Monday, September 3, 2018

Psychology of Survival and Security: A Behavioral Analysis (part 5 of 6)

Copyright ESIS 2018. Arctic Survival

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Part 5 of 6 

Priorities: Shelter. hydration, food

Priority 1, the need for shelter

           Shelter helps to reset the mind by resting the body. The rest for the whole person comes in the form of sleep, relaxing the brain from the anxiety of freezing, or overheating by keeping element such as heat, cold, rain and snow away from the body. The shelter gives the group time to reflect and plan. At the same time as days passed without external threats, sitting in a shelter with little or nothing to do also was a contributor to boredom. This boredom fostered negativity emotions such as fear, anxiety and worry due to being indoors and away from the immediate danger and allowing us to ponder on future events and reflect on current and past situations.
            Shelter came in many forms, from a tarp overhang to a fabricated roof made out of branches and leaves to escape the elements. The need for shelter, for the most part, came before food and water. Moreover, the fact that shelter was easier to acquire made it an easy and logical choice when it came to survival. Realistically, a shelter was easier to get than food or water was.     
            There are three basic types of no shelter or homeless situation, Long-term, mid-term and short-term. Long-term homelessness/shelterless as some experience in inner cities may be due to a variety of reasons both social and economic. Mid-term homelessness/shelterless may be due to socioeconomic reasons or natural or human-made devastation, or short-term homelessness/ shelterless, due to socio-economic reasons, natural disasters or human-made disasters.        
            Short-term shelterless can also be due to things like a hiking trip that turned disastrous or to merely a car breaking down in a remote place, and now the person must seek shelter and other necessities to survive until assistance arrives.
            The shelterless situation that we found ourselves in was more short-term. Whether it is long-term, mid-term or short-term, the commonality in all three homeless cases was to survive the day and secure the next until better situation can arise for a more permanent long-term shelter.
            Searching for long-term shelter and having to survive in a remote area without civilization was not an immediate need of ours; however, a short-term shelter was more essential. We were motivated for the short-term shelter, one to two nights at most and relocate to a better location for a more extended stay with more resources.
            Having a short-term shelter that we took with us in the form of a tarp or makeshift tent, gave us a sense of temporary security and a good feeling of knowing that at least tonight we will not freeze. This good fortune affected our motivation, behavior, and emotions positively; and it offered us a time to let out our emotions such as crying, anxiety, depression, and fear.
            The short moment of expressing our emotions helped some, but it also gave rise to anxiety and fear due to ruminating. With some group members, it gave time for pause and planning. All of this was short lived of course as time went by and thirst and hunger started to eat away at us. Having a shelter gave the emotions a time to calm down and think. The process that we went through was similar as to what someone goes through in a time of happiness, and it was imperative for the group members to understand the effects of dopamine and what mood caused its release.
            By understanding how dopamine works, we can recall positive memories in negative emotional times and this knowledge will aid in positive motivational mood and behavior later. Why was the group feeling joy for this short time in the midst of this tragic event? It was due to the parasympathetic system, which counters the sympathetic nervous system, and it was starting to balance itself out temporarily, and it was putting a halt on the negative emotions (Brannon et al., 2014).
Tranquility and its effects on behavior and motivation
            The effects on our motivation, behavior, and emotions in this temporary shelter were the result of the dopamine release from the stress and gave us a more relaxed state of mind; it helped with optimism, creativity and mental strength to deal with pains and bodily aches. The release of endorphins aided us as a natural pain reliever against the physical and emotional discomfort the group was feeling, and so it seemed for that moment of time that we could handle anything by having a feeling of “the runners” high due to having this shelter.
            In addition, the temporary shelter aided in the release of serotonin which in turn activated the pineal gland to produce melatonin (Peuhkuri, 2012), that assisted us in getting good sleep, in turn causing our minds to relax by reducing aggression and get some sleep. With rest, it aided us with physical and mental recovery, by slowing down the onset of depression.
