The Official Voice of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

July 2003
PTSD/SUBSTANCE ABUSE COMMITTEE REPORT
 
 

Dressing-up Our Minds

BY STEVE MASON, CHAIR

I am a long-time advocate for Vet Centers. Those early rap sessions in the '70s, subsequently seeded by congressional funding, have developed into a strong lifeline for many drowning in the downward suck of personal trauma. Like most of us, I wish there were available funds to increase their number and the dedicated, competent personnel to make the Vet Center mission manifold. ``Getting it all out'' among those with whom you can relate makes it less a burden to carry. Adjusting the course of a life instead of merely holding fast provides hope for the individual and offers the promise of help to others.

Recently, a prestigious publication reported that research indicated there was no significant difference in the two major ways group therapy treats those suffering with PTSD. One way is to focus on the personal story and the specifics of causal events. The other program emphasized treating the symptoms, as opposed to the cause. Apparently, no appreciable difference in the healing process was found.

With these findings in mind, I am reminded of the studies a quarter century ago that dealt with depression regardless of its origin. The consensus of the professionals was that treated with or without medication, the client (in those days, the ``patient'') usually achieved the same result six months later. I say: Whatever works for the individual is the right way.

I believe that it is behavior that defines who we are - as a nation, as a community, and as an individual. Everyone knows that habit stabilizes behavior. Whether good (as in daily exercise) or bad (such as smoking two packs a day), changing behavior is like giving up a habit. It is difficult.Yet, if we begin to act in a positive way, i.e., become tolerant of others' views, do something instead of brooding about it, soon our behavior becomes us - not only in the minds of others, but in our own.

If we feel good about ourselves, others will. I say, don't dress-down yourself, dress-up. If you feel lousy about yourself, about life, what do you have to lose? Give yourself the chance to look at yourself differently and turn negative energy into the power only pain can teach and good deeds can accomplish.

That recent report also found that long-term users of marijuana experienced no deleterious, permanent effects to their brains. Well, it may do no grievous damage to the brain, but what of our minds and what does it do to our behavior? The report did not speak to that; therefore, it did not speak to who we are.

   

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