunger, cold, and fatigue lower your efficiency and stamina; make you careless; and increase the possibility of capture. Knowing this will make you especially careful because you will realise that your low spirits are the result of your physical condition and not he danger.
Remember your goal - getting out alive. Concentrate on the time after you ‘get out alive’ will help you value living now.
A - Act like the natives
"At the railroad station, there were German guards," one escapee related. "I had an urgent need to urinate. The only rest room was an exposed one in front of the station. I felt too embarrassed to relieve myself in front of all passers-by. I walked throughout the entire town occasionally stopping and inquiring if a rest room were available."
This man was detected and captured because he failed to accept the customs of the natives. When you are in this situation accept and adopt native behaviour. In this way, you avoid attracting attention to yourself.
L - Learn basic skills
The best life insurance is to make sure that you learn the techniques and procedures for survival so thoroughly that they become automatic. Then, the chances are that you will do the right thing, even in panic. Work on the training you are offered because it may mean your life. Be inquisitive and search for additional survival knowledge.
To sum up, if you find yourself in an emergency outdoor survival situation, your mental survival kit is more important than anything else.
Your mental outlook and will to survive will be the deciding factor.