Active Conditioning and Recovery:
Family to Family
The whole family can be wounded when a family member is exposed to something really horrible; beyond imagining.
It's exciting that modern science proves that Families can recover together.
Too often the results of Veterans' undiagnosed stress related brain injuries are:
- emotional numbing and inabilty to be intimate,
- self medication,
- broken families and disposable relationships.
It is natural for family members to conclude that "something is not working anymore!" when their Veteran is acting out after war. Families often conclude, maybe with reason, "This is going to keep getting worse and worse!"
Sadly, sometimes families can get the idea that the symptoms of the stress injury are the Veteran's fault; some sort of character defect. It is a simple fact that stress related brain injuries are a physical wound. The brain is physiologically changed, much the way a stroke victim's brain is injured. The wound never heals. Brain injury is the signature wound of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
It's a tragedy that Veterans with delayed stress disorder can blow up and give stress disorder to their wife and children. They don't mean too, but.... This awful cycle can blow thru a family with spousal abuse, child abuse, criminal mischief, assault, and worse... divorce. This tragedy is multiplied by the fact that brain imaging science has proved, without a doubt, that Veterans can actually rewire their brains, much the same way a stroke victim relearns how to speak or read or walk. The injury related symptoms can become "un diagnosable."
Veterans and their families can use the same science that stroke victims use to recover lost functions. With simple self directed brain training Veterans and their families can learn how to form new neural pathways in the brain. Neural pathways formed by controlling our breathing, relaxing our bodies, and thinking, imagining, certain images, can lead, automatically to habits of thought leading to joy and success. Veterans can train their brain to "be cool", the way they were before they got hurt. This is not a pill or instant cure. Brain training or retraining is a lifelong pursuit. But Man, Does it Ever Work!
Families can be preserved. Relationships can heal. Life can get better, one family at a time. We know that one of the best ways to learn new skills is to teach those skills to someone else. Our aim is to teach families correct principles that they in turn can teach to other families. We want to share the skills that lead to happiness and abundance.
Active Conditioning is a process not a destination. Patricia Wilson writes: "When I was still in high school an awesome chiropractor taught me that recovery is not a straight line going upward, but a long series of waves with peaks and troughs with a slowly upward trending average. Our cultural idea that when we want to change behavior for the better, it's expected that you decide to change and then it's all up hill, that "failure is not an option".
No wonder so many people give up changing so easily!
It is extremely unfair to yourself to believe that you will never screw up, have bad days, make mistakes or fall back into old habits. True Recovery means finding the willpower to always get back on horse no matter how many times you fall off. It is also coming to true understanding of why you fall off in the first place. It is a process."
There is no sadder toll a Veteran can pay than to have to grow older without their children; and for the children to grow up without their Veteran parent. Any man and woman can build a wonderful marriage and family. All that is required is that both particpants must be dedicated to similar correct principals. For example: A marriage must be based on honesty. Lying destroys relationships.
Families are the best Recovery Resource a Veteran can possess. It's not treatment, it's friendship.
One of the best ways to hold our own family together is to help another family Holding a family together for the benefit of all can be taught by families who are Working on their own Recovery. to hold it together.
Happiness does not have to be a mystery that always flees. Knowlege and understanding open the door to Recovery. Love is the engine that drives Recovery. Families can teach it to other families. Happiness, living the abundant life is the fruit of the tree of Recovery. Who better to share with a younger Veteran that Recovery is possible that a Veteran who is living a life of Recovery? Who better to share that suicide is not the answer to a temporary problem than a survivor? Who better to share that "You are not alone!"? Families are the ultimate proof that Recovery is possible and that actually living the "abundant life" is within reach of anyone daring to strive for it.
Recovery Begins When You Make A Choice:
What is it that you actually want right now? It is your right, privledge and responsibility to make choices.
