Photobucket

Author Topic: Disaster and collapse  (Read 1678 times)

Thox Spuddy

  • Guest
Disaster and collapse
« on: November 02, 2012, 09:48:08 PM »
Following the lives of some who were involved in the last 2 devastating East Coast storms in the past year I've observed with curiosity the nature of collapse following such an event. In particular personal morale. In the first several hours or days some individuals with seemingly strong convictions and constructive habit patterns abandon them within hours. The result? An emotional breakdown? Just the opposite. It seems that some people deal with disaster by denying the severity of the situation and make it the new normal, thereby eliminating the need for positive activity because they've given up hope for immediate rescue and demonstrate an "up" attitude despite an inner sense of despair and loss of morale.

After a week or more of infrastructure collapse (power outages, blocked transportation, communication loss, etc) the mood changes to dark, gloomy, and although eventual and slow activity takes place to overcome the negative situation, a positive attitude incites resentment, comes across as being insensitive, annoying.

Some things I just don't understand.

Offline Dainty

  • Darth Dainty, Bunny Snuggler
  • Dedicated Contributor
  • ******
  • Posts: 1231
  • Karma: 61
  • Making it work!
Re: Disaster and collapse
« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2012, 01:35:42 AM »
...

It seems that some people deal with disaster by denying the severity of the situation and make it the new normal, thereby eliminating the need for positive activity because they've given up hope for immediate rescue...

....and although eventual and slow activity takes place to overcome the negative situation, a positive attitude incites resentment, comes across as being insensitive, annoying.

Some things I just don't understand.

I've observed the same phenomenon myself, not in large scale disasters but in individuals whose quality of life is severely affected by medical issues with no realistic hope of resolution either in improvement or death. My observation is that if a positive attitude can be conveyed with humor - even black humor - it is more readily accepted than an "I'm sincerely encouraged and hopeful and you should be too" kind of projection.

I think it's because some situations, sometimes, seem so bad that anyone who genuinely understands it would not have high morale. I wouldn't personally categorize these storms in that manner, but each person's threshold is different. When someone delivers positivity with a joke, mocking the situation, then they convey an understanding of the severity of the problem along with an indication of positivity so it can be accepted. But the offering of a "don't worry, be happy" type of positivity seems cheesy and out of place, lacking the understanding factor. And you'll see why if you start trying to explain why they ought to be feeling positive.

As I said, my experience has been with more severe cases. For example, a teenager slowly becomes paralyzed without explanation until dependant on a ventilator. The medical community is a combination of unwilling and unable to help. She died last year, still without diagnosis.

What could you say to be positive in that situation? "Don't worry, help will come?" The family had done everything they could, pleading with doctors, medical schools, going to the media and even the White House. "They'll figure it out?" No one was even working on her case anymore. "Well maybe she might just get better?" If you truly believed that was a likelihood you'd either be delusional or completely unfamiliar with the situation. People accept the "new normal" as a survival mechanism, to prevent them from despairing completely.

You might think the situation is rare, but when you've heard of and personally known dozens of cases of similar severity without hope of rescue you realize you have to find a way to respond other than a Cheshire smile.

Consider looking up the "Stockdale Paradox", observed in Vietnam war prisoners:

Quote
When Collins asked who didn't make it out of Vietnam, Stockdale replied:

Oh, that's easy, the optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, 'We're going to be out by Christmas.' And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they'd say, 'We're going to be out by Easter.' And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart."

Stockdale then added:

This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."

And that's really the thing. I've noticed that often a person actually has that faith that the situation will improve someday, but can't bring themselves to say it or show it because it's illogical to the situation and in order to keep getting through each day they can't let themselves dwell on that hope. Because reality requires they keep their head where the facts are.

As an outsider to the situation, it's difficult if not impossible for your positivity to be of any use. That privilege is generally reserved for insiders to the situation. To become an insider, you must be brave enough to take yourself to the depths of a place that's rank and horrid while resisting the temptation to murmur a platitude so they'll kick you out and you can feel better about yourself. Only after you share their despair can they share your positivity, because you'd have enough understanding of the situation and the person to know how it is best applied. Watch how the person(s) get themselves through - sarcasm is a common one, black humor is another, escapism is another. When the power of their coping strategy can be spun with a positive twist, it gets them headed towards positivity as a viable option without dismissing reality.

