Mental Notes with Hilary Valdez: Human dynamics

Mental Notes with Hilary Valdez: Human dynamics

by Hilary Valdez
Stripes Japan

Midnight in the Mojave Desert several years ago. I was gazing at the luminosity of billions of flickering stars lighting up the galaxy; I felt small, alone, and lonely. Deprived of all the simple earthly pleasures, I was forced to look deep inside myself, searching for a deeper understanding of life, and the purpose of my life. I had no wife. No girlfriend. No female friends. I felt socially as dry as the desert sand. Here I was, a certified crisis provider, motivational speaker, experienced crisis interventionist able to provide strategic responses to a crisis, and I’m in the middle of a desert. Plenty of sand, but no beach. Boo-hoo, poor me.

Suddenly, my head twisted following a brilliant shooting star zooming across the universe until I noticed a band of coyotes howling, breaking the silence. I froze in wonderment, realizing I needed to improve my psychological state and minimize my obstacles toward fear, doubt, and worry. I had to trust myself and decisions, and disregard negative thoughts, despite the coyotes loud howling. I wanted to reach my full human potential, but this involved having an intensely focused awareness, a sense of total control, shifting my thoughts, and emotions and altering my perceptions. As the howling moved louder and closer, I nervously had a desire to improve, try harder, trust myself, and move from ordinary to extraordinary. But for now, quietly creeping to the SUV and sitting inside would be safer. One step at a time, as they say.

After that chilly night in the desert, I decided to optimize my mental performance. Profusely sweating in the 95-degree heat of the day, I chose to recycle and delete my outdated beliefs such as feeling upset when things don’t turn out the way I planned in my mind or feeling like being affected by something now will mean I will always be affected by it, or the pressure when I can’t find the solution to a problem caused by thinking that there is always a perfect solution to human problems. I was carrying around a lot of psychological baggage and it wasn’t a kick, so I kicked it out of my life.

I needed a psychological tune-up. With no one to talk with, I started practicing positive self-talk. That evening adjusting my jacket over my sweater and looking up at the spellbinding radiance of the twinkling stars, I decided to expand my comfort zone, up-root outdated thinking patterns, and handle life in a positive manner. I wanted to increase my self-awareness by identifying how my thoughts affected my emotions and behavior. Then regulate my impulses and emotions and express my emotions appropriately. No more bar fights. Suddenly, the coyotes returned, they were closer but, more of them. I decide to practice being hopeful and controlling what I could. I wanted to look at ways I upset myself and learn how I could “un-upset” myself. I brought hot dogs for dinner and extras in case the coyotes returned. I was prepared, or so I thought. I wondered what I was doing to cause this troublesome situation. What was I telling myself?

I remembered an article I read stating people produce about 50-70 thousand thoughts a day. Of which, 70 to 80 percent of those are negative. That’s about 40,00 negative thoughts a day. And 98 percent of the thoughts are the same we had the day before. The growling and howling was louder and closer: It’s not going to bother me, I muttered. I was in their living space. My positive self-talk kicked in saying that surviving life is a real challenge and stress is created from juggling work, personal lives, lack of job security, weather, noise on the street, people issues and workload: But nothing about wildlife. I  told myself: Waikiki here I come! Then thought: “Don’t get all worked up. Life requires a sense of humor.” I murmured nervously, looking around the darkness, realizing I left my flashlight in the SUV.

The following week, I sat with a group of Marines returning from deployment in Iraq. We were de-briefing the emotional and psychological panic of clearing a room with terrorists hiding inside with AK-47 machine guns waiting for them to bust in. We also discussed being the first two Marines to jump out from behind a troop transport carrier when the Gunny yelled “Scouts Out” as bullet fired over them from different directions. Then, silent, somber contemplation. Suddenly, a stony-faced, bulky Marine asked me: “How was your weekend, Hilary?” I meekly smiled, with a quiet gulp.


Hilary Valdez is a retiree living in Japan. He is an experienced Mental Health professional and Resiliency Trainer. Valdez is a former Marine and has worked with the military most of his career and most recently worked at Camp Zama as a Master Resiliency Trainer. Valdez now has a private practice and publishes books on social and psychological issues. His books are available on Amazon and for Kindle. Learn more about Valdez and contact him at the website or at email.

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