            Having a rest in the shelter and the emotions of happiness also aided in the prolactin response increase (Pochelli, 2015). The prolactin response increase had a positive effect when it came to temporary happiness and helped in cognition thinking by perceiving the situation as they were, and not to over exaggerating the issue as well as aided in memory to recall skills sets or simply where someone put their cutting tool. 
            Protect brain from stress. As we pondered on our situation in this temporary shelter in a state of momentary bliss, the brain was working to protect itself from the stress that our environment and predicament was causing. What was happening in our brain that was aiding in our mental survival was that in order to protect itself, the brain releases a protein called brain-derived neurotropic F. This neurotrophin changes activity into synaptic and cognitive plasticity when researched in adult animals (Autry & Monteggia, 2012).
            The brain-derived neurotropic F seems to have a protective and reparative effect on memory neurons and is like a reset switch. Due to this activity, is why we seemed to feel a sense of ease and tended to perceive things with more clarity after stress (Autry & Monteggia, 2012).
            To fight the stress of being homeless and trying to survive out the days, nights and weeks, endorphins are released into the body to chemically combat the effects of anxiety that we all felt, by minimizing discomfort as well as blocking any feeling of pain.
            It does this by activating pleasure areas in the brain called nucleus accumbens by the release of dopamine into it that creates the feeling of euphoria. Moreover, this is how we were motivated to seek the next level of needs to our survival, and that was water and food. As Maslow stated, when needs are met, the following needs in the needs pyramid becomes the focus of survival (1943). To achieve a short-term emotional happiness, given the crisis, is an essential factor of positive behaviors that lead to success producing motivational outcomes. In addition to mental well-being, the immune system will rise, thereby aiding the fight against sickness (Abraham et al., 2016) which would also be detrimental to emotions, behavior, and motivation.
            In the early stages of survival and security, I observed within the group members who had negative thoughts and members who had positive ones. Those individuals that displayed negative thoughts and emotions such as fear and anxiety due to the perception that the future seems hopeless gave rise to the brain and hormonal activities that had a snowball effect on anxiety.
            The brain and hormonal activities were the output from the amygdala to the hypothalamus, regulate the autonomic fear activity by raising the blood pressure that keeps the blood pumping at a high pace (Kalat, 2009). As the brain got flooded with this ongoing activity within the amygdala and hypothalamus, the hormonal cortisol discharge that kept the anxiety active has dramatically affected our sleep patterns. This lousy sleep pattern also had a devastating effect on motivation.
             The anxiety and its unwanted hormonal releasing activity led to the sleep disorder called insomnia, sleep at times felt like an impossible thing to accomplish and when we did happen to get some sleep, typically nightmares/night terrors followed. The group members that experienced night terrors woke in the middle of the night screaming or startled. Fear was a constant that affected group dynamic. Fear of the unknown was also a constant good mood killer.
            Fear is good for survival when managed, due to caution applied by the group members in unknown situations, versus blind impulsive actions that could lead to injury. However, when we were lying in the shelter trying to rest and regain composure, and things were quiet, some members pondered on negative thoughts activating fight or flight mode, and this produced negative emotions. Fear slows down the cerebellum activity and therefore slows down the brains processing of any information stored in memory (Vazdarjanova, 2002), that effect having any creative ways to solve the next phase of the survival needs, and that was to seek security.
            As the cerebellum becomes affected by stress, it affects the left temporal lobe that affects the person’s mood, impulsive behavior and their memory (Turner, 2007). This change in the persons left temporal lobe, affected some group’s members negatively, and they did not remember essential items that have gotten lost or the effect it had on land navigation in general, getting lost was at times a genuine concerning threat.
            The more you feed fear and anxiety, the more permanent it becomes in your frontal lobe prefrontal cortex area. This area of the brain decides what is essential due to the amount of attention you give to it and how you feel about it (Pochelli & Paradiso., 2015). The more you focus on negativity, the more the synapsis neurons your brain creates to support your negative thought.
