Fear of anticipated pain can build up until the mind is overwhelmed, and triggers a decision tap out.
Focus on just getting by now, 10 seconds at a time, acknowledging the option to quit, but purposely setting that option aside for the next 10 seconds. Humor can be used to distract the mind from building up too much fear.
Excerpt below is from the book: The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL by Eric Greitens.
“OK, gentlemen, just a few more hours until the sun goes down.” Laughter rolled through the bullhorn. Monday night was infamous. The hardest night of all. “Steel piers” was coming. We’d heard that steel piers would freeze you like a soaked and naked man left to die at the North Pole. Monday night was feared. Monday night was the killer night. Monday night would be the worst night of your life.
As the sunlight weakened, the instructors ran us out to the beach. We stood there in a line, and as we watched the sun drift down, they came out on their bullhorns:
“Say goodnight to the sun, gentlemen, say goodnight to the sun.”
“Tonight is going to be a very, very long night, gentlemen.”
They reminded us that tonight was going to be our first full night of Hell Week.
“And you men have many, many more nights to go.”
We watched the sun slip lower and make contact with the ocean. Then, when they really wanted to torture us, they said, “Anybody who quits right now gets hot coffee and doughnuts. Come on, who wants a doughnut? Who wants a little coffee?”
As we watched the sun slip away, something broke in our class. Out of the corner of my right eye, I saw men running for the bell. First two men ran, and then two more, and then another. The instructors had carried the bell out with us to the beach. To quit, you rang the bell three times. I could hear it ringing:
Ding, ding, ding.
Ding, ding, ding.
Ding, ding, ding.
A pack of men quit together. Weeks earlier, we had started our indoctrination phase with over 220 students. Only 21 originals from Class 237 would ultimately graduate with our class. I believe that we had more men quit at that moment than at any other time in all of BUD/S training.
Who would have thought that after having to swim fifty meters underwater, endure drown-proofing and surf torture and the obstacle course and four-mile runs in the sand and two-mile swims in the ocean and log PT and countless sit-ups and flutter kicks and pushups and hours in the cold and the sand, that the hardest thing to do in all of BUD/S training would be to stand on the beach and watch the sun set?
Each man quits for his own reasons, and it might be foolish to even attempt any general explanation. But if men were willing to train for months before ever joining the Navy, and then they were willing to enlist in the United States Navy and spend months in a boot camp and months in specialized training before they came to BUD/S, and if they were willing to subject themselves to the test of BUD/S and endure all of the pain and cold and trial that they had already endured up to this point, then it seems reasonable to ask, why did they quit now?
They quit, I believe, because they allowed their fear to overwhelm them. As the sun went down, and the thoughts of what was to come grew stronger and stronger, they focused on all of the pain that they thought they might have to endure and how difficult it might be. They were standing on the beach, perfectly at ease, reasonably warm, but they thought that they might be very cold and very pained and they thought that they might not be able to make it. Their fear built and built and built. The mind looked for a release, and the men who quit found their release in the bell. Others found their release in the self-detachment of humor.
“You think all this sand on my face is a good exfoliate?”
“Yeah, you’re lookin’ pretty GQ smooth.”
“They call this look Hell Week Chic. I don’t know what they call the way I smell.”
“You know, my girlfriend actually goes to a spa to pay for shit like this, where they scrub you down with sand and stuff.”
“Yeah, this is like a spa, but we’re getting paid to be here. Can you believe this? Awesome fucking deal.”
“I want to get a job at one of those spas.”
Others simply didn’t let fear come to rest in their minds. They’d learned to recognize the feelings and they’d think, Welcome back, fear. Sorry I don’t have time to spend with you right now, and they’d concentrate on the job of helping their teammates.
“How’s your foot?”
“Good. Keep an eye on it. Tonight’s gonna be a good night for us. Dinner should be pretty soon.”
Still others just focused on the moment. What a pretty sunset. This is all I have to do to make it through Hell Week right now? Stand on the beach. This is great.
One of my favorite guys in my crew was Eddie Franklin, former Marine, who had a very low tolerance for BS and a wicked sense of humor. Eddie would always joke about quitting. “I’m quitting today for sure. Right after the run. Then I’m gonna go up to Pacific Beach and surf and hang out and eat tacos.” We’d finish the run and Eddie would say, “Hey, anybody want to quit with me after breakfast? I gotta eat, but then I’m gonna quit.” We’d finish breakfast, and Eddie would say , “PT, I love PT, I’m gonna quit after PT.” After PT, “I’m gonna quit right after lunch. But they’ve got burgers today, and I’m crazy for those Navy chow hall burgers.” And so he could go on— sometimes to the annoyance of others who were truly thinking about quitting—but in Eddie’s humor there was wisdom. I can quit later if I have to, but this, whatever this is that I have to do— hold this log over my head, or sit in the freezing surf, or run down the beach with the boat bouncing on my head— I can do this for at least ten more seconds, and that’s really all I have to do.
Definitely recommended: The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL by Eric Greitens.