The Psychology of Prepping

This guest post is by Non-psychologist, D.P. KYSER (aka CaptnDave),  and entry in our non-fiction writing contest .

Let me preface this article with full disclosure. I am not a Psychiatrist! My background is mostly Naval Aviation (Wings of Gold, baby!), some sales, including owning my own business, running someone else’s much larger business, and lots of leadership experience. Currently I’m professionally teaching & training Military personnel.

First, if you’re freaked-out that The End-of-The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI) is happening tomorrow, or December 21st, of January 13th, 2013: relax.

Stop it.

Just stop with the drama and don’t fall for the hype. Do I think trouble is coming? Absolutely. Preparedness is essential, but don’t panic.

Fortune favors the bold, and bold people are not panicked.

Let’s talk about the psychology and personalities of prepping; what drives people to behave the way do, and how we might use this information to better communicate with our spouse, and also friends & relatives that may be included in your prepper network, so you effectively communicate the reasoning behind your desire to be prepared and everyone can get “On-board” with the program.

I must first go back to Plato’s works on personalities. Plato postulated that there are four different basic personality types¹: Phlegmatic, Sanguine, Melancholy, and Choleric. Those of you that have received Sales training have probably seen versions of this (MBTI, Owls and Dolphins, etc.). I’ll spare you the boring College-level analysis of Plato’s work and ideas; I’ll give an overview of it by means of a short story analogy.

There’s a fire in a rather large building! The first person that shows up is the Phlegmatic. He stands there on the corner across the street and looks around timidly, and mumbles to himself, “Isn’t anybody going to do anything?” The second person to show up is the Sanguine. She looks at the fire and happily squeals “Wow, a fire, let’s get some weenies and have us a weenie roast!” (She’s not taking it seriously.) The third person that shows up is the Melancholy. He looks at the building on fire, and noticing the building is ten stories tall, and one-hundred feet wide by about 200 feet deep, pulls out his whiz-wheel and begins to calculate how much water it’s going to take to put the fire out. While the Melancholy is still calculating how many thousands of gallons of water are required, the Choleric shows up. He immediately looks at the first person and commands “You, call 911”, then to the other two people he yells “come on you two, grab that ladder and hose and let’s go!”

While you were reading this story, you’ve probably already thought to yourself, that one sounds like my friend, that one my spouse, and so on. Here’s the point; if we know how people behave, then maybe we can identify what in their personality is driving them to respond or to shut down, and enables us to better communicate with them.

Please understand that it is rare to find someone that is 100% of one personality. Rather it’s more common to find folks that are a mix. A very well-balanced person would be approximately one-quarter of each.

For a better understanding, let’s more closely examine the four people that were at our fire:

First was the Phlegmatic; phlegmatic people tend to be friendly, patient, but often timid, and keep to themselves. You could say many are introverted. They are turned off by the Sanguine’s lack of seriousness. They are scared by Choleric people. Others tend to see them as skeptical, blank, boring…the “limp dish-rag” personality.

Second was the Sanguine; sanguine people tend to be spontaneous, happy-go-lucky, vivacious, and cheerful, some say extroverted. Others like to be around them, but see them as undisciplined, they can’t take anything serious, and they’re a show-off. Sanguine people can’t even spell checkbook balance.

Third was the Melancholy; melancholy people tend to be persistent, thoughtful, very detail-oriented, dogmatic, and faithful. Others see them as slow, too detailed, often suffering from “Paralysis by Analysis.” Melancholy people know their checkbook balance to the exact penny at all times, just ask them! By the way, the building burned down before he came up with the solution to the math problem…

Last was the Choleric; choleric people tend to be confident, adventurous, persuasive, and bold. Choleric people tend to be natural leaders. Others tend to see them as bossy, stubborn, impatient, brassy, yes even sometimes obnoxious, arrogant, and overbearing! Choleric people don’t work well with the Phlegmatic (too boring) or the Melancholy (can’t give information fast enough). Choleric folks tend to interrupt you while you’re answering their question, with another partially phrased question, because you are not answering them quickly and concisely enough! Choleric folks love to fix things and be the hero. If you inform a Choleric you need their help, they will take charge and fix it!

Do you know people like this? As we can see there are good qualities and perceived bad qualities to each of these personalities. If you are trying to convince your spouse to be a willing participant in prepping, and you come to him/her with a detailed spread-sheet with fourteen colors and three pages on how you are going to implement your two-year plan for long-term survival, including the detailed inventory of required equipment, and your spouse is Sanguine…that’s not going to fly.

