Veterans & First Responders
Veteran & First Responder Plights
Veteran’s transitioning out of military service into civilian life can be equated to a death from a metaphorical perspective. It is a “death of the old warrior, birth of the new civilian”. Shifting back into civilian life can be extremely destabilizing. Veterans often describe coming home as much like waking up one day on a different planet, one they don’t recognize anymore. It is a psychic death of the warrior identity. However, what is actually being birthed is a fractured, split identity, which manifests as identity loss.
The world veterans once knew is abruptly transformed into a new and very unfamiliar world, which is highly symbolic of the process of life and death. From an alchemical perspective, veterans’ reintegration process, or the lack of a reintegration process, which is often the case, into the civilian world may be interpreted, as the Phoenix rising from the ashes. To a certain degree, this symbolism may not be so far from the truth.
The VA National Suicide Data Report 2005-2016 (2019) found the Marine Corp. to have the highest suicide rate with 31.4 suicides per 100,000 Marines. The Army came in second with 24.8 suicides per 100,000 soldiers, Navy came in third with 20.7 suicides per 100,000 sailors, while the Air Force had the lowest suicide rate at 18.5 suicides per 100,000 airmen. Despite their exclusion from the VA National Suicide Data Report 2005-2016 (2019) metrics, the Army, and National Guard had the highest suicide rate at 30.6 suicides per 100,000 guardsmen.
Van der Kolk (2014) states that drugs cannot cure trauma; they can only dampen the expressions of a disturbed physiology. Drugs do not teach the lasting lessons of self-regulation” (p. 226). Lastly, Van der Kolk (2014) stated, “it is worrisome that the DOD and the VHA prescribe enormous quantities of medications to combat soldiers and returning veterans often without providing other forms of therapy” (p. 229).
Consequently, a defining moment like this requires a dramatic shift in attitude, perspective, and in treatment strategy. Military service members and veterans are a very small demographic of the U. S. population. They have earned the right to receive high-quality mental health care by fighting for their country with blood, sweat and tears.
Disclaimer: I am not a licensed psychologist or medical doctor. My services do not replace the care of psychologists, doctors, or other licensed medical professionals. Somatic, depth psychological, shamanic healing practices and entheogen facilitation &integration services should not be construed as substitutes for psychological counseling, psychotherapy, mental health counseling, or any other type of psychotherapy or medical advice.
Can Post-Traumatic Stress Be Healed?
Most veterans are searching for meaning and purpose in their lives after leaving the military. However, the medical model community does not appear to be listening to veterans need to have their stories voiced and heard. This process has been handed down from one generation to another to assist the warrior in finally feeling validated, justified and heard.
Recovery from trauma is generally more complex, less solution-focused, less linear, or prescriptive than we would like or comprehend. However, once dormant trauma is addressed, we often find these hidden processes revealed the missing link to facilitate recovery. The healing process is less about fixing something that is broken or defective inside of us, and more about making space for healing to manifest.
Often trauma just needs a voice. In order to make space for healing, we need to provide soma (the body) and our unconscious psyche, with the ability to give voice to what has been repressed deep down in the shadow. Recovery should be viewed as more of a transformative journey than an actual destination or fixed goal. Metaphorically speaking recovery can be equated to peeling away layers of an onion, until you get to the core of the onion.
Post-trauamtic stress (PTS) is not a psychological disorder per say unless a prior mental health diagnosis was established prior to the traumatic event(s). The other exclusion, which can also be the case, is that an individual may have had a prior mental health issue that was never diagnosed before they experienced the traumatic event(s). Either way, the ideology that post-traumtic stress is a lifelong issue is a fallacy and an untruth.
PTS can be healed provided certain stipulations are present.
An individual truly wants to get better.
An individual believes in their heart that they can better.
An individual is willing to be proactive, listen and follow suggestions from a therapist, or healer, who has lived experience with combat-related post-traumatic stress.
