Meet your Focker

150Training Manual from Return to Harvest 

for combat veterans and others suffering from PTSD


How did you do with your homework assignment? (Group discussion and reporting about homework.)

          Some of you did better than others. Some of you may have tried to use the breathing to help reduce your symptoms and found it didn’t help. And some of you may find it difficult to believe that something as simple as deep breathing could really help with your healing. It’s early in your training and I’m asking you to trust me when I tell you deep breathing is a powerful skill and has many benefits. I can assure you, however, that you will never find this out for yourself unless you are willing to do the training.

          Would someone be willing to review the mechanics of the belly breathing and list the some of the benefits of the breathing? (Group Discussion)

          In a few minutes, we are going to do another breathing exercise. First, I want to give you some phrases you can repeat while you’re practicing the breathing on your own:

I’m focusing on my deep breathing.

If I have another thought come to mind, I will let it go and return to my breathing.

Focusing on my breathing.


I am determined to learn this skill.

          Write these in your notebook along with other phrases that may be helpful .

Listen to CM7  (Group Discussion)



         Most people struggle with using the hourly chime. I’ve had people tell me they thought the chime was going to drive them crazy. You will get use to it over a period of time and it’s a great way to be reminded to take your deep breaths. You may figure out other ways to remind yourself, but it’s imperative that you practice throughout the day.

           Let’s shift gears. The Attention Training is going to help in many ways, but we must figure out a better way to understand the complexity of the brain/mind. Let’s start by asking the question: Who’s in charge of your life? Who’s running the show? Who’s making decisions? Most people never think about it. I think most of you would say, “I’m in charge.” So who is the “I” that’s in charge? You may not feel in charge at this point in your life. Some of you have said you feel helpless, depressed and scared. I hope you are in agreement with the idea that we create our experiences, even though we don’t feel in charge. That theory says we’re creating that helplessness, depression and fear.

          Embracing that idea keeps us from blaming someone or something outside ourselves for what we experience or create. Surely you don’t want to experience those feelings, so is it possible that you are not creating them? Is it possible that some other part of you is responsible for creating helplessness, depression and fear? I’m not talking about a split personality. Think about it. How often do you experience this separation in your life. An easy example is when your mind wants you to do something that you have decided is not healthy or good for you. Let me give you some examples of how that happens.

          You have decided you want to lose some weight, but your mind tells you that chocolate pie sure looks good. You say it does look good, but we’re not going to eat any of it. Your mind says, but it looks so yummy. Maybe we could just have one bite. And you might say that’s not gonna happen or you might say we can have just one bite.

          You have made the decision you want to get going again on an exercise program. When it comes time to exercise, your mind says we’re tired now and we’ll do it tomorrow and you say no we’re going to do it now. Sometimes you win out and sometimes your mind wins out.

          Some of you may be fighting a battle with your mind when it comes to booze and pills. You know that stuff is killing you, but your mind tells you that we can’t survive without them and we can stop later, but right now we have to have a drink or pop a pill or we’re gonna go crazy.

          During the breathing exercises, I asked you to make a conscious choice to focus on your breathing. Then I say something like if your mind stirs up a thought, let it go and come back to focusing on your breathing. Your mind is interfering with the breathing exercise by thinking thoughts like, “This is a waste of time. We have other things to think about and do. This stuff is crazy and not going to help.” So while you are trying to focus on your breathing, your mind is interrupting.

          What I’m saying is the “you” working on the breathing is different from your mind that is having all those thoughts? Close your eyes. I want you to spend a few moments in a new role. I want you to be curious about your mind and how it thinks. I want you to be the observer of your thoughts or the thinking of your mind. So just be still and observe what thoughts come up in your mind. Take your time and just observe. Open your eyes. What was that like?

          Did your mind ask things like, What is this stuff? How is this gonna help?” Did you notice that you were aware and watching different thoughts without any attempt to create those thoughts? You were observing your mind thinking thoughts without any conscious attempt on your part to think those thoughts. That’s how the mind operates most of the time. Thoughts just come and go. So there is a “you” who can sit back and watch and observe the thoughts of your mind. Let’s do another exercise that demonstrates the same point.

 Listen to CM8



          What was that like? Most people report when they get into the incident and relive it the experience is much stronger than when they stand outside the incident and observe it. So each of you made the decision to relive the incident and then step outside and observe the incident. Again, who is this “you,” that can step outside and observe? Let’s call it for now the observer or the watcher of the mind. See if you can again become that observer. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths and then focus on observing your mind thinking and be aware of the contents. Notice how you can observe the thoughts coming and going. Open your eyes.

