Visualization As Survival Tool, Guest Post by B. Brewster, M.D.

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(DR. BONES SAYS: From time to time, we like to publish articles by promising young writers in the field of survival. Today’s post is an excerpt of an article I received from Belinda H. Brewster, MD, FACEP. She is a Board Certified Emergency Medicine physician who subspecializes in Wilderness and Disaster Medicine. She has worked with the National Disaster Medical System for 20 years on Disaster Medical Assistance Teams and has been deployed to many disasters, including the World Trade Center, Hurricane Katrina, Olympic medical terrorist strike teams for both Salt Lake City and Atlanta, and many more. She has been awarded a “Distinguished Citizen Award” by the Michigan State Police for medical assistance in the field. Today Dr. Brewster talks about the power of visualization as a survival tool. We thank her for her contribution.)

 
I recently read a book, called “Extreme Survival.” And in that book, I learned a lot from the writings of Debra Seales, and I’d like to pass her thoughts and writings on to you:
Sometimes people find themselves in a situation, and feel the circumstances are just too overwhelming. It might be in the wilderness….or not. One of the questions researchers have tried to answer is WHY DO SOME PEOPLE SURVIVE, WHILE OTHERS DO NOT?

 

(DR. BONES SAYS: To purchase this book: Go to:  02333  www.wrldpub.com for $7.50 USD   Item#: 1464302693 “Extreme Survival” by Ackerman’s, Cook, Mattos and Morrison, World Publishing Group, 140 Laurel St, East Bridgewater, MA)

 

Over the years much research has been done to determine who LIVES ….and who DIES. One of the key points I brought home from this book was that the people that SURVIVE IN THE WILDERNESS are OFTEN ….NOT the strongest ….NOT the brightest…NOT the most skilled …Nor do they necessarily have the best equipment in the group! Unequivocally the same conclusion is always reached – the difference between living and dying lies in the mind. The power of the mind! The resilience of the human spirit! An unshakable optimism! AND a mental readiness to handle the unexpected is ALL VITAL in the ultimate survival situation.

 
Debra Searle rowed a boat across the Atlantic Ocean by herself. At first, when I started to read about visualization, I thought it was a bunch of baloney! However, as I read more, I actually realized what a useful tool it is. What Debra recommends is that before going on a trip, you do a simple task …and that is visualization. It made a lot of sense to me. You’ll believe me in a minute! The idea is that before you go, you try to imagine what kind of things could go wrong, AND WHAT WOULD YOU DO …..IF THAT EVENT HAPPENED?
Think about it like this. If you are watching a scary movie, and the villain surprises you, you get scared for a minute. But if you watch the movie a second time, you already know what is going to happen, SO YOU AREN’T SCARED THE SECOND TIME.

 
You can apply this to wilderness trips as well. Try to visualize what COULD go wrong, AND WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF X, Y OR Z HAPPENED? Try to imagine what steps you would take, AND what order you would do them in WITHOUT actually moving or completing it for real! A thought alone can produce a PHYSICAL response.

 
Don’t believe me? Let’s just all try this for a minute. I want everyone to think about sucking on a lemon.

 
(PAUSE AND REALLY TAKE A FEW MINUTES TO THINK ABOUT A LEMON BEFORE YOU CONTINUE READING ANY FURTHER. )

 
Did everybody get a rush of saliva even though there wasn’t really a lemon? This is an example of visualization. Our MINDS have just induced a PHYSICAL RESPONSE TO A THOUGHT! See… it works! There was NO REAL LEMON…YET YOUR BODY PRODUCED A REACTION ….WITHOUT YOU HAVING TO DO ANYTHING, DIDN’T IT?

 
VISUALIZATION IS THE MOST POWERFUL TOOL AVAILABLE TO YOU TO PRACTICE SURVIVING. Why? Because we CAN’T replicate an ACTUAL situation in order to PRACTISE surviving it. But you CAN use your mind to REHEARSE MENTALLY how you will respond if x, y or z happened. If before you go on your trip, you try to visualize what COULD go wrong, and WHAT YOU WOULD DO? YOUR minds and bodies will be trained and INSTINCTIVELY KNOW what to do- IF and WHEN that situation arises.

 
Visualization increases the SPEED OF REACTION and provides you with an EFFECTIVE RESPONSE. Visualization ALSO helps DIMINISH FEAR. FEAR wastes a lot of valuable time in an emergency. ANY survival situation is likely to be terrifying, but if you can remain calm, you are more likely to be able to:

 
-ANALYZE,
-PRIORITIZE
-and PLAN a response amid the chaos and confusion.

 

 
We often FEEL FEAR BECAUSE WE DON’T KNOW WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT! But if you can VISUALIZE some of the possibilities …it can ELIMINATE some of the fear. Simply press “PLAY” when the situation arises.

 

 
The WILL to survive is the MOST valuable SURVIVAL SKILL YOU CAN LEARN TO ACTUALLY SURVIVE A BAD EVENT. Visualization is one of the most powerful SKILLS to LEARN to develop the WILL TO LIVE! We all have something to live for – …Something that we love more than anything else. WHATEVER it may be, you just have to VISUALIZE it using every sense in your body and IMAGINE how AMAZING it will feel to do THAT again! Maybe it’s holding your child, doing an activity….whatever. Just visualize doing THAT. How it would feel, what does that person look like, how do they smell? What do they look like when they smile? What will you do when you can see them again? IMAGINE all the details. IT MAKES THE TIME GO FASTER AND HELPS YOU TO NOT GIVE UP. CHOOSE YOUR ATTITUDE! CHOOSE TO BE A SURVIVOR!

 
YOU DON’T HAVE A CHOICE WHEN YOU ARE IN A LIFE THREATENING SITUATION. OFTEN THE SITUATION IS OUT OF YOUR CONTROL.

 
BUT YOU DO HAVE A CHOICE IN YOUR ATTITUDE. TRY NOT TO WASTE TIME WORRYING ABOUT THE THINGS THAT YOU HAVE NO CONTROL OVER. FOCUS ON A POSITIVE ATTITUDE AND THINK ABOUT THINGS THAT YOU CAN DO. MAKE A LIST IN YOUR MIND OF ALL THE THINGS YOU CAN DO. OPTIMISM NEEDS TO BE THE ATTITUDE OF THE DAY! THE KEY TO SURVIVAL IS TO HAVE A POSITIVE ATTITUDE; BECAUSE THAT IS THE ONE THING YOU DO HAVE CONTROL OVER. CHOOSE YOUR ATTITUDE!

 

 

Belinda Brewster, M.D., F.A.C.E.P.

 

 

 

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