Basics

Personal Development: Part 7

Healing and Trust

The doorway to adulthood opens in that moment when we realize that we don’t know how to be an adult. The years from infancy to independence only teach us how to express ourselves. They don’t teach us how to be a responsible member of society.

By the end of a successful adolescence, we have found a competitive niche. We have found strengths that command support from our peers. But behind those strengths lie unresolved deficits. The masterful video gamer can’t sustain a romantic relationship. The social butterfly overspends her credit card. The project planner at work doesn’t allow time for play at his 5-year-old’s birthday party.

I have found this definition to be helpful:

An adult understands power and love and has the wisdom and experience to know when to express them.

Clearly this is an aspiration.

But the first three steps on our pathway to maturity focus on power. In survival the guiding concern is “How am I?” With sex we focus on “What is my identity?” During exchange we shift to “What is my value?” At every step, however, the self is first. We assume that everyone else will be taken care of. They have parents, after all.

When separation from the home is complete, however, we confront directly a fact that we always took for granted: whatever benefits (even if scanty and begrudged) we received from our parents, we received due to their love. With that support removed, how are we to survive?

The strong choose the path of force – they impose their will on the world. This is the method of the Second Amendment absolutist in America. Not trusting in love, the armed zealot wants to carry a concealed weapon everywhere. The problem with this strategy is that intimidation works though fear, and people don’t like being afraid. It’s both psychologically and physically draining. They resist, which builds fear in both parties.

The second option is to reassess our strategies for living and rebuild our personality with love as a conscious choice.

In the competitive modern world, that second choice is not easy. The Christian psychotherapist F. Scott Peck recognized this in the title of his landmark book “The Road Less Traveled.” Learning to love involves owning up to your flaws, taking responsibility for past wrongs, and making a commitment to healing not only for ourselves but for others.

The primary venue for this work is the sanctuaries of the major world religions. For those seeking to undertake serious internal work, the challenge is identifying and scheduling time with a mature spiritual guide.

The magic begins in healing. We realize that what didn’t kill us made us stronger. When we begin, it feels as though our heart is going to break. But the heart is a muscle, and the more it is exercised, the stronger and more sensitive it becomes. We learn to trust in its strength, and that allows us to be more trusting of others.

The principal role of the therapist is to provide encouragement and support. In bearing witness to our internal work, our therapist helps us to recognize when we need to take a few steps back from the edge or pick up the pace so that we can jump the next hurdle. Sessions are also an opportunity to feel how we are doing in a process that almost always brings up resistance from friends, family and employers.

Hypnotherapy offers powerful practices to facilitate this stage of development. Journaling allows us to clarify our goals and priorities. The Kappasinian Mental Bank allows us to enlist the subconscious as we broaden our concerns. Guided imagery journeys can identify hidden resources that we can integrate into our lives and allow us to visualize the results of behavior change. Spiritual guide work bypasses the doubting conscious mind to connect us through ancestors and ethereal beings to the universal source of love that sustains us in our growth to maturity.

But none of this is meaningful without the change that occurs between sessions. We learn how to integrate concern for others into our lives, and to balance concern for self and others. We build deeper and more satisfying relationships. We surrender control of the process of exchange, confident in the knowledge that when we have need others will rally to our aid.

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Specializations

War of the Psyche – 6 of 6

Victory Over Death

In the era of Alexander the Great, conquest was used to propagate culture. In the terrifying era of battlefield massacre, wars were fought to preserve the nation-state. With the development of nuclear weaponry, finally civilized nations realized that military readiness must serve only one purpose: preservation of the peace.

Peace is not easy, for tensions exist in every relationship. Nations with different languages and customs cannot just dissolve their borders – their citizens would argue and fight. To ensure that tensions do not boil over, treaties and pacts must be negotiated.

The parallels with death are critical. Death is also a form of separation. We would like it to be gradual and gentle, but often it is not.

A sudden violent death can confuse a spirit. A Japanese doctor who was trysting outside of Nagasaki reported encountering a victim of the blast, charred skin crusted from head to toe, walking away from the city. The victim dropped dead upon seeing the horror in the doctor’s eyes.

Warriors can get lost in their mastery of death, seeking only killing for its own sake. Warriors that fight to protect peace are therefore right to feel virtuous. When they were nurtured within the confines of a peaceful society, love was offered freely to them by adults and peers. Given those gifts, many PTSD victims consider themselves to be “weak.” I see the matter more sympathetically.

The only way a warrior can go into the modern battlefield is to suspend understanding of the dangers they face. Those that remain effective in combat are those that ignore the realities unfolding around them. It is those that take it in – that see the death and destruction, that allow their souls to bear witness to it – that fall into despair.

Upon returning home, warriors may be numb because modern war is inhumanely destructive. Souls torn from broken bodies travel with the returning veteran. Those souls hang on to the veteran’s sympathy, either hoping to escape death’s merciless grip or hoping to receive confirmation that their sacrifice was of value.

The only alternative to this kinship with the departed is to avoid the trauma of loss. In “War,” Junger remarks that fresh troops arriving in Afghanistan were immediately sorted by veterans. Those that are not taken in are those that fall first – not infrequently when marching to their position. The veterans somehow know to avoid them, and thereby escape the grief of their loss. The hapless rookies are consigned to death.

But that is knowledge gained from experience, and so comes too late. In “Combat Stress Reaction,” Zahava Solomon offers the opinion that almost every warrior comes back with trauma – it is just that most of them don’t report it. Where the PTSD casualty is “weak,” the functional veteran is hardened.

In either case, the veteran is a wound in the heart of a peaceful society. They struggle with violent outbursts, unreliable productivity, and substance abuse. Culturally, they become death’s viruses.

So where is healing in this picture? To find it we must return to the insight offered at the beginning of the last section: the mind is a time-travel device. In combat, the well-trained corps functions as a single gestalt, drawing upon shared tactical concepts to think their way through a successful engagement. But at a deeper level, the entire field of combat is tied together in a struggle against death. That fear is universal. Enemy combatants are equally victims of circumstance and deserve equally to be liberated from fear.

Coming back into a peaceful society, the warrior enters that greatest and most valiant struggle. Where love was once received from parents without reflection, the PTSD casualty now must choose to receive love and guard its benefits. When that choice is made, the surrender reveals an infinite source of unimaginable power. Whether it is called God, Source, the Universe or The Good, it steps into the warrior’s mind to reveal that death is only a temporary separation that is pierced by love.

This is the individual warrior’s road to peace. When that hope is projected universally, the goal of every wise warrior is brought into reach: the insanity of modern warfare is apprehended equally in all cultures, and a durable peace becomes possible.

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