          I don’t expect this to come easy, but are you getting the idea? I’m not just suggesting you can be separate from your thoughts, memories and experiences. I’m saying you are separate from your thoughts, memories and experiences unless you chose to identify with them. Your mind is obviously a part of you, but you do not have to identify with your mind. When you identify with your mind, you become your mind and the problems created by the mind are now your problems.

          Everyone do your best to stay open and let’s explore the idea. I want you to pretend that I have erased most everything in your mind. In other words, your mind is almost empty and you have very little memory. For the purposes of the exercise, I do have my memory. Close your eyes and imagine what that would be like. When I tell you to open your eyes, you have almost no memory….Open your eyes.

          I am leaving the discussion of the group members from the novel in this training manual, but I want the group to first experience what it’s like having no memory? What was that like? (Group Discussion)

 From the novel:

It was quiet for awhile and then Frank: “Hey! Who are you people?” After a pause, “Does anyone know who I am?”

Paul: “I don’t know who I am and I sure as hell don’t know who you are.”

Jett turned to Frank: “How are you feeling right now?”

Frank: “Well, I don’t know why I’m here, but I don’t think I really care. I’m not sure what I’m feeling sitting here. It seems okay. I mean I’m just sitting here. I’m not aware of any particular feelings, but I guess I could say it feels nice and I feel peaceful. I’m not sure what nice and peaceful means. As I look at you two people, (he points to Anna and Melinda) I think I feel more drawn to you than the rest of these people, but I don’t know why.”

Everyone laughs.

Anna: “I feel good, but I don’t really know why. What’s the deal with the arms? I seem to be the only person who has only one arm. Does anyone know if that’s supposed to be a problem?”

Chad: “Yeah, I can only see out of one eye and everyone else has two eyes. Does that make a difference or mean that I’m special or have a problem?”

Rob: “Does anyone know what a problem is?”

Melinda: “Does anybody know why we’re here. Not that I mind. I’m just curious. Also, I noticed that I have two of these, pointing to her breasts, and that one, pointing to Anna, also has two, but nobody else does. I wonder what that means.”

Doc: “Well, I know why you’re here. You are suffering from PTSD?”

Rob: What is that?”

Nate: “I’m not sure what suffering is and I feel fine so I’m outta here. Bye.” He gets up.

Jett asked: “Where you going?”

Nate: “Get me a beer.”

Ace: “Tilt. No fair. You don’t know what a beer is.”

Nate: “Ain’t nobody gonna erase beer from my brain.”


Anna: “Pretending I didn’t have any memory of anything was difficult. It was amazing for a moment that I was able to question whether only having one arm was supposed to be a problem. I was free for a moment.”

Chad: “Same experience with only having one eye. For one moment, I felt like Anna, I was free.”

Doc: “What are some other responses to the exercise?”

Doug: “It was different. I did feel some fear about not knowing where I lived or who my family was, but I got the point.”

Melinda: “Just for a moment, I felt that freedom from my problems.”

 *                      *                      *                      *                      *

           The glimpse of that moment of freedom from problems is critically important. Close your eyes and remember those few moments when you felt free. What if you could train yourself to spend more time in the moment free of the trauma of your past, free of anxiety about the future, free of your mind’s endless chatter and free from some memories? You must start by understanding the “you” in this experience is the “you” who can learn how to discover that freedom. My job is to teach you how to do that. Open your eyes.

          Let’s come up with a model that will help us move forward with our training. I hope all of you are becoming familiar with that part of you that can be separate from past, future, thoughts and memories. Let’s put some handles on this “you” we have been talking about. The name of this “you” is your first name and you have a place where you live in your body. You live here right in the middle of your upper chest at the level of your heart. I call this your “Center.” This is your home in your body. You might even want to call it your “Command Center.”

          With that exercise we did a few minutes ago, we’ve got this “you” at Center without any memory.  Memory does have some benefits so let’s bring it back into the picture. Even though you can be free of some parts of your memory, there are other parts that you will need to function at Center. The first part of your memory you need is objective data to live your life. It contains information like your name, where you live, members of your family, the identity of your friends, how to drive a vehicle, how to do your job, how to do your laundry and things of that nature.