Which, in the end, is what you want.
Death by a thousand cuts is survived one cut at a time. You never know - it may end up being only 999.

Thox Spuddy

  • Guest
Re: Disaster and collapse
« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2012, 08:51:10 AM »
Watch how the person(s) get themselves through - sarcasm is a common one, black humor is another, escapism is another. When the power of their coping strategy can be spun with a positive twist, it gets them headed towards positivity as a viable option without dismissing reality.

Which, in the end, is what you want.

You've demonstrated greater in-depth knowledge than what I was expecting!! Thank you for some great insights. A friend of mine, a fireman, had to go into a house and pull out the body of a mutual friend who had died of smoke inhalation. He made jokes about it, "Helluva lot heavier than that smoked brisket I did on the grill last week". I was shocked at how crude and inhuman he was. I later read "Deep Survival" by Laurence Gonzales who said what you said, people in dire situations relieve themselves with dark humor.

We who are on the outside looking in I think get ourselves off the hook by contributing money to a relief drive and then put it out of mind. But they are still there and their lives are changed forever. Something like the guilt of survivors is in play.

Offline thefuzz1290

  • Prepper
  • **
  • Posts: 38
  • Karma: 8
  • New TSP Forum member
Re: Disaster and collapse
« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2012, 10:13:00 AM »
People often follow the stages of grief during a tramatic event: Shock/Denial, Pain/Guilt, Anger/Bargaining, Depression, Upward Turn, Reconstruction, and finally Hope/Acceptance. This may be quick, or prolonged, depending on the scope of the event. This is definately what is happening with people trying to cope with the Sandy disaster, and definately viewable from the outside.

Now this can be prevented by not only preparing physical assets, but by preparing your mindset. Most people aren't prepared mentally to deal with a disaster, which is why you see this breakdown. I believe many preppers on the internet aren't prepared mentally for a disaster and like the idea of stocking up on guns and ammo waiting to shoot it out during the apocolypse that probably won't happen.

Offline endurance

  • Dances With Newfies
  • Global Moderator
  • Survival Veteran
  • ******
  • Posts: 8711
  • Karma: 405
Re: Disaster and collapse
« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2012, 11:08:33 AM »
If you go back and reread the last chapter of Deep Survival, Gonzales talks about his father's survival and how it didn't start when he was shot out of the sky at 27,000', it started when the farmer's pistol misfired and he started laughing.

What a lot of people call miraculous survival is little more than dumb luck.  The survival begins with the hard work of rebuilding after a major set back.  Prepping building resilience, which helps to maintain hope, which helps us move forward instead of staying stuck in denial, depression and inaction.  That said, not all preppers are good survivors.  Resiliency depends on prior experience, mental toughness, a sense of humor, attitude, support network, financial and other resources and many other factors, not just a deep pantry or a matte black rifle.
"There are things that you don't question when your home always smells like baking bread."  From The Hunger Games

“No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”   James Madison

Thox Spuddy

  • Guest
Re: Disaster and collapse
« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2012, 12:43:04 AM »
What and when is collapse following a disaster? The images of gangs roving the streets looting and raping.......... not reality. I know of an elderly condominium complex in which collapse was when the electricity was down and nobody had stove top percolators for making coffee and even if they did they didn't have matches to light the electronic ignited gas stoves. In walkers and wheelchairs on their own power these residents congregated in the lobby trading and sharing what they had to make things work.

Collapse in a more degenerate neighborhood would be found with roving gangs. But for the most of us who live in rural or small town environments the disaster would have to be more extreme and widespread, or specifically concentrated for it to have a collapse effect on our communities. We are already under the drought thumb but apparently surviving that. We are no near "The Book of Eli" scenario, and I think we are mistaken to think that is our main concern. It is the small inconveniences that can become major, like stuck in an airport for 48 hours, a 6 hour traffic jam, a 2-day power outage, a local chemical spill........ Whatever the scale of what befronts us, how do we react to it, have we mentally prepared? Are we in control? When we find ourselves in an uncontrolled panic, how do we recover?