You’ll notice by their body language – crossed arms. Guys, if you’re wife is crossing her arms after you’ve proposed something – it ain’t happenin’ (Intentional misuse of the English language for emphasis). Conversely, if you’re Sanguine and your spouse is Melancholy, and your approach is, “Com’on honey, this will be fun, we’ll dig holes in the ground and run around in cammies with guns and sharp objects…won’t that be fun?” Another epic fail. What if a Choleric/Melancholy mix asked their Sanguine friend to organize a plan?

There’s probably going to be some disappointment there. However, if two Sanguine people are talking about how much fun it is to go camping and can food, they might be going in the same direction. If two Melancholy people are exchanging Excel spread sheets with colors and graphics and formulas running and…well, you get it, they’ll be in detail heaven.

If approaching a Phlegmatic, show how sensible and safe it will be.
When approaching a Sanguine, show how much fun it’s going to be.
If you’re approaching a Melancholy, show how logical it is, and have your numbers right.
When approaching a Choleric, be clear, concise, and quick with your idea. Better yet, tell them you need their help, you can’t do it alone, and they will likely respond positively (and take over the project).

When I was young I was about 90% Choleric and 10% Sanguine. I thrived in the military with that personality, but when I got out and started my own business, I realized in hind-sight that when I was in the military, the most positive response I got out of people was not because I had the higher rank, but because they knew I cared, they respected my abilities, they knew I knew what I was talking about. My experiences in private business further fostered the good leadership principles, and I became a more rounded person, also taking on principles of the Melancholy, as the business needed detail-oriented analysis. I’d say I even have taken on a bit of Phlegmatic, as my wife says I’m (sometimes) patient and a good listener (I’m trying…I’m trying real hard). Goodness knows the girlfriends I had when I was younger would have never said that about me!

There are plenty of articles out there about convincing spouses and getting friends “On-board”, etc. What I’d like you to think about is the approach. What’s in that person’s personality “Wheel-house”?

So here’s the bottom line; figure out what drives your spouse or friends & family, and to get them on board with what you are doing, don’t over-hype, be reasonable, be patient, and do it in a manner that their personality responds well to.

1 – Additional Reference: Personality Plus, by Florence Littauer, ISBN: 0-8007-5445-X

This contest will end on June 5 2012 – prizes include:

First Prize) Winner will receive a Wise Essentials Kit courtesy of LPC Survival and an EcoZoom’s Versa Stove courtesy of EcoZoom stoves.. A value of over $300.

Second Prize) Winner will receive a $150 gift certificate for Wolf Ammo courtesy of   A total prize value of over $150.

Third Prize) Winner will receive copies of both of my books “31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness” and “Dirt-Cheap Survival Retreat: One Man’s Solution”  and a Katadyn Siphon Water Filter courtesy of Mayflower Trading Company.  A total prize value of $107.

Contest ends on June 5 2012.

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. Good article that gets one to thinking about who is who.
    Well the Psychology of my prepping is called I don’t want to be hungry, have a way to cook, want to have something to keep the weather off of me, and something to keep others away from taking what’s mine.
    To bad Plato didn’t find the self preservation personality. Which I agree is in all of us to a certain amount.
    Yes, there are Leaders, planners, and followers and giver uppers.
    But the ones that seem to get on my nerves are the ones that don’t, won’t or refuse to see that taking care of ones family is the most important thing and to have a stockpile of food, tools and resources is the best for them.
    If in the normal/or SHTF future all of these things will be a blessing.

    • Ellen, it looks like you have the Guardian Temperment to me. Myers-Briggs has 16 different temperments. Four main & 4 sub-temperments.” Guardians are the cornerstone of society, for they are the temperament given to serving and preserving our most important social institutions. Guardians have natural talent in managing goods and services–from supervision to maintenance and supply — and they use all their skills to keep things running smoothly in their families, communities, schools, churches, hospitals, and businesses.” G. Washington was a Guardian temperment!
      You can take a free test at I think it’s 72 questions. Or look for Myers-Briggs online. Mine is Idealist Counselor aka INFJ – Introverted iNtutive Feeling Judging (Introverted Intuition with Extraverted Feeling) – The Protector. Which is alot more detailed than just saying I’m mostly melancholy, semi sanguine. Fortunately only 1-3% of the population is INFJ!

  2. SurvivorDan says:

    Okay…don’t be ashamed that you are a psychologist. Lol.
    Seriously…..great points. I have been very discouraged about Mrs. SurvivorDan’s less than enthusiastic attitude about my prepping. She merely humors me while quietly tsk-tsking about my ‘crazy obsession’.

    She is a very organized person (I am not). I think that all I need to do is ask her to help me get our preps better organized and I can draw her in. I will let you know how that works out. Thanks.

