A Ranger’s Path of Self-Development
by Kasey Pipitt
“Waking up to who you are requires letting go of who you imagine yourself to be.
About two months ago I had a spiritual awakening, if you will. I got to a point where I was sick of who I had been for the last six years and I wanted a change. My ego was out of control, I was angry, sad, and I needed a way out of this pit of self loathing. So, I began the walk down the path of self development and I want to tell you guys about it in hopes that it’ll help you out. I’m not an expert, but this is what’s worked for me.
Over the years I’ve found that the veteran community’s morale is low. There is a stigma that we are incapable of functioning as normal citizens in society. That we are playing the “poor me” card. I feel that we are being manipulated by all of the veteran propaganda from Hollywood, the government, you name it. I want to change that. I want to put hope back into your lives. I hope this helps.
I left 2nd Ranger Battalion in November of 2012, moved in with my parents in Las Vegas and enrolled in college a month later. Basically I did what every veteran does when he thinks he has a plan when he’s getting out, but really doesn’t (don’t ignore your chain of command when they ask you that question). A year prior I had been wounded while on a direct action raid in Afghanistan (you can read the story in the very last chapter of Violence Of Action) and did nothing but drink the pain away for the remainder of my last year in the Army.
Pretty soon I was going out three to four nights a week with the roommates getting plastered in downtown Tacoma. Mostly, just so I could sleep at night and not have to think or feel anything. It didn’t stop there. For the following three years I would carry on this tradition of mine and continue attempting to numb myself. I wasn’t ready to change. Truthfully, I didn’t feel like I had to. I thought my time in Ranger Battalion was enough change. After all, it made me a man right?
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t disregard my time there at all. In fact, I’m very prideful of it because it did make me a man in a lot of aspects and for that I am grateful, but what our perception of a man means can make us less of a man based on our actions that we feel is “being a man,” but I digress. Everyone around me could see my pain except for me. Most didn’t know how to help, most I wouldn’t let help. Some even made it worse by making my pain about themselves. About two years ago, a very special person came into my life and helped me to get onto this path. She helped me to realize I don’t have to live with this pain anymore. She put her own happiness aside for mine and gave me all of the tools (especially a little plant that tends to grow in cow shit which actually got me onto this path, some of you might know what I’m talking about). She helped me to change who I was and what I was doing to myself, unfortunately it took me being a stubborn asshole to finally let go of my ego and to start using these tools.
I had never had someone in my life who could actually feel the pain I was going through herself, but I was too broken to notice at the time. Today, I feel the best I’ve ever felt in my life. I don’t tell you this for sympathy. I tell you this so that you can relate and understand what I’m telling you without judgement. I know a lot of you do! Now, I’m a government contractor and I started this path on day one of this current trip that I’m on. I made a commitment to myself that I was going to spend this entire trip working on my mind, body, and soul. To be the best version of myself that I could possibly be. I distanced myself from as much negativity as I could in my life, I researched some of the most popular books on self development that exist, watched TED talks, I downloaded as many enlightening podcasts as my phone could hold, and I started a new strength and conditioning program that I hadn’t done before. And I stuck to it all.
Ego: the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity.
Fear and the Ego
Ahhh the ego. All of us have one bigger than we realize especially with our backgrounds. Two traits of the human brain that keep us from living fulfilled lives are fear and ego. The purpose of the ego, essentially, is to protect our perception of ourselves. The constant feeling that we need to protect ourselves causes us to live in fear. Fear of the unknown and uncertain, primarily. However, if we don’t learn to get the ego under control, it can rob us of positive emotions such as love, happiness, and the love we need to have for ourselves. Most of us from the SOF community are lead to believe that we are the baddest, most invincible people in the military community and to some degree, we are. The government spends millions of dollars to put us through some of the toughest training the military has to offer. Not only that, but our operation tempo is the highest of any unit in the military and we have more face to face contact with our enemy on a daily basis than most other units do. You have to have this mentality ingrained to be able to survive.
So yes, sometimes the ego is very necessary, but what happens when we are done with the military? And we are thrown into this new pack of wolves called society. A group of people who don’t understand tribalism and brotherhood. What then? Do we continue carrying on the chest puffing ego that being in special operations gave us? Or do we mold into society and drone on like everyone else? My answer is neither. The military gave you a set of skills and often times we don’t know how to transcend those skills into our new post-military lives. Skills such as professionalism, determination, perseverance, and motivation to name a few. What? Were you expecting me to say, “how to kill an enemy at 300 meters with a 5.56 assault rifle!”
Sit back, bro. Yes, you are capable of that as well, but that’s not what I mean. Harness these skills. Learn how to use them in a more society-friendly way to better yourself and accomplish your goals. Get control of your ego so that you don’t keep fucking up your relationship with your smokin’ hot girlfriend who just wants to love you, or a close friend that has different political views than you. Then going to the bar afterwards, getting piss drunk and wondering what went wrong, fully knowing it was you. I’ve been there, I know. Speak to people professionally. Give them the benefit of the doubt that they might be a good person, if they end up not being one? Their loss, not yours. Better to full ass something rather than half ass.
