We Experience what we Know

Have you ever seen a toddler hurt himself? He looks up at you not knowing what his real feelings should be. It takes the response of a parent or those around him to realize what he should feel. They train him at that moment to be weak or to be strong.

When I would fall down or get injured, my Dad was the type who would say, “you’re ok, get up and rub it out.” He wasn’t being callous or cruel. It was just his way of making me think of something in a different way. If I didn’t have a broken arm, then why cry about it?

Throughout society today, I see intense coddling that leads to a lot of perpetuation of a lack of mental toughness. Your mind is extremely powerful at handling pain and emotions. What I see today is, when the child falls down, the Mom runs over and coos and panders. Even if it wasn’t anything serious at all, the child ends up crying hysterically like he was mortally wounded. Instead of thinking, “no big deal”, he is conditioned to think “everything is a big deal”.

Mountain out of a molehill

I completely admire the realm of psychology. I’m a scientist and I like aspects of human emotion and pain responses. But I also believe that, once we define something, we tend to self-diagnose what we have as that definition. For instance, someone is starting to have a feeling of indigestion, acid reflux, and pain in specific parts of the abdomen. So he jumps on WebMD and self diagnoses himself as having kidney failure. In reality, he goes to the doctor and it turns out it was the acid in the orange he just ate that makes his tummy upset. Next time, he diagnoses himself with attention deficit disorder and bipolar disease. You wonder if he had never heard of these things, he wouldn’t even think to consider such maladies.

If you ever watch the movie Platoon, a soldier is badly injured in an enemy ambush. He is screaming and writhing in pain when the Platoon Sergeant walks over and presses on his mouth telling him to “eat the pain”. While the terror in the soldier’s eyes remain the same, a calm comes over him and he is quiet. There are stories where a person is amputated in a car accident and they don’t even realize what happened. Sure, shock does terrible things to us. But it all happens to relate to how our brain responds to pain.

I’m certain that none of us wants to see a loved one hurt, especially a child. But maybe our first response is to not make a huge deal out of minor boo-boo’s. Maybe I need to feel sub-zero temperatures while waiting for the school bus. Maybe I need to know how it feels to not eat for a day. Maybe I need to run a half-marathon in the heat and learn to overcome what I’m feeling. When I wrestled in high school, I wore a t-shirt that said “mat burns builds character”. I didn’t let an opponent know that I was ever in pain. I had to be strong in mind and body to battle someone who is my equal. You can’t go into battle showing weakness. When I was an Army Drill Instructor, I had soldiers standing at the position of attention for an hour without flinching when 100F heat bore down on them or blinding rain swept across their face. Soldiers learn to embrace the suck. CrossFit athletes learn to keep going when the average person would collapse. Its all about how we face adversity.

Coddling leads to “triggering” responses. Now colleges have therapy dogs, quiet rooms, and other consolation for even the most minor offenses. These are 18 & 19 year olds who are supposed to be learning how to face society. Yet, other men and women of the same age are out on the front lines in battle. Its all about how we are conditioned to rise above oppression. Do we cower and cry, or do we fight and prevail?

Condition yourself and those around you to have pride for yourself. Learn that life isn’t always perfect. Learn that we don’t have to respond to every attack. Learn to have a tougher shell so you can just keep walking when the dust storm kicks up to full force.

Physical toughness leads to mental strength. Mental strength means you can’t be defeated.

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