Tag Archives: light

Flickering Joy

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. October looks at humility.

“Find a place inside where there is joy, and that joy will burn out the pain” (Joseph Campbell)

There is pain inside us, and that is the hard truth of it. We can live with the pain, maybe, but can we live well? Can our families?

Pain is a poison creating more pain and spreading through our secret selves, those parts we consider dark. Joy is the antidote.

A young Veteran on campus asked how he was supposed to relate to the younger students. When I told him that was a good question but that I did not have the answer, he said that nobody does, only excuses. But, he also acknowledged that he had a better chance of relating to them than they to him. After all, he had been young, but they had never faced the fire.

It has taken me several days, but I see the answer to his question in his own acknowledgement.

“You’ve never lived until you’ve almost died. For those who have fought for it, life has a flavor the protected never know.” (Guy de Maupassant)

I remember the second line from a wall in our C-Team compound in Bien Hoa.

The protected cannot know the pain inside us—unless we share it, and that is hard to do, maybe even dangerous. It feels dangerous, like reliving it. Sometimes, it smacks of weakness. Always, it bares the vulnerability of being misunderstood.

We can, however, remember being young. We can find the innocence of our youth, faint as it may be, and reconnect with that. We can find the joy that still lives inside, the joy we knew before we faced the fire.

That is the part of us we can share with the protected. We can connect with them by touching the good things we still remember inside ourselves, flickering lights of joy we tend to hide beneath a bushel of pain.

There came a time when I could not find my joy. I had buried all the pain so deep that when I looked inside, all I found was darkness. A few gifts of humility helped me find my way back home.

Yes, it is a kind of humility to find good things inside ourselves. I know it can feel like betrayal to feel joy in the presence of so much pain in our brothers and sisters. It is not. It is necessary, for it is life.

Sure, we must track down our own pain and face it (but not alone); however, if we are to reconnect with the protected including our own families, we will do well to find the light of our own joy to show us the way back home.

Happy Tracking.

Shadow Love

“Who am I now that I have killed?”

Then, one day, I could no longer feel the innocence, optimism, idealism, and moral certitude of youth—ever, again. Something inside me had died.

Reminder: This blog series is dedicated to love, the various kinds of love beyond the romantic and erotic that support personal growth and healing, especially the healing of invisible wounds from Combat PTSD.

I did not know this, of course, at a conscious level for another forty years. But here is a hard reality. The behavior of our lives is not simply a product of our conscious thoughts. We live our feelings.

The real question is not the one above, but, “Who can love me now that I have killed?”

We are hard to love. Combat Veterans become hard for others to love and I believe that is largely a response not to who we are or have become but to who we feel we are. We believe we have become unlovable, and so we act unlovable.

Add to this the involuntary actions of our fight/flight response to vulnerability, and we can see our own unlovable behaviors. The older we get, the harder it is to deny our vulnerability. We know trouble and pain. We know war and more war—a new one every ten years or so.

War on drugs, war on terror, war on liberty, war, war, war.

Sometimes the darkness we perceive is but our own shadow. Because we have turned our faces away from the light. We create our own darkness.

We see in others the tracks of shadows and we feel…we feel almost kinship. Here is a brother or sister. Our subconscious knows. We share each other’s shadows and feel less lonely. Almost worthy of love. Almost.

The problem becomes the shadow we share. What else do we share?

Not only are we hard to love, but we are not so good at loving, anymore.

Some of us, the lucky ones, have found someone who reminds us to turn around. There are people among us who perceive our shadows but are able to face the light. They have touched the great sadness of moral doubt and retained the ability to allow the light to shine through them. We see the light in their eyes, then through their eyes.

When one of them loves us, we begin to recover. Sometimes we even turn around.

Fearing Love

“I can tell you what it feels like to slip into the grips of a severe episode of combat PTSD, what we refer to as the wild ride or dinosaur dump.” (Erv Barnes, Loving Light blog)

Reminder: This blog series is dedicated to love, the various kinds of love beyond the romantic and erotic that support personal growth and healing, especially the healing of invisible wounds from Combat PTSD.

Lost in that dark swamp is a feeling opposite of love. It is the epitome of vulnerability.

Vulnerability is a trigger for PTSD symptoms and the wild ride of hormones and emotions that confuse, cloud, and enrage.

Maybe that is how hate gets named as the opposite of love. It is not. It is the consequence of the darkness.

Love is light. Darkness is opposite.

We fear darkness for in it we feel vulnerable, and the vulnerability triggers the fight/flight response.

Rage is our way out of darkness. It is an unholy way, a way we choose. Why?

The counterintuitive reason is this: We fear light more than darkness.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” (Marianne Williamson quote used by Nelson Mandela in his 1994 inaugural speech)

The answer lives in the vulnerability of love.

And the vulnerability of power love brings.

And the intimate question, “Who am I?”

Loving Light

“Knowledge is love and light and vision.” (Helen Keller)

I can tell you what it feels like to slip into the grips of a severe episode of combat PTSD, what we refer to as the wild ride or dinosaur dump.

It feels like walking in a swamp in a rare rain-fog at midnight of a new moon. I know there is a road, a high road, somewhere nearby, but I have no idea which way to turn in order to find it.

Reminder: This blog series is dedicated to love, the various kinds of love beyond the romantic and erotic that support personal growth and healing, especially the healing of invisible wounds from Combat PTSD.

I ask you now to imagine, and while imagining, remember that everything you see and feel is in your mind and under your control. It could be considered a form of meditation. It could also be considered daydreaming.

Imagine yourself sitting in a quiet natural place. As a Wisconsin farm boy, I am partial to the fields and woods. You pick your safe place. Sit in a position comfortable for you and as natural as possible.

Imagine a beam of brilliant, white light descending from above upon your feet. The light is very bright but does not hurt your eyes. Your feet feel a soothing sensation of warmth from the light upon your feet.

Breathe, slowly and deliberately, in through your nose and out your mouth. As you breathe, notice the light and warmth rising up your legs.

The soothing, warm, brilliant white light rises up your legs until it seems to bubble into your belly. Breathe. It fills your abdomen and rises into your chest—soft, warm, comfortable, and really nice. The light is good and you know it.

Recall that this is in your mind and under your control.

The light and warmth rises into your chest, filling you with comfort and a sensation of gentle power. It begins to fill your head.

As you breathe, the light completely fills you and overflows the top of your head like a fountain, cascading gently down and around you until you are completely enclosed in a cocoon of white light.

Breathe. Remember that you are in control of your mind. Simply sit in this brilliant-but-soft, warm, soothing white light and enjoy.

Enjoy.

Do you feel loved?

Go, and love another right now.