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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Specializations

War of the Psyche – 4 of 6

Hypnotherapy Helps the Warrior Heal

When dealing with combat stress and its follow-on disorders, hypnotherapy is an adjunct to treatment by licensed clinicians – both psychologists and medical doctors. Further information on hypnotherapy and combat stress reactions and PTSD is here. A perspective on the psychic battle against death concludes this series.

As a particle physicist trained to believe that time only flows forward, I wasn’t prepared to accept a fact known to many warriors: the brain is a time-travel device. Once I did, I developed a completely new understanding of trauma: in the event, the survivor reaches deep into themselves to find resources, and receives them from their own future.

Thus survivors of trauma relapse. As they develop strength, their past reaches out to claim what was necessary to survive. My counsel to those that survived personal trauma was to recognize the dynamic and respond to the need in an organized way. When the event crashes through the walls, don’t fight it, but offer to that earlier self:

I love you. We are strong enough. Come to me.

While effective, that advice was offered as an intuitive layperson.

Professionally, the gatekeepers for trauma recovery are licensed psychotherapists and psychologists. Their goal is simple: keep the sufferer in the here and now. The techniques used include stress inoculation, cognitive behavioral therapy, and exposure therapy. The strength thereby created is essential to recovery, but insufficient: it masks off the past rather than healing it.

Alternative healing modalities address the psychic process head-on. Methods such as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and EFT (Emotional Freedom Therapy) broaden the perceptions of the mind-body to diminish the hold of trauma.

Hypnotherapy enhances all these techniques. The traumatized mind is wide open – the barrier of the critical mind has fallen, and so information is taken in as absolute truth. This victim is often susceptible to paranoia and conspiracy theories. By taking the client into deeper hypnotic states and then out into conscious dialog, the procedure of hypnosis rebuilds the barrier of the critical mind.

Secondly, hypnotherapists rely upon dreams to monitor the evolution of the subconscious landscape, and interpretation of dreams was always a central feature in therapy. Dreams occur in sequential episodes during the night, and until hypnotherapists learned how each episode affects the development of behavior, attempts to interpret dreams could heighten client anxiety. Once the episodes were understood, recurring dreams (such as flashbacks to traumatic experiences) could be passed and eventually expelled from the subconscious. This is valuable to trauma victims whose haunting dreams often wake them in the middle of the night.

As the strength of the critical mind is restored, hypnotherapy’s third goal picks up pace: rebuilding assurance that the client is safe, freeing the conscious mind to restore and reactivate the circuitry that suppresses the fight/flight response. In this stage, in transmitting insights directly to the subconscious, hypnotherapy is an amplifier for psychotherapy.


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Specializations

Post-Traumatic Stress

Imagine being forced from a place where everything is provided into a world where nothing is certain.

Being born is traumatic, but the newborn is hard-wired to open his or her eyes to seek a comforting face. When the mother presents her nipple, the sucking instinct teaches that if we cooperate, the world is full of wonderful surprises.

But events can break down that confidence. The persistent threat of violence, witnessing violence committed against others, and natural disasters: all threaten our core belief in safety. Our subconscious clamors for our conscious mind to make certain that never happens again.

Our Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) steals life’s wonderful surprises.

For those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the fear response takes over. The sights and sounds of the traumatic experience are brought back when a car horn sounds, or a waitress serves a certain sandwich at another table. PTSD sufferers withdraw from the world.

Through hypnotherapy, the subconscious is made part of the known effective therapies for PTS and PTSD: Innoculation Therapy builds habits that soothe fear; Cognitive Behavioral Therapy breaks down guilt and shame; and as self-esteem improves, Exposure Therapy allows us to find good in the situations that we’ve been avoiding.

If you are suffering from PTSD, talk to your doctor and psychotherapist about adding hypnotherapy to your treatment program. If they agree – or if you are eager for other methods to address PTS – contact Brian to discover just how powerful a tool hypnotherapy is for reconnecting with the love that surrounds us all.

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War of the Psyche