Why Getting “Lost” Can Enhance Your Chances of Survival

“He just won’t listen to me. I just can’t get Diane’s brother Bill interested in anything that has to do with survival.” Duane shoveled a forkful of hash browns into his mouth. “What do you do about such people, Sam?”

“I’d say they should get lost.” Survival Sam took a sip of coffee.

“Yeah, but I can’t just up and say that to Bill. I’m counting on the guy to finish doing some work on our basement.” Duane reached for a paper napkin and wiped his mouth.

“Aren’t you being rather heartless, Sam?” I asked.

“This isn’t about being heartless or wishing human slugs would get what they deserve,” Sam said. “I’ve got something else in mind.”

“Do tell,” Duane said.

“I’ve been reading through a book called Deep Survival, by Laurence Gonzales. It includes a section on getting lost in the wilderness. But he discusses much more than techniques for getting out safely. It’s all about the mental set, gentlemen, which is what we’ve talked about a number of times before.”

“How does that relate to getting somebody like Bill to come around?” Duane asked.

“Bill might never come around,” Sam said. “However, let me tell you what Gonzales says about getting lost, since it applies to a good many areas of life, and, in this case, survival, figuratively and literally. He points out that there are five stages involved in being lost.” He sipped his coffee thoughtfully. “Let me back up a bit and say that we all have mental images or maps of how the world ought to be. We all have those preconceived notions. When things we’re experiencing don’t line up with that mental lmap, we’re lost. In a sense, being lost is a failure of the mind.”

“I’ve never heard anybody put it that way before,” Duane said. “How can that be?”

“The first stage of being lost is denying that you’re disoriented, and you press on.”

“Like those people who say everything in the world will be OK if we keep trying to make it right,” Duane said.

“Exactly,” Sam said. “The second stage of being lost is a sense of urgency about the emergency situation. Clear thought turns into panic actions.”

“What’s the third stage?” asked Duane.

“After a person thrashes around in the forest for a while and gets exhausted or injured, he or she begins to form a strategy. There’s the strong need to find a place that matches the mental map in the person’s brain. Of course, by this time the strategy is flawed, since thinking isn’t clear. That leads to the fourth stage. The person deteriorates rationally and emotionally as the strategy fails.”

“I’m getting anxious just thinking about being in such a spot,” I said.

“The fifth stage,” Sam continued,” is becoming resigned to the situation.”

“You mean just give up?” Duane asked.

“Correct,” Sam said. “In order to survive, a person must give up all hope of rescue and accept the new world in which he resides. That’s when the lost person begins to make a new mental map of the present situation. It’s that or die, literally. That’s when the lost person finds himself.”

“And this is what people like Bill need to do to begin taking steps to survive?” asked Duane. “They have to wake up and see what kind of a world we live in, right?”

“Correct. We must reconcile our brain’s mental map with what is in order to survive.”

“So,” Duane said, “you make your situation your own new world. Is that right?”

“Right.” Sam took another sip of coffee.

“Yeah, Sam, you may be right about Bill,” said Duane. “I don’t see him coming around, shy of some miracle or emotional earthquake.”

“I think that describes the vast majority of the masses,” Sam said. “Of course, many will flounder and remain in those middle stages of being lost and will never come to grips with reality.”

I put down my fork. “I have a question though. If we apply this to how we’re to get along in our present chaotic world, don’t those of us who are Christians have to acknowledge that the antiRapture people are right? I mean, they say Christians shouldn’t passively sit around waiting for Jesus to rescue them. How do we deal with that?”

“Good question,” Sam said. “Gonzales quotes a man who was lost at sea for something like 38 days. He said rescue interrupts the survival voyage.”

“That’s good,” I said. “I like that. We keep going on the journey we’ve been put here to complete, and the Rapture is a welcome interruption.”

“That’s right,” said Sam. “Isn’t that a wonderful hope for believers in Jesus Christ? The only way to survive in the here and now is to reconcile our mental map with reality and press on. The Apostle Paul knew he might be Raptured at any minute, but he pressed on, knowing he had a calling and mission to perform while he was here.”

“Where can I get Deep Survival?” asked Duane.

“I’ll put a link on my blog to it,” I said. “Anybody who wants to order it can click on the book’s title.”

“Good idea,” Sam said. “It covers a great deal about the psychology of survival. I’m anxious to finish the book myself so I can mine a few more nuggets of wisdom.”


Author: John Wesley Smith

John Wesley Smith writes and podcasts from his home in Central Missouri. His goal is to help preppers as he continues along his own preparedness journey.