Joining Our Veterans in Tapping PTSD Healing Reserves
If we truly want to heal and move beyond war as the solution for conflicts, it is of the essence that we learn to cooperate in what we all share and have in common. Our physical bodies are separate, which leads to the illusion that human beings are separate as well. But we share our thoughts, our feelings and beliefs in a global consciousness. Whatever we believe as a group creates powerful shifts that can radiate out to others. Wherever we focus our group mind, our global reality will follow.
The pain of the victims of war introduces heavy elements that manifest in our global consciousness. Veterans, having been actively and passively involved in what happens in war, are carrying this pain in very complex ways. They are also bringing pain into the collective consciousness of their nation. When hundreds of thousands of veterans don’t get the support, compassion, forgiveness and healing they deserve, this consciousness of suffering also impacts their society as a whole. We are, to use Thich Nhat Hanh’s parable, the body that the hand belongs to. Once we understand our wholeness, we can then see that we are connected with veterans and their families in powerful ways.
The transformation begins within. We can respond to veterans’ pain with anger, blaming others for veterans’ injuries or for not providing the much needed help. But this would only continue the cycle of fear, hatred and war. Or, we can take charge and see our own responsibility in what happened to them and in war, actively or passively, and help change this reality from despair and pain to peace, respect, responsibility and love.
It has been through the intense contact with veterans and their stories that my eyes were opened to the humanitarian drama we are currently facing with returning soldiers and their families. Their suffering is usually silent, and the true extent of this drama has not even begun to show. They keep to themselves, talking to each other but hardly ever outside of the military community. Even my contacts within the military confirmed that it is next to impossible to convince a soldier who suffers from PTSD symptoms to ask for help. As long as emotional pain is seen as weakness, and asking for help can carry the risk of ending a military career, this is most likely not going to change.
When I first started helping veterans with PTSD, I went online to find out more about this diagnosis and how it was made. To my surprise, all I could find was a collection of symptoms. Those symptoms included insomnia, nightmares and intrusive thoughts, denial of problems and their seriousness, excessive anger and aggression, hyper-vigilance and physical symptoms such as headaches, which are explained as a response to terrifying trauma.
PTSD is assumed to be present if a veteran scores 50 points or higher on the PCL-M, a standardized military diagnostic questionnaire. Treatments in military and veterans’ hospitals and clinics usually include medications and conventional forms of psychotherapy. At the same time, veterans are usually told that PTSD cannot be healed.
However, there is a lot we can do to improve this condition profoundly. Take the example of insomnia, a powerful component of PTSD. Insomnia is often treated with drugs by conventional therapists. Insomnia certainly has a physical aspect, as the body can’t go to sleep, but it is also emotional, as the person is lying awake, tortured by fears, anger and guilt that won’t allow the mind to shut off as it desperately tries to come to terms with what happened in the past and with fears of the future. The mind often replays traumatic memories and feelings over and over again — without successful resolution of the traumas.
Nightmares and intrusive thoughts tend to come back until their true causes are resolved. Traumas disrupt major energy pathways in the human energy field. The body’s response is to numb the feeling and energy flow to traumatized areas, creating physical, mental and emotional blocks and imbalances in the individual. Until these blocks are released, trauma remains lodged in the body, mind and soul.
Energy field therapies such as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and Thought Field Therapy (TFT) are simple and highly effective self-therapy tools to restore energetic balance to veterans or anyone suffering the effects of PTSD. By tapping on designated acupoints on the face and body, while focusing on the problem as specifically as possible, these techniques take the emotional charge out of what happened in the past and help the person feel neutral and clear about the trauma, rather than numb and repressing these overwhelming feelings. In addition, positive statements and affirmations are repeated and introduced back into the brain and nervous system so that the true self of a veteran can come back into view.
Many veterans and family members feel that PTSD is not a mental illness; PTSD is a symptom of the soul. They describe “losing their soul,” “something breaking inside,” “a disconnect from the outer world and from their own true self.” The result is overwhelming loneliness, emptiness, living with “a wall” that protects them from the outer world. The soul seems to be gone, broken away at the moment of terror, when survival of the self hung on a moment’s decision and often caused much pain to others, even taking someone else’s life. After this rupture happened in their perception of life, things are never the same again.
Nightmares and intrusive thoughts, hyper vigilance, anger and fear of connecting with and confronting others are all symptoms of a disconnect from the soul. Life has become a meaningless struggle for many of these men and women in ways that people in the outside world might not recognize or understand. Many choose to self-medicate with alcohol or street drugs to make it through the day. The statistics rise daily on veteran suicides. According to CBS news, as many as 120 veterans a week opt out of life by suicide.
Those who live through the war as civilians can play an important part in the veterans’ healing of PTSD. Soldiers are often not sufficiently prepared by the military for returning to civilian life. Their training, their experience of their own power in war, their memories and traumas make them feel that nobody outside of the military will ever understand them — that the “outside world” is a judgmental and unsafe place.
When soldiers return from war and are not welcomed back with compassion and open arms, when they feel that those who sent them to war don’t take responsibility for what happened while it was being fought and the victims it created, then veterans can slide away into the darkness of their soul. Veterans often feel they carry the blame for the horrors of war, not just blaming themselves, but being blamed by those who lived through the war at home. Some of the first feelings that usually come up are anger at being cheated by society and grief for all that they have lost while nobody seems to care and help.
Even though civilians might have an opinion and ethical standpoint that is very different from those in politics who have the power to decide about war, and might resent taking personal responsibility for decisions that were made, it is important that we don’t let our personal viewpoint about war negate the deservingness of veterans healing from trauma. We have to truly understand the power and importance of unconditional acceptance and offer it freely, with an open heart and an open mind for the highest good of everyone involved. Through their experiences and trauma, veterans have an understanding of the soul that is very moving and overwhelming. It is at the moment where we discover the source of unconditional acceptance within us, that we can tap this same power.
1. CBS News. “Suicide epidemic among veterans: A CBS News investigation uncovers a suicide rate for veterans twice that of other Americans.” http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/11/13/cbsnews_investigates/main3496471.shtml
Ingrid Dinter, EFT ADV, is a life coach and EFT practitioner who specializes in helping veterans and their families heal from the trauma of war with Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). She can be reached at www.eft4vets.com.