In my last blog , I introduced the idea of incorporating the Principles of War as a means of dealing with PTSD. In doing this, my hope is to help you achieve a deeper level of thought about how you might go about choosing a method for your healing.  By introducing a single Principle of War, in a series of posts over the next several weeks, I am giving you a new set of criteria that you can use to evaluate the possible courses of action that you choose for your healing journey.   

I realize it may sound a bit counter productive to use war principles for healing an anxiety disorder, but allow me the opportunity over the next few weeks to expand this thought and see if this might apply to you or someone you know that might be working to rid their life of this disorder.  This week we look at the principle of Surprise.

Surprise - Strike the enemy at a time, at a place, or in a manner for which he is unprepared

As many of us know, PTSD is classified as an anxiety disorder.  Simply put, we become anxious or fearful for a couple of reasons in life; mainly loss of control, inability to respond, or we respond physiologically due to some unresolved past trauma.  The central player involved in the regulation of human fear is a small almond-shaped organ in our brains called the amygdala.  Research has shown that the amygdala is also where emotional memories are stored.  Emotional memories are the catalyst to many of the flashbacks our warriors experience when they are dealing with PTSD.  This is the battleground where reactions to past trauma take place and this is where you can incorporate the principle of Surprise in your quest for peace of mind.  Allow me to expand this thought, if you will.

You see, when danger is sensed in our bodies, nerve impulses stimulate the amygdala, which triggers other activities in our bodies; namely the release of adrenaline into our blood stream via the adrenal gland.  The effects of adrenaline in our bodies are numerous and have for centuries served our survival well.  Most notable of these effects are:

  • Diversion of the blood from less vital to more vital organs.
  • Increase in the heart rate to supply more blood quickly.
  • Increase in the blood pressure to supply blood efficiently.
  • Increase in the respiratory rate to get more oxygen from the atmosphere.
In the past, when a caveman encountered a saber-toothed tiger, these effects assisted him in running away or fighting. In combat, these effects serve our warriors by increasing their reflexes and reaction times.  However, long term exposure to adrenaline can have very harmful effects.  Consequently, when the emotional memories of combat are triggered in the warrior's amygdala, these same bodily effects kick into gear.  Without even being in a situation that might be considered fearful, the release of adrenaline into our bloodstream can cause our breathing to become shallow and rapid, cause our heart to race, and produce horrific aching in our skulls.  The reactions that kept us alive in combat become the response and behaviors that we now exhibit, even though we are no longer on the battlefield.  This combat reaction in a land of peace is very confusing and sometimes embarrassing to our combat vets.  It causes hardships to those around them and sometimes serves as a reminder to all the atrocities that our warriors have witnessed and consequently keep locked inside themselves. 

Additional problems that manifest from this condition are insomnia, panic attacks, migraine headaches, angry outbursts, and the inability to concentrate.  Knowing that adrenaline alone can cause these problems for our returning warriors should be enough to give us pause to look for non-pharmacologic solutions to deal with this natural response.  Too often, however; the warriors that report these symptoms are regrettably met by psychiatrists that give them new prescriptions for medications that only dampen the effects of the body's natural defense.  This is where the use of Surprise plays a crucial and documented role in controlling the bodies natural reaction.
Looking at the definition of Surprise, as it relates to the Principles of War, we see that a warrior must "strike at an enemy at a time, at a place, or in a manner for which the enemy is unprepared.  What I would suggest to my brothers and sisters in arms is to reshape the battlefield on a ground of your choosing; a place where hypervigilence falls to its knees and your peace of mind reigns supreme.  This battleground is known as Mindfullness and it is achieved through meditation.

The Sounds of Silence

I am pausing here.

I am waiting.

I am breathing...

Now I am looking around to see how many of my warriors might still be here, looking to re-learn something that they have forgotten.  I know that many of you are rolling your eyes at the thought of meditation.  That's because you might be suffering from an anxiety disorder and your natural reaction to fear (read, something you don't understand), is to dismiss it or ridicule it.  To you, I say....remember...and breathe!

Meditation is not a religion.  It is not a cult activity.  Meditation is self control and only possible if you want it to work.  People often think of meditation as being nothing more than relaxation, but that is only one of the benefits.  Research in the field of neurology has shown that meditation can be helpful in creating neural pathways into the regions of the brain that have a dampening effect on the amygdala.  This is a little like muscle memory, meaning the more you do it, the easier it becomes.  Knowing that the amygdala serves as the accelerator for stress-related responses, wouldn't it make sense for you to develop a "braking methodology" for stress?  Through meditation, you can, over time, create a stronger level of control over your runaway adrenaline system.  This requires discipline and continuous practice.

Meditation, however, not only involves relaxation (the cessation of unnecessary effort) but promotes mindfulness, which helps the stress-sufferer to recognize unhelpful patterns of thought that give rise to the stress response, and also involves the active cultivation of positive mental states such as lovingkindness, compassion, patience, and energy.  If you still think meditation is too "new age" or goofy for you to use, then consider this fact:  The skills used in meditation are the same ones you learned to use when firing your rifle!  

At the very core of developing strong meditation skills is the ability to control the breath. In some yoga practices, it is sometimes called a life force or prana, that you are controlling when you master your breathing. Therefore, as you control your breath, you control your life force.  Sound strange still?  Then consider the following instruction: 

"Breath control is important with respect to the aiming process. If the sniper breathes while trying to aim, the rise and fall of his chest causes the rifle to move. He must, therefore, accomplish sight alignment during breathing. To do this, he first inhales then exhales normally and stops at the moment of natural respiratory pause."  I took this quote directly from the U.S. Army's Field Manual - FM 23-10 which is the principle training document for Sniper Training.  

Take Away

So think of it this way, if you will commit to meditation, you are learning to "take aim" on your disorder while simultaneously dampening the effects of adrenaline on your body.  This is the element of surprise, because PTSD thrives in a world enriched by adrenaline.  Controlling your breathe is the beginning to controlling the physiological responses that this disorder uses to keep you off balance.  In a world of minfulness and controlled breathing, post traumatic stress disorder loses its advantage.  By choosing to create an environment of your choosing, you gain the upper hand and you surprisePTSD and reduce its ability to control you.

I incorporate the use of 
Subconscious Restructuring® into my life coaching practice.  Part of this process includes a meditative component.  If you would like to learn more about this practice and how it might help you or someone you know that suffers with PTSD, you can find more information at

All the best,

Warrior, out!




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