top of page
  • Writer's pictureRyan Wilson

Why do we act the way we do? Survival Maps!

 As I have talked about in previous posts, we are biologically programmed to be well, so we learn the most efficient ways to get our needs met and stay out of harms way very early on, even before we can talk!

Here is a 5 min video summary about how and why we form Survival maps. see if you can see yourself in any of the descriptions.

We have also added a RESOURCES page, where we will be uploading worksheets, handouts, and more in the coming weeks. So make sure you check back often and that is also where you can find the Facing the Past exercise I talk about in the video. Feel free to use these resources for yourselves or in your work.

NOTE: When something happens that we KNOW we don’t want to repeat, we can over-ride the programming we got for that particular thing. Unfortunately, the rest usually falls back to our defaults that we learned, especially under stress.

Let’s look at some examples 

  1. Toby knows he doesn’t want to be a violent alcoholic like his father, so he doesn’t drink and isn’t violent with his own family, but he is still a bully by being mocking and invalidating, especially when HE feels vulnerable or uncomfortable

  2. Jemma knows she doesn’t want her kids to feel unsafe at home the way she did with her neglectful parents, so she is very attuned to aggression or sibling bullying, but she doesn’t really pay attention to what is happening with the kids outside of the home

  3. Amelia moved around a lot growing up and never felt she had a stable home or group of friends, so it was really important to her to have that as an adult, but she still feels like she doesn’t fit in and isn’t really part of the community

2 Second Summary

  1. If we are not aware of our survival maps (how we tend to react in certain situations, especially when there is uncertainty or we feel vulnerable) we tend to fall back to what we learned, whether or not they were healthy or helpful

  2. Once we do, we can consciously over-ride them, but this often takes a lot of ongoing effort.

  3. An even more effective way to deal with it is to lean into the feelings about having learned those maps in the first place (it easiest when we focus on specific situations or people who were a part of that learning, specific situations or memories). This takes extra effort at the beginning, but makes letting go of these old maps that don’t serve us easier in the long term.

Please note that the aim is not to blame, it is to honestly face how we feel about our reality if we take the perspective that we matter and our needs are equal to other people’s needs. Letting go of needing to be responsible for anyone else’s response or feelings, just allowing ourselves to honestly acknowledge how we feel. ie. How do we feel about the fact that we learned to put everyone else first and it now we are in our 40’s and completely burnt out or having a mid-life crisis because we finally feel like we are ready to put ourselves first, yet half of our lives has already passed us.  This process allows us to free us from the energy that

For more about leaning into feelings, go to the EMOTIONS tab or tune back over the next couple of weeks for our new video “All about feelings”

Have a great week! As always we would love to hear your feedback! Send us a message by twitter, on Facebook or by email.

Share this:

7 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page