Most people observe war from the comfort of their living rooms and rightfully applaud the brave, celebrate the victories, and lament the defeats. Yet, few can connect with the searing psychological and emotional suffering that combatants experience. Further, many are unaware that unresolved trauma follows military operators back into civilian life.
While many people suffer trauma due to unfortunate life experiences (often rooted in childhood), veterans have a unique situation. The reasons they have such a tough time with Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) are varied. After seeing so many of my veteran teammates suffer from PTS, I’ve observed some things instructive for anyone dealing with unresolved trauma. I have noticed these three patterns:
- There is unresolved trauma that precedes the recent event(s). Because of this, the intensity of combat or other traumatic events magnifies the unresolved trauma that already exists. Veterans who don’t do therapy before or during their service can have a much harder time adjusting to civilian life. I have therapy to thank for my smooth adjustment back to the real world. (I also married a therapist, so that helped 🙂 )
- There is a feeling of disconnection from others. The experience of being on a military team is unique for many reasons, and it’s challenging to replicate in the outside world. Military teammates build deep, intimate bonds based on respect and mutual support. Each individual surrenders themselves for the good of the team – so much so that they must be willing to die for the team. When veterans lose that bond after duty, the contrast is so extreme that it makes it nearly impossible to connect with others who haven’t had a similar experience. To make matters worse, most civilians don’t really want to hear about the veterans’ experience, as it makes them too uncomfortable. While effective therapy will help heal the original trauma, engaging with communities of practice brings connection and belonging back to the traumatized person.
- There is a lack of purpose. Because the military is so all-encompassing, intense, and purpose-giving, veterans feel a giant void when they come home. They feel like they have nothing to fight for anymore and the world can appear purposeless and understimulating when compared to war. Finding and following one’s purpose is necessary for genuine happiness. I recommend veterans begin to contemplate and journal their “3P’s” of purpose, passion and principles. Over time, a clear picture will emerge that points to a clear calling in life. The intrinsic motivation that this clarity provides can rapidly facilitate transformative healing.
Effective Trauma Treatment
Unfortunately, many trauma victims and veterans turn to destructive coping mechanisms as a result of the above factors. Alcohol, escape, isolation, distraction, and denial top the list. Many will not seek professional help to deal with their trauma because they have been trained to be extremely self-reliant and to not ask for help.
Too often, the help offered is a prescription for an antidepressant or anti-anxiety med, whether through the VA or a local psychologist. These medications often make things even worse and don’t address the traumatic roots of the problem. This reason, compounded by many other factors, is why suicide is on the rise, and 22 vets a day end their lives. While this is tragic, the good news is that private non-profits have jumped in to fill the void.
The 4 Most Effective Cutting-Edge Treatments for Emotional Trauma
Though there are more, I will discuss four cutting-edge treatment modalities that have had great success. I’ve personally tested and experienced all of these myself. While these therapies are still emerging and not yet mainstream, they are available in most decent-sized cities in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Combined with hyperbaric chamber oxygen therapy (HBOT) and virtual reality, the four therapies discussed here are the current gold standard for healing psycho-emotional trauma. The best and fastest results will come from applying all or most of these modalities in an integrative way.
- Electrical brain stimulation. Electrical brain stimulation rewires the brain’s electrical waves to operate in more harmony over time. In this therapy, a small electrical current is applied to the scalp through electrodes. Both positive and negative currents flow to the brain to balance the brain waves.This is an ideal modality for those suffering micro and macro traumatic brain injuries.
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR therapy resolves unprocessed traumatic memories in the brain, often in just a few sessions. When distress from a traumatic event lingers in the brain, the visceral images, emotions, and thoughts of the experience may create a sensation of being back in that moment, over and over again. EMDR therapy helps the brain process these traumatic memories. While the experience is not completely forgotten, the traumatic response from the original event is resolved, allowing the person to move forward.
- Integrative practice combining movement, meditation, breathwork, and visualization. These practices work neuroplastically to rewire the brain and create healthy new pathways, creating positive future possibilities. These practices tend to become lifetime practices because of the stress release, peace of mind, and focus that they cultivate. They are also valuable when combined with the 3P’s as a daily practice of optimal health and purpose alignment
- Psychedelic therapy. In a short number of sessions (and oftentimes just one session), assisted psychedelic therapy can help vets experience peace again. When one discovers unity consciousness, there is often no going back to despair. The contrast is simply too stark. There is a radically new sense of self that rejects the victim identity. Psychedelic therapies such as ketamine, psilocybin, and MDMA can heal traumatized brain structures to reduce or eradicate depression
The Future of Trauma Recovery
Even though these modalities aren’t in the mainstream yet, I think we will see them here soon. The best defense against foreseen trauma is preparation and using some of these modalities in a preventive manner. I call it “pre-resiliency training.” The training prepares you to thrive in any situation that requires serious resilience. But if you weren’t able to receive these therapies pre-trauma, the next best defense is to treat it as quickly as possible with one or more of the healing modalities above.
Carry the Load
If you are a veteran, or if you know a veteran who could use help, please reach out to the nonprofit Courage Foundation that I formed in 2017. We help vets suffering from PTS, especially those just coming out of military service and struggling to transition well.
The Courage Foundation’s program is a year-long integrated recovery process we call the “Veteran Integration Program” or VIP. The mission is to bring not just recovery, but post-traumatic growth to restore purpose and to transform lives. The foundation provides these services free of charge to qualifying veterans.
The Courage Foundation is currently participating in the “Carry The Load” event to raise awareness and money for the VIP. The event is a national ruck relay, and our team is participating in several cities across the U.S. The funds raised through the event will help the Courage Foundation serve more veterans.
I would love to have you join “Team Courage” at the event. If not, any donation goes a long way. By joining Team Courage, you can help those who have sacrificed so much to help keep this great nation free.
You can learn more and register here.