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