Fitness, camaraderie, and positive psychology course to actively retrain our brains to live successfully in a civilian society
14-week Reconditioning Program Includes
- Week-long outdoor wellness trip
- 3x week fitness and positive psychology
- Simple daily homework
- Fireteam accountability
Why Reconditioning Works
Imagine over 100,000 years ago, there were three cavemen walking through the woods. They came across a brick path, on the other side of that brick path was a green bush with red flowers. Suddenly that bush shakes, a Saber-toothed tiger jumps out and devours caveman number 1. Cavemen number 2 and 3 get a shot of adrenaline, their heart-rate spikes, and they take off running.
Caveman number 2 and 3 survived, but there was a difference between them. When caveman number 3’s heart-rate spiked, his brain released a chemical called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). BDNF is our brain growth hormone. It’s like a steroid for our memory. So everything that happed during that life and death situation, caveman number 3’s brain was able to lock into memory. Caveman number 2 did not have BDNF, so his brain remembers that Saber-toothed tiger attack like it remembers breakfast that morning.
Five years later caveman number 2 and number 3 are walking through the woods. They come across a brick path. Neither cavemen relate this brick path to their friend dying in their human thinking minds, but the unconscious brain of caveman number 3 recognizes it, so he’s starting to get anxious and he doesn’t know why. Then he sees a green bush with red flowers. That’s enough for his unconscious brain to think he’s entering another life and death situation, so it triggers a fight-or-flight response. Adrenaline is released causing his heart rate to spike, blood is taken from his brain and pushed towards his extremities to aid in his fight-or-flight. This causes tunnel vision. His body is tingling and shaking from the sugars released, he begins to breathe heavily, he doesn’t know whats happening but all-of-a-sudden he has these super-human powers. A saber-toothed tiger jumps out of that bush, and with those super-human powers caveman number 3 was able to take off out of there. Meanwhile caveman number 2 is just standing there thinking, “What the heck is going on,” he gets eaten by the saber-toothed tiger.
Caveman number 3 survived because his unconscious mind was able to recognize the onset of a life and death situation because BDNF released when his heart-rate spiked, aiding in his memory. BDNF is a survival mechanism and a very useful tool in combat.
To continue this story, 20 years down the road Caveman number 3 has begun a family, in new country thousands of miles away. There is no threat of a Saber-toothed tiger and he knows this.
One day he’s walking through a park with his wife and his caveman kids, pushing his caveman stroller. They come across a brick path, starting to get anxious and he doesn’t know why. A mile later he sees a green bush; just being a green bush is enough for his unconscious brain to think he’s entering another life and death scenario. Adrenaline is released causing his heart rate to spike, blood is taken from his brain and pushed towards his extremities to aid in his fight-or-flight. This causes tunnel vision. His body is tingling and shaking from the sugars released, he begins to breathe heavily, he’s been so tense for the past mile after seeing that brick path, that his chest begins to cramp, causing severe chest pains. His neck muscles are tense; it becomes difficult to breath. All this is happening to his body, and all he is doing is walking through the park with his wife and kids. He’s confused and scared, he thinks he’s dying, he begins to panic.
This is called a panic attack. Panic attacks are extremely common amongst our veterans and people who’ve experienced life and death situations. Sometimes those memories are so strong that caveman number 3 will see a Saber-toothed tiger, even though they no longer exist.
We can apply this story to modern day combat. A common scenario is an IED explosion while traveling in a vehicle. Everything about this situation is locked into memory and we can identify the possible triggers our brain will recall from this event.
The easiest of triggers to identify, it’s the part of the threat that directly causes the injury.
- Shock wave
These triggers can be easy to identify as well. It is our perceptions of the scene directly related to the life and death scenario.
- Item the IED was hiding in (backpack, trash, etc)
- Dust cloud
“Brick Path” triggers are the most difficult to identify and often the most scary. We don’t realize our brains have related these items to life and death situations. They are common routines and unknown triggers.
- Hot sunny days
- Crowded vehicles
- Slow moving traffic
- The color orange (dust storms, low-light)
- People we don’t know
People we don’t know
We are no longer fighting an enemy in uniform. We watch everyone we’re not serving with, not knowing who has the weapon or the explosive. We trust no one. This doesn’t change in our brains just because we take a flight back to the U.S. We still trust no one. We’re uncomfortable in crowds, we always want to see the entrance, the exits, know who’s behind us, and furthermore we no longer have our team here to help us. The constant anxiety of society often sends us into isolation.
For hundreds of thousands of years, humans have needed a team to survive. Everyone that was comfortable being alone died without reproducing. Those who had something in their brain telling them they needed to find a way to stick with the team survived. Therefore we are no longer ok with being alone. When we isolate ourselves we are telling our brains that we are going to die.
Depression and Pleasure
Living in isolation so often leaves us feeling depressed. Not just for veterans, or people who have experienced trauma, but for humans. In general, people don’t kill themselves because they are hungry, or tired. People kill themselves because they are lonely. It’s very difficult for people who experience all these triggers in society to be out in the community and building strong relationships where vulnerability is accepted.
Living isolated and feeling lonely and depressed is a very unhappy of mind. So we often turn to abuse of simple pleasures to momentarily cover up this unhappiness; drugs, alcohol, thrill seeking, over medicating. Seeking these pleasures easily leads to addiction and furthers our unhappy state of mind.
Purpose behind 23V Recon
This entire course is design around rebuilding valuable skills and mental strength in the areas of
- deep meaningful relationships
- avoiding unhealthy pleasures,
- building habits that have been proven to create happiness,
- finding purpose in serving others
- most importantly creating new strong positive memories around our common negative triggers from traumatic experiences.
When we get our heart rate up (such as during a workout), science has shown that our memory steroid (BDFN) is released. If we have an anaerobic heart rate for 20 minutes, our brains can release the maximum amount of this growth hormone, and the memories we build will be much stronger than if we didn’t work out.
At times during this course we may be presented with a trigger, such as a loud noise when someone drops their weights, a crowded restaurant, or a person we don’t know such as civilians joining our team. If we are having a good time in a very comfortable and trusting situation, our brains can relate these triggers with new strong memories of having a fun. So the next time we hear a loud noise, or see people we don’t know, our brains may relate it to this new strong fun memory, rather than an old strong memory of a possible life and death situation. At the very least this new memory may create a stopping point for us to consciously choose whether or not this is a dangerous situation, rather than automatically setting off our fight-or-flight response, needlessly causing anxiety and panic.
Special Report: The Next Mission
Measuring the ingredients for a pita bread recipe, David Martin greets his roommate with an explanation about the news camera and reporter in their kitchen.
23V Recon is a life changing experience for veterans and civilians. It begins with 12 veterans on a trip to an outdoor adventure in a distant state. Here we begin to build the strong camaraderie that is so often missed after leaving the military.
With our new team, we participate in instructor-led workouts three times each week. We get our heart rate up so that our brain releases Serotonin, Endorphins, and Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (some reaserch on this is here and here). With these chemicals available, we participate in our brain-retraining program for 30 minutes following each workout. Doing so builds strong positive memories, influences happiness through positive psychology, and most importantly leaves us with a strong team of veterans and civilians within our community!
Half way through this program civilians are introduced and become full participating members of the team, following all the same rules as the veterans. When a team of veterans and civilians produces 100% participation in a week's workout, they're rewarded with gift certificates to participate in a local community activity or go to local restaurant as a team.
Dedication and commitment is a requirement to take advantage of this free program! We have strict rules and solid leadership. Happiness is not an entitlement, you have to earn it.