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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Soldier's Heart - The Path of the Spiritual Warrior - Part 3 of 5

There are 3 key elements in nations with PTSD:

  1. There is an epidemic of PTSD in its warriors.
  2. The public is not really being involved.  And you can see this in your daily lives.  People just went about their business without recognizing there was a war going on.  Not recognizing that the soldiers they sent out on behalf of the society are also a part of them.
  3. Governments denial of it and not giving it support.  That's why you see so many people working to address this issue - psychologists, healers, holistic practitioners, life coaches, therapists, etc., - who are raising their voices to bring attention to this neglected group of our veterans and active duty members because the government is not doing enough. 

When you see these elements in nations who have epidemics of PTSD, you really have to wonder how and why we are using force.  How and why we use force is very critical.  It appears from the studies done that the more aggressive nations, those who actually cross boarders into other nations, are more likely to have cases of PTSD in their soldiers, airmen, and seamen.

Another thing that contributes to this is modern weaponry.  Modern weaponry is absolutely devastating.  It's carnage on a massive scale.  In order to counteract this, we've had to dehumanize the enemy, which hurts our souls even more.

When a soldier chooses to serve, when they hear the call to adventure, this is the beginning of the hero's journey.  Joseph Campbell wrote about the hero's journey in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces.  Campbell uncovered the same mythological re-telling of the hero's tale in many different cultures, societies, and traditions of the world.  These stories were told and passed down through the generations of those societies.  The stories connected them to their ancestral past, the origination of their civilizations.  It was a record of the psycho-spiritual journey all must go through who are called to the path.  These stories are stories of initiation.  Initiation from one stage of life to another.  And, this initiation is circular.

Basically, the process is this:  you have the initiation, the call to adventure; then you have the crossing of the 1st threshold and the plunge into darkness, which is the death and dismemberment stage; this is followed by the upswing which is re-birth and re-memberment.  The death and dismemberment on a psycho-spiritual level is a letting go of the old self.  Re-birth and re-memberment is the adoption of the new self.

One of the important aspects about this for men is that men have to be taught how to be responsible for life.  It's not something that we are born with.  Women have a menstrual cycle.  They are already connected to the responsibility for life.  For women, the changes are already built in.  For men, it has to be provoked.  So, going to war, for thousands of years, has been part of that initiation process, part of the dismemberment - being torn apart - and, in an initiation, this is what occurs, you are symbolically torn apart.  What is actually happening is when you are being torn apart, you are actually being re-made.

Think about a person who gets sick.  They have an illness, and when they finally get over their illness, they're a different person.  They're ready for the next stage of life.  This works the same way on the psycho-spiritual and emotional level.  Part of this re-memberment, this putting back together, is if we don't tell our stories, if we don't own our stories, we are not fully re-born.

Contemporary psychological therapies only teach people how to survive, not to be fully re-born.  We are seeking initiation in a culture which doesn't value full initiation; and thus, we get caught, stuck, trapped, and left with the pain of PTSD and trauma.

In the hero's journey, the most difficult part of the journey is the return.  Why?  Because you've changed and the culture you're returning to has not.  Most soldiers say, and I think you will find this interesting, their most severe traumas occurred not when they were still in the shit, but when they were trying to come back home.  The purpose of the journey, your journey, is to enlighten, deepen, and enrich the community.

Part 4 tomorrow.

Please visit Soldier's Heart's website at to learn more about the work being done to restoring our warriors and communities.  If you are inspired, please donate!

Charlie Pacello, an Air Force veteran, is a Life Coach and Healing Expert for PTSD, Depression, Addiction, and Trauma.  He is a facilitator with the Mindful Warrior Project, an author, inspirational speaker, and a candidate for a Masters in Psychology and Theater at Burlington College.  Charlie also works as a trainer with the Soldier's Heart program and with Drs. Ed Tick and Sarah Larsen in trauma release and healing.  He is also the creator of the program, 'Lt. Pacello's Life Training Program' based on his work in healing his own PTSD, depression, addiction, and trauma.  Charlie graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1996 and was commissioned an officer.  He comes from a family of veterans: his grandfather fought in WWII, his father fought in Vietnam, and he was on the front lines of nuclear warfare.  All suffered from PTSD.  Charlie struggled to make that return journey home and is now committed to helping others succeed as he has.  He can be reached by visiting his website at