If you are not sure what it is you want right now your chances of getting what you want are slim indeed. The amazing fact is, once you decide what you want, you can quickly start to learn how to make choices that lead to getting what what you want. Many of us are programmed to simply react to life, doing the best we can with what we have. You don't have to settle for a life defined by random programming and what has happened in the past. Chose what you want!
This brings to my mind the sailor who sails too and fro, always adjusting his canvas to sail as the wind blows. I believe that life is much more fulfilling when we can set a course, then adjust the sails so that no matter where the wind blows, we make progress toward the personal goals we have chosen.
Random events and happenstance may have programmed us to believe that we must adapt to the stressors coming at us at the speed of light. No alternatives... We spend so much energy reacting that we have no energy for planning or choosing.
When we make a conscious choice to go a different way, to set a goal, new neural pathways begin forming. In time, you can actually see the new brain structures through a microscope. As we make the same choice thousands, millions, of times, those new self selected and consciously chosen habits can be like new neural super highways that guide thoughts away from old, self-defeating thinking errors, and strengthen our ability to make decisions that move us toward what we want.
Every time we make the choice to practice Active Conditioning, we are forming new neural pathways that reinforce the brain's tendency to behave according to our self selected programming. We can decide for ourselves which Behaviors we want to re-program within ourselves. We apply the same neurochemistry that Pavlov used when he programmed the beagles to drool when they heard the bell. The old negative habits of thinking will naturally atrophy. "Don't use it, and lose it."
Active Conditioning is a simple, repetitive thought process that we can choose to practice where ever and when ever we want. It works. We can practice as often as we like; its free. It takes practically no time. The results of practice are profound change. Mental practice prepares the mind to automatically decide to feel and act a different way than the routine way we acted in the past. You can feel the difference in a week.
Here's how to do it.
Think about what you want
Don't be fooled by the simplicity. It's like playing the guitar. You can learn to play in fifteen minutes. You can learn to master the guitar, but it takes a lifetime.
You can begin re-programming your life immediately. Reducing the symptoms of stress injuries to the brain to the point of being undiagnosable can take a while. Active Conditioning describes a process that can result in gradual, but massive change in the lives of Veterans and their families.
Here's how we plan to spread the word.
For some unknowable reason Veterans often relate better to other Veterans than to members of their own families.
Veterans working on Recovery are the best teachers for other Veterans who are just learning about Recovery.
We aim to use social media like RSS, Facebook, Google plus, and Craigslist to facilitate bringing like minded Veterans together. Just as Alcoholics Anonymous has developed a program that allows alcoholics in recovery to sponsor other alcoholics who want to attain long term sobriety, so can our Veterans sponsor and teach other Veterans to reduce the symptoms of brain injury by learning the simple fundamental principles of Recovery.
We can choose the future we want to live!
Recovering from a stress related brain injury cannot be forced and it can not be taken as a pill. Forming new neural pathways takes time, practice and repetition. Veterans mentoring other Veterans can dramatically increase the speed of forming new neural pathways that result in new behaviors. Both teachers and learners benefit... Again this is taken from AA.
Learning to Recover broken family relationships is the same way. All the family members can get well by actively conditioning their minds! We can gradually eliminate chronic thinking errors that lead to emotional meltdown. Life can get better. Much Better. It starts when we chose to learn some new ways to reprogram our minds; to rewire our brains. It really grows when Veterans and their entire families reach out to other families to share the joy that grows when we are on the road of Recovery!
Recovery goes way beyond learning to cope with a Veterans incurable mental illness!
For decades Veterans have been taught at the Veterans Administration that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a permanent affliction and that the best we Veterans could hope for was psychotropic drug therapy and a crash course in coping skills. We have learned by sad experience that both of these approaches for dealing with a stress related injury are doomed to failure. Simply stated; I believe psychotropic drugs are over prescribed with oppressive side effects that limits most Veterans willingness to continue drug therapy. Coping skills are also doomed to failure as they are, by definition, purely reactive. Sooner or later the incoming stream of stressful stimulus defeats the ability of the human body to keep up, and the reticular activating system takes over the fight of flight response and the Veteran simply loses the ability to make rational choices. So called 'free agency' might as well be a wart on a frog.
