Best Of, Blogishness, ptsd, Self Improvement / Healthy Living, Self Improvement / Healthy Living, Uncategorized

Military Discipline and PTSD

military discipline ptsd

What sets a combat veteran apart from others who suffer from PTSD is in the background of the trauma. While you don’t have to be in a war zone to have PTSD, the trauma related to a war zone is a far different one from other causes of PTSD. This isn’t to diminish the real life suffering and psychological effects of non-combat PTSD suffers; however, there is a far greater prevalence of PTSD as a result of combat than any other singular form of trauma.

Military lifestyle

One of the first major differences is in the entire lifestyle of those in the military. Regardless of what service you are attached to, be it Navy, Army, Air Force, or Marine from the moment you wake up to the when you hit the pillow at the end of the day (or days later) you have certain requirements that non-military people do not. Your life in the military is regulated every moment of every day; from when you can eat, to how your dress, to your physical fitness, to who you talk to and how you address other military personal. This is something that very few non-military people can relate to. Even in a combat zone, certain regulations must be upheld either as a security measure or as a result of a policy put in place by someone in command. For example, it is required that all lower enlisted soldiers stop and salute a higher ranking officer upon coming in contact with them. In a combat zone, this is not only frowned upon but can be seen as a hostile action towards the officer in questions otherwise known as “sniper checking.” The reason for this is that in a combat environment, you never know when a hostile enemy can be watching you. As a result this non-combat curtesy can let the enemy know who is a better target should they need to or want to attack. This is just an example of the many rules, regulations, and standard operating procedure that is the daily life of someone in the military.

Where lifestyle meets life altering event

While this strict regulation may seem harsh or unnecessary to those outside the military; this is the everyday culture that has been in place for many generations. However, when things go south these regulations kick in. The term conditioning comes into play a lot when it comes to the military and their training. The ultimate goal of any combat or even non-combat training is to make the process as easy and repeatable as possible. This way when a soldier enters into a high stress situation such as combat their instincts take over and the conditioning allows them to do whatever needs to be done with little or no thought towards what has to be done. This secondary high functioning brain as it may be called is like a back-up system. For many people, they will go their whole lives not having to deal with a situation that requires this need but for anyone that has to deal with life and death situations such as nurses, firefighters, or in this case a combat soldier, this secondary brain is the key to survival. However, as a result of this the primary brain has to deal with everything that happens when the secondary brain kicks in. Think of it in terms of a computer with two operating systems. In the event that the first operating system crashes, the secondary kicks in to get the primary back up and going. However, once the primary is back up you still have to deal with the issue that caused the crash in the first place.

Return to civilian life

This is where things start to fall apart for most combat soldiers. With the combination of factors addressed above on top of general societal factors; that can be all together foreign for someone who’s spent the majority of their adult life in the military, it is no wonder that many of these individuals have extensive problems once they are out. Even non-PTSD vets have a hard time adjusting to general civilian life. Add to it the stress, anxiety, guilt, etc. that accompanies having survived a combat related trauma makes it an almost impossible task for anyone to deal with alone. Additionally, because of the conditioning mentioned above, their brain can and sometimes does shift into secondary mode when there primary brain cannot handle a situation. This is often where “flashbacks” or violent reactions come into play for some people.


Suffering from PTSD is never a walk in the park for anyone. For a combat veteran it is a whole different ball game. Between the general PTSD trauma, the conditioning, and change in lifestyle from military to civilian many veterans suffer as a result. Thankfully there are a number of programs out there to address these individuals, however, until our societal views and beliefs related to psychological problems changes we can only do so much.

Picture: Flickr/DVIDSHUB

Audio, Best Of, Self Improvement / Healthy Living, Self Improvement / Healthy Living

How to Build Your Self Discipline

military self disciplineSelf Discipline: Self Discipline is a person’s ability to get done, what they say they’ll get done.  If a person says that they’re going to wake up at 7:00am, then they get up at 7:00am—not 7:01, 7:02 or 7:03.

Like most things in life to get better at a skill, you’ve got to practice.  And since Self Discipline is a skill that can be learned, that means it’s a skill that needs to be practiced.  The more a person practices self discipline, the more disciplined they become, the less practice, the less disciplined.  Everyone has different levels of self discipline; if a person can look at a piece of chocolate cake, and if they can wait, even one second, between wanting to devour the cake, and actually doing so, then they have self discipline.  Some people can look at the cake, want to eat it, and not eat it.  They have stronger self discipline.  There are just different levels, and most people fall somewhere in-between.  The great thing, though, is that if anyone wants to improve their self discipline, it’s actually pretty easy.

(1)   The first step to building self discipline is to gauge where you’re current levels are.  Take a moment to think of areas where you are disciplined; then take a moment to look at areas where you’re not discipline.  Rate yourself on a 1-10 scale, and if you’re honest, you’ll have a good gauge of where your discipline is currently at.