            Hippocampus provides memories stored from past experiences and what you think and feel about something, becomes so deeply ingrained that you have to work to rewire it (Pochelli & Paradiso., 2015). The members of the group that had happy thoughts or positive thoughts in the midst of negativity had a positive effect on the prefrontal cortex (PFC) which controls emotional activity in the deep limbic brain area.  The prefrontal cortex is only one part of the brain that manages the emotions as well as the behavior and assists the person to focus on the goals at hand in a crisis (Pochelli & Paradiso., 2015).
            Once we got enough sleep, it aided us in evaluating the situation, and a more positive outlook developed. We were now motivated to seek the next problem that was on our minds, and those being thirst and hunger. We were thirsty than hungry due to the dehydration that came from perspiration throughout the night both through sweat and through breathing.
            Seeking a longer lasting shelter would have to wait, our traveling shelter we found and made out of plastic bags gave us a sense of security that at least against the wind, rain, and sun, we would have protection for the time being. This positive feeling gave us a positive outlook that at least the shelter is something, and the need for shelter will not stress us for a while. When it came to the evolutionary man trying to survive, the next need after the shelter was water and food (Starratt, 2016) and it held true for our group as it did for the cave man.

Priority 2, the need for hydration

            Although someone would think that water would be our primary concern, this was not the case due to the high winds and chills that confronted us. In reality, what becomes a priority is what is hitting you in the face at that moment, and in our case, it was getting out of the chill and rain and not compile on the problems of hypothermia to a partially dehydrated and hungry group members.
Brain and water
            According to University of Washington (2017), the brain is 77 to 78 percent water. Having an adequately hydrated brain allows us to think faster, have more focus on tasks, and think things out with greater clarity as well as be more creative in finding solutions. An adequately hydrated brain also efficiently delivers nutrients to the right areas as well as aids in removing toxins from the body (Shier, Butler, & Lewis, 2007).
            Hydration is a biological need right down to every cell (Lundin, 2003). Long-term drinkable water with a proper balance of salt intake is not so easy to come by when one finds themselves fending for themselves in a crisis. As we went from location to location, at times, we found ourselves out of drinking water, much less water with perfectly balanced with the right amount of salt intake. Typically, the water was dirty and had to be made drinkable as well as filtered before drinking.
            When a person is under stress, anxiety or anger during a crisis, the body loses water through evaporation of sweat thereby depleting the brain of water (Lundin, 2003). If you are in a cold environment, water in the body and brain becomes lost through respiration through breathing (Lundin, 2003).     
            Having a properly hydrated body has positive effects on a person’s circulation and metabolism, and therefore aids in survival by assisting in sound judgment in decision-making processes. Also, in a stressful situation, hydration aids in having a positive attitude (Lundin, 2003).          
            Negative and positive effects of water on behavior, motivation, and emotions.   As observed, when the brain is dehydrated, the results were that motivation collapsed and fear and anxiety grew, in which in itself produced bodily functions such as rapid heartbeat, sweating and crying that stripped the body of the much-needed fluids.
            In some people, anxiety due to not having a secure and continues water source produced a reaction and caused some people to be ineffective at generating ideas to overcome the need for water. This problem seems to be due to stress-producing hormones from the amygdala through the sympathetic nervous system that causes the members to be in a state of worry.
            As the primary need of having water went unmet, no other motivation such as food and having a safe place to stay seemed to have existed. Due to the brain getting dehydrated for extended periods, the brain functions started to produce cortisol release thereby heightening the anxiety, stress and panic levels, causing in some to take risky chances such as climbing dangerous areas in search of water.
            People became agitated and argumentative; anger was the next by-product. However, anger dissipated quickly due to its energy-burning effect, and the melancholy effect soon kicked in giving way to despair. The logical, rational thinking seemed to have disappeared as well once again.
            Motivating behavior to overcome the difficulty of this crisis soon gave way to despair of self-talk of doom was at our forethought. The brains activity that released the stress hormone cortisol enhanced the emotional state of sadness and despair to take grip. The drinking of water is the only thing that would reverse this negative way of thinking and aid in the positive emotions by the release of dopamine (Carlson, 2013).
            Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to seek out more permanent shelter and food fell by the wayside, giving a higher level of survival needs to water. The secretion of stress hormone cortisol that kept the sympathetic nervous system active, and the person was unable to think clearly due to the dehydration effect this had on the brain cells.
            A significant energy drop by group members and the effects on their mood followed by feelings of tiredness, lack of motivation were observable throughout the day. Headaches and the difficulty in concentrating on plans and following through with those plans made the situation even harder. The changes in our mood seemed to be like an internal warning alarm to warn us that our brain has become or soon will become dehydrated and impaired our daily functions. As we made plans and tried to pack our things, we found that it took a lot more thinking and mental energy to accomplish things that would be very simple on hydrated days.
            In the stage of dehydration, the brain must work harder to function normally; the power of the brains output in the context of cognitive functions became limited. The brain’s production due to dehydrated brain cells even the perception of a task was a challenge to overcome.
            Without hydration, living things will eventually weaken and finally die. Therefore, getting water into the system becomes vital in importance the longer a person is trying to survive. For a person in a survival situation such as a soldier whose norms are having things within their packs, foraging for water and food becomes a source of high stress ( U.S Marine Corps, 1992) as it was for our group members trying to survive.   
            Due to dehydration of the brain cells affecting the brain both physically and cognitively, learning from our errors became harder. Memory became affected, and as a result, a few members lost things during moving from place to place, and we had to go back and find the lost items. Not remembering things also caused fights amongst group members as emotions became unregulated and anger directed towards a person who forgot a valuable item behind.
            Some group members thought they were weak in spirit but the fact of that matter was that what was happening according to Biller (2015) was that the brain would shrink like a plant when it becomes dehydrated, the cells in the brain will start to dry out and shrink due to lack of fluids.
            When we did finally find proper drinking water, those that drank it down fast and in way too many amounts, seemed to have developed a slight headache, we were not sure if this was due to the dehydration we felt or swelling of the cells at rehydration. From an analytical perspective, the cerebral edema swelling became a risk due to brain cells sucking up more fluids then they can hold. According to Jha’s research finding, shows that a rapid rehydration on brain cells can have an adverse effect on brain cells and can damage or rupture (2003).  
            At times of massive thirst, even rehydration became a thing of concern and the research in the context of the group’s dehydration to rehydration seems to explain the headaches some experienced in the analysis.
            Thirst. The fact we did not have water slowly dissipated the good feeling of having a traveling shelter, even though we were relieved about the shelter, the brains dehydrating state robbed us of logical thinking due to the dehydration effect on the physical brain, and thus affecting mood, emotions, behavior and once again motivation.
            Lack of water brought on the feeling of desperation, because the brain was going through osmometric thirst a brain cellular dehydration (Carlson, 2013). Drying up the cells in the brain as well as the hypothalamus influenced logical thinking and planning skills that were needed to secure more water.
            Dehydration not only of the body but primarily the brain brought on the slowness of movement, slowness of thinking and a mindset to give up and in some extremes giving up to death. The effect on the cerebral cortex part of the brain, which was in charge of logical and clear thinking became reduced, thereby was having an adverse impact on group members that were hit by dehydration.
            Not having water affected motivation, behavior, and emotions. Fear of death by dying of dehydration was a reality, but even though it was a reality and knowing the possibility of it happening, produced a paralyzing type of fear. The emotion of fear, we came to realize inhibited circulation, proper metabolism activities, as well as good judgment when it came to judging situations and realistic planning as well as attitudes overall (Lundin, 2003).
            We eventually got water as well as the plastic discarded containers we found to collect the water to store it. The fact we now had water helped motivation for the short term to get things done as far as seeking more water and later food. After a few people took the dangerous risk of drinking the water without the time to boil it due to desperation, gave some needed motivation to purify the next batch of water. The water rehydrated the brain but caused some to have diarrhea, but this did not seem to have a bad feeling about the drinking water. After drinking, the group had the motivation and the stamina to filter the water with makeshift filters and get more water into the body system to get more energy to take the next step to build a fire to purify it.
