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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Resilience

 

During Marine recruit training at Camp Pendleton, California, I recall having succinctly conceptualized the experience of misery. Although I had plenty examples upon which to draw from a childhood, in which trauma was ever-present, a particular moment in boot camp stood out to me.

 

The night prior to attending the gas chamber in which we would be exposed to CS gas, recruits gathered around our bunks to discuss stories heard from other people who’d gone through boot camp. The general consensus was that the gas chamber was a horrific experience.

 

Through the lens of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I now understand what caused the misery I endured. Would it surprise you to know that being gassed wasn’t what led to a miserable condition?

 

REBT theory uses the ABC model to illustrate how when Activating events (“Actions”) occur and people maintain irrational Beliefs about the events, these unhelpful assumptions – and not the actual occurrences – are what create unpleasant cognitive, emotive, bodily sensation, and behavioral Consequences.

 

Therefore, from a psychological standpoint, people disturb themselves using a Belief-Consequence (B-C) connection. Of course, this isn’t to suggest that in the context of the naturalistic or physical world there is no Action-Consequence (A-C) connection.

 

As well, the ABC model incorporates Disputation of unhelpful assumptions in order to explore Effective new beliefs. If there were a mathematical formula for the ABC model, it would be something like: Action + Belief = Consequence ÷ Disputation = Effective new belief.

 

Furthermore, this helpful psychotherapeutic modality uses the technique of unconditional acceptance (UA) to relieve suffering. This is accomplished through use of unconditional self-acceptance, unconditional other-acceptance, and unconditional life-acceptance.

 

It’s true that exposure to CS gas (Action) causes skin irritation, watery eyes, and respiratory difficulties (Consequence). Thus, from a naturalistic world outlook, there was an A-C connection related to the gas chamber. However, that’s not what caused my misery.

 

Rather, when thinking about experiencing the effects of CS gas exposure (Action) and I unproductively Believed, “I shouldn’t suffer as a result of being gassed,” my irrational assumption is what caused my miserable condition (Consequence).

 

Without even being exposed to CS gas, I disturbed myself with unhelpful beliefs about the activating event. Noteworthy, REBT theory maintains that there are four major irrational beliefs people often use: demandingness, awfulizing, low frustration tolerance (LFT), and global evaluations.

 

On the day of gas chamber training, it rained. Camp Pendleton was particularly cold at that time of year, so the outdoor temperature was low as the rain fell. Making use of inclement weather, drill instructors (DIs) provided a realistic training experience.

 

“If it ain’t rainin’, we ain’t trainin’,” one DI stated with a smirk on his face. Recruits were therefore marched to the gas chamber and required to sit on the rain-soaked ground. As other platoons cycled through the flimsy sheet metal chamber, I could hear yelling and screaming.

 

DIs were yelling at terrified recruits who were screaming in agony. Outside, the water level of mud puddles in which my platoon sat began to rise. DIs went from recruit to recruit, yelling at us for shivering.

 

“Control your shivering,” one DI demanded, “because if you were in a real-life scenario, your involuntary response to being cold would give away your position to the enemy!” He acknowledged that it was an involuntary response, so it made little sense to command recruits to voluntarily control it.

 

Nevertheless, yelling and screaming continued with an occasional BOOM of a recruit body being slammed against a sheet metal wall could be heard. Recruits ran from the exit door with long strands of snot dripping from their noses to their waists. All the while, rain continued falling.

 

That’s when a new self-disturbing belief presented itself. “I can’t stand the misery of this moment,” I told myself. If LFT had its own catchphrase, it would be “I can’t stand it!”

 

It’s the language of intolerance – an unhelpful attitude with which we convince ourselves that we literally can’t withstand something. Thus, before ever entering the gas chamber, I unfavorably persuaded myself that I was incapable of enduring the unfortunate event.

 

Suddenly, the first column of my four-column platoon entered the chamber. I was in the third column and continued to disturb myself. “It’s gonna be terrible not being able to breathe,” I thought as I effectively used awfulizing to layer unhelpful beliefs on top of one another.

 

As I sat in a cold mud puddle with a gas mask on my face and hearing members of my platoon screaming from within the chamber, I thought, “This is what misery is.” Thus, that moment has served as a personal comparative hallmark ever since.

 

Back then, I didn’t know how to dispute irrational beliefs. Likewise, I knew nothing of UA as a method of relieving self-induced suffering. Because I thought in A-C versus B-C terms, I was convinced that I couldn’t endure a moment in which I was miserable.

 

However, I could tolerate the misery I created. After all, I didn’t die from the event. Moreover, I wasn’t in any actual danger, because I’d repeatedly witnessed recruit after recruit exit the gas chamber.

