A Breakaway

it’s difficult for Marsha and me to write testimonials from combat veterans, because we do not ever want to use their voices to promote Lilac Springs. However, we have so many individuals who are supportive of, and interested in, what we do, and we want to share what sometimes happens as a result of Breakaway at Lilac Springs.

Lilac Springs is a place and a concept that represents citizens giving back. Your effort/support has made things like this happen:

“I don’t know what my life has planned for me, but I want to include Lilac Springs. You two have made an impact in my life, and are one of the reasons I want to give back. In my life I have learned that when someone strikes you in such a positive manner it is often for a good reason, and should be given great consideration. Well, I have considered it, and I wanna help. You have inspired me to go back to school (Mercyhurst). So this fall I should be beginning a new chapter in my life, a chapter that will hopefully allow me to help save/change some lives.

Ideally, I would like to use art/music therapy to help troubled youth and of course vets. From the looks of world affairs, we are going to need places like Lilac Springs for awhile to come. So the plan for now is to be down a few times just or help out around the place.”

PTSD…interesting intervention!

This is exciting news.   It is a recent study, and a very low number of participants, but I think that combat veterans should mention it to their psychiatrists and keep up to date on developments related to it.


Stellate ganglion block appears to be a fast-acting and effective treatment for chronic, extreme post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a single-center study.

Although the effect wanes within several months, “the improvements far outlasted what we would expect from stellate ganglion block, which is usually used as a temporary nerve block and typically lasts 3 to 5 hours,” said lead investigator Michael Alkire, MD, from the from Long Beach Veterans Affairs Healthcare System in California.

The study results were presented here at Anesthesiology 2014.
The investigators evaluated 12 veterans with combat-related PTSD that had lasted longer than a year who were showing symptoms of hyperarousal. Patients underwent a single right-sided stellate ganglion block using 7 cc of 2% lidocaine and 0.25% bupivacaine under fluoroscopic guidance.

Combat and The Community

There is a disconnection between the community and those who engage in our defense and fight our wars.  This lacking of “connection” represents a mockery of  our Declaration of Independence, and while our war fighters secure for us the rights of “…life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…” many of them have no lives, they are devoid of liberty and are unable to pursue happiness.  We failed to carry out our end of the deal in the past and continue to do so; as a result they kill themselves at a rate of 22 individuals each day.

Ancient Arts and Modern Science

Our ancient ancestors created marvels and explained their worlds far differently than the way we do today.  The science behind certain of their creations continues to amaze (Pyramids of Giza), and the art – the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, continues to guide us (Hippocratic Oath). 

The ancients used science to create the weapons of war and they used the arts to describe it and how to deal with its aftermath.  Those arts explained why their gods, delivered them to battle, drove them to do their worst, demanded that they perform at their very best, and how those gods seemed to delight in the slaughter.1

Throughout history, war making societies have groomed their young to engage in combat, by telling stories, teaching combat skills, describing combat, explaining, dealing  with its aftermath of combat, what to expect on their journeys back and developing the skills necessary to grow into leaders of their people e.g. The Odyssey and The Iliad.

Paradoxically, war making societies chose their very best to engage in the very worst.  Creating good human beings is not an accidental process and it truly does “take a village to raise a child.”  Well rounded individuals are those who have mastered the arts and the sciences whether it is poetry and writing or auto detailing and racing.  Children, who are well nurtured, petted, cuddled, cooed, protected and talked to, have pervasive neural development in a brain that is marked by evolution and grow.

The Evolution and pervasive growth seen in the brains of children who have been abandoned, neglected, physically, sexually and emotionally abused, and/or exposed to other forms of trauma are different than that of children who are cared for.  While their brains grow, the growth is greater in ancient areas of the brain that deal with saber tooth tigers, bears, wolves and marauding bandits; their brains do not evolve optimally, and survival skills are attained at the cost of thriving skills.  Oftentimes, these individuals join the military in hopes of finally finding a “Village.”

While we as a species have achieved spectacularly in the science of war, we have miserably failed those who we deliver to war; in an ironic twist, that must have the gods of war in full delight, the war fighters return home and are oftentimes abandoned, neglected and abused.

Warrior Path

Until puberty the males of many “warrior societies” spend a great deal of time just “being kids” with their family and friends in their tribe/group; in addition to play, they spent time watching adults, listening to those adults, and developing their skills at running, jumping, climbing, wrestling, hunting, etc.