Recovery gradually restores the Veterans ability to make good decisions, even when stressed.
Recovery is a process of finding joy in gradual improvement in each aspect of life; mental, financial, social, spiritual. We are dealing with Veterans who have experienced stress related brain trauma. This is a war injury ~ NOT A CHARACTER DEFECT. When families accept and adapt to that fact, it can be a major factor in progress toward attaining JOY.
We have asked literally thousands of Veterans the VetXPRS questions:
- If I called you tonight at 3 am and asked you to speak with a young Veteran who lives in your zip code, would you be willing to take the call and try to de-escalate the Vet's crisis?
- Would you be interested in learning something more about talking to Veterans about Recovery?
The unanimous answer to both questions is "Yes." Why? I don't know. I think it may have something to do with how completely we Veterans have been imprinted with the Prime Directive of Modern War:
"WE DON'T LEAVE ANYBODY BEHIND."
I believe that Veterans can tap into community resources already in place to leverage this influence that survivor Vets have with their peers. The generation does not matter that much. There are tens of thousands of Veterans who serve in Veterans Service Organizations like The Marine Corp League, The Disabled American Veterans, The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars. We can solicit their help in spreading the word that we have organized resources that can dramatically influence families in Recovery. We know how to get families started on the path. It's free. It's free of stigma. There are scores of other agencies and organizations who can focus attention on serving the unreached Veteran. Rotary, Kiwanis, Elks, Chambers of Commerce; the list is endless.
This work is important. No one else can do it. Veterans know the kinds of pressures that can send other Veterans into trouble. Sometime the only thing we need to share is that the current situation is going to change. Don't try a permanent solution to a temporary problem. VetXPRS.org is not advocating that Veterans therapize other Veterans. Our motto is Acknowledge, Validate, and Refer. We are not therapists. We are shepherds and sheep dogs attending to the flock and driving off the predators.
Why Conservatives Love VetXPRS
Conservatives love VetXPRS because we believe that the Government, specifically the Veterans Administration is not the answer to the problem. There is NO WAY that the VA can handle the mental wellness needs of our Veterans. The need is too huge. Solving this problem is going to take the united efforts of many hundreds of Veterans who are willing to reach out to help other Veterans. Sharing how to use Active Conditioning, how to set goals, how to manage time, does not take a college degree. A child can do it. We can adapt the wisdom of the Veterans Administration, combined with the wisdom and experience of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, combined with the ability of the internet to bring us together, to reach Veterans that would otherwise never be contacted. We Veterans can lead the relief efforts for our fellow Veterans who may be in crisis. We can help Acknowlege, Validate, and Refer our fellow Veterans to resources that the Veteran might never find on their own. In a sense, VetXPRS volunteers act like the tiniest capilary feeder roots of a giant tree of Recovery. The VA can play a role, medicine can play a role, NAMI can play a role, but it will be Veterans who really carry the water to the fire. Imagine if we were relying on the VA to do all the work done by NAMI and AA. We would be in trouble.
Why Liberals Love VetXPRS
Liberals love VetXPRS because we have the courage to illuminate a huge problem facing our country. Not only do we promote awareness of the problem: We are offering a solution based on helping Veterans take responsibility for their own outcomes that costs them NOTHING!
The VA has hard evidence that Veterans Can Recover Mental Wellness. They spent a hundred million dollars over ten years to try to discover the evidence about what works. The VA discovered that Veterans could recover their mental wellness by modifying the way they habitually thought about their situation. They call it Cognitive Behavior Therapy to indicate that if we change the way we think, it changes how we feel, which changes the way we behave automatically. CBT is not a crash course in coping with stress or will power.
