Oftentimes someone who goes to combat makes a decision. The decision is to accept that their death is imminent and inevitable in light of the situation. This process and decision is undertaken in order to lighten the mental load, i.e. decrease fear, worry, and anguish, in order to focus on the mission.
It can be likened to the following self-talk, "I'm already dead, or will die, so now I don't have to worry about it. I can focus on the task at hand, focus on my mission, focus on my buddies, and whatever happens to me, happens."
This coping mechanism allows its practitioner to act without hesitation, or limiting self regard, to the most hostile and demanding of circumstances. Whether that mental switch has been flipped due to the momentary necessity of circumstance, or with certain considerable forethought, it serves to "steel" that individual against the worry of death.
But, what happens when that mental switch gets stuck? What happens when a soldier's physical part in a war is over, but he or she continues to roll through life feeling dead? As Veterans, are they really living anymore, or are they just going through the motions because they never expected to have life after war?
For the individual who may recognize this process, know that self-talk can be either limiting or empowering. Telling oneself that they're "already dead" can be empowering in certain wartime situations. On the flip side, keeping that mental switch engaged outside of combat can and will be limiting. For the Veteran who flipped that mental switch to say, "I'm already dead...” know that it may take a new switch to turn the old one off.
What does that mean?
It means that new self talk and a new premise needs to replace the original self-talk. That Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine who before convinced themselves to be dead inside, now must convince themselves that they are alive...and it's okay to feel and be alive.
For example, the new self-talk could be, "I'm alive and grateful for it. I honor those who are no longer here, by living. I can now focus on my mission of living, and thriving, and I am in charge of what happens in my life."
I would venture to say that mentally saying this once would not be enough. The new self talk would have to be said just as many times as the original thoughts were said in order to replace, make the new premise believable, and ultimately make it the truth.
Hocus-pocus mumbo-jumbo? I don't think so. What do YOU think? Are you a Veteran from a past war who has experienced this? Please let me know by emailing me or contributing to the Veterans Forum.
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