Be determined in everything you do. Make sure you get it done and get it done right. Persevere in everything you do, don’t give up unless circumstances dictate that you have to. Be motivated in everything you do. Whatever you’re doing could be the best thing you’ve ever done and should be approached with that in mind. All of these skills can be blocked by our egos if you don’t have control of it. We need fear, ego, love, and happiness to all work together so that we can live a fulfilled life.
It’s a Process
When they say “struggle equals growth” they aren’t messing around. This road is a painful one. A lot of days you’re going to try and justify giving up because, “I’m happy with who I am.” No you’re not otherwise you wouldn’t even have contemplated this process to begin with. That’s what this is, a process. A process of elimination, if you will. We have to eliminate the things that hold us back from being our true selves. Otherwise, we will always be stuck in that hole. Drinking to numb the pain, buying shit we don’t need for the 24 hour thrill of having something new, having to sleep with random people to make sure we remain confident in our masculine abilities. Eliminate these things from your life. Take the masks off.
Take the time to figure out why you feel the need to do these things. If that means isolating yourself form everyone for a little while then so be it. Even if it means having to hurt some feelings so that you can repair your own. Ask yourself, if you request some alone time from those close to you and they get their feelings hurt and make you feel guilty for wanting to take said some alone time, then do they really care about your well being to begin with? Or their own? That’s something I’ve noticed. You will really see the true colors of those in your life that you choose to distance yourself from and it can hurt. So be prepared for that. No one is entitled to your life except you. The best you can do is explain it this way, “I have to take some time alone to repair myself so that I can be the loving and understanding guy that my friends and family need me to be.” If that doesn’t get through to them it doesn’t matter. Do what you feel you have to do. When it sucks and you hate this shit, remind yourself that it’s part of the process and you’ll get through it.
Pass it On
The Ranger Regiment was designed around the idea that men would come learn the best infantry tactics that the Army had to offer then Rangers would be dispersed throughout other units to bring them up to speed on what they’ve learned. That is what I am trying to do for you. Once you’ve committed yourself to this road, do the work. Take all the necessary steps you need. It’s a never ending path, man. This shit goes on forever and ever. We are constantly evolving into something better. We do get to a point where it’s less painful and stressful. I think that when we are at that place we will know it. It’s usually caused by a moment where we remembered we used to be a certain way that we aren’t anymore. Usually it’s by meeting someone who reminds you of that man you used to be. That man you’ve busted your ass to make into a better one. They’ll say something and you’ll think, “Ha! I used to be like that.” Help them. Don’t ridicule them. Remember where you came from. Remember the pain you felt that you struggled to overcome. Shine the light on the tools that you used to become a better version of yourself. Never underestimate the power of planting a seed. It may take a week. It may take a year, but one day they will be sick of themselves too and remember that guy who planted that mental seed about this path. Stick to your tribe. Your group of people you more closely relate to and teach them what you’ve learned.
“An ill tempered, unhappy man ridicules all he hears, makes fun of others, always refusing to see the faults in himself.”
Cut Yourself Open
And pour yourself out. Let the world hear your story. In the book Daring Greatly, Brené Brown said, “To believe vulnerability is weakness it to believe feeling is weakness. To foreclose on our emotional life out of the fear that the cost will be too high is to walk away from the very thing that gives purpose and meaning to living.” Shes right. If we don’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable we sacrifice the ability to feel. It’s human nature to be able to feel your emotions. That’s why we have them. Allow yourself to love and be loved. To be appreciated. Show yourself and those around you some gratitude. One technique I’ve found that worked for me was writing myself a letter reminding myself of all the things I like about myself. It actually works. It’s an easy we to remind you of what you’re worth. It’s not gay, bro! Would you rather be cold, numb, and lifeless? Or warm, vulnerable, and full of life? I choose the latter. Ask yourself, why should I live this short time on this planet filled with angst? With sadness? With fear? You deserve better than that.
One Last Thing
Appreciate yourself. Whenever you’re feeling doubtful about yourself and you will, remember this: you signed up to sacrifice yourself for this country’s dirty work. I say dirty work because that’s what it is. Don’t short yourself. It was mean, it was nasty at times, and it was rough. You had to sacrifice your humanity to get a job done more times than one. You did and saw things no one should ever have to see. You lost friends and might’ve almost lost your own life. You knew the risks and you did it anyways. If you’re reading this today, you made it out alive. Be proud of that. Rejoice in the fact that you are here and you are alive. Raise one for the brothers and sisters that are no longer with us. RLTW.
Don’t get me confused, I don’t have this shit completely figured out either. However, I’m at a place where I feel I can help and give back to my tribe. Remember, I’m in a place with no distractions so it’s been a bit easier for me to focus on this stuff than those of you at home. Take your time. Be patient with yourself and those around you. Even those who don’t understand and will ridicule you simply because, they don’t understand.
“I believe that one defines oneself by reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself. To cut yourself out of stone.”
This first appeared in The Havok Journal in December 2017.