All Contents © 2007, 2013 David S. Guseman, LCSW  
Tossed on the waves of our emotions, we forget that we are the sea.


Post-traumatic stress disorder was first identified on the battlefield, but it is not just for soldiers.  In years past, this disorder was called a number of names, including combat fatigue and shell shock.  The most recent name, PTSD, was coined to describe the mental debilitation suffered in an intensely personal and “hands-on” guerilla war in Vietnam.

PTSD is caused by witnessing or experiencing an event that involves threatened or actual death, serious injury or a loss to one’s physical integrity.  Thus PTSD can occur by witnessing a violent act, involvement in an accident or even hearing about a violence committed against someone else.  It commonly results from physical, sexual or even emotional abuse.  [See also the section “Overcoming Sexual or Physical Abuse”.]

In order to be diagnosed with PTSD, the original event has to produce a reaction of fear, helplessness or horror.  The event then persists in memory, with recurrent “flashbacks”, vivid hallucinations of the event.  This leads to hypervigilence (emotional “guard duty”) and avoidance of situations that remind of the original event, and to a dissociation or emotional “numbing” of feelings.  Often there are irritability or outbursts that were not there before the event.

The key to working with PTSD (or with traumatic memories that do not reach the level of PTSD) is to de-fuse the emotional response, in effect “un-hooking” the response from the memory.  This is something that Emotional Freedom Techniques does quite well.

Gary Craig documents in his “6 Days at the V.A.” his ground-breaking work with a group of Vietnam veterans disabled by PTSD, in a V.A. Hospital in California in the mid-1990’s.  (I am recalling this from memory, so my numbers may vary somewhat from actual..)  Twenty vets were involved, ten agreed to be filmed.  These vets had been in conventional therapy an average of 28 years.  Gary estimates they each had a “video library” of about 1,000 flashback scenes, atrocities and violence remembered from war.  They slept very little, because of nightmares and flashbacks.  Gary worked with these men individually, applying EFT, for six intensive days.

At the end, Gary found only about 30 flashbacks each, in their “libraries”.  And they were reporting such things as, “I used to sleep 3 hours a I’m sleeping 7 hours.  Granted, the PTSD was not entirely gone in six days, but the progress was amazing.

Do you have memories that “haunt” you?  Maybe even to the point of vivid flashbacks, nightmares and PTSD?  Want to burn your “video library” of traumatic memories?  Click here.

“No experience is a cause of success or failure. We do not suffer from the shock of our experiences so-called trauma - but we make out of them just what suits our purposes.”

~Alfred Adler
“Sometimes a breakdown can be the beginning of a kind of breakthrough, a way of living in advance through a trauma that prepares you for a future of radical transformation.”

~Cherrie Moraga