We live in traumatic times. The shock waves from wars, terror attacks, and spree shootings reverberate through our society and impact us all. For the direct victims and their family and friends this can be life shattering. Many of them suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a debilitating condition that can last for decades unless properly treated.
Soldiers are highly affected. Over half a million US troops deployed since 2001 suffer from PTSD. It cripples their functioning and places them at great risk for violent and self-destructive behavior, including alcoholism or drug abuse, depression, anxiety, emotional numbness, family abuse, employment problems, and suicide. More US soldiers and veterans from the Iraq War have died from suicide than from combat. Every day 22 soldiers and vets take their own lives.
Fortunately, treatments are now available, and some of them can also protect us from the condition before trauma strikes. They can build up an inner immune system that keeps the stress from devastating us.
One approach that has been shown to be highly effective is Transcendental Meditation (TM). Research on its trauma-healing effects began in the 1980s with Vietnam War veterans who had been suffering from PTSD for over a decade. After three months of TM 70% of them were free of symptoms (Journal of Counseling and Development, 1985). In 2011, the journal Military Medicine reported a 40–55% reduction in PTSD in current war veterans, including reduced depression, flashbacks, and painful memories. Ten studies published in professional journals have shown TM rapidly heals PTSD.
Most of the government-sponsored research has been on soldiers and veterans, but massive numbers of civilians, particularly women, also suffer from PTSD. With this group TM has also been proven effective. A study on female prisoners and two studies on Congolese war refugees with high levels of symptoms showed that within four months the majority became non-symptomatic. Ninety percent of Congolese war refugees with PTSD became non-symptomatic within 30 days of learning and practicing TM (Journal of Traumatic Stress, April, 2013; February, 2014). The stories of their trauma and recovery are posted at African PTSD Relief.
Research also indicates TM can protect us against PTSD before the trauma strikes. It does this by increasing our resilience, the ability to think clearly and act effectively in the midst of stress without being overwhelmed by it and afterwards to quickly recover from the ordeal. It’s a quality we all need now, an inner shield against trauma that defends us in advance from the damage.
A Stanford University study in the Journal of Clinical Psychology reported TM is twice as effective as other meditation or relaxation techniques for decreasing anxiety. Greater resistance to stress was confirmed in studies in Psychosomatic Medicine, Journal of Counseling and Development, Journal of Psychosomatic Research, and International Journal of Neuroscience. For more information and citations on the research: davidlynchfoundation.org/veterans.html and ptsdreliefnow.org/the-research.html.
My personal story of recovery from trauma as a Special Forces veteran is published at dmd27.0rg/hathaway2010.html.
William T. Hathaway is a Special Forces combat veteran now working to overthrow the empire he previously served. He is the author of Radical Peace: People Refusing War, which presents the true stories of activists who have moved beyond demonstrations and petitions into direct action: helping soldiers to desert, destroying computer systems, trashing recruiting offices, burning military equipment, and sabotaging defense contractors. Noam Chomsky called it, “A book that captures such complexities and depths of human existence, even apart from the immediate message.” Chapters are posted at media.trineday.com/radicalpeace.