Quiet the Mind

            Many of the benefits of deep breathing training will be closely associated with the overall benefit of being attentive, alert, and focused. The first of those benefits is to help you quiet your mind. Most soldiers suffering from PTSD will not be able to quiet their minds. The mind is racing all the time with intrusive thoughts about the war and flashbacks that many report are, “driving me crazy.” Some turn to alcohol and drugs in an attempt to quiet the chatter and noise of the mind.

            It’s very challenging to make an intentional decision to change old habits and change the way you think and behave. Very little can happen until you have learned to become attentive, alert, and focused. In order to reach that state, you must quiet your mind. The breathing helps to quiet the mind because you can only focus on one thought at a time. If you are focused on the breathing, your mind will be quiet.

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             Over the years, I have had clients complain that practicing deep breathing is boring. Deep breathing is deep breathing, nothing more, nothing less. How we respond to the deep breathing is another matter. Some respond in different ways and others respond in similar ways. The boring issue raises an important point. We are the creator of our experience. Some create boredom. Others create frustration. Some others create a peaceful feeling. During certain periods, you might create all three. This, in my view, is true about life. We create our experience, our drama, our response to whatever we encounter. That means we can never blame anything or anyone on how we think or feel.

            A common phrase I often hear is, “You made me angry.” It is a bad habit most of us experience from time to time. We blame someone else for the thoughts and feelings that create our anger. If we acknowledge we create a particular response in our life, we are free to create something new and different. That freedom is crucial in life and in our work together. If we blame others, situations and experiences for how we think, feel and behave, we are trapped hoping people and situations will change. In my experience that doesn’t happen very often.

            Each one of you is facing an even more challenging task. You are suffering from the trauma of combat and powerful memories that can never change. Even if you learn to create something new and different with your present relationships and situations, how can you create something new and different when it comes to flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks, and intrusive unwanted thoughts related to the war? A long time ago, an alcoholic friend of mine said, “If I’m not the problem, then there’s no solution.” If you think your combat experience or someone related to that experience is your problem, you will continue to feel helpless.