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Why you do that voodoo that you do so well!

6:38 a.m. on December 15, 2009 (EST)
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572 forum posts

In another thread I said:

We have a fight or flight condition that we share with other animals. When danger threatens we get a surge of adrenaline and choose one option or the other. That energy boost makes us capable of feats of strength and stupidity otherwise quite beyond us.

However, we can and should avoid this panic mode. There will always be plenty of time to panic once you are safe. The propensity for a calm demeanor when confronting personal "danger" may be a genetic predisposition, but it can be an acquired skill as well, IMO,... and a skill that could save lives.

The problem is that "fight or flight" in other animals is probably an appropriate response to conditions - e.g., a mouse sees the shadow of a hawk hovering overhead. Humans, however, are blessed and cursed with the ability to conceptualize, to create abstracts, to be anxious about possible future events. This means that we often see dangers which might exist in a hypothetical future, but have no real existence. So, when we discover we are "lost", a deluge of fears - rational and otherwise - spring up and we may submit to these and "panic". [The word "Panic" means, "of Pan", the Greek god of the fields and woods "who was the source of mysterious sounds that caused contagious, groundless fear in herds and crowds, or in people in lonely spots".]

So, for the most part, our imagination in moments of stress can be a bad master. However, sit calmly through that moment and think - and the same imagination may provide a practical solution to the dilemma you find yourself in.

Most of the fears we encounter in the backcountry are irrational. Being lost is something to avoid, but not to fear. Once you discover you are lost you can sit down and plan appropriate actions for your condition; and each instance differs, one size doesn't fit all.

Fear is always of the fictional future, not the present. Even when a hungry lion is advancing upon you, your fear is not of his advance but of the possible pain and death ahead of you. Deal with those matters within your power and fear dissolves.

Look at Jim's first post in the thread "What would you do - #1". If you examine it closely, you might see that there is no need for more than some careful re-assessment of, and alterations to, your present tent environment. No big deal.

Don't let your imagination become your master, it should be your servant. "We have nothing to fear but fear itself" not only sounded good, but was true.

I like the Daniel Boone quote you often see on these hiking forums "I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for a few weeks." If we all had this attitude SAR teams could breathe easier.

Now, you may see the previous paragraphs as just a string of platitudes. Perhaps. But I cannot remember a moment when fear has served me well. Caution, yes, fear, no. When you are putting that PLB in your pack, think about what it symbolizes and what you are teaching others.

April 24, 2014
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