You don't need a PhD to teach the essence of CBT. You don't need a degree in psychology to teach someone a different way of breathing. There is an alternative to a lifetime of reliance on heavy medication and "coping skills." We are teaching how to do it the same way alcoholics teach other alcoholics to stay sober! Your whole family can learn about Recovery. Your whole family can Recover mental wellness. It just takes time and effort. And Desire!
Again: Here's how to do it.
Think about what you want
Active Conditioning is all about helping the whole family to Recover by choosing, and practicing, re-wiring their brains. Every member of the family can learn simple thinking exercises that help the person to make new neural pathways that we can choose to grow by practicing different ways of breathing and thinking, to automatically work toward preset goals instead of habitually responding to stress with self defeating behavior. Families deserve to know JOY.
Buddhists have a saying: "Man wait long time for roast duck to fly into mouth." You will wait a long time for the VA to deliver happiness to your home. You have to go out and seek it. You have to want it. But first you have to hope that life can actually be different. Without hope there can be no healing. But then Hope animates awareness. Awareness helps us accept that we can make some significant Changes. Not because we Have To. Simply because we want to. And we "want to" because we are focused on that which we desire.
In this instance I think any Veteran would agree that, next to health, there is nothing as valuable as a truly happy family in a stable home situation. Unfortunately, many of us have never experienced such a thing, living in a perpetual war of blame and guilt and anger. Active Conditioning can literally 'magnetize' us to draw to ourselves that which we desire through the powers of our minds and spirits. Imagine getting into a tub filled with water. The mass of our bodies pushes out the water, overflowing the tub. When we magnetize ourselves to attract Recovery, it fills our lives and pushes out chaos, uncertainty and fear; replacing it with Peace.
What's the big deal about Recovery?
Reprogramming ourselves to successfully live in harmonious relationships with others is the big deal. Relationships are the heart of anybody's Recovery. Love is a fundamental pillar of recovery. One can't really experience the joy of recovery alone. We need relationships to experience all life has to offer. Expanding someone's potential to experience love is a huge deal. That's Recovery. We know we can never change the bad stuff that has happened. But what we can do is radically change how we think about it. That can change how we feel about it. And that can change how we act about it. When we can chose the changes we want to make: Show Time. That's when the benefits of Recovery emerge.
The yellow circle is as pure yellow as the internet will allow. Viewed on the black background that little circle of yellow looks hot and bright as the sun.
But place the mouse over the sun. The background switches to white. What does the yellow circle remind you of now? One wiseacre said; "A urine hole in the snow."
What happened to the bright yellow heat of the sun? Nothing changed in the yellow circle. It's all about the context.
Combat, and military training change the mind. The brain will never work that same old way again. It's not a character defect. It's a bio-chemical neuromuscular evolutionary survival mechanism in full working order.
We don't want to train that battle mind away with "Coping Skills" that always let us down in the end. We want to form new neural pathways that can ease those PTSD symptoms to the degree that the Veterans PTSD symptoms can become practically "Un diagnosable." That doesn't mean the condition is 'cured'. That is not going to happen. But if you not experiencing any symptoms of illness, does it matter if you are not completely well?
If you, or a Veteran you love has this brain injury, it can cause a flash temper, hard time keeping jobs, powerful urge to avoid crowds, and to be hyper alert. Vets with Brain Flash (PTSD) often have sleepless nights, they isolate themselves from others, they often use alcohol and dangerous drugs, they might threaten and hurt their family members, (without wanting to) to be highly agitated, and dangerously depressed, often at the same time.
If all I was telling you that Veterans and their families often get wounded from military experiences, that would be bad. Terribly depressing. But I'm saying that Mental Health Recovery is possible. I'm also saying you don't have to have a PhD to recognize PTSD and do something about reducing the symptoms.
Here is the catch. When you have learned to get on the road to Recovery you have a responsibility to find a Veteran who wants to join you in living a Recovery life.
Read more about Active Conditioning here.
Read a little about the VA's evidence based "Prolonged Exposure Therapy" here.