Survival Personality: Develop Your Intuition

Intuition is a powerful ally, especially in dangerous situations. Learn how to develop your intuition to “see around corners” and better navigate our changing world.

| August 26, 2010

  • when technology fails matthew stein
    Covering everything from building materials to spiritual healing, “When Technology Fails” is a comprehensive guide to sustainable living skills, and will give  you the tools you need to fend for yourself and your family in times of emergency or disaster.
    COVER: CHELSEA GREEN
  • Develop Your Intuition
    Survivors share a set of common traits, among them curiosity, patience, a sense of humor and an acceptance of past mistakes with a commitment to forge ahead.
    ISTOCKPHOTO/SOPHIA TSIBIKAKI

  • when technology fails matthew stein
  • Develop Your Intuition

The following is an excerpt from When Technology Fails  by Matthew Stein (Chelsea Green, 2008). This comprehensive primer on sustainable living skills — from food and water to first-aid and crisis management skills — will prepare you to live in the face of potential disasters coming in the form of social upheaval, economic meltdown or environmental catastrophe. This excerpt is from Chapter 4, “Emergency Measures for Survival.”

The best survivors spend almost no time, especially in emergencies, getting upset about what has been lost, or feeling distressed about things going badly ... Life’s best survivors can be both positive and negative, both optimistic and pessimistic at the same time. 

— Al Siebert, Ph.D., The Survivor Personality

The struggle for survival is a fascinating and inspiring subject, forming the basis for many of the most memorable books and movies. Psychologist Al Siebert’s personal fascination with survivors began when he received his military training from a group of veteran paratroopers. His teachers were legendary members of the 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment. They had lost nine out of 10 members in combat in the Korean War. Siebert found that these “survivors” were not the crusty, yelling drill sergeants that he had anticipated. They were tough, yet showed patience. They had a good sense of humor and were likely to laugh at mistakes. They were positive, yet also looked at the downside of things. They didn’t act mean or tough, even though they could be as mean and tough as anyone. Siebert noticed that each of these men had a type of personal radar that was always on “scan.” He realized it was not dumb luck that had brought these men through their ordeals, but a synergistic combination of qualities that tilted the odds in their favor. Al believes that we can all benefit in our daily lives by nurturing and developing these positive character traits within our own personalities.

In 1943 Robert Muller was a member of the French Resistance. Using the name Parizot, he had infiltrated an agency of the Vichy government, where he gathered information on German troop movements. Tipped off that the Nazis had just driven up to arrest him, he fled to the attic of his office building. Word came that half a dozen Gestapo men, knowing he was there, were methodically searching the premises. Having been impressed when a friend used Dr. Emile Coué’s program of autosuggestion and positive thinking to cure himself of advanced tuberculosis, Muller quickly calmed himself and took control over his thoughts. He repeated to himself that the situation could be seen as a thrilling adventure, and switched his perspective to a calm, confident, positive state of mind. Muller told himself that nothing was hopeless and that he must find the one-in-a-thousand chance of escape.

Suddenly he realized that the one thing the Nazis would not expect him to do was to walk downstairs to meet them. By taking off his glasses, slicking down his hair with water, grabbing a file folder from a vacant desk and lighting a cigarette, Parizot managed to change his appearance somewhat. Walking downstairs, he came upon his secretary as she was being interrogated. He asked her what all the excitement was about. Her heart pounding, she managed to maintain an outward appearance of calm, and replied that the “gentlemen” were looking for Mr. Parizot. “Parizot?” he exclaimed, “But I just saw him a few minutes ago on the fourth floor!” The Gestapos rushed upstairs, giving Muller the break he needed to proceed toward his next obstacle, the guards at the front door. In the main lobby, the concierge informed Muller that there was another exit, and guided Muller to the garage, where he stole a bicycle and rode to safety.


— Robert Muller, Most of All, They Taught Me Happiness

Typical Survivor Personality Traits

Flexibility. The No. 1 trait to which many survivors attribute their success is the ability to adapt to the situation.

Commitment to survive. When conditions are extremely difficult, it takes a strong will and commitment to survive. Jewish Holocaust and Bataan Death March survivors tell tales of watching their friends lose the will to survive. Under these harsh conditions, after the drive to survive was lost, they usually lasted a short while, ranging from a few hours to a few days.



Staying cool. Survivors have the ability to stay calm or regain calmness so they can think clearly and intuitively “feel” their way to a correct choice, without being hampered by emotions that have run amok.

Playful curiosity. Survivors usually like to know how things work. They show a playful curiosity that helps them adapt to changing circumstances.

patricia.campbell.5494
7/1/2013 9:23:25 AM

Even though the book is "self-reviewed" by the author, his credentials speak for themselves. Planning for disaster makes a difference. I was in the first house hit by a tornado that leveled the town and my family was safe due to planning. Fortunately we only lost our roof and were able to get it replaced within days because our other needs were met and we could act quickly. We stayed on-site, life went on. I plan to read Matthew's books to fill in gaps as the world changes.


Lee Wentz
12/12/2011 5:51:25 PM

I frequently think on this topic of intuition and survival. I admire those who are able to "land on their feet", as it were, regardless of what matter befalls them. I picture a footbal scenario, and recall a coach's advice - "Run for the daylight." Good advice. Seek EVERY opportunity to advance your objective. Concern yourself with your goal and focus on only those things germane to the issue at hand. Listen to the "still, small voice inside." It's there for a reason.


Matthew Stein
12/28/2010 12:24:10 PM

As the author, I can safely say that this article is an excerpt from my book, with no changes or edits. I had no part in deciding what part of my book to select for this excerpt (that was done by Mother Earth News staff) and since this excerpt is from the middle of the fourth chapter, it was certainly not written as an advertisement for the book. I can also say that there is an inner compass that nature built into each and every one of us (intuition) that this innate natural "tool" can go from A to Z in a split second without having to figure things out with our head, often times guiding us to perform critical actions before our mind has the time to think "wow!". While both climbing and extreme skiing, I have watched my own body react to life-and-death circumstances faster than my mind could think . I have also witnessed the intuitive soul/mind "feeling" the proper action to take when there was not enough information for my rational mind to properly decide, and in fact the rational mind thought it best to do take the worst action, instead of the optimal one. In some cases I listened to the inner calm voice of true guidance, ans was grateful I had listened, and in other cases I ignored it and was later sorry.







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