(2)   Once you know your level, it’s time to give yourself a test.  It’s best to start easy.  Too many people, when starting to build self discipline, they will pick some huge outrageous goal.  For example: someone might say “I want to develop discipline to run five miles every day.”  They’ll motivate themselves, and pump themselves up, then on the first day they’ll run four miles, pull a hamstring, say it’s too hard, and give up.  Blah!

a.       If a person’s goal is to eventually be discipline enough to run five miles a day, then they need to build up their self discipline progressively.  If someone’s not a runner, first they’ll need to build up the discipline to walk five miles a day.  If someone can’t walk five miles, then there’s no way that they can run five miles.  For some people they might need to start even smaller and start off walking just one mile a day, then two, then three, then four, then five, then running a mile and walking four, then running two miles and walking three, etc.

b.      The same thing goes for time, as well.  If someone wants to run or walk every day, then they might want to first start off committing to walking or running three times a week, and see if they can accomplish that.  Then if they can do that, move on to four times a week, then five, then six, etc.

(3)   Once you start to build up your self discipline and can get to a certain level, it’s always important to try to branch out and either make yourself more disciplined or become disciplined in a new field.  If you’re running/walking five miles a day but are still eating two bags of cookies a day, then it might be time to start to build up your dietary discipline.

(4)   Repeat steps 1-3 until you’ve developed adequate amounts of discipline in all steps of your life.

(5)   Don’t become too disciplined.  I’ve heard too many stories of people who become so disciplined that they allow their ‘disciplined habits’ to run their lives.    There was one guy I knew in the Army who was extremely discipline.  He would wake up every day at 5:00am.  He would run two miles, do a hundred jumping jacks, and a hundred push ups.  He’d then shower for exactly 10 minutes.  Eat a healthy breakfast of a banana and oatmeal, back a nice protein shake for lunch, and then head off to work.  That was his day, every day, for the past ten years that he’d been in the Army.  The guy was one of the most tightly wound lunatics I had ever met.  He was so disciplined that he had no idea who to just let go, and stray from his daily routines.  He wouldn’t go out with friends because he had to be in bed at exactly 9:30 pm so that he could wake up at 5:00am.  He wouldn’t go out to eat because no restaurants could meet his strict dietary disciplined standards.  The stories go on and on.  He was a time-bombing waiting to go off.  So make sure to build your discipline, but don’t take things too far.

Self discipline won’t come easy, but that’s the beauty of it.  If it did come easy, then it would be called discipline.

Some of my favorite quotes on self-discipline:

“We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.” –Jesse Owens

“Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind-you could call it character in action.”— Vince Lombardi
“Ultimately, the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself.” –Elie Wiesel

“Nothing is more harmful to the service, than the neglect of discipline; for that discipline, more than numbers, gives one army superiority over another.”—George Washington

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Best Of, Self Improvement / Healthy Living, Self Improvement / Healthy Living

What the Military Teaches About Self Discipline

How to develop military self disciplineWhen a person joins the military, his first taste of discipline is external. His drill sergeants assume that he has no self discipline and thus seek to install it;  left to his own devices, the soldier, sailor, or airman would be slovenly and too self absorbed to succeed.

Had the new recruit chosen another life, college or a civilian job, his time away from the classroom or the shop would have been his own. He could have decided on his own when to get up, when to study and what to do after hours. No one would have spoken to him about the shine on his shoes and the length of his hair.

This is not to say that the young civilian would not find discipline in his life. He would also be growing as a person and realizing that he must please his boss or his teacher if he ever wanted to succeed. However, his path to maturity can be slower. The military man has gone into a demanding profession. His country depends on him for its very survival. He is going to be asked to risk or give his life for his fellow soldiers and for the nation. He has to grow up fast and be ready to do things that lesser men cannot.

So his first days in the military, aren’t pleasant ones. Discipline must be ground into him. He has to gain physical strength, endurance, knowledge, and spirit quickly. Day by day, morning and night, he is pushed to do more than he thinks he can. He is forced to stand tall and look sharp. He must run everywhere and never give an excuse for failure.

At first he is forced to do these things. He is watched, yelled at, and punished for every infraction. Bit by bit, though, he starts to internalize the code of the military. He starts to care if his fellow soldiers succeed or not. He starts to care about the military code. He stands tall, not because someone has told him to, but because of the pride inside him. He is fit and ready for the hard life ahead of him.

This determination and spirit does not leave the soldier when he leaves the military. He approaches tasks in the civilian world with the same self discipline that he acquired years back as a nervous young recruit. Now he is a confident individual, ready to tackle the projects that those around him fear are impossible.

He knows, first of all, the value of organization. He can put things into perspective. He sees that the impossible project is only a series of little tasks.

He learned long ago that self discipline is the first step towards leadership, and now he is ready to step to the front of the group and assign those tasks to others.

He realizes the importance of following through on a task and following up on the people assigned to it. He knows that the self discipline that rests in his breast may not be present in his non-military team mates. He is ready to lead by example or push from behind. Whatever the moment requires, he can do. He is not afraid to praise or to punish. As the job nears completion, he sees that same spirit of comradeship and pride beginning to grow the same way it did for him when the military taught him all about self discipline.

Looking for a good book on military discipline? Then check out the book “Unleash the Warrior Within,” by former Navy SEAL Richard Machowitz. It’s one of my favorites!

 Related Posts:

How to Build Your Self Discipline

Military Time Management: CARVER System

I Will Never Accept Defeat.  I Will Never Quit.

Target VS Mission: Smaller Goals VS Larger Goals