            Even with the risk of sickness, we drank, and the fire was built to purify it at the cost of diarrhea and some stomachaches, but not more than that. Being aware that diarrhea causes hypovolemic thirst or volumetric thirst, a thirst that is due to loss of water volume we proceeded with extreme caution trying to avoid a situation that will make things worse. After the water was boiled and purified we felt better at the safety of the water at this point, but we did risk being sick to get to this stage.
            Once we had drinking water, there was a surge in dopamine release (Carlson, 2013) and the surge of dopamine release aided in positive thinking. The brains rehydration areas such as hypothalamus helped in memory, feeling good, sleep, raising energy levels and overall motivation that led to behaviors such as being more relaxed, friendlier, positivity and motivation that was more conducive to survival.
            However, this was not the case with everyone, even though we had now water as well as shelter, the happiness was yet again short-lived, and the pangs of hunger were kicking in. Nothing existed now at the forefront of our thoughts but getting food into our bellies primarily salty types of foods.  
            It was behavior and motivation, which the group reflected upon when we had a moment of silent reflection, and explored what is going on in our mind and body. At first, nothing mattered but shelter, and then once we had shelter, nothing mattered but hydration, now that we had water, nothing matters but getting food into our stomachs. Once one need is satisfied, the only focus becomes the next need, and so the cycle continued.
            Lessons learned in the context of dehydration in this desperate situation, was to drink even when we do not feel like drinking. When we get thirsty, we should not use this as a measure of when we should drink and how much to drink. Feeling thirsty is a signal from the brain that we are already a quart to a quart and a half low on water and dehydration of brain cells will soon begin (Lundin, 2003).
            I also observed that once we drank an ample supply of water, some were still getting sick with disorientation and confusion that led to no motivation. Having an excess amount of water without the right balance of salt led to symptoms that resemble dehydration, disorientation, muscle cramps, nausea, slurred speech, confusion and in extreme conditions, coma and death may follow (Lundin, 2003).
Priority 3, the need for food
            Having water and shelter was the highlight of the past, but the joy of a shelter and water quickly gave way yet once again to hunger pangs. Once again, the old so familiar effects on mood, emotions, behavior, and motivation were once again at our forethought. Lack of nutrition to feed the brain took its toll.
Brain and Food
            Lack of food produced similar stress and anxiety as the water problem, but this time the lack of food brought out different emotions. The first feeling expressed and witnessed was stress and not anxiety. However, lack of food is tolerable for a short-term versus shelter or water because in many cultures, fasting for a prolonged time of one to three days is common, and so being hungry for a short time did not endanger us. However, once day three set in, things took a different turn causing stress that led some to angry outbursts.
            Stress brought about anger feelings once again, robbing the individuals of rational thinking. Lack of food gave way to weight loss versus an immediate life and death feeling, like with water, depression kicked in.
            Food is essential in the production of the amino acid phenylalanine that was typically found in many protein-rich foods. Dopamine is a forerunner to epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine (Kalat, 2009), all essential needs for the mood that leads to positive motivation.
            Lack of food was also a significant contributor to headaches and emotions associated with people with constant headaches and low blood sugar. Moodiness, irritability, slow to think and react was a constant motivation killer when it came to moving up Maslow’s pyramid of needs. Much of the food that we ate when we came upon food source that the brain needed was glucose loaded. Glucose use as fuel and energy throughout the body and became the primary source of fuel for the brain (Kalat, 2009).
            The major part of the body that became affected by not having food to eat is the hypothalamus, located in the midbrain above the brain stem (Kalat, 2009). The hypothalamus is responsible for regulating homeostasis of the bodies system such as the body temperature (Kalat, 2009). Having a lack of glucose, insulin, and glucagon can affect motivational behavior and emotions when it comes to surviving and moving forward with motivation. Food is essential to the balance of feeling good versus feeling miserable, due to what takes place in the brain if food is lacking or is in abundance for consumption.
