Let’s start with this general psychological principle: Anxiety exists in proportion to what we don’t know. A known threat is generally less anxiety producing than a vague threat “on the other side of the door.” Our brains are geared towards survival. So, by default they tend to fill in the gaps of what we don’t know with the worst case scenario, ostensibly to prepare us for anything that may come at us.

Transition from the military is like passing through solid iron gates with no idea about what is going to come at us on the other side. Although the primary focus of military transition programs has been on the post-service career, leaving the military is about so much more than just finding a new job. We indoctrinate young men and women into the norms of military culture, but we currently lack a commensurate program to help them reconnect with their deeper identity when they leave. Service members who have transitioned from the military over the past several decades have not had an integrative road map to address the psychological, cultural and relational challenges that transition from the military brings.

As such, transition from the military creates intense anxiety. When we feel anxiety, we go into self-protective mode. We choose the easiest, most recognizable opportunities we are offered. In my work (Dr. Springer) with hundreds of veterans in transition, I have repeatedly witnessed how a kind of tunnel vision takes over, and veterans grab the first job or relationship that presents itself. These opportunities may feel like a “safe bet” in the short term, but this is often a mirage. A structured job in an established company may be a terrible fit for a particular person, and the wrong relationship partner can create endless chaos in one’s life.