While I don't necessarily recommend the book,* Ben Courson's Flirting with Darkness: Building Hope in the Face of Depression did give me a concept that's been helpful in the days since I read it one night. It's this habit amongst elite military groups of responding to adverse turns in events with the phrase, “Good times.”
One of the secrets of the SEALs is what they call “cognitive restructuring,”** which boils down to this: You say something is good even when it is terrible in order to adjust your mind to going through difficult experiences. No matter what horrible things happen to you as a SEAL, you just flash this wicked little smile and say, “Good times.” That includes experiencing 96 hours of sleep deprivation, getting hypothermia during conditioning in frigid seas, and dodging bullets while you are being shot at. It's a process of convincing your brain that it can find pleasure even in the most extreme struggles.Ben Courson, Flirting with Darkness: Building Hope in the Face of Depression, p. 36
I don't know where Mr. Courson got this information — there's no citation — but I do know that shorthand phrases are a powerful means through which to change our minds, and getting our minds right during times like this is a key means through which to improve our experience of the struggle.
- Some time ago, I wrote about our colleague Beth Sheehan's line, “I can't fix everything, or sometimes anything.” (The comments on that post include one from our colleague Kelly Redmon on “embracing the suck,” another line lifted from the military.)
- A few months before that, I shared how Dan Coyle has written about the role that catchphrases have for shaping culture.
Anyways, maybe share this post with a colleague the next time you get bad news at work so that you and your crew might develop your own wicked little smiles and one-liners.
*It's not that the book is bad. There's a lot I appreciated. It's just that 1) the target audience seems to be 10-20 years younger than me, 2) there's this woven-in emphasis on… well, doing big things as a means for feeling okay, and I worry a bit that that won't be super helpful to everyone who is struggling with depression.***
***I do have an email list that gets a monthly list of books I've read and recommend. You can join that here.