At puberty, there is often a knock at the door and the warriors of the tribe arrive and take the males from the child friendly environment; oftentimes the mothers symbolically cling to their boys, but eventually consent to the need for their sons to begin their “war path.”2

In some tribes, the young males are initiated by descending into dark caves where they face demons and other spirits.   When the initiation period is ended, the young males learn the codes of behavior and their tribe’s ethos (moral basis) relative to engaging in war, combat skills, and the spiritual/moral reasoning behind the need to engage in “just” killing.

After initiation and training, this second, and highly critical, phase their brain’s neural development has occurred, and, along with fighting skills, they have military codes and moral/spiritual ethos is in place; thus, they have a psychological, spiritual, moral, social, physical and emotional framework for engaging in combat.

Nothing, however, really prepares them for actual combat.

In battle, these young human beings descend into Hell’s cauldron, and they are exposed to the gods of war; the gods of rout and panic wade about the cauldron, also.  In that same cauldron, the beast within each human’s is released, and along with it the stealth superpowers that are able to engage and destroy saber tooth tigers.

After the battles/war, these humans must come to terms with their decent into a slice of existence unknown to most humans.  In coming to terms with what occurred the god of justice is encountered and demands that they pass judgment on themselves and others for their inhuman and beastly behavior.  If they judge themselves guilty or are found guilty of violation the codes and ethos of “just killing,” the Furies (enforcers of Justice) will torment the warriors until they atone (make good), become wise and or pay in blood for their behaviors.

Thus, we have individuals who have physically survived the preparations for combat and the descent into Hell, but who, while being away from the war, remain in a “phantom zone.”  They remain trapped in an existence wherein time and reality are distorted and their humanity and inhumanity continuously face off.  The old rules governing life do not apply; the past becomes the present, the present becomes the past, the future is past and the past is future.

They, and those around them, want things to go back to the way they were i.e. to view the world through their old “civilized lens;” a lens wherein the world is generally viewed in terms of black and white and “good vs. bad.”  War Fighters have experienced a world on nonlinear reasoning and nonsymmetrical warfare, and, not only does that old lens not no longer serve, it contains outrageous distortions.

Throughout history, there have been societies where War Fighters would be ritualistically and methodically returned to their homes/tribes.  Some combat veterans were isolated and stripped of all clothes, along with the stench and trappings of war.

Those societies recognized the special status of these war fighters, and the societal need to be part of the return process.  In some instances the war fighters were isolated, cleansed, tended to and not allowed to feed themselves.

A hugely important part of finding their way out of the phantom zone, involved the processing of their experiences in Hell; this processing likened to a two-year-old child explaining traumatic events to their mother (the ancient part of the brain has limited language development).

War Fighters have nonverbal knowledge about slices of human existence, but often times there are no words or methods for explaining it to themselves or others.  It is a simultaneous process of self-learning and teaching of others, and the messages they carry are critical to societal growth and evolution.  They must be our teachers…they must be helped to begin their atonement…they must be helped to attain a new level of maturity…they must accept and we must accept their wisdom.

It is after they have, for the most part, exited the phantom zone, these born-again humans begin their path towards Warriorhood.  As Warriors, they will become a valued asset of the tribe/group/community, because they are the individuals who have been stripped of the lies that are believed by most individuals and they have radically altered perspective relative to human existence.

A Final Hurtle

The citizenry must accept that WE CIVILIANS” are the perpetrators of war, and our soldiers, as loving/protective members of the “Village” did our bidding.   We drop our sons and daughters into Hell’s cauldron, and have done so since we have placed our feet on the soil of North America; each generation has engaged in war.

It is required that we, as a warring nation, formally create a warrior path, code of conduct, and ethos for those who will be sent to Hell, and develop better methods for returning those individuals from Hell; further, we must recognize that there is a subset of combatants whose neural/psychological/spiritual/moral/social development were not suited for mitigating the impact of that experience, and they have needs that are different from our best and brightest.

Unless we address the issues related to those who have spent time in Hell, the poisons of it will affect us all, and destroy the lives of those who served.

The decision to go to war, and the provision of care afterwards, must not be left in the hands of those war illiterate individuals.

Our war fighters must become Warriors3, and they must not be re-victimized by society and the scientifically sterile/limited diagnosis of PTSD that is based on a disease and mental disorder model.  They certainly have features of the condition known as PTSD, but their condition is more complex and is characterized by on-going societal emotional abuse, physical abuse, abandonment and neglect.

