The Psychology of TEOTWAWKI, by J.P.C.

Many are preparing with physical items for “The End”. This aspect is extremely important, but what good will it do you if you are mentally weak? In survival situations research has shown that on average the mental willingness to live equals roughly 50% of your survival chance. This is based upon the individual, whether already mentally weak or strong, the type of situation, and the duration of the situation that the individual is in. Some people are very wise, strong, prepared, or a combination of all, but will not make it passed the initial phase of a catastrophe due to their lack of adaptation, psychologically.

Many cancer patients make it through to remission mainly through mental will. Much like a body that has exercised principally in cardio for five years will do fine in a 5K run, a mental willingness has proven the same in mild to serious situations. I would like to discuss some situations and tips to prepare you psychologically, not just for yourselves and family, but for others that you may encounter.

The Mayo Clinic says that the effects of stress on the body include:

  •      Headache
  •      Back pain
  •      Chest pain
  •      Heart disease
  •      Heart palpitations
  •      High blood pressure
  •      Decreased immunity
  •      Stomach upset
  •      Sleep problems

Effects on thoughts and feelings are:

  •      Anxiety
  •      Restlessness
  •      Worrying
  •      Irritability
  •      Depression
  •      Sadness
  •      Anger
  •      Feeling insecure
  •      Lack of focus
  •      Burnout
  •      Forgetfulness


Effects on behavior are:

  •      Overeating
  •      Undereating
  •      Angry outbursts
  •      Drug or alcohol abuse
  •      Increased smoking
  •      Social withdrawal
  •      Crying spells
  •      Relationship conflicts

If these are symptoms during normal times, you could imagine what they would multiply to during a SHTF scenario. What would the effects be if you have to kill another human being? If hearing a random gunshot in your neighborhood gives you chills now, what about a battery of bombs being lobbed your way? It’s hard not to give to orphaned children right now, what about when you are on a tight food supply and there are three kids outside your house starving and begging for food, looking like they are starving to death?

Taking care of yourself and others:
If you are someone that has never been in harm’s way, may I suggest that you do so? I am not saying to do something potentially fatal, but do something that will give you a rush, an adrenaline high. This means different things for different folks. If you’re someone who enjoys hiking, whitewater rafting, or hunting grizzlies, try something that will push your limit whether it is writing an article or skydiving.  Get out of your comfort zone to feel what that rush is. If you are a homebody that prefers a good book to taking a walk in the park, go hiking. Try giving a speech in front of a crowd. Push the limits that you are comfortable with.

One item that I would highly recommend is what is commonly known as a “Ride-A-Long”. You can ride a shift with police, paramedic/EMS, or with the fire department. Try and do it in an area that has high traffic. The things that you will see will forever change you and help to toughen you for the future. Another issue that many of us face and are unable to cope with is the fact that someone we love will die shortly after the SHTF. Is your spouse on insulin? Are your parents on high blood pressure meds? Is one of you children epileptic? You need to face the fact now, not that they will die, but that they can die in a TEOTWAWKI situation. How are you going to take care of them in their final days? How are you going to provide security with them in your care?

If you are currently overweight, have a curable condition, or have an addiction, then now is the time to take care of these issues. If some kind of tragedy occurs after the SHTF and it was due to something you could have take care of before, you will be overcome with grief. Perhaps your small child is being attacked by either beast or man and you could not quite get there in time because of your physical health (being obese, no endurance due to lack of physical activity, a bum knee because you’ve put off surgery, etc.) guilt will surely overwhelm you. In an already dangerous situation, adverse effects could take place to self-punish. This does no one any good. For those of you that are already in the acceptance stage of future catastrophes, what about those you love? If you already have a plan set up and an elderly person will be staying with you, have they faced the fact that they may not last long? Have you and your members? Looking at the obvious, an eighty-four year old female who quite possibly could be on medications, will not last long. Medications run out and if she has to “run for it”, death could quickly be upon her.

The Basics:
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory of psychology often presented in a triangle for visual understanding. At the top we have “self-actualization”. This includes creativity, being factual, understanding of one’s self, and realization. At this stage it is said that you understand what you were meant to do and that you do it. The next stage down is “esteem”. This is where one searches for the need to be an individual. Uniqueness, self-respect, and confidence are key attributes. The next stage is “needs of love and to belong”. Here is where things are broken down a little simpler. One searches out relationships through family and friends. They understand the importance of giving and receiving love. After this stage is “safety and security”.

