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Survival Mentality: The Psychology of Staying Alive

Learn how to build a robust psychological toolkit for survival in a host of life-threatening situations and emergency scenarios.
Survival Mentality: The Psychology of Staying Alive is rated 4.4 out of 5 by 50.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Survival Mentality This psychologist's presentation on Survival Mentality is outstanding, and it could have been expanded. I recommend this course to everyone, especially those serving the communities, or anyone having the misfortune of not being prepared such as being caught in a blizzard, or being injured on a hiking trip miles from the safety net of a community. This instructor knows her subject.
Date published: 2024-05-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely excellent course Just finished watching the course “Survival Mentality: The Psychology of Staying Alive” by Professor Nancy Zarse, PsyD. As a self defence instructor, I found this to be an excellent course and one I will be recommending to my students as another piece of the survival puzzle. Professor Zarse is an excellent presenter with a very clear presentation style. The course is both factual, well researched but also punctuated with real life stories. Professor Zarse is clearly educated in the subject and has extensive experience in the topic and exposure to front line personnel who deal with critical incidences as part of their duties. The life stories are not restricted to first responders and Professor Zarse shows how everyone’s life experience can prepare them to survive. I highly recommend this course. I would have only one request of Professor Zarse - that she do an additional lecture (or free lecture addition for the Great Courses) on the freeze, the types of freezes, how to recognize you are in a freeze and how to break the freeze. That was the only thing I would have like to have seen added to this fabulous course. (I hope you read your reviews Professor.)
Date published: 2024-02-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good preparedness perspectives; not a checklist This course provides a lot of good information and perspective, but does not clearly provide a lot of actionable information - things that people can do now to be better prepared for the unexpected challenges. I do not disagree with any of the discussions presented, and the perspectives presented are reasonable, but a lot is based on what you have already done in your life, not things you can go out and do this week. Overall, the course is worthwhile and entertaining.
Date published: 2024-01-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from What A Professor and Woman! As a 57 y/o female, retired firefighter, who has a kidney transplant, I have long seen myself as having a survivor mentality. This course by Professor Zarse both reminded me, and taught me anew, what I need to continue living with an attitude of perserverance.
Date published: 2023-11-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thought provoking Sometimes we think that life and dead situations only happen to people in the law enforcement, in the military or in other similar professions. But, as the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers of NY demonstrated, it can happen to anyone. Hence the concepts addressed in this course are relevant to all of us. We may not be able to train ourselves the way a firefighter would, but nevertheless having a notion of what it takes to survive a crisis is rather thought provoking. It makes you think: What would I do in a situation similar to that? I think that this course has clear lessons for all of us to learn from. And the delivery of those concepts could not be more engaging and motivational than the way professor Zarse does it.
Date published: 2023-03-20
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Too many technical hiccups So far have not listened to it. Wanted to listen while driving but requires Wifii. In hotel room now and regular wifi is not for streaming…I can not see myself sitting in my house tethered to my Wifii listening to this.
Date published: 2022-10-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very good presentation from a PRO This is my field. Dr. Zarse lays out the field clearly and with good depth. If only the talking heads in political offices, and "newsrooms", would watch the course and take head...
Date published: 2022-08-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course This course was excellent! Professor Zarse delivered a powerful presentation and provided meaningful information that can be utilized in daily life. She was engaging and clearly is a leader in her field. This is a must see course.
Date published: 2022-03-18
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When we hear about someone surviving a great challenge, we often hear that the person rose to the occasion." But in fact, psychologists find that in moments of terror, people revert to their lowest level of training and preparation. Knowing that, the trick is to bring up your "lowest level" by continually improving your training and preparation, practicing for survival now, and building the resilience that will sustain you in times of adversity. In Survival Mentality: The Psychology of Staying Alive, you'll learn how to prepare now to give yourself the very best chance of surviving a life-threatening emergency."


Nancy Zarse

Join me as we learn what it means to have a survival mentality, and how you can develop yours to be as prepared as possible when it matters most.


The Chicago School of Professional Psychology

Nancy Zarse is a Professor of Forensic Psychology at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, where she also received her PsyD. She is the lead faculty for such classes as Violence and Risk Assessment, Psychology of Terrorism, and Hostage Negotiation. She also developed a course on Israel, focusing on terrorism, trauma, and resilience, culminating in a 10-day study abroad trip, which she has led for eight years.


Professor Zarse specializes in the prevention, identification, assessment, and management of risk of violence. She serves as an industry expert on violence prevention for global corporations, national companies, and school districts. Professor Zarse worked as a consultant to the FBI’s Countering Violent Extremism program with secret clearance. She operated as one of three experts on a team awarded a sizable grant for countering violent extremism by the Department of Homeland Security. She is a member of the FBI’s Terrorism Liaison Officer Committee (law enforcement counterterrorism) and was appointed Sector Chief of Academia for the FBI’s InfraGard (private sector counterterrorism).


Professor Zarse worked as a forensic psychologist at several high-profile prisons, with previous positions including chief psychologist at two federal prisons and director of inmate administration at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, the maximum security military prison. Her responsibilities included performing psychological evaluations, assessing risk of violence, providing individual and group therapy, leading hostage negotiation teams, providing staff training, and conducting violation hearings for maximum security military prisoners.


