Lawrence Gonzales - 12 Rules of Survival

Link to a fine article based on the experiences of people who survived considerably-threatening adversities.

Hard to find anything I disagree with in it. Gives a good idea of some aspects of what I mean by being a "hard"[/"strong"--see comments] person (which is nothing to do with being nasty or selfish).

There seems to be a hidden (unstated) message. Namely that on boarding a plane you might get a lot more than you bargained for.


  1. Not a bad article. Personally I don't like the word 'hard' (I prefer 'strong') but clearly the phenomenon exists. It is actually possible to make people strong, or to give them techniques which they can use to make themselves strong. Modern psychology is gradually getting over Freudianism and learning how to do this -- hence the evidence base for REBT (with its direct line to ancient Stoicism whose 'strength' was legendary) and the even better one for its modern descendant, CBT.

    Having said that, how many people will deliberately develop this strength, even when faced with obvious evidence of their own weakness? That is another question altogether. It must always be remembered that capitalism, in a certain sense, runs by inculcating personal weakness. Facing the truth is rare anyhow, but we have never had a society with greater ability to program people to ignore the reality of their own feelings and situation.

    The other thing not addressed by the article to my mind (not its fault at all) was the difference between 'emergency' in general and the current 'emergency' in particular -- the latter exceeds the former in both length (of time) and breadth (of people affected) and thus requires some additional skills.

  2. Jason, I agree that "strong" would be a better word to express what I meant by "hard". Words never were my hard point. My reckoning is that REBT/CBT would only in some respects make people stronger. My own experience of escaping from being an ultra-phobic adolescent attests to the power of applied rationality overcoming specific neuroses (emotional problems). But to what extent did my own improvements depend on my (unwitting trial and error) antidoting of the dental mercury poisoning that notoriously "makes a mental wreck of its victim" (Tuthill 1899)?

    And I don't think that curing of neuroses equates with making a person stronger in the sense we have in mind. My concept is that people vary in innate inclination to greater or lesser valuing of (and putting faith in) rationality v emotionality. Some such as myself are biased pro-rational/reality anti-emotionality anyway; they would be naturally strong, if not the 'nicest' people as a result. Some would be borderline, amenable to tipping towards rational with encouragement. Others would be hopelessly stuck on the emotional side, or would become so in the disturbing scenarios ahead. I myself don't view with any enthusiam the prospect of being forced into ruthless choices someday but I grit my teeth and carry on (perhaps).

    You can't persuade someone to become more/less prejudiced and I see a subset of that here in fundamental orientations towards reality v denial (which I see as an important element of being "strong").

  3. Agree that REBT/CBT would only work in some respects but that simply means for me that you add other things. To me the 'strength' we're talking about doesn't correlate to an instinctive valuing of reason over feeling (although it certainly would to a learned valuing of levelheadedness over passions, which are what most people mistake for feelings.)

    In my experience, someone very over-emotional can indeed alter profoundly. But it cannot be expected; it depends on the work they put in. If they work well and investigate well they will succeed, but since in practice the work will mostly not be put in, in effect many will indeed be 'hopelessly stuck' as you say -- I just would not be anything like as clear-cut as you on which.

    I see reality v. denial as to do with groupthink. Don't forget the strong bias in the media towards baser emotions and thereby irresponsibility, which 'helps the economy'. TV makes trances, as Milton Erickson (another very strong person who knew how to inculcate strength) understood.

  4. POSTLUDE: At the end of his famous REBT 'self-help book' A Guide to Rational Living, Albert Ellis sums up the attitude which the reader should be continuously developing:

    "Let unfortunate things happen. Let people and things plague me. Let me grow older and be more afflicted with physical ills and pain. Let me suffer real losses and sorrows. Whatever they may be, I am still largely the creator and ruler of my own emotional destiny. My head and body may be bloodied, but I am still determined to be unbowed. In spite of life's storms, I shall seek and find some decent shelter. But even when I occasionally don't, I shall refuse to throw up my hands and whine and whimper..."

    It sounds like 'strength' to me. :)