There is a myth that says it is possible to come back from war and be unchanged. It’s perpetuated by how we’ve pigeon-holed whether or not you are affected by combat by measuring whether or not you have PTSD. It’s an easy-out for our culture and an almost certain condemnation to isolation and suffering for those who have gone to war and come back sensing that they are not the same anymore.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: you do not have to have PTSD to be affected by your war experience. What you do need to know is that war, by its very nature, should affect you. As the embodiment of the Life Force itself, we are not designed to go unaffected when death and killing is our experience. It doesn’t matter if you were trained for it. It doesn’t matter how “just” the cause was. I’m not debating the purpose of war here. That’s another issue and at this point, it’s beside the point, as you’ve already been impacted by war.
What frustrates me is that we’ve delegated the effects of war to the limited realm of mental health when what we need is a holistic approach. An approach that sees you as a whole person and offers healing to the mind (thoughts/beliefs), body (energy/physical) and spirit (soul & heart). Mental health therapy often tends to deal with thoughts and beliefs as you try to examine and re-frame your thoughts about your experience.
And this is necessary.
But what is so often missed and so sorely needed are the other two key components: your energy system and your soul.
We don’t talk much about our energy system – in fact, most of us have only heard of it in the terms of “phantom limb pain” – when those who have lost an arm or leg still register the presence of that limb as if it were actually there. Some chalk this up to shock. But there is enough evidence out there to support the concept that, as beings of energy and living cells that operate on the transfer of energy, we are energy. It’s why we talk in terms of “the energy in the room” or why we can “sense” the presence of another even if we can’t see them. Bear with me now, but some believe that we actually have a “double” body – our physical one and our energy one. (I’ve read that during development the brain may be coded with this energy pattern of the body’s full form, and if a part of the body goes missing, the energy pattern remains and accounts for phantom limb pain and continued sensation.)
I’m not writing this to sound mystical or far-out. No. Science has proven that we are essentially energy. Everything that exists is energy.
Why does this matter to combat vets?
Trauma and memories and emotions are encoded in our energy systems. Our cells and muscles are known to store memory. If you consider that in addition to the emotional/psychological trauma of war, you have harsh living conditions, sustained tension, lack of safety, sleep, good nutrition, and loving sexual relations — you can start to empathize with what your physical body and energy system has endured.
But what typically happens? You come home, take a few days to a few weeks to “recover” and “reintegrate” and expect that your body will adapt just as quickly. On the surface, it may appear to (as the body is amazingly resilient and adaptive), but if you look at a deeper level — in your energy field and your muscles — you will find that much of what you went through lingers there. For some, PTSD symptoms emerge, for others it’s more subtle. But you can sense it.
Your energy system needs to be addressed.
In addition to your energy and body, you have your soul. At its most fundamental level, war trauma is soul trauma. I’m not talking about religion, but the core essence of being human, the soul as the “human spirit.” Some call pain in this realm “moral injury” – and while that addresses part of it, it doesn’t address the deepest levels. You can be morally right in actions and still be devastated and haunted by your experience. It’s the realm of the soul where we experience guilt, grief, rage, hauntedness, lack of safety, fear, and all the deep-seated emotions that spiral and get locked within.
Your soul needs to be addressed.
Without a holistic approach, the full impact of war cannot be expressed, released, and honored as part of a new sense of wholeness.
War is energy. It is a collective human energy of fear, power, devastation, struggle, victory, and the willingness to culturally condone killing one another to solve problems. By its nature, it counteracts what the human spirit embodies: Life, Love, Beauty, Joy, Freedom. We go to war to preserve and defend freedom, but to a large degree we lose it inside in the process. And that’s as it should be. Who would we be, if war didn’t cost us? Who would we be, if we didn’t come back changed?
Accepting that you are changed is the first step toward healing.
Addressing mind, body and spirit is the next.
If you’d like to explore this issue more, reach out to me here or connect via Facebook.