          The second part of your memory that you will want to keep to help you function at Center is all the lessons you’ve learned and important information you’ve gathered in your life through different experiences. At Center, they are available to you in the moment you need them. An example is you are driving and see a red light ahead. You stop. You don’t have to think about it. You have learned when hiking on a hot summer day to take plenty of water. Last time you ran out. In fact, several times you have run out because you forgot again. Now you have learned your lesson and always take plenty of water. There are thousands of lessons we have learned over the years. Some taking longer than others. Obviously, there are still some lessons that you have not yet learned.

          Now it’s time to introduce you to the major player in your mind and in your life. His or her name is Focker. Focker can have no gender or can be masculine or feminine or be both. It’s up to you. For convenience of speech, I’ll sometimes use masculine and sometimes feminine. Focker represents all in your mind where things are not going well. He likes to be in charge and for a sizeable portion of your life, she runs the show. When Focker is in charge, the you at Center is on “‘auto pilot.” “You” are not in charge.

          There is this “you”, your name at Center and there is your Focker who lives in your head.

          You’re doing this training because in a lot of your life your Focker is in charge and it’s not going well. And you don’t have the skills to keep Focker from doing and creating his stuff. So you reach a point where you feel helpless. The goal right now is to get to know your Focker and to get to know this “you” at Center.

          For those of you struggling with drinking and pills, your Focker is convinced that you can’t make it without those substances. You at Center may say we’ve got to get this under control and Focker sees no way to do that so he wants the booze and pills. Some of you would say you are depressed and in despair. Those emotions are complicated, but Focker would have a role because her nature is to be depressed.

          Flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive memories and thoughts most often come from the unconscious mind. But Focker has a role to play because of his pessimism, guilt, anger, rage, despair, stress, worry, depression, anxiety, and different types of fears. Panic attacks out of the blue most often come from the unconscious mind. Focker can create situational panic because of his, “what ifs” and various other forms of fear. Each of you is here because your Focker is out of control and you haven’t found a way to do anything about it. Again, your Focker lives in your head and “you” live at Center.

          I’m suggesting that you are not Focker. You are separate and you can operate and function independently from him. In the exercise a few minutes ago, you got an idea that you could exist in a limited way without your memory. As the training progresses, you will learn ways how to live your life with Focker playing only a minor role. I say minor because human beings never reach perfection and to be Centered one hundred percent of the time would mean you have reached perfection.

          Everyone hold out your hand. You could say your mind is the fingers and you are in the Center of the palm of your hand. You are connected, but you are still separate. Your thumb and forefinger contain your objective data, your little finger and ring finger contain the lessons you have learned, and your middle finger is Focker.

          Let’s get to know more about your Center. You at Center are the decision maker, the gate keeper, the responder, the creator, the planner, the reflector, the contemplator, the learner, the meditator, the observer, the experiencer, the philosopher, and the evaluator to name a few. You at Center are supposed to be in charge, running the show and making good and healthy decisions about your life. Focker, however, has worn you down and is now quite often running the show. We’ll talk more about the “you” at Center later. For now, I would like to help you work on defining and getting to know your Focker.

          Everyone choose a first name for your Focker. You might automatically think of a negative first name like stupid, crazy, bad boy or psycho. But, I want you all to see your Focker as a misguided child who needs your help. So I ask you to dispense with those kind of names. You and Focker are going to be having a lot of conversations. Often when I say this people will respond by saying, “You mean we’re going to be talking to ourselves? That’s what crazy people do.”

          People who have more serious mental issues sometimes talk to themselves. The difference is they don’t know they’re doing it and you will be aware of having these conversations. As was mentioned a few minutes ago, some of you already have dialogue with your Focker about eating right, exercising, and drinking, but we’re going to take it to another level.

          Focker stirs up all kinds of stuff and will over power you. I’m going to teach the “you” at Center to intervene and take the helm of your ship so that “you” at Center can start calling more of the shots. Has everyone thought of a name? You can always change it. The first name for my Focker is Harvey. I’ve had years to work on my Focker and so I think I can safely say that my Focker is smaller than your Focker.

Listen to CM9



          Throughout this training, I will be talking to you, but Focker will be listening. You are the one responsible for talking to Focker. He has been running the show in a number of categories in your life and she will not easily give up the power. He may over power you now, but his days are numbered. I’m going to teach the “you” at Center how to take control of your life.

 Listen to CM10



          For each of you, your Focker still has a lot of control. He wants get out of here and get a cold beer. Or she wants to run away from this nonsense and get some air. Your Focker has no investment in getting well, because he will lose his power to stay in charge.

