Getting lost in the woods has psychological aspects College students explain what happens in our heads when we get lost


By Millicent McKay

March. 2, 2016

Shawn Feener understands the psychological aspects of getting lost in the woods.

While on a hunting trip near Lake Rossingnol, October 2014 Feener was trying to retrieve a downed animal and couldn’t get to it.


LS wildlife
Shawn Feener and Tessa Dorchester speak in the library at the Charlottetown Centre of Holland College on March 1 and bring awareness to the mental effects of being lost in the wild. Letre Sweeting photo.

He decided to stay in a shelter that night just outside of the camping area. Overnight it snowed and Feener lost all sense of where he was.

“When I first woke up I thought, ‘OK I kind of know where I am, I’ll find the lake I’m looking for’.”

Trying to determine where he was, Feener found another lake but it wasn’t the one he was originally looking for.

“It wasn’t the one I thought it was, so I ended up leading myself further into the woods. Then I found another one, but then I became more lost.”

That was when the psychological aspects of getting lost set in.

“I thought, ‘Where the hell am I? How am I going to find my way out of this place’?”

Today, Feener used his experience to help with a presentation for his Wildlife Conservation Technology program at Holland College.

He and his project partner, Tessa Doncaster, were assigned to explain the psychological aspects of getting lost.

“It’s the stages you go through when you get lost. Basically everything you’re feeling during the experience,” said Doncaster.

The first stage is loss of confidence.

“That feeling when you think you know where you’re going but then you begin to doubt yourself,” she said.

Next is panic and then comes fear.

“You begin to panic about being lost and not knowing where you are, and then you become afraid.”

Distortion of perception follows and finally, there is acceptance.

“Acceptance is really the best place you can be when you’re lost. It’s the only way you’re going to be able to do anything,” she said.

Feener said when he got lost he felt he accepted the situation fairly quickly.

“I stayed another night in the woods. I had been hunting before so I felt I knew what to do. I was lost for three and a half days before I found a logging road, which connected to other roads.”

Eventually, a truck came by and he asked the driver if he could show him where he was on a map.

“Later, I ended up coming to the main road and that’s where my father found me.”