Laurence Gonzales’ Surviving Survival is in some ways a sequel his best-selling Deep Survival. As the title suggest, this book goes beyond the work of staying alive and persevering during especially challenging moments to examine how does one live with and manage the aftermath of trauma. Gonzales uses a series of often harrowing mini-biographies to delve into the role and potentialities of the brain and the mind. This reader got the general sense that Gonzales believes in the innate hardiness of some individuals but he is at pains to draw out lessons for all of us. We have taken the liberty of distilling these 12 lessons even further:
- Take control. Devote yourself passionately to something connected to your ideal self.
- Be mindful. Get off autopilot and listen to your mind and body. Allow your unconscious brain resources such as blindsight to guide you via gut feelings.
- Be patient. Trust the process of recovery.
- Be tough. Look around at the suffering that is not happening to you. When it is your turn, own it.
- Find joy in the small things. Even under conditions of extreme suffering moments of relative lightness can be found
- Face your fears and put them in a rational context. Leverage rituals.
- Stay busy.
- Help others.
- Stay connected to your friends and community
- Be grateful. At the very least, you have survived and are still here. There is probably even more to be grateful for.
- Fake it until you feel it. Act as if you are better and you will feel and be better
- Lighten up. Even morbid humor helps.
Gonzales’ various subjects survived IEDs, murderous spouses and attacks from bears and sharks. We can build our own resilience in the face of life’s smaller insults by incorporating these lesson’s into our daily routine.