How to Train Your Mind to Prevail when the SHTF

by Erich

Learn how to train and condition your mind to respond instantly to a crisis situation without leaving the comfort of your recliner

Many of us have the gear, gadgets, and even the know-how to effectively respond to a dangerous situation or crisis but the fact is, without actual experience or realistic training, far too many will hesitate (or worse freeze) when it really hits the fan.

While direct experience and realistic training is certainly most effective in conditioning your body to respond in a certain way, it is not always possible or practical.

There are other options.

Enter Visualization

Outside of realistic training and direct experience, another very effective way of conditioning your mind and body to respond to crisis is through visualization.

In this article you will learn how visualization can train and condition your body and mind to instantly and effectively respond to a crisis situation.

Visualization in a nutshell

Before you think I’ve gone all new-agey on you, let me point out that visualization is not some mystical technique but is in fact a well known tool used by some of the most elite athletes on our planet — some notable examples being Michael Jordan, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Mohammed Ali. This isn’t new age mumbo jumbo, it’s science.

What is visualization?

Visualization is a type of mental rehearsal used to create and strengthen brain patterns. Scientific studies have revealed that visualization can actually enhance performance almost as effectively as physical practice.

So how does visualization work?

With each experience, a neural pathway is formed or strengthened. These neural pathways are essentially clusters of neurons in the brain that work together to create a mental instruction or a learned behavior.

What’s interesting is brain studies show that thoughts can form the same mental instructions as actions. When you imagine something, this imagery impacts the same cognitive processes in the brain as a physical action would: motor control, attention, perception, planning, and memory. In other words, during visualization your brain is getting trained for actual performance.

Back to the neural pathways again: When your brain conceives of an act, impulses are generated that prompt neurons to form neural pathways in the brain, essentially programming your body’s actions as if you physically performed the activity.

Athletes use this ability of the brain to “practice” their golf swings, free throws, and dance routines; martial artists use it to better perform in breaking ice blocks or boards; and even doctors will use this to do difficult surgeries in their mind before performing the actual surgery.

Personally I used it with great success when I was a competing in gymnastics. My coach would have me visualize many of the difficult or dangerous moves in my mind until I had an absolute clear “feeling” of the move before performing it in real life. Although it was the first time doing a certain move, in most cases I felt I had done the move already.

With regards to my mind, there really was no separation between the two.

Visualization for preppers

So where does visualization fit in the life of a prepper?

Well, I think it’s a perfect fit for preparing for any type of dangerous or crisis situation we may encounter.

Let me give you some examples:

Home defense

One example in this category might be visualizing you’re in bed and waking up to the sound of someone breaking into your home or rummaging around in the living room. What would you do? What if the intruder runs away? or runs toward you? Clearly visualize your what your actions and response would be.

Another example may be to imagine being in your home or bug-out location during a period of social unrest. Visualize someone knocking on your door asking for help. Imagine how you would respond during this situation. Play out different scenarios in your mind like little kids coming to the door or a woman who seems to be by herself. Would you respond differently? What if they turned violent?

Natural disasters

Some examples in this category might be visualizing what you would do if you were caught in your home during a severe earthquake, tornado or some other type of natural disaster. What if you were at your place of employment? Or on the road when it happened?

Urban/Wilderness survival

In this category, you might imagine the actions you would take if stranded in a rural or urban area that you might frequent. Or mentally practice building a shelter or performing a skill that you are reading from a wilderness/urban survival guide.

These scenarios are just examples. You’ll be able to come up with many more.

How to properly visualize

Now that you know what visualization is and where you can apply it in prepping I want to briefly discuss how to perform effective visualization that will have greatest effect on training and conditioning your mind.

Step 1: Write down list of scenarios

The first step is to write down a list of potentially dangerous or critical situations that would require immediate action. Start with the scenarios that are most likely to happen to you and then work your way down.

Step 2: Choose a scenario to visualize

Now that you have your list it’s time to choose one and focus on that one before moving to the next.

