Left alone on a tropical island, would you survive?


Image courtesy of artur84 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

As I was lying in bed earlier this week, writhing in pain and discomfort brought on by fever and some type of virus or bacteria affecting my stomach, I had some time to think. I thought about how slowly time was passing, a point driven home to me when I looked at the clock at 9:20am, fell asleep, and then awoke feeling that a long time had elapsed, only to check the clock and see that it was 9:32am (the same day). Any other time it might have been nice to have a 12 minute nap feel like significant sleep, but not when I was feeling miserable and just wanted time to pass. It was a long, slow, painful day. Another topic I thought about was surviving alone on a tropical island, just like Tom Hanks or Les Stroud.

Tom Hanks you probably are familiar with; he played a stranded survivor in the movie Castaway. Les Stroud may be a little less familiar; he is a survivalist who had a television program called Survivorman. The premise of Survivorman was that Stroud would head into the wild somewhere and live for a week all alone. He even did all of his own camera work, so he was completely alone. Tom Hanks pretended to be a survivor man  Les Stroud was a survivor man. The connection with me? I want to be a survivor man  When I watch movies or TV shows with these types of survival situations I critique what the characters are doing and think about how I could do better, but this week I’ve realized I’d likely die within the first three or four days.

I’m not concerned about dealing with the psychology of survival, I think I can handle that part just fine. As I’ve mentioned before – with tongue in cheek – I am an accredited Master of Science in the field of Psychology. I think I can handle survival psychology. The two necessary ingredients would be hope/purpose and acceptance of control (whether you have it or not). Depending on the scenario my hope and purpose might either lie in getting out of the situation and back to my family, or I may just have to resign myself to becoming the best Robinson Crusoe (one of my favorite books, ever) I can. Acceptance of the level of control you have in a survival situation is likely the harder one to cover. I don’t like to feel like I don’t have control over a situation, which is why it would be necessary for my survival to realize that I may be facing factors I can do nothing about, and just do the best I can.

Like anything in life, if the path is blocked, you need to decide if overcoming the obstacle is worth it and if you can do it or not. That’s how I operationalize the psychology of survival, and I think I could handle that part. The reason why I think I’d be dead in a few days is because of how weak I have felt this week after being sick.

Without all the details, I’ll just say my body expelled any food it had in it and wouldn’t let me put any new food in to replace it for a few days. Standing up out of bed became a chore. If I was stranded on an island and had to find shelter, food and water, while feeling like I have this week, forget about it! I could make the case for the sympathetic nervous system engaging (fight or flight response) and adrenaline, but I don’t think that could do it. I think I’d just slip into a fever induced coma and wither away.

Somehow I thought this would end up being humorous topic to write about. That didn’t seem to pan out. Well, even with my newly realized doubt in my ability to survive alone on a tropical island, I still haven’t given up my dream to get to try it someday. I just hope I don’t have the flu when it happens.

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About paulbrodie

I am a writer and a musician. My education is in psychology with emphasis in industrial/organizational psychology. My work experience has been primarily with electronic document management. Academically and intellectually I am interested in criminology and sociology. I am married to my favorite person in the world and we have one daughter.
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