Let's leave wilderness survival for a moment and look at surviving in civilization, which is actually much more dangerous. For example, modern society breeds narcissists. (Society also creates psychopaths, which is very similar, but here I'll stay focused on narcissists.) These are one of the most dangerous types of humans and they create enormous damage in the world. Most of the world's suffering and pain is caused by these people, especially since they gravitate towards positions of power, whereas us decent people generally do not.
Narcissists are fantastically insecure – and this deep, deep insecurity guides all of their actions. Narcissists lack empathy (though they can mimic it), are incredibly self-centered, are highly deceitful, and are always trying to control others. The narcissist often flies into a rage at any perceived slight – which is often. To reject them in any way is to trigger their hatred and revenge. They are never satisfied and can never be happy. They are unwilling and unable to look inside themselves to face their inner pain (often caused by their own parents), and they project this out onto anyone they can – especially those within their “sphere of control” (partner, children, employees, etc.) They demean others and try to destroy the self-esteem of those around them as a way to make themselves feel better – including doing this to their own children. All their attempts to feel better about themselves will fail, of course, but they will continue to wreak havoc everywhere they go. At least in nature, tornados, hurricanes, tsunamis, and earthquakes are all very short-lived. But not so with the narcissist. They rage for their entire lives.
If someone exhibits narcissist traits, the best advice is to get the hell away from them. They will be poison whether in a personal relationship or business relationship. They will never change. Of course, be careful in how you leave them, as it could trigger their hatred and revenge, in which case they will stop at nothing to get back at you.
What this means is that there really is no way to “survive” with a narcissist. They will constantly try to destroy you, and destroy your sense of self, and the longer you're around them, the more damage they will cause. So like I said, just get away from them. If it's your partner, leave them quickly. If it's your boss, look for a new job. If it's your parent, well, unfortunately you have to wait until you're old enough to move away, and then start the long process of healing.
So how do you defeat them? Well, like I said, they can never be happy. You should remember that. You, as a non-narcissist, have the capacity for a large amount of happiness, and you should focus on that. Focus on pro-social activities (friends, family, nature, spirituality, exercise, health, etc.) The narcissist, no matter what they do, will never be happy and they will never be satisfied. They will never have a good heart. So this knowledge alone should make you feel better. Even if they cause you to go bankrupt, or to lose your job, or your friends, or kids, or whatever hardships they thrust on you, they are still the ultimate loser, forever miserable – because you can find inner peace and satisfaction, which is impossible for them. So as long as you maintain your sense of self and love for the world, you have, to a large degree, already defeated them.
But if you want to take it one step further, in a way that actually benefits the world, then you should help others to avoid them. It's like if there's a crazy person running around stabbing people. If you see it and jump in your car, you can drive away and you're safe. But other people are still being hurt. It's better to get out of your car and take a risk in order to stop the person from stabbing anyone, ever again. Same with a narcissist. With a narcissist, the best way to help others is to expose the narcissist. That way they are visible for others to see, and people can then take precautions. The narcissist, like the psychopath, is often superficially charming. That's their mask, which often fools others, ensnaring innocent bystanders in the narcissist's web of deceit and abuse. But if you show the world who they really are, their mask is gone. More people should expose the narcissists around them, as it will allow others to avoid them and thus minimise the damage the narcissist causes.
Unfortunately, all civilisations (as opposed to hunter-gatherer and many indigenous cultures) are, essentially, narcissist and psychopath factories. And because our modern society is grossly pathological, with a culture that promotes competition, hyper-individualism, violence, exploitation, racism, misogyny, deceit, wealth accumulation and fame, we will continue to get more and more narcissists. So the key for us remains: avoid narcissists, then expose them. And remember, no matter what they do to you, you can be happy, you can be a good person, and you can form healthy relationships, but they absolutely cannot, and they never will. Some of them may be rich and famous, and they may cause enormous destruction, but they are the ultimate losers.
*Inspired by my former girlfriend and business partner.
There's an important concept left out of survival discussions, because it's not part of our culture and it would probably make us uncomfortable. It's reflected in the question that American Indian parents would often ask their kids: “What have you done today to deserve another day?” What have you done today to deserve another day?
Now, remember, no one honored individual autonomy and freedom more than American Indians. But they knew that just because you're born, doesn't mean you could do whatever you want. There was an element of responsibility inherent in life. Not just for humans, but for all living things. Responsibility to your people, to the land, to the ancestors, to all the creatures and spirits, to future generations. People had freedom – much more than we can imagine – but freedom, to be healthy, had limits. Those limits made them sustainable. It meant making sure you lived in a way which benefits all of life.
So, when it comes to survival, sure, you can learn how to stay alive in the wilderness, how to make fire, filter your water, forage, catch animals for food, and how to cope with life's challenges.
But why? WHY should you survive?
I'm not asking that because I'm superior or better than anyone. Just think of it: Whenever a person finds themselves in a survival situation, what do they do first? They start making promises to whatever god or gods they believe in – and what do they promise? They start promising behaviours which they think will earn them the right to live! For example, they promise to go to church, to be nicer, a better parent, a better spouse, better with their parents, to work hard, and so on – whatever would make them a “good” person, however they define “good”.
So it's usually only when facing death that we ask ourselves that question and start thinking that way. What I'm saying is, we shouldn't wait until we're facing death.
Again, I'm not saying all this like I'm a paragon of perfection. I ask these things to myself everyday.
And you know what, it's not easy, it's a struggle in our society and culture to think this way. Our culture doesn not ask us to be responsible to all of life on the planet. Our culture demands unquestioning obedience that we don't care, and that we think only of ourselves, distract ourselves, stare at screens, make money, try to get rich, and try to gain status.
But look around – we must think this way. We must live in a way which respects all of life on the planet. So we must ask ourselves this question: What have I done today to deserve another day?
So I can teach you survival, or you can study survival. But why? Why should you, or any of us, survive? That's the real question.