Personal resilience - 'Wrestling the ape'

14 June 2019 / Categories: DA News and Events

Major Dan Kahn talks about the ‘Wrestling the ape’ article featured in this month’s Soldier magazine. It was also a lesson he delivered as part of the Mental Fitness and Resilience break out session on the One JFC Day, 12 June 19. 

Personal resilience is an ongoing part of the Mental Fitness and Resilience (www) training provided by the Defence Leadership Centre to the General Staff Induction Course (GSIC) at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

Major Dan Kahn said:

“The article in Soldier Magazine is describing evidence based techniques to help overcome fear and improve performance. 

The techniques come from US Special Forces selection training (US Navy Seals) and were developed by US Navy Psychologists to improve the mental fitness and resilience of personnel attempting a particularly challenging test. Imagine being underwater in scuba equipment and then being ‘attacked’ by the instructor. Imagine what it would be like if your scuba mask is ripped off, your breathing apparatus is taken away, tied in knots and if you break for the surface before being given permission, you are failed and Returned to Unit (RTU’d). You then have to recover your breathing apparatus, untangle it and put it back on, only to be attacked again and again. 

The test was to see if the applicant could operate under high stress and still function. While the personnel were highly physically fit, they didn’t always have the mental fitness and resilience to cope with this intense experience. Too many personnel were failing because they couldn’t ‘calm the monkey’, as described by Prof Steve Peters in ‘The Chimp Paradox’. Our ‘monkey’ is the primal defence mechanism we have evolved to protect us from threats and goes into a fight, flight, freeze, food and flock together response when presented with an intense threat. 

By using these techniques we’re able to ‘respond’ rather than ‘react’. By ‘calming the monkey’ it gives us the best chance to meet the challenge being presented to us, whether it’s a Special Forces instructor or an email from the boss, sometimes the hyper alert monkey only sees the threat and reacts, even if it’s ‘only’ an email.” 

Original source: Soldier magazine 

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