Survival mentality

John Hudson’s theory:

According to UK chief survival instructor John Hudson, survivors get into a virtuous circle of hope-plan-work. Work to see change and gain control, thus giving you hope by way of realistic optimism, thus motivating you to match capabilities to circumstances to create a plan of stepping stone goals, knowing the goal is achievable to motivate the directed efficient work.


He posits that in a disaster you go through stages of pre impact, impact, recoil, rescue and post traumatic.

His experience is of individuals getting into trouble and being rescued from the wilderness, whereas in SHTF there is no rescue as everyone needs rescue. But what would work is his advice to chew gum under stress and rehearse worst case scenarios. You may not agree with all his advice, for example, he advises when crashed on a desert island to prioritise shelter over signalling even when in the story he illustrates it with the victim lost rescue by not immediately signalling as a plane flew over whilst building a shelter.

He further recommends prioritising according to PLAN: protection, location, acquisition and navigation – ‘protection’ is against the environment with shelter, first aid, clothing and fire, ‘location’ is finding your way home or a place to be seen to be rescued, ‘acquisition’ is of food and water, and ‘navigation’ is to find resources and escape.

He reminds you to organise gear so you can easily find it, and do one job at a time whilst telling yourself what the upside of doing it and the downside of not doing it is.

He urges you to make a list of your vulnerabilities, decide which will harm you first and start preparing for it.

When in pain, focus on your goal rather than pretending the pain is not there or that you are in a mythical happy place.

Once you set to work, sleep whenever you can, drink whenever you can, take breaks, reward yourself for completing tasks, keep moving to stay fit and to generate ideas, and of course put on a brew.

To deal with the recoil phase, ensure you never become injured, cold, tired, thirsty or hungry, otherwise dependency, denial, withdrawal, apathy and death will not be far behind, and that might also be staved off by doing something useful to get a feeling of control.

Suffering does not make you lose hope unless you think you have lost all control. Chunk down tasks into small units of time. Decide what you can control and focus on that; ignore what you cannot control.

Dress for the part. Do not allow negative people in your group as you cannot afford morale to be burnt up on them.

In partial echos of Darth Vader, he cautions to not rely blindly on technology to the exclusion of tried and tested primitive techniques that you could learn from others.

In the UK, by not wearing much you can avoid overheating, so the main shelter problem is cold, but with our mild climate you do not need specialist winter gear either – just enough to keep the air next to you at 26 degrees celsius.

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