Offline Dainty

  • Darth Dainty, Bunny Snuggler
  • Dedicated Contributor
  • ******
  • Posts: 1231
  • Karma: 61
  • Making it work!
Re: Disaster and collapse
« Reply #6 on: November 25, 2012, 04:53:15 PM »
It is the small inconveniences that can become major, like stuck in an airport for 48 hours, a 6 hour traffic jam, a 2-day power outage, a local chemical spill........ Whatever the scale of what befronts us, how do we react to it, have we mentally prepared? Are we in control? When we find ourselves in an uncontrolled panic, how do we recover?

A TSPer? Uncontrolled panic?

Never.

;)

In all seriousness, one thing I've learned is the importance of learning how to respond to daily inconveniences in a relaxed manner, training yourself to handle more serious problems (such as being stuck in the airport for 48 hours) with aplomb. "Survival" tends to include the connotation of adrenaline coursing through your veins as you try to figure out what to do, and I'm concerned that some preppers might be training themselves to respond to every situation by hitting an internal "crisis" button in order to feel "in control".

Two problems with that come to my mind. One is that it can just make things miserable. Even if you're enjoying yourself actually having the opportunity to freak out about something real but maintaining that glassy calm exterior as you plan and organize and maintain hypervigilance, the people around you are not likely to appreciate it. 48 hours is a long time to keep yourself in that state. Some situations require that, but for any that don't I'd much rather prefer to rely on training myself to flow with the situation, relax, and avoid overthinking things rather than being tense and bored.

The other problem with the instinctive grasp at controlling both the situation and themselves is that every person has their limit where they can't take any more. It doesn't matter where yours is set at, whether the threshold is high or low, there is a situation or combination of situations that can break you down. Your protection against that is not to harden yourself further, but rather to soften enough that you bend instead of break. A crying spell during a moment's peace can prevent a nervous breakdown from happening later in the midst of a crisis. Take care of yourself physically, take care of yourself emotionally, take care of yourself spiritually, and train yourself to continue to do that during a crisis. Don't rely on adrenaline to get you through and "oh, I'll recover later" - that kind of thinking ought to only last a very short time as absolutely necessary before you bring yourself out of it and begin to take stock and address where you're at.

If you do completely lose it, there are various techniques that can be used to bring yourself out of it and recover. Having someone with you to talk you through it makes a major difference, but with enough practice such things can be achieved effectively even if you're alone. I know a few people with anxiety disorders, and the ones who have taken themselves off medication for it are an invaluable resource for learning how to bring yourself down from a panicked state, anywhere from slightly uncomfortable to sheer full blown irrational painfully desperate panic. You cannot rationalize yourself out of it. You cannot contain yourself while inside it. But there are breathing techniques, meditation techniques, emotional and lifestyle management factors that can all play a role in preventing and resolving panic.

Recovering your dignity is also a lot easier if you don't start out with the notion that you're somehow better than all that. Just sayin'...
Death by a thousand cuts is survived one cut at a time. You never know - it may end up being only 999.

Offline TexGuy

  • Sometimes posts while drunk.
  • Senior Survivalist
  • ****
  • Posts: 285
  • Karma: 11
Re: Disaster and collapse
« Reply #7 on: November 25, 2012, 06:00:18 PM »
This happens to me when I camp out. After about 2 1/2 weeks in the woods I'm ready to give it all up and come back home. But after another week I'm good to go, so I believe this is some kind of temporary emotions. I haven't figure it out yet but it does go away after a while, at least for me. I assume if you believe govt should take care of you it might last longer, but I don't know, I don't believe that.  :D

Thox Spuddy

  • Guest
Re: Disaster and collapse
« Reply #8 on: November 25, 2012, 06:29:29 PM »
It's like we need a polestar.

Offline Joe_Nobody

  • Prepper
  • **
  • Posts: 40
  • Karma: 12
  • New TSP Forum member
Re: Disaster and collapse
« Reply #9 on: November 25, 2012, 06:46:47 PM »
This is one of the topics I find most fascinating about self-reliance and prepping.
In modern times, it becomes difficult to find real examples of a full collapse to study. In all of the disasters on record, the affects were localized. The victims/survivors knew help would eventually arrive. They could hang their faith-hat on a hook of things eventually returning to normal. Katrina and Sandy victims could count on some level of help eventually arriving.
 
The human reaction to such a situation is mostly predictable given eventual betterment or rescue. But what if there isn’t any hope of return to normalcy? What happens when the realization dawns that the world is never going to be like it was? That scenario is unprecedented and thus unpredictable. About the closest I’ve been able to come were isolated parts of the South shortly after the Civil War.

