Strong emotions in charged circumstances bring about visceral responses that are not planned or calculated. These strong emotions are dominant and can cancel out intellectual responses. This is true whether you are dealing with a child delighted with a long-desired gift, a young lady surprised with a marriage proposal, an athlete celebrating a victory, or a person who finds himself in need of rescue.
An experienced teacher will tell you that all learning stops the moment a student becomes overly emotional. A distraught person can’t be expected to make considered logical choices. Whether someone is dancing in delight, or wailing in dismay, unchecked emotions make it impossible for that person to respond in a calculated, intellectual way.
I’ve recently viewed footage of people who have had their cars towed to an impound lot. These individuals must navigate a confusing maze of legal and financial requirements before taking possession of their vehicle. The circumstances are varied, but one thing is common: these people are under stress.
For those who are able to calm themselves, setting aside feelings of victimization and anger, the results are fairly straightforward. They determine what is required for the release of the vehicle, go about getting their affairs and documents in order, and then return to claim their car.
For those unable to calm themselves, the process becomes more tedious and lengthy. They direct their frustration at the workers in the office. Aggressive body language, raised voices and accusations fly back and forth as workers try to tell the car owner what he or she will need. Often, the person only hears one or two instructions before emotionally shutting down. They leave and return several times as they collect one or two of the documents they need each time. The stress level of the worker starts to rise as he or she responds to the upset customer. This leads to mistakes and omitted information on the worker’s part.
Fear impairs mental function in the form of confusion, forgetfulness, and the inability to concentrate. In this state, a person can be numbed by shock, begin to panic, or lash out in anger. When seconds count, a fearful person may cause others in his party to lose their life. It may be necessary to leave him behind for the sake of the group’s safety.
I find that the most recommendations for survival safety focus on two concepts: faith and preparation. The more important of the two is faith. Why? In survival circumstances, the truth you know about God and about man will have a powerful impact on your behavior. A person of faith won’t waste as much time second-guessing and railing against the circumstances.
Faith is the opposite of fear. Faith moves us towards life. Faith reminds us of the One in whom our trust is placed. Faith tells us that we are not alone.
Once your fear response calms, your preparation will kick in. If you’ve practiced thinking on your feet, making decisions on the fly, and dealing with various terrains, you will find yourself well-served by your time invested in these pursuits. However, if you are not able reign in your emotions, all of that preparation may likely do you no good.
I found an account of an interview of survivors of the 2004 Indonesian tsunami. The reporter stated that it occurred to her that everyone sitting in that room lived because they ran to the mountains. Those that did not move immediately died. It reminded me of the scripture that reads, “And let him that is on the housetop not go down into the house, neither enter therein, to take any thing out of his house: And let him that is in the field not turn back again for to take up his garment” (Mark 13:15,16).
Fear used properly can be a lifesaver. As a master, fear can kill. Learn truth. Build your faith and be prepared. When circumstances seem dire, these steps will equip you to respond.