          You are making the decision that your Focker resides in your head, but you do not identify with her. She has no role in defining who you are. She is caught up and totally focused in the past and future. You at Center are seeking to focus in the moment. You were able to do that in the exercise where you had no memory. When “you” at Center are focusing on your breathing, time does not exist because there is only the moment. She is the one who is caught up in the past and the future.

          There are four major components to the “you” at Center and to Focker. They are thinking, feeling, the physical, and behaving. Before we explore the “you” at Center, let’s get to know more about your Focker. We’re focusing on PTSD so let’s take each component and see if we can come up with a general idea about Focker and his part in PTSD. Keep in mind that these are general ideas and that you will eventually be working on creating your own definition of your Focker.

          I’ve given you some general ideas about Focker. I’ve also listed some ideas below. Try not to look at them and let’s see as a group what we can come up with. As the group comes up with ideas, write them down in your notebook.




We should feel guilty that our friend/s died and we made it out alive.

We need to suffer to make up for being alive when some friends are dead.

We killed innocent civilians and we’re a piece of shit.

We should have refused to do some of the shit we did. We’re a coward.

We’ll never recover; our life sucks.

We have no reason to live and no purpose in life.

The only way to survive is to drown our pain in booze and drugs.

Our life is a waste.

We resent/hate the people who sent us to war.

You can’t trust people.

We can’t get our mind to stop racing.

We no longer know the meaning of love.

Nothing matters anymore.

We lost our faith in God.


Scared, depressed, paranoid, lonely, angry, suspicious, terrified, anxious, miserable, uptight, useless, guilty, aggressive, embarrassed, ashamed, desperate, vulnerable, hopeless, stubborn, and cynical.


Muscle tension and tightness, low energy, muscle pain, nausea, shortness of breath, pain/pressure in chest, heart racing, sweating, choking sensation, dizzy or light-headed, numbness, tingling sensation.


Getting drunk and/or high on pills.

Isolation from family and friends.

Getting into fights.

Sabotage relationships.

Always on lookout for danger.

Hyper vigilant.

Difficulty getting and/or staying asleep.

Avoiding crowds.


          You’ll notice that in my examples, I used “we” when Focker was talking. Remember from our earlier examples of inner conflict that you and Focker have already had many conversations. The “you” at Center wants to make good and healthy choices and Focker doesn’t care about making good and healthy choices. Focker is very self-focused and only cares about himself. Because Focker has been in control in so much of your life together, he sees you as his “big bud.” He has had a lot of control and you have in many instances gone along with him. That’s why he’s not happy about you bringing him to this group. He feels threatened and for good reason.

          This is a good general description of Focker’s PTSD. The common response to all that stuff is to judge it as bad. I’m asking you to suspend judgment on your Focker and simply say that all things associated with Focker are not working for you. Until a few minutes ago, you totally identified with your Focker and if he is judged as bad, then you’re bad. If you judge Focker and see her as the enemy, you will have a real fight on your hands. That’s because fighting always makes things worse. Focker will dig in and be an incredible opponent.

          Accept Focker as that part of you that is not working for you. Focker is neither good nor bad. His life is full of what we could call wrong turns. So Focker’s wrong turns are not working for you and the right turns you are making at Center are working well. With the acceptance of Focker, there is no judgment, you will never have any problems. You will only have situations.

          There is a similar dynamic in the Bible around the word, ‘sin.’ I can’t speak for any of you, but when I hear the word sin or sinner, I think of something bad. You may or may not know that The New Testament is written in Greek. The meaning of the Greek word for sin is actually translated as a “wrong turn.” That takes away the sting of the word. So if I sin, I’m not a bad person. I made a wrong turn. So instead of carrying around the guilt and all that goes with that, I can start figuring out how to get Centered and stay Centered and make more right turns.

          I had a client who asked in a wartime situation about the act of killing civilians and sometimes children. He asked if I was saying we should look at that as not working for us?

          I know from talking to combat veterans over the years that many of you were put in position where you were ordered to kill civilians and in some cases gave the order to kill civilians. That is the insanity of war. The human race has never figured out a way to live in peace with each other. Killing another human being for whatever reason is a tragedy beyond description.

          I am proposing that it is not healthy and most often destructive to judge Focker or any behavior in the past as good or bad. I am suggesting you accept it as something that happened that you can never change. You are left with the choice to let Focker do whatever and live in a state of suffering, agony, shame and guilt or find a path to the truth that will set you free. I assume that most of you are ready to find that freedom.