I personally, believe it will become violent. Historically speaking, whenever there is a vacuum of leadership or structure, things get brutal. I could point to a half dozen recent examples in various parts of the world supporting that theory.

Lots of folks say it could never happen here. I disagree. I don’t care how advanced our society is – when a parent listens to children dying of hunger, the reaction becomes unpredictable. Corporation and mutual benefit is likely to become every-man-for-himself. Division of labor is thrown out the window.

I believe the likelihood of a full TEOTWAWKI event small, especially one that occurs overnight. Now, it Texas secedes from the union, well, all bets are off.  :D


Offline joeinwv

  • The Bee Whisperer
  • Survival Demonstrator
  • *******
  • Posts: 2557
  • Karma: 90
Re: Disaster and collapse
« Reply #10 on: November 25, 2012, 07:26:28 PM »
I read a study a few years back - forget where - but they looked at survivors of boat crashes, building fires, etc. Situations where some lived and many died. The difference was the survivors moved. They took some action. Almost regardless of whether they did the "right" thing, doing something typically trumps doing nothing. People just have this reaction where they will sit and wait and die.

Disasters are no different than being lost in the woods - the first thing to do is evaluate your situation and get your brain in the game.

Offline Dainty

  • Darth Dainty, Bunny Snuggler
  • Dedicated Contributor
  • ******
  • Posts: 1231
  • Karma: 61
  • Making it work!
Re: Disaster and collapse
« Reply #11 on: November 26, 2012, 05:41:22 AM »
I read a study a few years back - forget where - but they looked at survivors of boat crashes, building fires, etc. Situations where some lived and many died. The difference was the survivors moved. They took some action. Almost regardless of whether they did the "right" thing, doing something typically trumps doing nothing. People just have this reaction where they will sit and wait and die.

Disasters are no different than being lost in the woods - the first thing to do is evaluate your situation and get your brain in the game.

See, one thing I've been pondering is that it ought to be good if we can make dealing with situations more like casually going about your life, rather than the opposite. Consider attempting to "get your brain in the game" without your adrenaline pumping.

Action can still be taken, but if you're lost in the woods (for example) you most likely will be more in need of mental flexibility and long term energy than lightning fast reflexes and tunnel vision, which is what the adrenaline response induces. If you can control that, then it's the difference between the internal process of "YEAH I AM STAYING CALM" and "well, that was an interesting detour. What a lovely view".
« Last Edit: November 26, 2012, 05:46:50 AM by Dainty »
Death by a thousand cuts is survived one cut at a time. You never know - it may end up being only 999.

Offline endurance

  • Dances With Newfies
  • Global Moderator
  • Survival Veteran
  • ******
  • Posts: 8711
  • Karma: 405
Re: Disaster and collapse
« Reply #12 on: November 26, 2012, 12:20:32 PM »
As Laurence Gonzoles calls it in Deep Survival, it's the art of being 'cool'.  That ability to keep the jockey in control of the race horse while allowing it to run when you need it to.

I've spent years working on the skillset and to a large degree, it's situational.  If you're in a situation where you've had training and experience, you're much more likely to be able to hunker down and do the next right things.  On the other hand, if you're in a situation where you are way outside your element, you're much more likely to let the horse run away from you.  That said, while getting as much training, experience and exposure to those scenarios that are most likely to happen is good, but you always have to be aware that just because you're an expert in one situation doesn't necessarily mean you'll respond appropriately in another situation.  Gonzoles points out a prime example of this with the death of an Army Ranger while rafting, where he turned away help only to die in a foot entrapment drowning; something he had no experience with.
"There are things that you don't question when your home always smells like baking bread."  From The Hunger Games

“No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”   James Madison

Thox Spuddy

  • Guest
Re: Disaster and collapse
« Reply #13 on: November 26, 2012, 08:09:27 PM »
Dainty: if one is fully prepared to the point that they can "coolly" ride over a disaster scenario, that would be the ideal and it is attainable. But it is the scenario where one is not fully prepared and where adrenalin does take over, brings up the question, can we prepare for that? What makes a disaster so incredibly horrific is the entrapment; the inability to escape the consequences. We prepare and prepare physically and mentally all the while knowing that there is a situation that could enfold that we would be helpless, perhaps not lethal, but nonetheless beyond our capacity to keep from getting frantic.