 

Although it was true that I didn’t like or love the experience, I could bear it. Furthermore, I could use the moment to prove to myself that I was capable of resilience—an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.

 

Rather than self-disturbing with unhelpful beliefs which led to LFT, I could’ve helpfully used resilience to foster high frustration tolerance (HFT). Aside from learning how to effectively deal with the threat of aerosolized chemical irritants, recruits learned the invaluable tool of resilience.

 

Each recruit was responsible for donning one’s own mask. Likewise, we would one day be required to ensure proper maintenance of our masks. Therefore, we were taught that although Marines operated in group elements, each Marine relied on our own abilities to better serve the whole.

 

Although the gas chamber wasn’t pleasant, it was tolerable. In fact, I endured annual training (at minimal) with CS gas thereafter. Over time, I was so resilient and effective at building HFT that I actually began to enjoy the discomfort – embracing the suck.

 

Several years into my service, Marines would compete with one another to see who could last the longest in the chamber without wearing a mask and while keeping our eyes open. CS gas is commonly referred to as “tear gas,” so it was no easy challenge to endure suffering of this sort.

 

Eventually, I found that CS gas essentially felt like a sunburn on the skin, which I’d endured before. Likewise, I could simply burp repeatedly and this technique allowed me to breath fine without wearing a mask.

 

As for the issue regarding irritated eyes, I used to have staring contests as a child, which also burned my eyes, so I could tolerate discomfort while in the chamber with a similar effect. Thus, I increased my resilience and no longer suffered the unhelpful beliefs I once used.

 

Given the helpful tools of resilience and HFT, how might you respond to beliefs you use when faced with cold rain, mud puddles, gas chambers, or other unpleasant or unfortunate events? Will you lie to yourself about your inability to tolerate distress? You don’t have to do so.

 

If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.

 

As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.

 

At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!

 

 

Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW


 

References:

 

Hollings, D. (2022, November 18). Big T, little t. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/big-t-little-t

Hollings, D. (2022, October 31). Demandingness. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/demandingness

Hollings, D. (2023, February 20). Dipping into layers. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/dipping-into-layers

Hollings, D. (2022, March 15). Disclaimer. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/disclaimer

Hollings, D. (2024, April 29). Embrace the suck. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/embrace-the-suck

Hollings, D. (2023, September 8). Fair use. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/fair-use

Hollings, D. (2024, April 2). Four major irrational beliefs. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/four-major-irrational-beliefs

Hollings, D. (2023, October 12). Get better. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/get-better

Hollings, D. (2023, September 13). Global evaluations. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/global-evaluations

Hollings, D. (2024, February 24). High frustration tolerance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/high-frustration-tolerance

Hollings, D. (n.d.). Hollings Therapy, LLC [Official website]. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/

Hollings, D. (2023, May 18). Irrational beliefs. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/irrational-beliefs

Hollings, D. (2023, September 19). Life coaching. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/life-coaching

Hollings, D. (2022, December 9). Like it, love it, accept it. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/like-it-love-it-accept-it

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Hollings, D. (2024, April 22). On disputing. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/on-disputing

Hollings, D. (2023, September 15). Psychotherapeutic modalities. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/psychotherapeutic-modalities

Hollings, D. (2022, March 24). Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT). Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/rational-emotive-behavior-therapy-rebt

Hollings, D. (2022, November 1). Self-disturbance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/self-disturbance

Hollings, D. (2024, April 21). Sensation. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/sensation

Hollings, D. (2022, October 7). Should, must, and ought. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/should-must-and-ought

Hollings, D. (2022, November 9). The ABC model. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/the-abc-model

Hollings, D. (2023, September 6). The absence of suffering. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/the-absence-of-suffering

Hollings, D. (2022, December 23). The A-C connection. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/the-a-c-connection

Hollings, D. (2022, December 25). The B-C connection. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/the-b-c-connection

Hollings, D. (2022, November 2). The formula. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/the-formula

Hollings, D. (2023, February 16). Tna. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/tna

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Hollings, D. (2022, July 11). Unconditional acceptance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/unconditional-acceptance

Hollings, D. (2023, March 11). Unconditional life-acceptance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/unconditional-life-acceptance

Hollings, D. (2023, February 25). Unconditional other-acceptance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/unconditional-other-acceptance

Hollings, D. (2023, March 1). Unconditional self-acceptance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/unconditional-self-acceptance

Sultan, M. (2024, March 5). In action reaching for safety. mud and dirt everywhere. hope […] [Image]. Playground. Retrieved from https://playground.com/post/in-action-reaching-for-safety-mud-and-dirt-everywhere-hope-cltelfwws01hrs6016c9y0le1

Wikipedia. (n.d.). CS gas. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CS_gas

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