The real cause of PTSD – the Bosurgi Syndrome

The real cause of PTSD – the Bosurgi Syndrome

From the book The Mind Shaman-

“Julie, let’s talk briefly about your case. Richard is a twenty-five-year-old young man who served as a US marine for four years, deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. He came back to the US in 2011, all in one piece, highly decorated for his bravery in battle, but soon after he returned, he developed what it is commonly called PTSD. In the last two years, he has been highly depressed and twice attempted suicide.

“The actual trend in psychotherapy is to focus their healing on the traumatic memories assumed to be the origin of the disorder. In my opinion, they are focusing on the wrong culprit. The PTSD, in most cases, is caused by the Bosurgi Syndrome, triggered or enhanced by the traumatic events. Millions of people with the Bosurgi Syndrome feel like they are in a mental state comparable to PTSD, but they don’t have an actual trauma to blame.

“Liam, please stop texting, this is very important. Twenty-two veterans are committing suicide every day, and 7.5 million US citizens are diagnosed with PTSD. If we can show a different way to understand and clear the disorder, we will help many people as well as offer a great assistance in solving a major national problem. Let’s take Richard’s case, and let me draw a scenario, keeping in mind that it is pure speculation, but let’s see after the anamnesis if I’m right.

“We already discussed the functions of the survival system extensively, so I guess that you are clear that the survival system responds inversely proportional to leadership. The more leadership, the less the survival system is active; the less leadership, the more the survival system engages a protection shield around its owner. His unfulfilled childhood and lack of leadership made Richard’s teenager stuck with codependency. His survival system tried to compensate his lack of leadership by over protecting Richard. As a consequence, this affected the young man with an overwhelming lack of self-confidence, social anxiety, emotional anxiety, fears, and depression, just like the painful life that you all know too well.

“At the age of eighteen, he identified a leader (which is a father figure able to take charge over him) in the marines. He joined the US marines, and despite the tremendous challenge, his depression and all the other symptoms were gone. Why? Because his mind has found, in the harsh marines’ drill, the structure and the external leadership that he desperately needed to make him feel safe. His survival system backed off, and he felt amazing. Certainly, he lived with different types of physical fears, but the emotional turmoil was quiet. He lived through four years of scary and challenging experiences. However, he was always under the umbrella of the marines’ leadership. He also forgot about depression and created a powerful temporary identity as a soldier and hero. He lived and saw horrible events, but it was part of that life and identity.

“For Richard, this represented the first time he felt highly confident, powerful, and without the usual emotional pain. He thought that he was out of the hole, but the leadership that gave him this power was borrowed, it was not his. He had not been trained by the marines to lead his mind. His drill was to follow orders or to make some limited practical decision but still following the marines’ commands. Therefore, when he left the US marines, he found himself on his own. The identity and the adrenaline faded away as well as the structure and the tight leadership. His survival system felt unsafe and restored the shield of fears and depressions around Richard, overwhelming him with much of the ugly memories of the war. He was back to square one after he thought that he was out. He felt powerless and hopeless, went to see a shrink, and he was labeled with PTSD.

“This is one of the possible scenarios. We can use similar stories to explore the situation when soldiers start suffering PTSD immediately after specific nasty experiences. In this case, the soldier’s mind had kept unconditional faith in the army’s leadership, keeping their survival system quiet until the terrible event occurred. When a poor soldier loses his leg or sees his mates butchered, his mind loses trust in the army’s leadership, and he abruptly feels unled and terribly unsafe. The survival system kicks in, taking full control, and well, you know the rest. I worked with traumas several times, and I never found a trauma to be the origin of the issue. It certainly can enhance it enormously, but it is not the real culprit and should not be the focus of the healing. Therefore, Julie, I recommend that you work on his codependency first, and then if it is still needed, you can help him deal with some of his nasty memories. Anyway, let’s see where he’s at as of today.”

I was not texting, anyway, I was taking notes, but . . . this is huge! This means that if the army understands this and starts training the soldiers to lead their mind and to clear codependency, offering discipline by choice and not by fear, PTSD could be gone? That would be amazing. Soldiers would become super people in war and in life; they would find jobs as soon as they are discharged, and they would enjoy a fantastic life. Anyway, if Luca’s theory is true for only half of them, we could help over three million people. That’s a lot of people, and there’s a possibility that it could be true for all of them. Why not? I trust Luca’s theories. They are always in tune with the law of nature, and until now, all that he has done has worked. I wish we had some formal research though. It would help with the guy’s scientists. I know that Luca and Matthias are planning to formalize the Institute’s clients’ experiences in documented material. It’s a boring job, but I can see that it is necessary.