Offline Dainty

  • Darth Dainty, Bunny Snuggler
  • Dedicated Contributor
  • ******
  • Posts: 1231
  • Karma: 61
  • Making it work!
Re: Disaster and collapse
« Reply #14 on: November 27, 2012, 03:18:56 AM »
Dainty: if one is fully prepared to the point that they can "coolly" ride over a disaster scenario, that would be the ideal and it is attainable. But it is the scenario where one is not fully prepared and where adrenalin does take over, brings up the question, can we prepare for that? What makes a disaster so incredibly horrific is the entrapment; the inability to escape the consequences. We prepare and prepare physically and mentally all the while knowing that there is a situation that could enfold that we would be helpless, perhaps not lethal, but nonetheless beyond our capacity to keep from getting frantic.

Learn to be "okay" with being helpless and entrapped with no way out. It's different than preparing for specific situations because what you're preparing for is a physiological reaction to the sting of no control. My suggestion for training yourself to do this is that next time you find yourself in a situation like that use it as an opportunity to begin creating an internal process whereby you teach yourself that helpless/entrapped = relaxation. It's a strategic retreat, and in the midst of the situation it can feel like you're "accepting" it to stop fighting and give up. But if the fighter is in you, if you want to live, then you won't stay that way, it'll only be a temporary measure.

The picture I often use in my own mind is of someone in aquatic distress. If you could just float on your back for a little while, you'd be okay. In the moment, floating on your back feels like the last thing you want to do - it's completely counterintuitive, because your brain is screaming at you to struggle, to fight to stay alive. And survival mentality is all about about reinforcing that instinct. But this is where it comes back to bite you. You must learn how to unhinge that instinct if needed, and have a process by which you internally recognize that in order to survive you must do the very thing that feels like the antithesis of survival: give in. Just for a little while. It can be intense enough to feel like you're accepting death, so you may need to work through whatever spiritual and emotional factors you have regarding that in order to set up this internal process.

Once you've come through the other side a few times (assuming you have the opportunity to practice - not everyone is so lucky ;) ), and each time experienced the relief of "it worked, I'm still alive, I've survived", then it begins to create a sort of internal protocol that you can resort to in a variety of desperate situations. The more you manage to do it, the less counterintuitive it feels because you learn that it paradoxally achieves the desired result of survival.

I'll give you an example: I have a medical problem that sometimes causes my airways to spasm shut, without warning. One second I'm breathing fine, I exhale, and suddenly inhalation doesn't work. This can happen at any time, awake or asleep, talking on the phone or sitting at my computer or resting in bed. I estimate these spasms last 10-20 seconds, but it's hard to tell how accurate my sense of time is. The immediate instinct is to fight to obtain air, to strain as hard as humanely possible to expand my lungs again. I've had my chest muscles hurt for days after such incidents just from the immense effort to inhale. I've come close to passing out several times, and the times a friend has happened to be present they're quite shaken.

But here's the thing: if I stop attempting to inhale the moment I realize this is happening, and counteract my instinct to fight for air with the alternative protocol of relaxing and even exhaling further (though my lungs are empty) then the life-threatening spasm resolves quickly. I figured this out by noticing that when I came close to passing out and my body began to go limp then that's when the spasm finally let up and allowed me to inhale. I reasoned that if I could relax instead of fight from the moment it started then it might achieve the same effect. And it did....once I could manage to do it. It took a lot of work to get to that point, starting with less time sensitive scenarios and training myself to optionally switch to this counterintuitive response in any situation where my adrenaline and fighting will to live is kicking in.

It's empowering for me when I come out the other end of a situation where I was helpless and I managed to keep my nervous system parasympathetic throughout.  It truly is something that can be applied to any scenario. My instinctive fight or flight response is still there, and if I deem it helpful in a crisis then I allow it to run its course. But if I realize that my instinctive physiological reaction is not helpful, and that the most strategic response is to stop and relax, then I dig up the image of a drowning person in my mind and tell myself, "okay, it's time to float on your back right now. I know it feels opposite of what's helpful, but trust me on this" and I guide myself through that process.

