Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Healing PTSD: Courage in the Face of Fear

Last week I wrote about the importance of courage in supporting your Healing Resolution #1: the intention to heal PTSD. Today, I want to look at the frequent precursor to courage: Fear.

The truth is, we’re all afraid. Healing takes a great amount of courage, but here’s the secret: it doesn’t take any more courage than what we already contain. We’re survivors, remember? That means we’ve already had the courage to withstand some life-threatening, life-altering thing. How do you think you did that? Courage, baby, courage!

The key during healing is to tap into that courage and use it again; to provide a pipeline for it to pump as much as you need every day. The pipeline, in this case, is commitment. The strength of our commitment to heal – and to use the power of our intention and the rest of the tools in the BRIDGE THE GAP process – is like a direct transmit from the source of our courage into our every day lives. I know this because I lived it. It happened like this:

For a long time my biggest fear was that my trauma would happen again. That some medical mystery would befall me and the entire medical community would be unable to help me. After that, I feared I wouldn’t survive the mystery the second time around.

These were my fearful thoughts on a conscious and subconscious level week after week after week for 25 years. And so, because like attracts like and you are what you think and you become what you dwell upon my body and mind worked together to simulate what I was thinking and make it a reality. For ten whole years I had mysterious medical ailments, issues and problems that no doctor could diagnose or treat and which threatened my life to the extent that my organs began to malfunction. Not an exact replica of my original trauma, but close enough so that my greatest fears came true: I was sick and unable to be made well by the top doctors in New York City.

And then something interesting happened. I was so rundown, exhausted and defeated by these medical problems and their impact that I developed a new fear: That I would live the rest of my life caught in this hellacious medical limbo. The new fear had an interesting effect: it flipped my old perspective on its head. Whereas I’d been afraid of what would happen that could go wrong, now all I thought about was what I wanted to go right. My thoughts shifted from fear of illness to fear of never having health or being happy, which left me constantly thinking about and imagining the future I wanted instead of the future I feared, which changed my focus of imagination away from what could harm me toward what would make my life better, which made me focus on my desire to be well, which became the focus of all my thoughts. The consequence of these perceptual shifts: After a while of this committed way of thinking, the path to healing revealed itself to me because:

Like does attract like.

We actually are what we think.

We do become what we dwell upon.

If we commit to the honor, repetition and dogma of trauma and PTSD we make a big mistake. Embracing PTSD because we don’t know what to do and/or it’s the only game in town that makes sense in the aftermath of trauma only sets us up for more and more suffering.

It’s OK, normal and even necessary to feel fear – what separates the heroes from the cowards is what we do in the face of that fear. We are all in this together. There are no cowards here, only people moving a little more slowly toward that day they will rise up and become their powerful selves.

Along the way, examine your fears. Today, make a list of the most prevalent fears you find yourself thinking about. Write them out so you can see them. And then, find a way to flip the perspective the way I did above. What positive thing that is completely opposite to that fear can you focus on? Write out these new thoughts and commit to them. Put them, post them, hang them, stick them where you can see them. Focus, people. Focus! It’s easier to think about the bad stuff, yes, but it’s so much more healthy, profitable and healing to commit to thinking about the good.

(photo: stuant 63)

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