An individual is willing to look under the veil of the conscious symptoatology and delve deep into the unconscius psyche to address the deeper underlying issues.
The individual’s environment, and personal circumstances support healing.
If these conditions are present healing from post-traumatic stress is not only conceivable, but highly achievable and in a relatively short time period.
My Healing: Hostage in a Foreign Country
There is a paucity of research on depth practices on the perception they lack empirical science. the perception they lack empirical science. Due to this erroneous belief, and the difficulty in quantifying depth psychological therapy benefits, these approaches have been labeled non-evidence-based treatment approaches (Shedler, 2010; Jeschke, 2013). I can confidently state that post traumatic stress (PTS) can be healed? Because I experienced both post-traumatic stress and healed. I was a hostage in a foreign country for 6-weeks, barely escaped with my life. Upon my return to the states I suffered from all the symptoms of PTS, depression, hyper-vigilance, isolation, anger issues, suicide ideation, indecisiveness, and the inability to trust myself and others.
I understand what it feels like to not know if you will live or die, 24/7, from day-to-day, for weeks on end. I understand the internal conflict of feeling like you are going crazy as your life spins out of control and you have no clue what to do about it. I understand what it feels like to be stuck, lost, powerless, helpless, and hopeless. I also have the experiential experience of trudging through the ‘swampland of the soul’ to take my life back. I can assure every veteran and first responder without a doubt there is a light at the end of the tunnel, you can heal, you can move through the past. I know because I trudged that path. The light at the end of the tunnel is FREEDOM!
Everyone will experience some form of trauma, wounding, betrayal, or soul injury in their lifetime. Nobody gets through this life without feeling the gut-wrenching pain of shame, guilt, grief, loss, and hurt, and most will experience the feeling of being stuck, or lost at some point in their life. Unfortunately, most will also deny the fact they were wounded. The fear of the fear, of actually feeling the depths of survivors’ guilt, shame, sadness, grief, loss, and moral injury can be so overwhelming. It takes great courage to face your demons and embark on a healing journey to take your life back. However, that is exactly what veterans and first responders who suffer from PTS must do. The payoff is you get your life back with honor.
What Is Post-Traumatic Stress?
Marlantes (2011) stated “in war we embody and wrestle with god powers”, and referred to combat “as a spiritual initiation that occurs in the temple of Mars, while a combat zone is a sacred space not unlike a mystical or religious experience”. Post-traumatic stress, or traumatic stress injury, is a nervous system-related issue, which then is manifested through somatic symptoms. In effect, PTS is a physiological and biological mis-calibration of the way the mind and body communicate. Body and mind are intimately interconnected. One cannot have a physiological issue without a psychological consequence and vice versa.
When an individual inflicts onto others or endures a traumatic event, and/ or a series of traumatic events, or even just bares witnesses to unfathomable and horrific events, more than likely, they will experience some degree of post-traumatic stress. PTS is a normal human response to a horrific or series of horrific events. The aftermath of stress-induced trauma is a miscalibration in the way the mind and body process information. Both mind and body constantly attempt to reconcile to find homeostasis, but they cannot achieve this state, due to the shift that transpired. The mind and body become too overwhelmed, and emotionally flooded from all the excessive stress and fear.
The result is a fundamental shift in the way the mind and body function as a team, as a system, and in how they communicate with each other. In short it is misalignment, imbalance, and from a shamanic perspective ‘soul loss’. There is a disconnect between mind and body that results in disassociation, and numbing of our feelings and emotions.
All this said, treatment of the core issue of a traumatized soul should include psycho-spiritual counseling, ceremony, ritual, imagery, dreams, symbol, and myth that all work synergistically to heal the spirit of the afflicted. Mohatt (2010) identified spiritual development as one of the key issues regarding training a new generation of indigenous therapists to bring traditional healing therapies into clinical practice. Indigenous healing traditions and culture are the primary vehicles for delivering healing.
