post traumatic stress
healing post traumatic stress after military service
People react differently to their experience of the stress of combat. Some soldiers returning from traumatic events and experiences in war can suffer some time after the events, even some years afterwards, with a combination of nightmares/night terrors, flashbacks, anger, hypervigilance, anxiety, survivors' guilt and isolation - which may be diagnosed as 'PTSD': Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Our view is that 'PTSD' is a natural, though very painful, human response to overwhelming experience, and needs deep understanding, patience, care and support.
We do not claim that meditation is a 'cure' for PTSD. In fact looking for a 'cure' seems to be an unhelpful way of thinking about it: it suggests that somehow one's past experiences could be erased, which doesn't seem to be the reality of what is possible. 'Healing' is different from a 'cure': healing is more about relief, growth and transformation, finding a wise and compassionate relationship with ourselves and coming to some peace with our life experience, so that we can live well in the present and enjoy our life. So that we are not overwhelmed by our past, but can come through it and feel much more at ease again with ourselves: perhaps even a wiser and more compassionate person for what we have been through. (See the experience of Mark Curtis in what soldiers say). Meditation is not a 'quick fix' for life's challenges but we have found it can help us find some rest for a troubled mind, especially meditating in a group with others who support us.
If you are in treatment for PTSD, your doctor/therapist will be able to advise whether they think meditation is something you could find helpful.
The words have changed over the years for the mental and emotional effects of war: 'shell shock', 'soldier's heart', 'combat stress', 'battle fatigue', 'PTSD'. Dr. Edward Tick, (author of 'War and the Soul' and founder of Soldier's Heart), uses an alternative translation for PTSD: 'Post Traumatic Soul Distress'. PTSD is a natural response to overwhelming traumatic experience. This may not occur solely as a result of specific traumatic events: it can also be a reaction to ongoing stress such as living on constant adrenalin and lack of sleep for a sustained period in ongoing, life-threatening danger.
Meditation and mindful relaxation practices help to calm our mind and body, stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system: ie: supporting the body's natural process of calming and soothing itself. This effectively and gently counteracts the heightened states of hyper-vigilance and 'fight or flight' that a traumatised person's system can get locked into, allowing the effects of trauma held in the body to be released. Mindful awareness can ground us in our present experience, giving us stability to allow and integrate healing on many levels. Day to day, the practice of mindfulness helps us to notice what is happening with us as it is happening, right now, so we can have the awareness and presence of mind to make good choices about how to deal with things as they come up.
Meditation can help to restore and affirm our natural sense of goodness. Even if a person doesn't think of themselves as very 'spiritual', meditation respects the spiritual nature in everyone. Meditation supports the ability to relax and experience well-being and connection with others, encouraging increasingly positive states of mind.