One understands that there are real dangers in the world. This security is provided by one’s self and others. This security is not just against physical harm, but also against modern ideals such as losing a job or home, losing a loved one, or losing in one’s health. At the bottom of the pyramid is “physiological needs”. This is where the most basic instincts of all living beings stem from. The needs of food, water, shelter, and procreation are found. After looking at this pyramid, you could see how quickly humanity will decline. At the bottom of the pyramid is also the bottom of the barrel. People who were not very far up on the chain to begin with will quickly dissolve into murderers, rapist, drug abusers, alcoholics, and possibly even cannibals.

For some, the lack of morals that they’ve always had, the law helped to keep them in check. Once the law is gone and no one to take them away, their true inner selves will be exposed and they will search and destroy at will. Others will not be able to handle the notion that they will never be able to watch television again, or surf the Internet. No more fast food and easy living. No more one night stands and endless parties. Drugs and alcohol will depress these stresses and wind up turning them into mindless junkies. Your CEO may find himself looking at his girlfriend with a hungry eye because his maid hasn’t brought groceries in three weeks. He’s never cooked himself anything, but he completely understands the pangs of hunger.

Someone from your local place of worship may have had a complete mental breakdown. They’re confused, hungry, and dirty. They never truly had faith in what they practiced to believe, and now they are mentally incapacitated. Your own spouse, parent, child, or sibling could quickly reach the bottom of this barrel. When the facts that your family is well prepared with stocks of food, water, medicines, and a strong shelter cannot penetrate the mind of someone entangled in the beliefs of modern society, what do you do? When they have become so dependent on modern society that the fact that they have to make their own food and can’t cruise down Main Street any more sends them suicidal, or even homicidal, how will you react?

The Others:
Not everyone will break down and become evil. That neighbor down the street that you thought you couldn’t stand may turn out to be your best ally. He may be a war veteran, mentally hardened, but soft in the heart. He has food, shelter and security. Your spouse, who may have been weak before, may surprise you by pulling themselves out of the psychological muck and begin to take charge. Your computer loving, cell phone texting, television-watching kid could be the one to accept that there has been a large change and help to keep the family together and sane.

In survival situations of small scales, most people tend to unite. Even for the few that don’t pitch in, the others help them out. In larger scale situations, people generally tend to separate. You have the people who expect to be taken care of or that can’t take care of themselves, and the other group of people who realize the extent of the disaster and are barely able to take care of themselves and their families. If the situation is dire and last long enough, there will be confrontations between the two groups. In these situations, it will be important to find others of like minds not only for physical needs, but also for emotional. Try to find others who aren’t just prepared like you, but have the same morals, religious beliefs, political ideals, and values that you have. Remember that crazy Uncle Joe? You can stand him for the holidays, but that’s about it. Now imagine him living with you all day every day for years to come in a TEOTWAWKI scene. Hopefully you understand.

Being the Shrink:
It would be beneficial to have someone in your group or family who is experienced in counseling, psychology, or psychiatry. They don’t have to possess a degree, but preferably someone who has taken some classes and is understanding of the theories. This person could even be you. Why not take the initiative upon yourself to be this person. When a situation arises, you can help calm and support someone who has just lost a loved one or who has realized that the world is going to be a very different place. When someone realizes that they are going to expire, you can be there for them. When fights and quarrels break out amongst family, friends, or party members, you can help to restore the peace. Many times, when you finally have an outburst, the ones that you have consoled will then turn to console you. As a person who has studied these areas, you will be able to keep track of members’ mental health. Just as preventive medicine is good for medical health, the same applies to mental health. Should you notice that someone’s attitude has changed, find out the reason why and counteract it before it turns into a problem.

Psychology is a large, growing, and ever-changing field of medicine. This is why I have given you tips and reasons versus actual plans of action for different scenarios. Psychology also is not so clear cut. Some people who you may think would break down, may not. Lots of people that strongly believe in their religions will suffer to the end without resorting to their animal instincts. Their empathy for a greater good will prevail. No one can truly know what is going on inside the mind of someone else, but you can help by doing what you can. Although some people don’t truly know what is going on inside of their own minds.