Six more active duty combat veterans with PTSD faced their fears and aloneness, shared their life charts and buried feelings, opened their hearts, and went into the light ~ becoming once again innocent children full of love and life and began to dramatically heal themselves in only eight weeks.
As Easter arrives in 2012, an ongoing real life resurrection story continues to unfold in Yountville, California with the extremely successful heart centered Healing The Wounded Heart workshops for veterans with PTSD.
I have long felt and have now clearly proved that PTSD is quite often Post Traumatic Heart Disorder for a common symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is the inability to give or receive love ~ which can obviously apply to non veterans who have also suffered significant loss or emotional childhood and/or adult pain.
I have demonstrated that only after the heart is opened can true self healing occur for only then does the client (veterans or otherwise) truly want to heal. Using the premise that what is deepest within us is love (not pain and anger) and utilizing an action oriented approach to face and go through their fears ~ these veterans, soon discover that beneath their pain, anger and shame is not only love and joy but most importantly their true authentic self.
The purpose then of the Healing the Wounded Heart Workshops is to penetrate the grey zone of guilt, aloneness and unworthiness, that many War Veterans diagnosed with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) experience, and this is done within a supportive group setting through heart centered self exploration, group sharing, guided visualization and action oriented homework ~ where love and joy eventually overcome fear and separation.
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, reconnects them to an innocent child within themselves and accelerates the self healing process.
The first meeting of the Healing The Wounded Heart Veterans Workshop #9 was held on February 16, 2012 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 (one woman) and a Korean war 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 really meant the possibility of finding another choice of behavior as well as love and joy in their lives.
All had done a pre- workshop assessment before the first session but I had them do another assessment regarding current feelings of love, joy and gratitude at the start of the first session ~ on a scale of 1 – 10 with one being the worst and ten being the most positive rating. They all scored between 2 to 4 ~ with many ongoing symptoms of unworthiness and depression.
Eight weeks later their final assessment regarding feelings of love, joy and gratitude found them all between 8 and 10 ~ with many of their ongoing symptoms of PTSD no longer occurring.
We met once a week for approximately two and a half hours. All of them had many 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.
All of them were looking for a light at the end of their personal dark tunnel of unworthiness.
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 (as well as my life chart) 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 talked about the war and all of them briefly shared their individual 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 own 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 their therapist, and that they had free access to me by telephone or email at any time during this process of self discovery.
The life chart is something like a crime scene where something happened and somebody was lost in childhood. In essence, I assist them in connecting 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.
Sharing their individual life charts, with my guidance, in front of the entire group not only established commonality but is a major step in coming out of their self imposed cocoons of fear as well as the important realization that it is safe and exciting to be honest, real and authentic. The life charts set the stage for the exercises and transformation that would occur later in the sessions. All of them were looking for a light at the end of a dark tunnel of unworthiness, self doubt and guilt and all of them found that light within themselves.
I’ll let their post workshop evaluations tell the story of their eight week inner journey through fear to love, self acceptance and joy;
BH ~ “The life chart was the most powerful tool for me. Through it, I was able to place the mental jumble of my life into items, events, good and bad memories and so many people who I loved and loved me. It feels so much better seeing my life as a quest versus a struggle. “
MT ~ “ Doing the life chart was helpful in that I was finally able to see how wonderful my life has been “
SO ~ “The life chart and writing in my own sacred journal allowed me to start making connections from my past to my present.”
RR ~ “ The workshop showed me that it is My Turn now and I no longer have to wait for it to ‘just happen’.
TR ~ “ I loved the way we shared all our thoughts and feelings with each other without judgment “
EW ~ “ I finally feel relaxed and my heart feels light “
Here is their response to the question as to what they really enjoyed and went well for them during the workshop;
RR ~ “The joy and emotional experience of finding a little boy within myself ~ that I had lost before Vietnam.”
MT ~ “ The death exercise and having the opportunity to express my heart felt feelings as well as receive them “
BH ~ “ Being pushed, cajoled and challenged by Allen to face and go through my fears “
EW ~ “I enjoyed most of all my new brothers and sister and their stories “
TR ~ “ Being able to speak out and not being afraid of feeling stupid “
SO ~ “ The workshop fully met the expectation of the words ‘ Healing the wounded heart ‘ but it has done so much more than those words ~ it has given me back my life “
Perhaps the best way to share what happens in these workshops is to share a nine minute award-winning Japanese documentary titled Children Full of Life.
In this video, a fourth-grade class in a primary school in Kanazawa, northwest of Tokyo, learns lessons about compassion from their homeroom teacher, Toshiro Kanamori. He instructs each of them to write their true inner feelings in a letter, and read it aloud in front of the class. By sharing their lives and deep feelings, the children begin to realize their commonality as well as the importance of listening and caring for each other ~ which is precisely what Band of Brothers #9 did when they left the gray zone of unworthiness and aloneness, went into the light and once again became children full of life. 9 minute video ~
” At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” Albert Schweitzer
About the Author: Allen L Roland is a Freelance Alternative Press Online columnist. He is also a practicing psychotherapist, author and lecturer who also shares a daily political and social commentary on his web site at AllenRoland.com. He also guest hosts a Truthtalk, a national radio show that airs monthly. He is available for comments, interviews, speaking engagements and private consultations via email at [email protected].