Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from Adult Life
Perhaps the best way to illustrate Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from adult life is to give an example of PTSD from war. It helps one appreciate how the flashback is a partial return to the entire earlier gestalt, the earlier mind/brain/reality/feelings/behavior/chemistry/physiology/body movements/level of affective expression and anatomic sites in the brain that were active and developing at the precise time of the original trauma.
For example, one traumatized combat veteran was having a sandwich and a beer at a local pub with a couple he knew. Then the couple’s twelve-year-old son walked in. The veteran picked up the lad and was going to give him a friendly kiss on the forehead. Suddenly, he flashed back to a twelve-year-old boy in Vietnam who approached him with a live hand grenade. Instantly, his mind was back in Vietnam, and he threw the child over the bar, knocked his friend to the ground, and started choking him to death. His friend’s wife began kicking him in the ribs. He grabbed her by the ankles, swung her around and around, flung her over the pool table, grabbed a pool stick, splintered it on the pool table, and charged his friend with the splintered end – all in about sixty seconds.
His friend raced out the door and across the highway. As the veteran followed in chase, the cold air hit his face. He saw cars driving on the highway, realized it was not Viet Nam, and he returned to current reality. His only recollection of the event was one of asking a Vietnamese woman, in Vietnamese, to see her identification pass.
This is an extreme case of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder with a vivid, hallucinatory flashback. It represents a step back in time to earlier combat reality and behavior. Even his chemistry, physiology, areas of brain activity, and body movements matched those of the earlier time. He was strictly in a survival mode – which is highly adaptive for future combat and increases his chances for survival there, but it is maladaptive for social interaction.
This veteran decided never to drink beer again. Abusive substances serve as “grease in the mechanism” and facilitate a shift to the earlier time. This whole process is just a survival mechanism. In the wild, if a gazelle escapes the attack of a lion, the next time a lion attacks, it had better do exactly what it did the first time in order to escape once more. This survival mechanism is inborn into all species, and it allows for survival more often than not. This is a highly effective means of responding to similar danger in the future, but in the case of mental illness, it usually is maladaptive.
Treatment Protocol for PTSD from Adult Life
In 46 years, I have never known a programmed dream to reveal a wrong answer. Therefore, I presume the answers are coming from the highest Source. These dreams must be very precisely formulated, with mathematical precision.
A patient told me his twenty-year-old daughter called her boyfriend, and he didn’t answer the telephone, so she went to his apartment. Much to her horror, she found he had hung himself. For the next two weeks, she stayed at the grave site, praying and crying, night and day. I told her father to have her come in. When she arrived, I did a quick series of eye movement trauma desensitization, with some reduction in her level of stress, and then I wrote a programmed a dream for her: “I will have a dream about Joseph. The dream will not be upsetting, and the dream itself will resolve all upset feelings.”
The next week, I asked her about her programmed dream. It was one flash image. She had been extremely upset because she is Catholic and was concerned because suicide meant he would go to Hell. That’s why she had stayed at the grave site praying, night and day for two weeks. In the dream, she saw him from behind, with two huge angel wings coming out of his shoulders – and she knew he was OK.
I did another short series of three eye movement desensitizations. After the first one, I asked what she had. Her response was “butterflies in my stomach.” With the second series, it was “tingling in my fingertips,” and with the third it was “seeing the butterflies flying away.” She was cured!
Another combat veteran was having nightmares several times a week related to events in Viet Nam. He was in heavy artillery and sometimes was ordered to wipe out a village. He knew there were innocent men, women and children in the village who were killed, and when the war was over and he was back home, he could not reconcile what he had done.
I wrote the programmed dream: “I will have a dream about the innocent villagers who were killed. The dream will not be upsetting, and the dream itself will resolve all upset feelings. I will awaken at the very end of the dream, remember it and write it down.” I saw him three months later, asked about the dream, and he said he didn’t remember it. His wife was quick to add, “Yes, but you haven’t had any more since!”
Either of these techniques can resolve problems very quickly. Once a person begins programming dreams, visitors might appear during sleep and bring profound wisdom. Higher encounters take place, and answers are given as to how to resolve any kind of problem.
Sometimes we are awakened with profound wisdom that comes at the speed of thought, without an extra word, and the timing is precise and beyond our control.
Eye Movement Trauma Desensitization (EMD/R)
EMD/R is an effective treatment modality, which can desensitize a person to terrifying experiences. Perhaps, this is what we are doing with rapid eye movement during REM sleep when we are dreaming. We are resolving conflict in our dreams as our eyes are darting back and forth. It also might be the mechanism unconsciously used to resolve guilt by criminals who have shifty eyes.
I realize that trauma is suppressed and is held in check by a defense mechanism because it is very frightening or painful. Thus, it is locked into the mind and never released. The mechanism by which it is released is through the eye movements. The mind seems incapable of holding the frightening or upsetting thoughts in check at the same time the eyes are darting back and forth. These are released.
Francine Shapiro discovered this one day when she was walking down the street having very troubling thoughts about something that happened to her. This was so devastating that she ordinarily could not function after thinking about it. Later that day, when she was thinking about it, she noticed there were no upset feelings. She was baffled by how this could be, and then recalled her eyes shifting up to the right and back. She tested this on a few trauma victims and quickly confirmed the approach. I have treated hundreds of persons, especially combat veterans, using this approach, and it works. I described some of this when I was asked by the Turkish Psychological Association to train their psychologists to work in the earthquake disaster area – where 50,000 were killed, 50,000 were hospitalized, and 200,000 were living in tents. My primary focus, however, was on the infants and toddlers who had lost mothers because they are hurt the most. Without adequate attention, many would develop serious lifelong mental illness. See: Dr. McKenzie’s interview by Miss Turkey on Turkish National Television, where he explains why it is critical to focus first on the needs of the babies.
I have used EMD/R on countless combat veterans. One combat veteran had great guilt feelings about shooting a Vietcong who was begging him to not shoot. After a few rapid eye movement desensitizations, his question about being guilty changed to: “Hell no! He was sitting on two grenades and would have blown me to bits!”
One patient was sent to me by a surgeon. She had just had an abortion and was beside herself. She talked on and on about God, sin, and the devil, crying all the time. When I asked if she could describe the operating room, she said, “Oh yes, everything was white, the uniforms, the sheets, etc.” I asked her to picture it and to follow my hand with her eyes as I moved it back and forth rapidly in front of her face. One scene changed to another, and, within just a few minutes, she changed and said: “If I hadn’t had that abortion, I would have gone crazy!” and she knew this was so. Her pain and guilt had been so strong that I was sure she would not find herself in the same situation again.