With a belly full of sushi, we walked back to the practice. The guy was already standing in reception, stiff like a piece of marble. I guess you can get out from the marines, but you can’t get the marine out of you. He didn’t salute like a soldier though. His hands were shaking, but they were strong and wet . . . The poor guy was sweating like a pig. I felt really sorry for him. I remember my first session. I was really nervous and terrorized. But he was not my client, and I moved along, letting Julie do her magic.

Julie struggled in the first part of the presentation, probably intimidated by this huge kid, six foot four in height and about two hundred forty pounds of muscular mass. He was totally shut off and very nervous, responding with dry “yes, ma’am” and “no, ma’am” to all her questions. I would have found it hard too; he was like talking to a scared brick wall. Luca let her progress until he saw that she was losing her composure and started panicking. Fortunately, he picked up the conversation in time. All of us students knew that she was getting into trouble, but fortunately, the guy didn’t realize it. Luca entered the conversation very casually, making the point that the team hadn’t had chance yet to train on the explanation of the mechanics of PTSD, and he wanted do it himself.

Julie was still explaining the survival system, following our typical brief, far from thinking about PTSD, but she looked greatly relieved. Instead of explaining the symptoms, as we expected, Luca told Richard the same story that he told us in the restaurant. He talked about a child that grew up in a difficult household and felt unsafe all his young life, like a lost child, until he became a marine. As a marine, he gained confidence and, for the first time, felt power like a man; but then he lost it all when he was discharged.

Richard kept silent, looking straight in front of him without moving a muscle on his face. We saw him fighting his emotions, silently trying to hold them back, but a stream of tears started drifting from his eyes. He was clearly embarrassed, so he kept his face still and didn’t try to wipe his tears. I guess marines are not trained to cry. Julie was a mother. She felt the lost child in Richard and regained her power. From there on, all worked well. She ended the presentation, and she performed a fantastic anamnesis.

Luca was spot on. Richard was born in Boston from Italian immigrants. His grandparents immigrated in the ’50s from Reggio Calabria, the last town in the south of Italy before the “Stretto di Messina,” the stretch of sea that divides Sicily from the continent. He traveled there last year on his own, investing most of his savings, to try and find his roots. He hoped to get some clues about his fears. He found great people and beautiful places but so incredibly different from his traditions and what he expected. He loved the journey; it gave him a short span of joy, but it didn’t help his mind’s struggles. His father owned a small food shop in the Little Italy area of Boston’s North End.

He was a kind man but, unfortunately, died from a heart attack when Richard was only two years old. After her husband’s death, his mother tried really hard to keep the shop going, working long hours, but she was not a business a woman, and she had to sell the business three years later to avoid bankruptcy. Richard grew up with his four sisters and with Donna Rosaria, a grandmother from his father’s side. She was a horrible woman—mean and angry, shrieking all day long and bossing her daughter-inlaw and kids as if they were her slaves.

Donna Rosaria was also the one that controlled the family’s money, and she made everybody suffer each cent they spent. She loved her son more than her eyes, and she blamed Richard’s mother for his death. In reality, she constantly blamed her daughter-in law for everything that happened in the family. The worse came when the poor woman had to close the family shop. Richard remembered hiding under the bed with his fingers in his ears, trying to stop the sound of the yelling.

His mother was very Catholic and desperately attached to her kids. She kept going but got more depressed and tired by the day. She tried really hard to find solutions so she wouldn’t have to live with her kids in that crazy house, but she had no money, and after the loss of the shop, she couldn’t get anyone to help her. She was stuck with the evil Donna Rosaria. All that Richard remembers of his childhood was his mother crying, lots of yelling, fears, guilt, shame, and sadness. When he was seven, his exhausted mother died from brain cancer in just a few months. She was only thirty-two years old. Richard was devastated, and after her death, he stopped talking for over six months.

Donna Rosaria convinced herself that this was the satanic influence of her daughter-in-law’s demons and obliged the poor kid to attend rituals, confession, and mass every day until he talked again. She got crazier after Richard’s mother passed away, becoming more obsessed with God and discipline, and their life became an evil nightmare. The four elder sisters had to dress in black with their skirts past their knees (until they left home), and they all had to get up early each morning to pray endless litanies. They had to cook and clean the house as soon as they got home from school, and when the work was done, they got locked in their rooms without a chance to see friends or talk on the phone or just watch TV.

