Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Helping Veterans with PTSD Nightmares, Part 1.

Posted: 23 May 2017
Updated: 8 Sep 17

New Lease on Life!

The Challenges!

On Easter morning (April 16) I dreamed of saying goodbye to family and friends before passing on. However, when I get to military veteran colleagues with PTSD nightmares,  I can't say goodbye yet and decide to stick around.

This dream had a profound effect on me: a new lease on life!

A week or so earlier (March 24) I had dreamed of being with my younger brother,  a  retired USAF officer, Vietnam vet with PTSD, who is 100% disabled. In the dream he and I are alone in a small room. He is sitting silent in a chair as I go over and put my left arm around his shoulders. Looking into his eyes,  I see them begin to tear up. Before I can say "I'm sorry my actions have hurt you", I wake.

Part 6.
This dream came two days after my third weekly session with a social worker assigned by the VA to evaluate possible compensation for my own PTSD.  The social worker asked again (as she had twice before) "Why did your brother suggest you apply for PTSD compensation?" I still could not answer confidently. Then she explained that it would be unlikely that I could qualify, "because although PTSD never goes away, you have managed yours in a positive way. Most veterans are not able to do this and so they need extra assistance to function." 

Then she asked about my relationship with my brother. I answered that it was cordial, but not intimate, as it had been so many years earlier. A chasm had developed between us due to differences in religious beliefs, experiences and practices. "Can you see any way to bridge that chasm?" she asked. "No", I replied, "I have accepted the situation as is, without expectation for change."

I now accepted the dream as an answer to the social worker's question. Although I could not see the answer, something deeper within me could.  I shared the dream with wife Birgitta before getting up that morning, as we generally do on awakening. Later I called one of my sons, now 50, who knows my brother well and shared it with him. He was adamant: "Dad, you must tell your brother that dream! And before you finish your conversation, you must acknowledge how much of an asshole you've been."

When I called my brother later that evening, I could tell he was moved as I told him the dream, although he remained silent (as in the dream). But, when I added my son's admonition, he suddenly broke out laughing. A few days later he called to ask if I would send him the dream, including the back story (above). The "chasm" had been bridged!

On our fourth and final VA session regarding PTSD compensation, I told the social worker the dream and subsequent developments. She was delighted. Then I mentioned my dream work process and wondered if she would like to experience the technique herself. She was surprised by its effect on her own dream and its simplicity.

She then asked if I would consider presenting this technique to local veterans who were struggling with PTSD nightmares; that there were at least 2,000 vets in local and outlying areas having such struggles.

As amazing as it now seems, that application had never occurred to me, even though I'd had decades of experience applying it practically in business, technology, educational, international and church settings. I jumped at the chance to offer a pilot workshop tailored to veterans with PTSD.  This is what led to my above Easter dream.

The social worker and I have now worked out a pilot presentation for local vets, beginning with a small group. Depending on how that pilot workshop goes, we are prepared to offer an on-going seminar, where vets can interact with and track each other's progress. It has been my experience that the technique works best over a period of several weeks, at least six.

May 25, 2017.  Since writing, the social worker introduced me to the local VFW leader in Espanola, who received the idea with enthusiasm.

CONTINUED in Part 2, Part 3Part 4Part 5 and Part 6.

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