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IMGCA Article - Mental Toughness


Leave the Thinking to the Horses

They Have Much Bigger Heads than You

Johan Tonsbeek

The SBS/SAS and Navy SEAL Special Forces Training courses are designed to physically and mentally test the Trainee and how he thinks to the absolute limit.

So much so, that your initial reasons for wanting to become an SBS Combat Swimmer/Frogman, Navy SEAL or SAS operator all but would have dissipated like snow in the sun if it was not for your ability to access the power of the mind.

Once that subtle barrier to the mind has been passed, the Trainees are able to take control of their thoughts. Feelings of fear, anxiety, stress, exhaustion or any other aspect that would hold them back are now being controlled by the power of their sub-conscious mind. They are able to will their bodies to continue indefinitely under any circumstances, while undergoing physical conditions and mental demands that would otherwise be humanly impossible to achieve. This is also known as the power of the sub-conscious mind over the conscious mind or Will-power.

Once a Trainee reaches this Phase in the training, usually nothing will stop him, and he would be able to continue under these circumstances almost indefinitely unless he becomes injured, which sadly does happen from time to time. This Phase in the training sets the stage for a total identity change and a tremendous boost in self confidence. The concept of something being impossible is broken forever. This is why the SBS/SAS and Navy SEAL Special Forces are able to undertake operations and endure physical and mental conditions that for others are all but impossible.

The trainees have reached the stage in their mind that turns all negativity into positive objectivity with the trained, inbuilt desire to always find a solution that will turn any negative experience or set back into an immediate or long term possible, positive outcome.

Leave the thinking to the horses; they have much bigger heads than you. That was the reply from one of the SBS instructors in response to a trainee’s desperate cry in my 1967 SBS training class when he THOUGHT his legs couldn’t move anymore due to sheer exhaustion when doing a forced run through the sand dunes while carrying an inflatable boat or Zodiac with his team mates. It is a common trait in most of us and it is a typical human behaviour to hide and suppress the real issues that are troubling us in the back of our mind until it is too late.

It is a typical trait in most of us to hide behind our follies and blame our weaknesses when the going gets tough and if that doesn’t work to then blame everything and everybody else except ourselves.

We get the conscious mind to temporarily override the sub-conscious even though we desperately want to find a solution to our problems or suffering. So the easiest way is to put the blame with somebody or something else for our inability to continue with the task and for our bad luck in life. Luck, however, is the residue of design and this is very much emphasized in the SBS Special Forces training.

In the SBS/SEAL training your true self is fully exposed for everybody to see as you are methodically "hammered" physically as well as emotionally and mentally week after week. You can't hide your emotions anymore and there is no shame in that, because we all have become equal in the eyes of our Instructors no matter what rank we hold, or how big and tough we considered ourselves to be at the beginning of the course.

Teamwork then is another factor strongly emphasized in the Special Forces training of the SBS and SEALS. The needs of the many are greater than the needs of a few and failure of one individual can bring the unwanted attention of the instructors to the whole group.

One thing is for sure. You will never win a self softening up contest in the SBS/SEAL training courses and the same principle applies in life. In the end you will always be the loser. Making somebody else responsible for the inevitable fall out of your own decisions because of your inhibited thinking process and your refusal to learn the lessons, which the SBS/Seal training course is trying to teach you will only make you a victim in the long run and life is no different.

In the end, you can only blame yourself for failing the course or letting Victory (achieving your full potential) slip through your fingers on the battlefield of life.

Special Forces soldiers are not born, they are created; they create themselves with the help of their instructors, their role models, their buddies and with a lot of self sacrifice. They create themselves to do a Special job that only very few of us can do. That is why they call them Special Forces soldiers. They are special in every way.

You too are special. Which ever way you look at yourself, there is no other like you in the universe. Only you can bring about the changes you so desperately seek in your life. Perhaps it is weight loss, a daily exercise program, a better education or improved health; or perhaps an improvement in your confidence and self esteem levels; ultimately you are the person in control of your life.

I believe that the only way you can do this is to go back to the drawing board of your life; to delve deep into the recesses of your own sub-conscious mind. Like the instructors in the SAS, SBS and Navy SEAL training courses do; they take you down to places in your own mind where you have never been before to unearth the ultimate commitment and belief in yourself. I believe that you should learn and acquaint yourself with some of the short burst energy psychology techniques of EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) and regularly apply these during the course of days and perhaps even weeks to clear the accumulation of negative emotional habits and thought patterns gathered over a life time of experiences.

I also believe that you should make short burst aerobic and weight resistance exercise a standard approach to living your daily life, so you can assist the mental and emotional recovery process using EFT.

The main difference between life and the SBS/SEAL Training is that the latter is of a limited duration and if you believe in yourself, have the right mental and emotional attitude and physical ability and don't get injured along the way, you know you can achieve your goal and that is to pass the course.

The length of Life's Training Course is an unknown (thank goodness), which makes it so much more difficult, especially for those of us who have found themselves locked into a negative mindset at an early stage in our lives. This is often because of incorrect emotional interpretations of life experiences in childhood and adolescence.

We then lack the ability to overcome our problems and setbacks along the way; the emotional habit of self sabotage takes over and we get stuck in the mud of life forever.

Horses may have bigger heads than you, but you have the ability to make choices while horses function mainly by instinct. Choose to think only positive thoughts; banish the negative ones and life will become a whole lot easier to manage.

© Copyright 2006 - Johan Tonsbeek

Johan Tonsbeek 58, Ex Dutch Royal Marines SBS Combat Frogman (Navy SEAL), qualified fitness instructor and Mind-Body Coach. The inventor of a "short burst" university tested exercise regime, the Boomerang GYM. Learn and apply his short burst mind body techniques for overcoming self sabotage and his unique, university tested exercise program for weight loss, improved balance and coordination. Get his Special Forces traits, Emotional Freedom E-book at

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