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How do you conquer fear?

Oct 20, 2000
From true stories that emerge from countless books and other reported incidences, it is believed that the greatest threat to the survival of an individual in a hostile environment are his personal fears.

Everybody would like to calm down but in most circumstances it is easier said than done. Experts would readily say that fear is usually what eventually kills the victim of an unexpected car crash in a ravine or a trekker hopelessly lost in the forest.

After the first 24 hours, all bets are off. That's when no amount of classroom learning is going to prevent a person from insect bites, thirst, hunger and other horrible imaginings.

So how does one conquer this silly thing called fear and then move on to the next crucial stage, planning to survive as long as humanly possible?
This isn't an easy question because everyone has different strong fears and everyone reacts to these fears in their own way. Fear can be a tool because fear can be a survival instinct. The trick is that you can't allow fear to freeze you into inactivity.

I think that preparation is the best antidote to fear that paralizes. I think that by reading, studying and taking instruction on survival you can help put yourself in the kind of mental attitude that will let you do what needs to be done in spite of fear. Bravery isn't an absence of fear...bravery is being afraid but doing what has to be done anyway. Nothing can guarentee someone's reactions in a stress situation but mental preparation should help.
The mind can be indeed your strongest ally or worst enemy. The unknown is probably the hardest thing to fight against. As with many I have found waiting with patience the hardest thing to do even when on low risk surveillance missions or hunting. My mind tends to go into high gear and starts running scenarios for any and all subjects. When waiting alone in the woods (like when the family is away from camp) I occupy myself with small mundane tasks until I am again among friends.

The one time I got seriously lost in the woods on a hunting trip it was a matter of sit down, figure out where you are, back track to where the scenery looks familiar, then move toward civilization along established paths. Within an hour or so I found my companions and all was well. I was as alone and scared then as I ever hope to be. Not that they wouldn't have missed me or found me soon, but like I mentioned earlier it was my mind running the what if's. I wasn't as prepared in those days to survive as I am now (thought I was until confronted with it ;).

If I remember my Star Trek correctly, Mr. Spock said, "Pain is an element of the mind, and the mind must be controlled." So it goes with fear...:)
I find that the best (for me) is to convert the fear into anger. From what I have read, fear in very close to anger on a scale of emotional measurement. As fear is not a manageable emotion, anger is, as long as you do not bring it to to level of rage. It does require a very high concentration effort, but it has worked for me in the occasional threatening situation.
Brothers & Sisters of Survival,

You must first make an assessment of what you have:
First, and best, way to do this is stop the momentary stress.
This can be done by brewing up a cup of coffee. Making some hot chocolate. Just seperating the moment.
If, of course, you're in a Tom Hanks scenario (Castaway!) KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid)applies; i.e. Stop the bleeding and start the breathing. Maintain as much control as you can muster.
Second. Make an assesment of what you have.
Catagorize everything.
Ever played Chinese Checkers? Eliminate the variables and what you have left...Is what you have left to deal with.
Can you walk? Talk? Breathe? So far, so good.
Do you hurt? Major trauma? Minor laceration? Resolve and move on.

What are your resources? Make those resources your best friend.
Now that you have the basics, where do you need to go with them?

The way to learn is to go from the known, (i.e. what you have), to where you need to be, (i.e. the unknown).

That's the basics taught in any situation.
When was the best time to escape capture? When you were first captured!
Lost? Some people would say that you have to CARE to be lost?
Make sense?

Lance Gothic

This is an interesting topic. I don't believe that I've actually seen this come up before.

To me - most fear comes from the unknown ("what's that sound?, what if I get bitten by something in my sleep? what if my mother-in-law comes for a visit?) The main thing which fuels fear is the unknown and in particular, those events which we've never personally >experienced<. Once experienced, most fears become KNOWN PERSONALLY to be nothing but hot air. (The mother-in-law thing is MORE terrifying after you have experienced it!...)

My advice, is to study the academics first i/e learn survival basics by books & video tapes <www.survival.com> . Next is to practice them at home, then go on day hikes to experience how to actually use them in camp life and to develop confidence both in your abilities and in your capabilities in your wilderness environment ( I say "YOUR" environment because you need to remember that this is what human beings are MADE for. We're not made for the 8-5 factory grind, commuting etc. and it kills us in droves...) Continue to expand your personal challanges with longer, more difficult outtings until your confidence is strong because it's based on a foundation of skills, adaptation abilities and actual experiences which have taught you that - in general - >YOU< are the top of the food chain and that anything which bothers you is likely end end up on your menu. When you really KNOW this, everything else falls in to place.
Ps. a .300 Weatherby Magnum rifle helps in some circumstances...

By the way, the best way to challange yourself is to always bring a 'safety net' of good camping equipment in your rucksack as a JUST IN CASE BAG, particularly in the early stages. For example:

Let's say that you've built up your skills and confidence to the point where you want to live for a few days using your wilderness skills, so the best is to go "normal" backpacking with a group of friends (safety in numbers) set-up your usual equipment so that you have shelter, warmth, water, fire, food etc. ready at hand incase you need it. NOW move a little bit out of camp where you can erect a survival shelter, practice your fire by friction, purifying your water by boiling in a foraged tin can etc. sleeping more in the open knowing that should you have a problem with some critical skill, your camp and friends are near-by for you to get dry, warmed and fed. It's good practice a great confidence building measure and a lot of fun! In a pinch, your friends are there to help in anything major. In time, the amount of "safety net" required decreases until you find yourself relying more on your skills and very little on equipment.

