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Aron Ralston’s Survivor Traits

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First Appeared May 9, 2003, Page One, The Oregonian*

* as a professional analysis accompanying lead story

Oregonian cover, May 9, 2003

Survivors of tragedy who emerge stronger share a number of traits:

Colorado rock climber Aron Ralston was 27 years old, when he received national attention for the courage he showed when he saved his life by amputating his right arm to escape from under a bolder that fell on him. The front page story about Aron Ralston in The Oregonian, May 9, 2003, was accompanied by this interview with Dr. Al Siebert about traits of survivors:


Survivors focus on problem-solving their situation. They control their emotions. They set aside panic and think logically during a crisis, especially about the true nature of the crisis and realistic options for solving it.


Survivors are 100 percent present in the moment. Thinking too much about past experiences or future possibilities distracts from survival. Survivors can say, "I have to do this or I will die."


Survivors are usually more amused than angry about their predicament. Aron says: "I tried to chip away at the rock using a multitool knife. You know, the kind you get with a $15 flashlight and it’s free, which is probably how I got it."


Survivors must be emotionally healthy enough to integrate their tragedy and its consequences into being one part their larger life story. People who focus solely on a past tragedy and make it the central part of their identity are still being governed by the crisis.


After a tragedy you will never be the same again. Making lemonade from lemons is crucial after a crisis. The key challenge is, how can you make something positive of this? How can you come out of this a better person?

More information

This site ( website has many guidelines and resources for learning how to bounce back from difficulties and continuing crises.

The website is for survivors of extreme experiences with guidelines on "How to tell your survivor story."

Both websites have the renowned "How Resilient Are You?" self-scoring quiz on how to evaluate your resiliency strengths.

Permission is granted to duplicate this interview for use as a basis for discussions about coping well with life’s rough difficulties.

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