Five more combat veterans went to the edge of their fears, opened their hearts and found not only themselves ~ but another heart felt choice of behavior and began to heal themselves in only eight weeks.
Love alone is capable of uniting living beings is such a way as to complete and fulfill them for it alone takes them and joins them by what is deepest within themselves: Teilhard de Chardin
The ultimate fire fight is on the battleground of the heart for it is there that we meet our deepest fears and issues of unworthiness. Combat veterans are often bonded in combat whereas the loss of their buddies is just as traumatic as the loss of a family member. A heart centered approach to PTSD re-opens their closed hearts and accelerates the self healing process.
The first meeting of the Healing The Wounded Heart Veterans Workshop #7 was held on September 1, 2011 at 11 AM in Yountville, California.
They had never met me but they had been told about me, by their adjustment counselor Sal, and were prepared for an eight week commitment to face their fears and open their hearts in the process. They knew I was a former active duty Naval aviator and that made a big difference.
Five Vietnam combat vets and one female National Guard Iraq vet ~ and all diagnosed with PTSD. All were willing to go to the edge of their fears, take the risk and jump into the unknown ~ if it meant the possibility of finding another choice of behavior as well as love and joy in their lives.
All of them succeeded in eight weeks and inspired each other in the process.
We met once a week for approximately two and a half hours. All of them had some symptoms of PTSD and even TBI but all had the common symptom of a closed heart and the inability to love and receive love ~ mainly because of deep unworthiness issues that originally started in childhood and were reinforced through their military experience.
I told them that this was an action based heart centered transformation workshop and if they did their homework they would reach a place of not only another choice but would open their closed hearts in the process. They would also begin to see through different eyes ~ eyes unclouded by fear, anger and unworthiness. I also explained through my Cycle Of Life chart how psychic pain will override Joy to the extent that most people have no idea that beneath their deepest pain and aloneness is love, joy and connectedness ~ a Unified Field of love, joy and soul consciousness.
After each session ~ part of their homework was to read each session in my book RADICAL THERAPY / SURRENDER TO LOVE AND HEAL YOURSELF IN SEVEN SESSIONS ( NOT SEVEN YEARS ) which reinforced the previous group session. I also told them that these sessions were all about transformation and that these action based sessions could well bring up painful memories ~ but that beneath that deep pain was as even deeper thread of love, joy and innocence ~ which all of them had experienced at one time in their childhood.
Of course, that first session I shared my own heart’s journey to find a lost and alone little boy within myself who not only wanted to fly, and became a Navy Fighter pilot, but also to love as deeply as I loved my beloved grandfather before I was torn away from him at six years old. We briefly talked about the war and all of them briefly shared their heart’s journey and by the end of two hours ~ they began to feel a sense of commonality. Their homework was to produce a life chart of the path of their individual heart’s journey ~ which they would share with the group over the next two sessions. The objective of the life chart is for the participant to see their life as a quest, versus a struggle, to find their authentic self and how every love relationship has played a role in that quest.
I told them that I was their coach, not therapist, and that they had free access to me by telephone or email at any time.
The life chart is something like a crime scene where something happened and someone was lost in childhood. In essence, I help them connect the dots to help them find where they separated from their original innocent state of being, when they made the decision to be something other than themselves and how their whole life has been an inner QUEST, not a struggle, to find and fully experience their authentic self again. I help them see how all of their love relationships, regardless of the pain that may have ensued, have been gifts on that quest as they most certainly have been in my life.
As an example, Ricky , a USMC Vietnam veteran with survivors guilt and reoccurring nightmares ~ one of the few who survived an enemy ambush during TET of 1968 ~ was the first to share his life chart with the group and that’s when the magic began to happen.
