3. Deny Denial
It is in our nature to believe that the weather will improve, that we’ll find our way again, or that night won’t fall on schedule. Denial, which psychologists call the "incredulity response," is almost universal, even among individuals with excellent training. David Klinger, a retired Los Angeles police officer, describes in his book Into the Kill Zone that while moonlighting as a bank guard he saw "three masked figures with assault rifles run through the foyer of the bank." His first thought was that the local SWAT team was practicing. His second was that they were dressed up for Halloween. Klinger later said, "[I thought] maybe they were trick-or-treaters. It was just disbelief." (He did recover from denial to shoot the criminals.) One of the most common acts of denial is ignoring a fire alarm. When my daughters were little, I taught them that the sound of a fire alarm means that we must go outside. Standing in front of a hotel at about two o’clock one cold Manhattan morning, I explained to them that it was nicer to be on the street wishing we were inside rather than inside wishing we were on the street. Denial plays a large role in many wilderness accidents. Take getting lost. A hiker in denial will continue walking even after losing the trail, assuming he’ll regain it eventually. He’ll press on—and become increasingly lost—even as doubt slowly creeps in. Learn to recognize your tendency to see things not as they are but how you wish them to be and you’ll be better able to avoid such crises.