So, for me the basic roadto not having unhealthy fear of being dropped into the unknown are:

1. Experience in using your survival/adaptation skills.
(When you look at life from the "Aaaah, been there, done that & this is not as bad..." point of view, you'd be surprised how steady you become.

2. Some basic materials which you ALWAYS carry with you which would help tremendously (pocket knife, small sparking rod/BIC lighter...the list goes on. Remember - your "survival knife and kit" is what you have on you when the UNexpected happens...)

Time actually can serve you well. The "after 24 hours..." comment is actually the reverse of my experiences. Assuming that you're not in immediate threat such as being military behind=the-lines and on-the-run, uncontrolably bleeding or SERIOUSLY injured, once you have shelter, water and natural insulation, add fire, emergency signaling, MAYBE food ( a luxury this early...) and camp chores. Within 24 hours you're not just surviving: you're thriving by building-up a new "home".

Remember: you are always safer virtually anywhere in the wilderness than you are while driving on the HIGHWAY to the wilderness! Here in the U.S.A. we kill as many Americans per year in cars as we lost in 15 years in Viet Nam. Puts it in perspective. You ARE much safer in the woods...

>RadioRay ..._ ._
Originally posted by golok
So how does one conquer this silly thing called fear and then move on to the next crucial stage, planning to survive as long as humanly possible?

Realize that God is in control, and do the best you can with what you have.
Guess that won't help the atheists much:p
I'm not 100% sure that fear can be conquered.
I think it's perfectly normal to be afraid sometimes.
I have did alot of things that frightened me, but I still did them.

As some of you know, I work at a hospital and I see folks who are afraid all the time. Do they have cancer? Is it a heart attack? Will they die? Will it be painful? Will their children be okay? How will they pay for this? The list goes on and on. Even though I am only an X-ray tech, I still try to help folks deal with their fear.
Like others have already mentioned: don't become frozen by fear and don't let it push you to make bad decisions. Consider all the options before making a plan of action.
A sense of humor is helpful.
And always remember, things really could always be worse.

For the record, I think depression is much more dangerous than fear. It leads to hopelessness and kills the will to survive.

Good luck,
Allen: very interesting point about depression. I think it was Brian Jones who in a prior/existing post mentioned reading about hunters found dead with a loaded gun, matches in their pocket and a knife on their belt. I wonder if they suffered excessive fear that lead to depression and the will to live just evaporated? Is seems logical to believe fear might lead to depression and that emotion to death in a wilderness/I'm lost and it's the fifth day situation. Either way, the mind is a powerful "tool", isn't it?
I believe fear gets a very bad rap. To me, properly used, fear is good. It keeps you from doing something stupid!!!!;) So embrase your fear and see what it can do to keep you alive!!!
People, I don't think that fear is bad, it can keep you sharp. Letting fear push you over the edge into panic will kill you. I am not healthy enough, or practiced enough to survive a long term LOST. I do know that I can survive just about anything for 1 or 2 nites. I never walk out doors without a mini Bic, and a knife. Minimum basics covered. Added to that, I always carry pictures of my daughters, grandkids, and wonderful wife, this is all I need to make me want to live. A strong reason to live, will overcome depression, and a small amount of practice and knowledge will give the confidence to hold off panic. Most off all, I have a great deal of faith in God. A good survival kit is gravy on the taters.
My vote goes to the have a plan answers! Have a plan, make a plan. 2nd, prepare, go camping/hiking/hunting/etc. with experienced folks. Also, hit the library and start read up on survival.

It may come off cheesy, but faith in God is my way. I don't like trying to preach to others. I figure everyone makes their own decisions in life and it's up to them to decide their beliefs. As for me, it is my faith that:
A- God has a plan for everything. If my plans and his plans cross paths, his plan wins every time. Only an arrogant man would think that he could make a deal with God to get his way.
B- God never gives a person more than they can handle at a given time. Whether they want to believe it or not.
Best Regards.
A qutoe I loved, don't remember the author, was (paraphrased):

"Fear makes a wonderful slave, but a terrible master."

i dont think that you conquer fear, you channel it from being a destructive force to being a constructive force.

this is the premise that you need to work from, if you wish to vanquish fear, you will never be successfull. learn to sublimate it into some positive action.

one method is to program a response into your subconscious memory. like if a car crosses the center line in front of you, you automatically swerve to the right, now you did not think about this it just sort of happpened dident it? this is the subconscious taking over. what we know about the actions of people under stress is that they will do what they have practiced, either physically or mentally. that is why we are on this site, rehearsing mentally what to do if thrust into a wilderness situation.

the hunter that dies of hypothermia has never entertained the fact that he might become lost, disabled, disoriented so that his subconscious was never programed to respond to this eventuality, thus when subjected to a life threatening situation he went into mental lockup and ended up dead.

some years ago a gun battle between some highway patrol officers and criminals errupted, several of the officers were killed, when the bodies were examined they found spent cartridges in their pockets. it became apparent that while in the middle of a pitched gun battle these officers carefully collected their brass and placed them in their pockets while reloading, why? because thats what they did every time they went to the range to practice. again these officers programed their subconscious that after emptying the revolver they should collect the brass and put it in their pocket.

always remember "if you train like you fight, you will fight like you train."
Stay busy, if you just sit it will give your mind even more time to stress you out. Prepare ahead, as much as most of us can, go camping in a safe area with almost nothing, maybe a canteen of water or a water purifier, a plastic tarp, something to start a fire with, a good knife, a machette or small ax, and some twine. You would be surprised at what kind of shelter you can build with that material.
The human body can live for a long time without food, but you need to stay warm( dry ) and have to hydrate. Besides I might be surprised what I'll eat if I get hunger enough Ha, Ha,.