Treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has traditionally been focused upon dealing with a patient's past, dealing with those sets of stressors (e.g., combat or otherwise) that have caused tremendous effects on people who feel very hyper vigilant, avoidant and who do not experience an even mood, e.g., more prone to erratic mood swings between sadness and anger.
Recently, there has been more attention to helping those who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to realize that they do indeed have a future. There is a real profound possibility that the future may bring about healing for them.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) William O'Hanlon argues that there is a lot of wisdom in going for the future to help someone suffering from PTSD to get over the past. O'Hanlon will advocate that patients should write a letter from their future self to their present self. The focus would be five years in the future, having the person ask themselves what were the problems that they were concerned about that don't bother them now? What worries did the patient have then that they don't have now?
As a church sign in Winnipeg, Manitoba read:
"There's a reason why rear view mirrors are smaller than windshields. "
People who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can feel like the future does not hold any promise for them, and so therefore it can become easier to stay stuck in the past.
O'Hanlon and others are arguing that by focusing on the future that those who suffer from PTSD might find a way to get unstuck from their preoccupation from past suffering.
A Zulu proverb says:
"You have to fetch the future, it's not coming towards you, and it's not running away."
A future oriented basis for treatment for PTSD might include the following questions:
What would you have to do to focus on the near future? What would you have to do in order to get there?
Those who treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ( PTSD ), here I include Mental Health providers like Psychiatrists, Psychiatric Nurses, Psychologists, Social Workers, Marriage And Family Therapists, Pastoral Counselors, etc., need to be mindful of their role as being a fulcrum for their patients on the continuum between past and present. The therapist can find it helpful to ask the patient, "You can choose to do it or you can choose not to do it " This allows that patient freedom and empowerment to choose their own self-determination.
The therapist or helper should walk side by side with the patient to establish a new path for life, encouraging patients to connect with themselves and others, to exhibit compassion to themselves and others and to contribute to the development of themselves and others.
O'Hanlon believes that we need to connect the traumatized person to a future with possibilities, to validate and include all aspects of the person, to create the pattern of the Post-Traumatic problem and to reconnect the person in places where he or she has been disconnected, e.g., from self, from others and the world (O'Hanlon 2015).
As Emile Chartier noted:
"There's nothing as dangerous when you have an idea and it's the only one you have."
Marion Woodman has commented that:
"We are holding the tension of the opposites."
We can choose to remember to heal or we can choose not to remember to heal.
The choice is ours.
May our future be able to transform our present now and always.