People have been able to survive many shifts in the environment throughout the centuries. Their ability to adapt physically and mentally to a changing world have kept them alive while other species gradually died off. The same mechanisms that kept our forefathers alive can help keep us alive as well! However, these same mechanisms that can help us can also work against us if we don’t understand and anticipate their presence.
It is not surprising that the average person will have some psychological reactions in an emergency situation. We will now examine some of the major internal reactions we might experience with the stressors addressed in the earlier posts. Let’s begin by examining fear and anxiety. Fear is our emotional response to dangerous circumstances that we believe have the potential to cause harm such as illness, injury, or death. This harm is not just limited to physical damage; the threat to one’s emotional and mental well-being can generate fear as well. For the person trying to deal with an emergency situation , fear can have a positive function if it encourages them to be cautious in situations where recklessness could result in injury.
Unfortunately, fear can also immobilize a person. It can cause them to become so frightened that they fail to perform activities essential for survival. Most people will have some degree of fear when placed in unfamiliar surroundings under adverse conditions. There is no shame in this! Each person must train themselves not to be overcome by fear. Ideally, through realistic training, we can acquire the knowledge and skills needed to increase our confidence and thereby manage our fears. Associated with fear is anxiety. Because it is natural for us to be afraid, it is also natural for us to experience anxiety. Anxiety can be an uneasy, apprehensive feeling we get when faced with dangerous situations (physical, mental, and emotional). When used in a healthy way, anxiety urges us to act to end, or at least manage, the dangers that threaten our existence. If we were never anxious, there would be little motivation to make changes in our lives. The person in an emergency setting reduces their anxiety by performing those tasks that will ensure coming through the ordeal alive. As they reduce anxiety, they also bring under control the source of that anxiety–their fears. In this form, anxiety is good; however, anxiety can also have a devastating impact. Anxiety can overwhelm a person to the point where they become easily confused and have difficulty thinking. Once this happens, it becomes more and more difficult for them to make good judgments and sound decisions. To effectively deal with an emergency, we must learn techniques to calm our anxieties and keep them in the range where they help, not hurt us.
In our next post we will get right to the point and look at frustration, anger, and depression.