The modern scientific  practices of medicine/psychiatry/psychology/Social Work/Counseling, etc. have roles in the treatment of subsets of problems within the constellation of conditions labeled as “PTSD” i.e. TBI, biological/neurological injuries/dysregulation, cognitive errors, depression, anxiety, lack of sleep, the roller coaster of emotions, hypersexuality, substance abuse, interpersonal relations, etc.  Their practices do not, however, get to the “heart” of the problem, and without getting to the heart of the problem; caring professionals will fail to meet the combat veterans’ whole body, moral and spiritual needs.

Many veterans of the Civil War, like their counterparts of wars throughout recorded history, struggled with return civilian life and they were diagnosed with Soldier’s Heart.  It is our position, and that of others who work with combat veterans, that the disease/disorder model for PTSD formulates the problem in a linear, symmetric and incorrect manner, and those who struggle are not experiencing a pathological process, primarily; rather, they are struggling with spiritual and moral wounds that are to be expected in anyone who has visited Hell, faced the gods of war, released “their beast” within, and who have been unable to  find a way back.

In addition to physical and psychological problems, combat veterans have spiritual and moral wounds.


Warriorhood is a state of inner health and fullness marked by beauty, strength, nobility, and a guiding/protective inner presence and public role. 4

Not only must we create a Warrior class, we must create a corps of War Literate citizens, professionals and clergy.

To function as an effective society and to assure that wars only occur as a last resort, there is a need for critical links between community and combat.

(Footnotes 1 – 4 refer to conceptualizations contained in Edward Tick’s book Warriors Return)



WarLiterateCitizens (2)

Hidden casualties of war

Tonight, Marsha and I spoke at an event, and afterwards a man approached me, because he wanted to learn more about Lilac Springs.  As we spoke, his wife, a sophisticated and poised woman who appeared to be in her late 70’s, remained seated.  During the course of our conversation he said “My wife’s dad just disappeared in World War II when she was just a little girl.  You know, ever since the time of his disappearance she scans the faces of all the soldiers that are shown in magazines, on TV, and in the newspapers; she is always trying to find his face.”

How sad; that poor little girl has been working hard and searching for over 70 years.

Wounded Vetz Run 2014

Yesterday, Marsha and I spent the afternoon and evening at the Italian Civic Club in Meadville, PA.   This was their 3rd annual run and the scope of the time and effort put into it had to be huge.   While Jimmy Severo is a combat veteran, most of the others who helped organize the event are caring citizens.

We are convinced that citizens are a missing link in helping to reintegrate warriors back into civilian live.   At no time in history has there been such a disconnect between citizens and those who fight wars.   It inconceivable to think that our ancestors would not tend to the needs of those who fought their battles.   We citizens have a role in the healing process and cannot permit ourselves to be removed from the reintegration process.   Spending time with veterans is rewarding and working to create opportunities for them outside of an agency environment need not be tedious and work-like.  Those who attended last night’s event, had a wonderful time.

We had the tough job of selling Steeler vs Houston raffle tickets.



Geckos are cool

We happen to think that the Leopard Gecko is a pretty cool looking and we like its style. If something gets this lizard by the tail, it just breaks away! When you look at the picture you can see that this lizard has lost its tail, at least one time, because when the new tail does not match its “birth” pattern; however, the little smile on this lizard’s face suggests that it does not really seem to care…getting your tail yanked off is part of life. A breakaway tail is a survival mechanism and most people think breakaway tails are pretty cool.

Humans have breakaway systems related to survival, and an important one is withdrawal; however, we should only withdraw long enough to grow a new tail, or to at least let one begin to sprout. If you stay in a surviving mode too long, you are going to get all those goofy thoughts about how different your new tail looks, how people are going to notice that your patterns have changed, and you won’t be swinging it all about getting it strong and flexible; instead it will be a limp and weighty drag on you. When surviving goes on for too long, it interferes with thriving, and thriving is good for all living things.
We all know that every so often, throughout life, you’re are going to get you’re going to get your tail yanked off, and every now and then you have to “hole up” and let a new one grow or at least begin to sprout.
Here is an opportunity for you to intentionally breakaway a problematic tail, or breakaway from things that are eating at your……..tail.
So, get your tail out to Lilac Springs and sashay about displaying your latest pattern.