Professor Zarse consults with and provides training to law enforcement agencies—such as the FBI, Los Alamos National Laboratory, US Army Military Police, police departments, and crisis negotiation associations—as well as schools, law firms, corporations, and legal agencies. She also sits on the board of directors for the Illinois Crisis Negotiators Association. Professor Zarse presents at national and international forums on assessing risk of violence, mental illness, terrorism, school and workplace violence, survival mindset, PTSD, dealing with trauma, resilience, hostage negotiation, interdisciplinary collaboration, suicide risk assessment, and stress management.


Professor Zarse has published articles on such topics as hostage negotiation, work stress, police values, police-citizen interactions, offenders, and political assassinations. She has provided expert commentary in media interviews, including on CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox as well as in Forbes magazine, The Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune. She also has been featured in documentaries, such as White Supremacy: Going Under, and in the E! Investigates episodes “Kidnapping of Jaycee Dugard” and “Crime on Campus.”


From The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Professor Zarse twice received both the Distinguished Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Distinguished Faculty Award for Excellence in Public Service, in addition to the Distinguished Alumni Award. She was also twice selected as a Carnegie Scholar. 

By This Professor

Survival Mentality: The Psychology of Staying Alive
Survival Mentality: The Psychology of Staying Alive


What It Means to Survive

01: What It Means to Survive

Surviving a crisis requires successfully navigating both the event itself and the elements you bring with you to the event. Learn why the specific words you use during the crisis—whether thought or spoken—can make a significant difference in your survival.

26 min
Developing an Internal Locus of Control

02: Developing an Internal Locus of Control

Discover why having an internal locus of control will help you in a crisis—as well as at work, in relationships, and even with your health. You’ll be better able to adapt your coping strategies to the crisis at hand, learn new strategies as necessary, and anticipate and prepare for problems.

38 min
Listening to Your Instincts

03: Listening to Your Instincts

Your instincts exist for only one purpose: to help you survive. And yet, we disregard our instincts over and over. Understand how you can better recognize and use your instincts, while always distinguishing between instinct, impulse, and feelings.

29 min
Listening to Your Intuitions

04: Listening to Your Intuitions

Your intuitions occur without conscious thought or choice. But unlike instinct, your intuitions are the result of all your life experiences, forming a set of expectations about the world, within a region of the brain that acts without conscious thought. Learn how to strengthen your intuition so you can better trust it in a crisis.

27 min
Managing Your Emotions under Threat

05: Managing Your Emotions under Threat

The ability to manage your emotions is absolutely crucial in an emergency; the higher your emotional arousal, the worse your judgment. Professor Zarse presents several strategies that can help you to best manage your emotions in a crisis and allow you to focus on making appropriate decisions under extreme pressure—potentially life-or-death decisions.

37 min
How Everyday Experience Prepares You for Crisis

06: How Everyday Experience Prepares You for Crisis

While you might not realize it, each of us has training and experience that we can bring to bear in a critical incident. Learn to identify your skills and abilities that will help you survive in an emergency. Consider the skills you can develop now to be better prepared for a future challenge.

31 min
Making Decisions under Pressure

07: Making Decisions under Pressure

How do you make rapid, accurate decisions in stressful situations when the stakes couldn’t be higher? Explore the differences between natural, recognition-primed, and pre-playing decision-making, and discover why a psychologically safe environment leads to richer learning and to making the best possible decisions during a crisis.

29 min
Developing Situational Awareness

08: Developing Situational Awareness

You are already constantly collecting information about your surroundings, both consciously and unconsciously. Master the OODA loop to improve your situational awareness—observe, orient, decide, and act. Originally developed for use in the military, this protocol can increase your chances of surviving a critical incident.

29 min
Perseverance toward a Positive Outcome

09: Perseverance toward a Positive Outcome

In critical incidents, perseverance often makes the difference between those who survive and those who don’t. Explore the factors that contribute to perseverance, from grit to attention control to self-confidence. Learn how to improve your mental conditioning and why it might be your most important survival preparation.

31 min
Protective Factors That Increase Your Odds

10: Protective Factors That Increase Your Odds

A variety of surprising factors can work in your favor when you find yourself in a crisis—surprising only because we don’t tend to think of them as survival tools. See how community involvement and a robust social network can help you navigate emergencies as they insulate you against stress and trauma.

22 min
Resilience in the Aftermath of Trauma

11: Resilience in the Aftermath of Trauma

What happens after you live through an emergency in which your life was on the line? While physical injuries are obvious, unseen psychological injuries can be devastating. But what about people who not only survive a crisis, but thrive? Learn about the inspiring experience of post-traumatic growth, and what those survivors have in common.

28 min
We Survive Together: The Power of Community

12: We Survive Together: The Power of Community

Not all life-or-death situations are experienced at an individual level; some occur at a community or national level. Learn how leadership, preparedness, and relationships can make the difference in whether or not a community, or an entire country, survives an existential or real-life crisis and thrives in the aftermath.

35 min