I was very moved by a programme on BBC Radio 4 this afternoon called “The Kill Factor”. Hearteningly, it seems that people are reluctant to kill. S L A Marshall, a participant from the 2nd World War wrote a study entitled “Man Against Fire” where he pointed out that only 15 – 20% of those in the firing line actually discharged their weapons so that 80% were de facto conscientious objectors – “the fear of killing was greater than the fear of being killed”. After the battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War, it was discovered that of the 27,000 muskets recovered, 90% were still loaded and unfired.
So the army has a big task in getting soldiers to kill. It can be profoundly traumatic to do so. On the programme, those who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan talked of their disorientation when coming back to the UK. Some were either desensitised and felt nothing – one man talked of his fiancée being worried about taking him to the pub because of his violent attitude – or else had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
With PTSD there are several symptoms, the leading 3 being:
When I practised as a psychotherapist, I specialised in working with clients with PTSD. Most hadn’t had to endure the shock of killing, though their minds had been profoundly shocked by other events and experiences – accidents, abuse and assaults of various kinds. They found coping with the severity of this fear exhausting. Their bodies were constantly on the alert for danger – to the extreme of paranoia. Nowhere was safe. If waking life was frightening, then sleep if found, was riven with nightmares.
In this state, the body is used to handling extreme level of tension. It seems to be normal. A first step I often took was to bring clients into their bodies rather than focusing on what their minds were dwelling on. So I got them to tense up very tightly – starting with making hands into fists, then arms, shoulders, face ….. until their whole body was rigid – then suddenly to release, to let go. The contrast was a revelation to them. That release was my opportunity to teach them self hypnosis – a deep form of relaxation that helped keep them insulated against the hyper-vigilance.
Relaxation helps you find your courage. It gives you a much clearer picture of what is a threat and what is safe. Being relaxed helps you to focus on what is truly going on around you so you react appropriately. Being relaxed influences and inspires others to relax in your company. People who are relaxed listen more easily. In order to become an influential leader, learning to relax is a powerful key to influencing others.
“Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace.” Amelia Earhart