Step 3: Relax your body and mind

If you are preoccupied with something that is stressing you or you are too stimulated, visualization will not be very effective. It’s best to perform visualization techniques when your mind is clear and your body is relaxed.

Step 4: Close your eyes and engage all your senses

Now that your relaxed and you’ve chosen your source of visualization, close your eyes and engage as many of the five senses as you can.

Some helpful questions: What are you feeling in your body? Is there any specific smells in the air? Who are you with? What are you wearing? What do you hear? Are there any bright flashes or loud sounds that would startle you? Visualize you staying in control and relaxed. What emotions are you feeling right now?

The more realistic and vivid you can make it where you can imagine the sights, sounds, feeling, smells of your environment and situation, all the better. The more you do this the stronger your powers of imagination will be — to the point that it is so vivid it feels real.


The benefits of doing these visualization exercises are that they will in many cases expose the holes or flaws in your preps, plans, or
training. You’ll go about visualizing a certain scenario when you say to yourself, “Man, I need to get this piece of gear or learn how to do such and such skill to better be prepared for this.”

It’s an awesome technique and the applications of visualization are really limitless.

For example, besides practicing for crisis situations I personally like to use visualization to learn new edible/medicinal plants. I’ll imagine what they look, feel, taste (in some cases) and smell like. It also helps for me to mentally practice making them into the food/medicine I would use from it.

It’s really amazing but in so many cases I’ve been able to positively identify a plant out in the wild without a field guide because of the visualization practices I’ve done.

So that’s it. I hope you really consider doing these exercises. They are very effective and best of all they can easily be done before going to bed, upon waking up, or any other idle time you find in your day.

As always, if you have any personal experience or questions with visualization I’d love to hear from you so please post a comment below!

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Comment by Matt in Oklahoma
2012-06-06 13:11:11

Visualization helps you work thru the OODA loop for sure. It’s the reason shooting priciples like IPSC, IDPA etc use senarios to train. It helps you visualize being in a bank or store when something happens.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-06-06 13:26:27


You’re right on with the OODA loop. It’s the “Decision” and “Act” stages that most people get stuck without some kind of previous training. Visualization helps you speed through that loop if you’ve been there before (even if the ‘before’ happened to have only been in your mind).

Comment by Shanghai Jack
2012-06-06 14:14:13

Yes I have used visualization in several ways.

My family and I have moved around frequently in the past years. About 3 years ago we settled in a mountainous area about 50 miles from the nearest city. As a combat veterans and long term survivalist I have been trying to recruit a survival group in this area. I thought that I would share my results and see if there were any good suggestions.
Most of the people that I have met were either yankees who support obama but still want to learn survival skills. I prefer to recruit native residents and I have earned some extra money as a home and retreat defense consultant. But most of them are confused, especially timid and careful and suspicious. The fellow veterans that I met were not in combat arms (infantry, armor, artillery, Special Forces or SOCOM) and preferred a “wait and see” attitude. All of them actually think that four adults and teenagers can defend their home against marauders.
I want to meet, befriend and recruit people who share ideology and background with my wife and I we are right wing rebels. As a former NCO and officer, I know how to do what is necessary to defend and secure a survival group but I still do not have any trustworthy group formed. In fact I have met at least two feds who were bent on infiltration.
Any suggestions, referrals, ideas that might be useful would be appreciated.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-06-06 14:33:15


One approach that I’ve seen work for others is to join a few of the survivalist forums out there (ie, etc). You could post your question letting them know in a general sense where you live and who you are looking for (skillset, experience, training etc). Then ask them to PM (private message) you if anyone is interested or looking to join a group. From there you can get their contact info in order to vet them further.

– Erich

Comment by Silas Longshot
2012-06-06 16:57:55

Excellent article, well based in a technique that does in fact work well.
I did a lot of ‘visualization’ of this type while writing my survival book.

