Developing Mental Toughness with SEAL Commander Mark Divine

This is a stenography of Mark Divine in a video called Emotional Resiliency & Mental Toughness from the YouTube Channel SEALFIT Media. It highlights some different mental blocks that recruits face during boot camp, and it explains a few tactics one drill instructor used himself to overcome especially hard evolutions.

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What I learned early on from teaching mental toughness is that it is only half the equation. What goes on in your mind — you could be firm in not quitting but be weak emotionally.

It doesn’t matter how much you think about not quitting. You’re still going to quit. You can’t feel your way through it. It is just too painful of thinking about the alternative.

Or you get overwhelmed emotionally with an event, and you make a catastrophic decision that you instantly regret but it is a one shot deal in something like BUDS.

We’re not here to attrite you. We’re are here to train you. We still have a 30 percent attrition rate. Contrast that with the BUDS training which is 80 percent. We could have an 80 percent if we wanted, but it’s not our goal

Here is the thing. You can mentally tough and not really connected deeply to a sense of purpose. And the first sign of real pain, like serious pain where you didn’t expect this level of discomfort. Then you start looking for ways out. And you start getting angry. Angry at yourself. Angry at the coaching staff. Or you start feeling pity. And so all these emotions start to come up.

The primary component of emotional resilience is self control; self control has both a mental and emotional component; they are really so closely tied — they are like two sides of the same coin.

You can have emotional responses that trigger unhealthy thought patterns. And you can have unhealthy thought patterns that trigger the emotion response.

It is rare to have a pure thought that does not have an emotion tied to it. It’s also rare to have an emotion that is powerful without thinking about it. One leads to another.

It’s like the saying: where the mind leads the body follows. It is equally true that where the body lead the mind follows. They are constantly in this dance.

I don’t have a nice list like “Do these four things for emotional control.” because the mental toughness skills also work for emotional control.

Breath control helps control your emotions. Having a short term goal instead of a long term helps your emotions because it is a lot easier to be optimistic if you’re just trying to get through the next ten minutes.

This is what I did during hell week: I was like,

I don’t give a shit about the end of the week. I give a shit about the end of this evolution. I’m getting to the end of this evolution because I know at the end I’m getting a break, I’m going to get some water, I’m going to get some food and maybe even a meal.

The worst time of the day, considering this being one long day, is at zero-dark-thirty. It’s when you have been training for eighteen hours in the first night, and then thirty something hours the second night.

You can’t quite see your way to sunrise. And it’s the middle of the night and you’re just cold and miserable. You have your dark night of the soul, and you just want to quit.

I always tell people don’t quit in darkness. Don’t quit in darkness. Why is that? Because guess what — as soon as the sun peeks over the horizon your spirit sparks, it lights up, breakfast is right around the corner. I got that to look forward too. I made it another night, so that’s a milestone. I just hit a benchmark. Feeling good looking good. All the sudden things start looking better.

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​-Austin