  3. Oiy…
    thanks I just found out another name for myself the “Choleric”
    much nicer than what my ex wife called me!
    cheers ~WildE

  4. JP in MT says:

    I’m a Caloric w/Sanguine tendencies. I’ll take charge if nobody else has but I’d probably like the weenie roast (so it’s more Anarchical, but that’s the fun part). I dislike “mental constipation”, drives me crazy. I’m better organized that I used to be, I like things put away, I just don’t want to be the one to put them up!

  5. WESTPAC says:

    I’ll break it down to the knuckle dragger/wolfman level…There are Action Guys/Gals (Alpha Males/Females), Followers (Beta Males/Females) and Non-Action Guys (Omega Males/Females).

    But just because a building is on fire and you do not don a cape and jump in does not make you a wimp (Beta/Omega/Non-action Guy/Gal).

    “Work Smart…Not Hard” Weigh the situation, establish Courses of Action (COA), choose the best COA and Execute. With today’s litigation atmosphere, diving in head first w/o checking the depth first just might land you in court. When I was asked to respond to a hypothetical situation concerning performing CPR on a complete stranger, my answer was to decline and call EMS.

    “No good deed goes un-punished”

  6. axelsteve says:

    I mostly scanned this article I might re read it when I am in the right mood.I mostly thought what is this @*$&?

  7. The Blue Ghost says:

    Another way to think of the four is a theater performance. Ask a person to pick one of 4 vacant positions in a production – the Sanguines will want to be on Center Stage, the Cholerics will want to be director or producer, the Melancholies will be out the back organizing props and costumes, and the Phlegmatics will be in the audience !
    I am a fairly extreme Melancholy – I don’t have much preps stored away, but boy, do I have lists of lists of what needs to be done!

  8. worrisome says:

    The 80%, 10%, 10% Rule. In any emergency, 10% of the population will do absolutely the wrong thing. 10% of the population will absolutely do the right thing…………80% are going to follow one of the 10%’s……….
    Be prepared…… will be in the right 10% but watch out……you may have followers from the 80% group………….

  9. Cold Warrior says:

    I don’t go to a Factory Worker to get my teeth fixed or a Neuro Surgeon to have my oil changed. So why would I take psych advice from a “Navy Flyer”?

    Got to give kudos for the effort

  10. MtWoman says:

    Good points here, CaptnDave. I enjoy seeing things broken down in a way that can give some understanding of how it all works. This article also lays out an understanding of what personality traits might lead one to BE a prepper.

    I am a ‘can-do’ personality, with some detail-orientation. My mind-set has always been: “If there’s a problem, let’s see what’s needed, and take care of it”….Choleric/Melancholy? And your description of: ” Choleric folks tend to interrupt you while you’re answering their question, with another partially phrased question, because you are not answering them quickly and concisely enough!” has been me my whole life. I’m usually already WAY down the road of solution before others. I’ve always loved NIKE’s motto: “Just Do IT” (though I don’t like the company’s practices).

    I think this article can be helpful to those who need to interest others in prepping. Frankly my hands are full just keeping myself interested!! I get discouraged….is there a personality for that? 🙂

    BTW, every time I type in the word”prepper”, spell check does not recognize it as a word, and wants to replace it with ‘pepper’ or some other things. I wonder when the word “prepper” will make it into the dictionary, and I don’t mean WIKI.

  11. Excellent article. I’m fortunate to have my spouse already on board, but I know its a battle for some.

  12. Best written article I’ve read, bar none. Of course, I have to hand it to you CaptnDave, the use of Plato’s personality profiles was a total kicker for me (being a therapist, that is).

    Regardless, you pose an extremely plausible and easy to understand argument. The personality types are one of the most important factors when it comes to who you talk with about preparing and just HOW one does so.

    Kudos! In all respects!

  13. Encourager says:

    Well, I took two of the tests and the tests said I was a Guardian and an INFJ (a Counselor). Very interesting. And yes, I have to agree with both tests. With the INFJ, I was right smack in the middle…no questionable borderline areas!

    Now, what to do with it? No clue.

  14. Enjoyed the article, cant help feeling its been said before, but we need reminding. We live in a state of flux with people and situations swirling around us. Choices we make, who we are and who we choose to become determine what we experience in our lives. A healthy mindset and the knowledge of how it all works are cornerstones to a sustainable and satisfying lifestyle. Articles like this add to our understanding. I encourage you to add your philosophy. Personally I have a lot of respect for anyone who takes several thousand pounds of high explosive, straps it to his butt, puts himself in harms way, to protect my way of life and then has the shear guts to return the weapon to its holster, switch off and return to our world. We are very lucky to have people like that amongst us. Even if the people directing them are suspect. We all operate from our knowledge of whats around us right now, our past experiences coupled with our view of what will happen if we do something. Your first responsibility is to yourself, then the lives of those around you. Jumping into a firefight with a ladder and a hose may not be the best thing you can do right now?

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