The overarching principle articulated here is that “culture is medicine,” which means connecting with one’s culture has both protective and therapeutic values that are vital to develop resilience and recovery from traumatic events. Indigenous means of treatment through culture may include any or all the following: language, traditional foods, ceremonies, rituals, rite of passage, traditional values, spiritual beliefs, history, storytelling, songs, traditional plants, medicine ceremonies, physical challenges, and nature journeys.
If you have experienced post-traumatic stress, please know you can heal and get your life back.
From a holistic perspective, the role of a healer is to be of service to the psyche’s wants and needs through holding loving space, observation, and active listening. A key premise in the healing of the psyche is to be open and receptive to whatever the psyche needs to voice or reveal. The healing process must be flexible, spontaneous, intuitive, and flow like a snake side winding its way down a ravine.
A holistic integrative somatic approach utilizes deep inquiry to peer under the veil of the unconscious psyche to target and bring hidden issues into conscious awareness so they can be processed, integrated and dissipated.
A prevailing misconception is the healing process takes months or years. This is another fallacy and for the most part another false premise. Our forbears ancient wisdom from wise elders, medicine men, merged with modern science and neurobiological approaches have consistently and repeatedly displayed a strong degree of efficacy in healing post-traumatic stress over the centuries and ages. Healing and long-term behavioral change can be facilitated expediently over weeks or months.
Somatic and shamanic practices are highly progressive and expedient processes. They focus on the origin, or root causes of trauma wounding. The result is that adverse symptomatology gradually and organically diminishes over time. The process entails moving through old stories, limiting belief patterns, past memories that are trauma-related issues.
Re-connection with soma (body) is vital to access our truth, intuition and instincts. If we dont know our truth, how can we possibly know who we are, what we want, or how to find lasting happiness and contentedness? Somatic processes offer a means to reframe the mind/ body connection so individuals can feel safe in their body again. Safety opens the door for clarity and self-understanding, which in turn facilitates empathy and compassion. Body and mind are intimately intertwined, which means we can simultaneously heal psychologically and physiologically.
Connection with the language of psyche, “the wisdom of the body” provides a gateway to ‘bridge the gap’ between the (ego-based) conscious and the (soul-based) unconscious self. Embodied connection allows body and mind to work together as equal partners for a common purpose, be it physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. Body and mind inherently know how to heal themselves given the right circumstances, situation and environment.
Most of our adverse behavioral issues, limiting belief patterns, projections, communication challenges and fears are just illusions. They are the internal defense mechanisms holding us back, and housed deep within our unconscious psyche and soul. Our ego-based minds primary job is to protect our identity. The ego will go to great lengths to accomplish this task. This includes lying to us over a hundred times per day, through rationalization, justification, projection, denial and disassociation. Soma and psyche will NEVER LIE!
The culprit resides deep within our psyche, surfacing sparingly in those quiet moments when we are alone and in self-reflection. The irony is that we rarely spend time in self-reflection these days, primarily because of our fear of the unknown. More specifically we fear what may bubble-up, rise to the surface, and remind us of all our character defects, behavioral dysfunctions, communication fears, insecurities, shame and unresolved issues.
Way too often we prefer to live in the illusion that busyness and productivity are the path to fulfillment. We fill our time with every distraction imaginable, meaningful or not; anything to avoid looking inside ourselves for truth and resolve. Our feelings toward self are then manifested through our embodied behavioral patterns, which control how we think, feel and act.
Honest self-reflection and self-care tend to determine our level of self-respect and self-worth. Our way of being with our self can either sabotage our efforts to feel better about ourselves and our life, or not. We must not allow past life experiences to dictate our present or our future. More to the truth, we must feel like we deserve to be happy. “You cannot think yourself into right action, you have to act yourself into right thinking”. If we do not feel good about our self internally, we will not feel good in our body that we live in every day.