Beneath Ricky’s deepest pain and significant childhood abuse was an innocent Ricky who longed to be loved for just being himself. As I helped him connect the dots, he immediately began to see his quest to escape the grey zone of unworthiness he had been living in for most of his life. His eyes filled with tears as he began to feel gratitude (the only antidote for unworthiness) for all of these people who had loved him, even when he couldn’t fully accept it, and especially his new Band of Brothers who not only were deeply touched but deeply inspired by his sharing.
Ricky had a change in his medication shortly after that session and experienced a deep anxiety attack which led him to the edge but he reached out for help and realized, in the process, he most certainly now had another choice. He consequently missed a group session so I had a special make up session with him regarding Gratitude and his homework was to thank all these people he had never thanked in his life. Here’s his moving note to me after that session ~
“Unbelievable Allen, Yesterday after our session I could see much better and as gratitude overcame me I saw clearer and clearer as the day went on. Colors were more vivid I could read signs much clearer now and the birds and all kinds of living and non living things were clearer and clearer. Ricky was indeed experiencing the world again a new. Thanks so much for leading me in seeing and accepting Ricky as myself and as the ego dies more and more I know I will see all the way to the heavens one day. All I could do yesterday was to thank everyone I saw and I called so many people I had to recharge the cell phone 3 times WOW! Thanks coach you have helped me see and love is just jumping from my heart.”
Ricky was seeing through different eyes and that set the stage for everyone in the group to make a significant breakthrough as the sessions progressed ~ as indicated in their final evaluations particularly regarding what they enjoyed most and what worked well for them in the eight week workshop;
Yacinta, an Army Chief Medic in Iraq, was our Florence Nightingale and a constant inspiration to everyone with her deeply felt words and honesty ~ “I really enjoyed the investigative nature of getting to the root cause of our ongoing pain and how we are affected by this throughout our life.”
John, a USMC combat veteran with anxiety and acute anger problems ~ “I have new hope now ~ I am tired of being unhappy and I now know I have more choices than ever before. I’m on my way to happiness and joy and the wall of fear with the people I love is no longer within me!”
Ron, a Army Vietnam covert Special Ops veteran with deep ongoing feelings of unworthiness and sadness ~ “ I got rid of my fears and my stress level is vastly improved ”
Ricky, the previously mentioned USMC Vietnam veteran with survivors guilt and reoccurring nightmares ~ “ Mostly no dreams or panic attacks now with very little anxiety or fear ~ it all worked for me “
King, a USMC combat veteran with hyper arousal, chronic sleep problems and long term isolation and alienation issues ~ “ The workshop got to the root of my problems and I solved them ~ I now finally realize that being me is enough !”
Once they complete this workshop they are now much more inclined to participate in the other venues of the Vet Centers heart centered approach which includes Healing Touch, Meditation and Tai Chi.
In Summary, all of them were once stuck in the grey zone of anger, pain and unworthiness but now a heart centered light has gone on within each one of them. As such, they can now begin to clearly see the path to their full recovery. In essence, by opening their hearts they all finally met themselves ~ which reminds me of Derek Wolcott’s wonderful poem about the significance of that auspicious and joyful reunion, Love After Love;
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here, Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life ~ whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, the photographs, the desperate notes ~ peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit, Feast on your life.
And feast on their life, they are ~ For they have all, in their own ways, gone to the edge and found themselves and each other in the process. They are now a Band of Brothers as well as a gift to each other and movingly acknowledged that in their final session. They all survived the ultimate fire fight on the battle ground of the heart by opening their hearts, surrendering to love and defeating fear in the process.
In their individual post workshop well being assessment ~ all of them had significant improvement in their symptoms of PTSD and in particular, feelings of love and compassion ~ beginning with themselves.
And the biggest gift I gave them was just being my irrepressible self, not being afraid of their pain and lovingly acknowledging their individual quests to reach that same promised land within themselves. This is, without a doubt, the most powerful and rewarding work I have done in over 35 years of practice. Seeing the light go on within combat veterans, who were taught to kill, is an unforgettable experience.
The beat goes on as Band of Brothers#8 commenced on October 14th in Vallejo, California.