If you have the opportunity to learn this, it's a pretty valuable survival skill, IMO.
« Last Edit: November 27, 2012, 03:38:31 AM by Dainty »
Death by a thousand cuts is survived one cut at a time. You never know - it may end up being only 999.

Thox Spuddy

  • Guest
Re: Disaster and collapse
« Reply #15 on: November 27, 2012, 03:03:15 PM »
I tend to panic in crowds, close spaces. I have a real hard time in those little commuter planes. Last summer I got stuck for 45 minutes in airplane on the ground with mechanical difficulties with the ramp. It was hot, everybody was standing up, I was closed in highly aware I was trapped and could go nowhere and for how long. Panic raced through me and I could feel myself about to ........ I am re-experiencing it just writing about it so I will stop. I did get control with breathing, controlling my thoughts. Imagine a community going through this, like they did in H. Katrina, Sandy, Black Friday at Target sort of.

Offline Dainty

  • Darth Dainty, Bunny Snuggler
  • Dedicated Contributor
  • ******
  • Posts: 1231
  • Karma: 61
  • Making it work!
Re: Disaster and collapse
« Reply #16 on: November 29, 2012, 05:45:59 AM »
I'm really sorry you go through that, Thox. I grew up with someone with severe arachnophobia (fear of spiders) and learned early on that those sorts of things are no joke.

If an entire community were to go through a similar state of mass panic that would be difficult to prepare for.
Death by a thousand cuts is survived one cut at a time. You never know - it may end up being only 999.

Thox Spuddy

  • Guest
Re: Disaster and collapse
« Reply #17 on: November 30, 2012, 03:18:05 PM »
I guess that was my point, that I kind of strayed from. What if a whole mass of people were going through that kind of panic and lost control of it. In that plane I felt like standing up and walking over someone's lap and getting to a door and banging on to get out of the plane. What if a half dozen actually did do that and I wasn't one of them? That I think is what a riot or a collapse would be like, a matter of being in a mass of hysterical people.

Offline endurance

  • Dances With Newfies
  • Global Moderator
  • Survival Veteran
  • ******
  • Posts: 8711
  • Karma: 405
Re: Disaster and collapse
« Reply #18 on: November 30, 2012, 06:16:32 PM »
I guess that was my point, that I kind of strayed from. What if a whole mass of people were going through that kind of panic and lost control of it. In that plane I felt like standing up and walking over someone's lap and getting to a door and banging on to get out of the plane. What if a half dozen actually did do that and I wasn't one of them? That I think is what a riot or a collapse would be like, a matter of being in a mass of hysterical people.
I've been in the middle of a couple mild riots; one on New Years Eve in Vegas in the 1990s when too many people were moved by police into too small of an area to get us off the street after midnight and a panic broke out, and another during the Democratic National Convention in Denver in 2008.  In both cases a very small handful of people accounted for the escalation from uncomfortable situation to downright dangerous.  It seemed like it took seconds to go from a very rowdy good time to an almost every man for himself attitude.  Personally, I think the more males in the crowd without women to look after and protect, the worse the build up.  I was with my wife at the time in the first incident in Vegas and my mind immediately went to 'how can I protect her and how do I get us out of this situation.'  I could tell a lot of folks around us, as it was a crowd with a lot of couples, had the same idea and we were all looking for an escape route rather than to start swinging fists.  In 2008 I was alone and I definitely felt more like defending my turf when pushed and shoved.  It was a much more charged environment and very male heavy.  That night I think about nine people went to jail and the police did end up pepper spraying a lot of folks.

All I can tell you from my experience is prevention is worth its weight in gold.  Once the situation gets to a certain density, bodies start getting pushed into each other and sooner or later somebody with an ego decides to turn around and punch.  It's also very hard to move in a direction you want to in a crowd like that.  You just have to go with the flow and fight to stay on your feet.  I found myself grabbing on to people around me to stay upright, which in itself could have caused someone to turn on me, but the alternative seemed like falling down and being potentially trampled.

One thing that might be worth trying in a situation on a plane or other confined space with a high degree of social rules is using a command voice to restore calm.  It's amazing how obedient people will be if you just use a firm, assertive tone and say, "return to your seats, now!"  If it's fear that is driving folks, they want someone to be in control and will likely quickly comply.
"There are things that you don't question when your home always smells like baking bread."  From The Hunger Games

“No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”   James Madison