Seven more active duty multi-tour combat veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam, diagnosed with PTSD, shared their life charts and aloneness, faced their fears and buried feelings, opened their hearts through gratefulness, and became instantly connected together through their between sessions internet conversations ~ thus inspired each other to face their fears and begin to dramatically heal themselves in only eight weeks
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 also clearly 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, reconnecting them to an innocent and loving child within themselves which accelerates the self-healing process
The first meeting of the Healing The Wounded Heart Veterans Workshop #10 was held on June 22, 2012 at 6 PM in Danville, California ~ and was sponsored by the Vietnam Veterans of Diablo Valley.
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 peace of mind 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 averaged between three and four ~ with many ongoing symptoms of unworthiness and depression.
Eight weeks later their final assessment regarding feelings of love, joy and peace of mind found them all averaged between 8 and 10 ~ with many of their ongoing symptoms of PTSD no longer occurring.
We met once a week for approximately three 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 ~ and all of them found it within themselves.
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 three 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, one by one, with the group over the next three 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 significant 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. But they also had free access to everyone else in the group and encouraged them to share their individual insights and progress with each other ~ which greatly accelerated their self-healing process because they, in essence, inspired each other in this healing process.
The life chart is something like a crime scene where something happened and somebody was lost in childhood. In essence, I assist them, one by one, 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 all 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 was 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 all of 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;
DF ~” I enjoyed coach Allen, the book and exercises and I trust myself more. I also think other people trust me more since I trust myself and my feelings “
MB ~”I loved the inner child exercise, I’ve gone beyond my anger and I honestly love myself and can accept who I am. “
EB ~“ I loved the group dynamic and connectivity ~ doing this alone might not have worked and it brought me back to my wife and kids “
CO “ I enjoyed the life chart and exercises particularly the Victim/Accountability exercise as well as meeting the inner child. I significantly changed from a completely negative world view “
ME ~“ This is the most powerful love I have ever experienced ~ and this is the single most important step I have taken towards being my true self “
RF ~” I learned that all I have to do is just be truly myself and everything will be all right “
RQ ” I realized that I’m loved and all I have to do is be real and start acting like I’m loved “
In addition, every effort was made to involve the wives and partners of the workshop participants and they were all invited to the last celebration session on August 10th ~ where EB’s wife tearfully shared that she finally had her husband back and their children were finally experiencing the person she married. Each participant also has a free session with their partner and myself at the conclusion of the sessions ~ in order to fully integrate their partner with the heart centered approach and process.
In summary ~ Healing the wounded heart workshop #10 was truly unique because they constantly emailed each other and shared their homework experiences and inspired each other to take risks and truly experience themselves in the process ~ thus accelerating their individual self-healing process. They were all coming from gratitude toward the people in their life who they had never thanked within two sessions and all of their closed hearts had opened by the sixth session.
These combat veterans had been trained to kill and many had faced significant fear in the process of their military experience ~ many had gone to the dark side and were still living on the outskirts.
All of them wanted to experience another heartfelt choice and they all experienced it in this workshop ~ that’s all I can do as a coach and therapist ~ the gift I gave them was myselfas well as the tools to sustain that choice.
Band of Brothers #11 starts on August 17th and many of these same graduates will welcome them and share their experience at the opening session.
I am indebted to the Vietnam Veterans of Diablo Valley and their board for their commitment to returning GWOT veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf as well as their financial commitment to this life changing heart centered work.
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].