Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Two years ago I read an incredible book: War and the Soul: Healing Our Nation's Veterans from Post-Tramatic Stress Disorder, by Edward Tick, Ph.D. Ed is a clinical psychotherapist in New York who has spent the last thirty years working with veterans and their families to heal from PTSD. The book is exceptional and so is his work. I'm not a veteran and before I started as Executive Director of the Torres Shelter as well as networking with VECTORS, I knew few vets personally. Even so, there are a few things Tick holds true that I just haven't been able to shake.
First, he believes that PTSD, though caused by extreme stress, is NOT an anxiety disorder. By labeling it so, it wrongly assumes a pathological distortion that can be medicated back to normalcy. Tick believes, “The common therapeutic model misses the point that PTSD is primarily a moral, spiritual and aesthetic disorder—in effect, not a psychological but a soul disorder.” He also says, “Veterans with PTSD are people whose belief systems have been shattered.” As such, veterans must be aided in the restoration of their lives on many different levels.
One of the most basic things is to tackle the question: “Why can't I be who I was before?” (While society denies any problem and chants “get on with life” and “get back to normal” and “become a good consumer again!”) The fact is you are not the same person as you were before you went off to war, and you can't return to “normal.” In order to heal, or become whole again, the most difficult and important question you need to learn to answer, accept and affirm, is “Who am I now?” To do this you must grow a new identity large enough to surround and carry the traumatic experiences you've endured. But that can't be done without the support of friends, families and your community.
That brings me to the second thing I can't shake—the responsibility I now feel for you. I have never supported war, especially not the current one, but I agree with Tick when he says that “our society must accept the responsibility for its war making... and the consequences.” We can't seem to see that the contrast between the truth of war and the illusion our society has about it causes our veterans to suffer even more. As Tick admonishes, “If we don't lift the burden of the unspeakable off the backs of our veterans, they become the nation's scapegoat and carry its secret grief and guilt for all of us.” Since society largely denies its responsibility and disowns the suffering of its veterans--veterans are abandoned. It is this abandonment, added to your war experience, what causes PTSD.
But thankfully, the last thing I can't shake is knowing that there is something I can do. I can provide veterans with a wilderness rite of passage (a.k.a. dream quest) and I can help build a loving supportive community. According to Tick, veterans are stuck in an incomplete rite of passage and need help to complete it successfully in order to heal and transform into their authentic selves. I know from personal experience that rites of passage are powerful catalysts for transformation. Our “modern” culture doesn't recognize their necessity – but I believe the archaic need is still hard-wired in us. This need is a big reason why you may have gone to go to war in the first place--as a way to prove yourself--or change who you are. And war did change who you are.
I also believe whole-heartedly, that YOU are needed NOW, in these uncertain times, to take your rightful place as no less than a SPIRITUAL WARRIOR.
Saturday, May 3, 2008
This sacred quest is especially suited to those who wish to confirm or complete a major life transition. However, it is just as appropriate for those who seek a still and quiet place to increase self-knowledge (solitude offers no place to hide from the Self) and/or focus on finding the source of one's passion or bliss. Personal inner work is stressed, but a strong community spirit emerges among the group that brings its own gifts, as well as physical, psychological and spiritual support.
Amazing things happen when you spend extended time in the wilderness. Mother Nature will be your teacher as you leave the trappings and illusions of civilization behind. She will provide a mirror of wholeness to reflect your true being and unique gifts. This is an age-old practice found cross-culturally to forge and test one's spirit and seek insight or vision. Jesus, Mohammed, Black Elk, Buddha, St. Joan, and countless unknown pilgrims all fasted in the wilderness seeking the truth and/or vision to share with their people. The central idea of this practice is to radically alter one's surroundings, relationships and routines--deliberately breaking habitual patterns. As we leave behind the ordinary world we make room for the non-ordinary and extra-ordinary, bringing into awareness transformative truths and insights that nurture the discovery of our personal medicine or gifts. The net result is increased awareness, change and growth!
If you have read this far, and you feel a stirring within you—commit to go on a quest now, as you need time to prepare! And you have already begun the first phase of this transformative rite of passage--severance. An open quest is scheduled 8/3/08 through 8/8/08 as well as one for veterans only (or those who work with veterans) in September. Contact Corla NOW for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org
"My vision quest led by Corla was so amazing. It nurtured my heart and soul and continues to, even months afterwards. I treasure the experience and plan to do it again. It was one of the best things I have ever done for myself, and what a way to celebrate a major birthday. I am extremely grateful." --Carrie Smith, M.A., MFT, Chico, CA
“I am so glad that I participated in the vision quest with Corla Bertrand in June of 2007. It was perfect timing for me because at the time I found myself in a holding pattern, knowing that something wanted to emerge in the next part of my life. The quest gave me precious introspection time to look at old patterns and create new intentions for myself. I faced fears of being in the forest by myself, getting lost, eaten by bears, or being wet and cold. I came out on top of all of these and saw that I could do much more than what I thought I could. Following the quest, I realized that the whole experience had spring-boarded me into having the confidence to take on new projects and break out of my own self-imposed boundaries of what I thought I could and could not do. Besides that, Corla knows how to be in the woods safely, eat in style, and create relevant and meaningful ceremony that helped integrate our experiences. She also took us to places of magnificent beauty. My companions who quested with me were the best. I loved the whole experience and would do it again in a heartbeat.” --Jean Louise Green, Rolf Practitioner CMT, Chico CA