Post-traumatic stress disorder is a term used to describe a condition arising from an intense and distressing experience. In my professional life I’ve had the privilege of speaking at depth with people who’ve been through all kinds of trauma, including a former soldier diagnosed with combat stress disorder. Inasmuch as I’ve researched the subject, I don’t think anyone has really put their finger on what actually happens within the subconscious mind and emotions of somebody suffering with PTSD. In this article I’ll endeavour to cast some light on the subject, which may be of help to therapists and those with PTSD struggling to get a handle on what’s going on inside.
A person who’s experienced a traumatic event, or been subjected to a period of intense emotional or psychological stress, undergoes a psychic transformation. Depending on the degree of penetration, a traumatic experience can affect behavioural patterns, thought processes and even the physical appearance of a man or woman. In extremes, someone with PTSD perceives the world exclusively through the aftermath of the trauma and is virtually a slave to the fluctuations of their emotions. In such a case, an individual could become vulnerable to possessive psychic forces of past experience that arise from the worldwide disorder of humanity.
Often, in close proximity to death or sudden shock, time can appear to stand still. The shock of a trauma creates a vacuum within the psyche that temporarily interrupts the continuity of the incoming stream of life. The effect is like the tide suddenly going out, resulting in a broadness of vision and heightened perception of the impermanence of things. However, the vacuum in the realm of inner space is temporary and normality soon returns. Afterwards there can be a period of extreme anxiety, since shock of any kind can induce unusual effects which confound the rational mind. Under extreme intensity, the brain splits these high frequency signals into separate compartments and offloads the data, where it is hidden away from conscious recall for scrutiny at another time – or just kept locked away in the dark.
A soldier experiencing some atrocity in combat, or the death of a comrade, may find the intensity of emotions so overwhelming that the brain deletes the content from the frontal screen of awareness. The individual can feel their emotional space is clear, since the trauma is often protected by an additional emotional layer that deadens the pain. However, the condition externalises in the world, mirroring the emotional blockage inside the body. As the trauma pines alone in the dark of the subconscious, so the person becomes a loner, isolated from friends and family, and intolerant of the company of others. This is often reinforced with feelings of self-pity that support the sense of separation from personal contact with others and society at large.
There are many people devoted to helping those with PTSD. The therapeutic way is a method of reducing the negative effects of the trauma by taking the person back through the events of the past. Sometimes it works and the person feels that the therapy has been helpful, but rarely does it dissolve the core of the trauma itself. To dissolve the trauma for good requires a radical shift of perception. Trauma is a blockage of past that obviously has no place in the present, and the most creative power available to us is the moment or now – the one demonstrable reality of our existence. Everything happens now; and now is always fresh and new. The ever-changing moment is a reproduction in sense of the perfect harmony of life on earth and the immediate reality of the cosmos. To perceive it is to participate in the rightness of being one with the vast movement of life.
To begin to dissolve the trauma, an individual has to be willing to let go of any emotional negativity associated with the event. If a person harbours guilt or resentment, the trauma will fester like an open wound. People often hold onto their emotional trauma like an old lover and revel in the exclusivity of being in some way special. The trauma has to be reached by love, the natural self-healing power within every body. Stillness is love without form and the way in which the entire life can be healed. Meditation is sometimes effective, but not always necessary once someone gets the idea of being more conscious in the body. The momentum of the mind needs to be anchored on something real to stop its habitual wanderings and unnecessary thinking. The natural wellbeing in the body is the place on which to focus, and will steady the restlessness and emotional pressure. Wellbeing is a subtle feeling in contrast to the coarser vibrations in the body, but with perseverance becomes a palpable sense of harmony and rightness.
Trauma and tragedy exist to break up the certainties of living. PTSD is really a piece of the jigsaw that connects us with the wider picture of the global disorder of modern life. Although people are deeply affected, and sometimes scarred for life, it is life itself that creates such challenging events and circumstances. And this is beyond comprehension or rational understanding. The trauma of existence manifests for us all in one form or another. The extraordinary thing is that, stored within every trauma is an energetic potential that provides the perfect solution towards the next phase of the life. Each challenge is a confrontation with the past, disguised in the present. This tests our resolve to discard the effects of unconscious living to be worthy of going on into the deeper mystery of life.