Comment by RangerRick
2012-06-06 19:13:32

I understand you problem. I moved to North Idaho, what a blessing. I teach Survival Preparedness at our church. We have many vets that are in the area and like me ,former Airborne, Ranger ,Special Forces, grunt medic types.
They wanted to make my place the Command Center, had to remind them- what is the first thing we take out? No Command Center here.
They look at the food storage and think,we know where to come for food. NO- I will share my meal that night, but not my families meal.By the way, don’t come back tomorrow night, I get grumpy when I don’t eat because you did not prepare.
All think they can do what they did 40 years ago. It will not happen. Prepare now, don’t buy that $20,000 boat/car/bike. Take care of your family. They don’t get it.
Keep looking, I did find some great folks and we train and prepare not for the blip, but for the long term. If you need info, PM me and I have thousands of downloads to share.
Good luck, Best Regards, RangerRick

Comment by Sue Jones
2012-06-08 14:16:12

Hello RangerRick:

Your posting sure resonates with me. Except for a very few close friends who are aware of the SHTF on the way, everyone else here in my community is totally unaware of unfolding world events, either by default or on purpose.

And those close friends and I keep our mouths shut as to what our preparations are or what we have in stock.

I would sure appreciate your offer of sharing downloads. I haven’t heard anyone in my community or church talking about or urging others to get prepared.
You can reach me at

I had the “nudge” to get serious more than 6 months ago & started prepping. I’ve just sold my house in a “dropping like a rock market.” By end of this month I will be in a totally debt free position. I purchased an extremely affordable mobile home here on Vancouver Island (mid-island area) … no mortgage. And I have enough space on the pad lot to have several veggie bed and fruits. The ramshackle small greenhouse on the property can be fixed up also.

One question I need to know ….. can anyone recommend a good supplier of prepared dehydrated meals? I’m concerned also the cost of duty taxes of shipments coming across border into Canada (since I’m a Senior person and cost is a consideration).

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-06-08 23:46:06


You may want to check out They’ve got the THRIVE brand of freeze-dryed meals and it’s on your side of the border so it may be cheaper.

(Comments wont nest below this level)
Comment by gunny frank
2012-06-07 00:18:42

keep ur friends close, ur enimies closer. be careful not to advertise too much, the whole town will be on ur doorstep ina shtf. be ready to lead. theyre gonna look to u

Comment by gunny frank
2012-06-07 00:31:08

RangerRick to
would love to swap info. sounds like we’re still 2 peas in a pod. always said I’d rather be shoulder to shoulder with 1 ranger than 10 greenhorn grunts. email me at

Comment by Kris
2012-06-07 00:32:13

Thanks for the suggestions!!!

Comment by 0311
2012-06-08 00:20:08

So how do we PM someone?

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-06-08 23:38:17


If you’re talking about PMing on the forums, well each forum has it’s own methods.

If you want to PM here, then it’s best to set up a temporary email account (so you don’t get spammed by the bots) on a free provider like gmail or yahoo and post it here.

Comment by Shanghai Jack
2012-06-08 13:04:17

Ranger Rock, you are lucky to find a group of fellow survivalists in your church.

As a Baptist I have stayed away from church since I discovered that so many protestant preachers are making deals with the Moslems which in effect converts protestant church people into Moslem subordinates. That arrangement is a transitional status until a demand will be made that all who do not adopt the Islamic faith become slaves or dead.That discovery caused me and others to turn away from the Christian Church because we view Islam as a murder cult of psychotics that we will never serve.
I am a Christian, but most Christians that I meet have no fire in their belly and I no longer waste my time in that direction.
I have already tried several survivalist forums and even set up a group site on a few of them. But the few interested persons who contacted me lived hundreds of miles from our mountain home. Such distance preclude the tome and opportunity it takes to build trust and cohesion within the core group.
Many couples that I met, think that they can defend their homes against predators. I am supposed to find myself trying to “sell” group security and survival. I know how to seize small defensive areas, rapidly.
My specialty areas are tracking, tactics and OpSec and I have taught many survival courses on subjects ranging from Land Navigation to the Big Five (Water, Food, Shelter, Covert-Fire and Stalking). After every survival group members knows how practice the basic survival skills it is time to focus on group security and tactics.
I have also worked as a home and retreat defense consultant. However, I must continue to hunt for potential members of a survival group, maybe five or six like minded families. It is harder than I ever dreamed.

