FORT POLK, La. –
Dr. Vincent Escandell, PhD, clinical psychologist and neuropsychologist from Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital, taught purpose, focus and gratitude Aug. 4 to the Special Operations Training Detachment at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, Louisiana.
Paper airplanes, dad jokes, simple exercises and experiments were used to explain nearly 145 years of modern psychological theory related to the topic of purpose.
Escandell said purpose is everything, there is nothing beyond purpose.
“Humans and some mammals are consciously aware of self,” he said. “Our perception of self is what we choose to see. What you want to see is more important than what you actually see.”
Escandell said purpose is something we choose but drug use and disease can reduce ones focus on their purpose.
“Alcohol and other trauma can affect an individual’s attention and concentration,” he said. “Being in an altered state can have a negative effect on maintaining your purpose.”
Escandell said many things can affect sustained focus on one’s purpose. He explained several studies where prisoners of war refused to come home, or gave up on life due to lack of purpose.
“Studies have suggested that without focus and purpose people can be easily be manipulated or brain washed,” he said. “In some cases they will give up living, curl up and die.”
With a fixed purpose, Escandell said a person can do anything they have the skills and preparation to do.
Master Sgt. Derek Swofford, SODT observer, coach, trainer and noncommissioned officer in charge, said having regular training and engagements with Escandell helps reduce the stigma for seeking behavioral health assistance.
“We all go through tough times in our lives,” he said. “Inviting Dr. Escandell to our unit to teach classes and lead discussions lets everyone know it’s ok to talk about issues they are having in their lives.”
Swofford said he hopes the class helps the participants recognize their own purpose and motivates them to seek help if they need it.
“There are tidbits from today’s discussion that the guys can take and use in their own lives,” he said. “If everyone takes a little bit from this and we host these classes on a regular basis it will be well worth it.”
Maj. Stephen Deterding, special operations force task force senior, said having Dr. Escandell conduct training on a regular basis is important.
“The more often we can find the time to have these discussions helps educate everyone and increases our individual awareness about things that can make us better people,” he said.
Deterding said the topic was timely as they just finished up one rotation and are preparing for the next.
“Specifically to our unit and what we do, it’s easy to find purpose while in a deployable unit because we are always focused on the next event on the calendar or the next objective. Our purpose is to prepare for that and do the best we can,” he said. “Here in a unit that trains people, it’s harder for individuals to find that purpose. But our purpose is to help others prepare for that next mission. I thought this training was spot on and really appreciated it. Ideally, we get to exercise our purpose once a month.”
Deterding said the discussion topic was important and a timely reminder to keep focused on that purpose.
Escandell said we must constantly communicate our purpose with ourselves.
“Through ritual and routine acts toward our purpose, we will get into the flow,” he said. “Flow is an optimal experience or the zone; a place where challenges and skills are high, but so is our purpose.”
Escandell said our thoughts control what we feel, our thoughts will control what and who we are. He said this is Logotherapy; a therapeutic approach that helps people find personal meaning in life. It's a form of psychotherapy that is focused on the future and on our ability to endure hardship and suffering through a search for purpose.
“What does this mean? Thoughts become very important, they proceed mood,” he said. “Positive thoughts influence positive moods.”
Escandell said continually reminding oneself of purpose will have holistic benefits to the Soldiers, both personally and professionally.
“If you maintain purpose, you will get to optimal levels of functioning which improves your emotional, physical and psychological health,” he said. “There is an old Christian saying that ‘God cannot drive a parked car.’ What that means is once you stop, once you’ve stalled, once you have no purpose where you are going, then it’s over for you and your body. The more you maintain, sustain and define your purpose everything gets better.”