Weekends were consumed with confession and mass, visits to their father’s grave, some rare visit to some old parents, and then more house and yard cleaning, as well as all sorts of useless repairing jobs under Donna Rosaria’s unforgiving supervision. They never did a holiday or a night out. Their lives at home were just a sequence of compulsory prayers, hard domestic work that was mostly unnecessary, a lot of spaghetti, yelling, and unfair physical punishments. Each one of Richard’s sisters ran away from home way too early, getting in a lot of trouble and ending up in bad marriages and sad lives. The only one that kept straight was Richard. He believed in justice and in God, and he succeeded to excel in school despite the crazy grandmother and the miserable life at home.

He was a wonderful and very intelligent student, very kind and always ready to help his peers, so the teachers liked him and helped him progress with his life and with his academic studies. They also helped during some of his worst periods of depression. After he graduated with honors from the North End High School, he looked for direction and leadership to clear the confusion and anxiety that kept him in a constant depression during the last five years. He also wanted to finally leave home and the evil grandma, so he moved to New York to work in one of his uncle’s pizzerias, but it was a family business that made him work long hours for little pay, certainly not enough to get him to college or clear his depression.

After a few months, he enlisted in the US marines. He was strong and fit and easily passed the initial test. He got sent to Parris Island, South Carolina, to be trained. It was hard, but after grandma Rosaria, the drill instructors were definitely bearable, and despite the exhaustion of the initial twelve weeks of physical ordeal, he felt free and, for the first time, happy. The marines’ strict discipline, the precise orders, and the impeccable leadership gave to Richard the male energy and the direction that he sought since his father’s death. His anxiety and depression vanished after the third day of training. He felt safe, clear, and empowered as a man.

As soon as his training was completed, he was deployed to Fallujah, Iraq, in 2007 as a scout sniper, then in Afghanistan in the Kunar Province for his second deployment in 2009, with the Embedded Training Team. He killed many, and many tried to kill him. He saw horrible butcheries; many members of his units as well as many friends were wounded and many killed. He saw mutilations, torture, death, and blood, but he carried on serving and fighting because he was a good soldier engaged in a mission for freedom, in a mission for God. He did as a soldier what he did as a kid with Donna Rosaria; he followed orders, the right ones as well as the ones that felt wrong, in order to do what was expected from him—to be a good boy!

During his second deployment in Afghanistan, a group of soldiers from the Afghanistan National Army, men that he trained personally, got massacred by friendly fire a few yards away from him. It was a horrible mistake; it should have never happened. He saw many friendly fire “mistakes” during his deployment, and he accepted them as collateral damage, but this was different because these people trusted him, and this trust got them killed. Something clicked in his mind. He started questioning his undisputed trust in the US marines’ leadership, and his structure and shield started collapsing and with it, his identity and his safe zone.

His fears and anxiety stormed back in just a few days as well as the hopeless reality that this had been only a temporary relief to his psychological pains. It was the end of his deployment, and he chose not to reenlist, leaving the Marine Corps highly decorated in June 2011. The army shrinks labeled him with PTSD, but he knew that it was a much deeper problem. He thought that he inherited grandma’s craziness, but he wasn’t crazy. He explored every possible solution, including ending his life, but he trusted God, and that trust never left him. It was the only shield that gave him some ground, but it wasn’t enough, and his pain became unbearable.

He applied to the University of Massachusetts in Boston, sponsored by an unexpected generous gesture of Donna Rosaria, but he couldn’t focus and dropped out in the first semester. Desperate and numb, Richard flew to Los Angeles, invited by one of his ex-officers, to become a gun expert in the film industry. One of the first people that he met was Susan, a young lady that Luca helped last year; they instantly fell in love. She was his first girl. Before the marines, he never had time for girls, and despite the fact that he grew up only with women, he was shy, and he didn’t know how to behave with girls. He didn’t have a father or elder brother to teach him what to do. It felt strange, unsafe, but good, very good! But Susan wanted more, and more was not possible with Richard’s mind’s condition. She convinced him to take the challenge and asked Luca to enroll him in the program. He got it, and now he is in Julie’s hands.  The Mind Shaman p.403 -413

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