Comment by Shanghai Jack
2012-06-08 13:07:21

After I wrote and posted my last comment, I discovered some grammatical errors. How do I correct such errors after I have posted my message?

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-06-08 23:33:48

Hey Jack,

Thanks for the heads up but no worries on the grammar — no grammar nazis are allowed here. Just speak your mind any way you like 🙂

Comment by Deb
2012-06-09 08:12:21

RangerRick, you should consider buying your own dehydrator. It’s easy and you could save a ton of money dehydrating your own vegi’s and stuff. YouTube actually has a lot on the subject and you could do further research on the net as I have done. Good luck

Comment by Deb
2012-06-09 08:13:26

OOHHPS Sorry RangerRock, I meant about the dehydrator.

Comment by Deb
2012-06-09 08:33:30

I can’t tell you how invaluable reading this article has been. I’ve always been visualization oriented. And I thought my imagination was just running away with me. LOL. So this will help immensely as I have no money for formal training. I got into prepping last year which started as emergency preparedness for hurricane season in a southern state. It kind of snowballed into this prepping thing, which is challenging because I’ve been out of work for over 3 years and moved here to help look after my sisters learning disabled daughter while she works. It has taken me over a year to get the few things (gear) I’ve managed to gather and I’m slowly working on getting them into the mind-set. They don’t give me funny looks anymore. I finally have my sister looking at pressure canners, making our own MREs (thank the Lord), and finally putting up some extra food, but would love to meet some like-minded individuals/families in our area. And thanks to reading the comments here I have an idea. Thanks for all the comments people, they are always informative and I learn something new every day. : )

Comment by MichaelSee
2012-06-17 23:47:57

Visualization is good for stress levels, but will seldom substitute for actual, physical training. Unless you are at the Tiger Woods level of a skill, visualization probably won’t help with polishing a poorly-known skill. You have to actually put on the hiking gear, pack the pack and go into the woods for a few days to know what works and doesn’t. This applies to almost any other skill such as shooting, blacksmithing, etc.

Comment by Jason
2013-02-13 11:25:32

It’s true. I used to do this all the time. That’s why I was laughing at the part about imagining the smell, cause that seems to come naturally to me, even while watching movies and such that I get into. It makes you a better person, overall, actually. Just don’t use it for all aspects of life, leave some time for some surprises!

Comment by vinny
2013-02-26 13:11:52

hi Jack, you do not have to be specific for security reasons but what state do you live in? I am looking to leave population, am former 82nd abn infantry, am skilled in many areas of construction, fully armed, I am used to HARD labor and can fend for myself and others if i am obligated to a group, hope to hear from you but if not , take care and good luck, God bless

Comment by Law
2013-08-15 15:07:34

Nicely I truly enjoyed studying this. These details acquired by you is extremely helpful for proper preparing.

Comment by Andrea
2013-12-08 17:31:55

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obtain facts about my presentation topic, which i am going to deliver in university.

my blog post; construction experts (Andrea)

Comment by Larry
2014-06-21 22:27:32

Any chance you guys live in southern Oregon area. I would love to get with more like minded. I currently am with a group, we are all HAM qualified, and established back up communication among other things. We are beginning to work together and have been getting to know each other, and putting together some SOP’s for our organization. We have had a few outings as well for training purposes, and are CERT trained. So much more to do, so little time.

Comment by Pat
2014-06-22 07:28:59

Ranger Rick; would love to view your downloads, but not sure how to PM you.

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