            Negative and positive effects of food on behavior, motivation, and emotions. Food for the brain goes without question. Lack of food had two types of observable outcomes on motivational and behavior as well as emotion. The first noticeable effect when it came to lack of food, was motivation. High motivation was a positive drive that aided us to seek out food and be motivated to hunt, fish or forage. While the negative effect was a hopelessness type of behavior, in which the person without food at times resorted to questionable behavior to get food. These questionable actions ranged from stealing food from others, hiding food from others and prostituting themselves to get the food from others.
            Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pointed out that for people to feel complete, they need to move up the needs pyramid to attain actualization (Maslow, 1943).       When it came to the positive behaviors such as living with a sense of morality and ethics, some members resorted to foraging, planting, fishing or hunting for nourishment. By following an ethical behavioral model, the more ethically inclined members, the long-term emotional and behavioral expression were rewarded by a sense of accomplishment and knowing that if they must, they can continue being motivated towards positive behavior that will enhance their emotional experience by not resorting to negative behaviors to acquire sustenance.
            Negative behaviors followed by negative short as well as long-term emotional problems such as sadness, envy, greed when it came to a shortage of food were evident. These specific group members did have high motivation to attain food in any way they could, even by bad behavior. The negative motivation and behavior such as stealing and prostituting themselves to gain food had long-term effects not only on them but on the cohesion of the group peace as well. The short and long-term impact on the misbehaving persons within the group knew that they resorted to the lowest behaviors to gain food, and in turn felt very bad about themselves as well as losing respect from the group.
            I observed that the group members that resorted to negative behavior and those that followed a more positive behavior both had a big dopamine dump and felt good after eating, no matter through which means they have gotten the nourishment. Some short-term psychological effected both the ethical behaving group as well as the unethical and immoral members. Motivation due to food being in their system did have a positive on both groups motivation to press forward to not only survive but also thrive.
            Semi-starvation. When it came to hunger and near starvation, all a person can think about all day and night was food. Rarely did a moment of the day go by without the talk or thought of food. Some members started sucking on a piece of cloth or leaves and some even on grass, in addition to whatever they can safely put in their mouth to keep hunger from making a worse impact on our mental sanity.
            Some members of the group even went off to isolated spots to deal with the negativity and starvation, while some just covered their heads with their jackets to escape reality, while at the same time trying to come up with ideas to get food.
            As a group, we experienced mood swings, anger phases and no motivation to do anything including seeking food. We were on edge at times as well as depressed most of the time. Anxiety became the norm, and some resorted to tapping and pacing about to avoid being hypersensitive and the feeling of nervousness. As time passed, we began to stay away from each other, and our judgment became so bad that talking with each other led to misunderstandings and soon started fights that sapped energy. If we had any power left, any attempt to get food was challenging, and to physically function due to lack of strength and loss of muscle mass was starting to take a more visible physiological effect such as weight loss.
            The group did not find pleasure in the company of the opposite sex as well, the thought of pleasure-seeking drives physically was nonexistent, because all we thought about was eating, not only to feed the body but to feed the brain as it consumed lots of energy as well.
            Another psychological impact semi-starvation had on us was the inability to care when someone got hurt. We felt utterly indifferent to the suffering of our group members when our bellies were empty.
            If however, the hunger turns into prolonged starvation, the group members could suffer brain related problem that could affect cognition. Researchers have reported that amongst people suffering from anorexia nervosa that deprivation produces shrinking in the brains grey matter. The shrinkage of the brains grey matter was due to malnourishment (Bryner, 2010).
            The lack of food affected our memories, and so, this also played a crucial role in motivational behavior that expressed itself as emotional outbursts due to forgetfulness and frustration. The effects on the brain from starvation can affect long-term memory that requires protein synthesis and requires a lot of energy. The brain took the energy from the rest of the body and made itself the priority user of the bodies’ nutrients to ensure its survival. Memory formation became restricted due to starvation by activating the cortisol receptors. Starvation brought about decreased blood sugar levels, and this had a significant impact on memory (Frugal brain-Neurofantastic, 2013).
            During our survival predicament, lack of food did not affect motivation as severely as the lack of water in the short-term. However, not having the food did affect emotions such as anxiety that led to worry about actually acquiring food in the long-term.

Part 6. Maslow’s safety and security needs. To be continues...