Let go of the past and go for the future. Go confidently in the direction of your dreams… Live the life you imagined.
Henry David Thoreau
There is a program that the military is using to help soldiers cope with their bad memories. The mission of “Operation Proper Exit” is to ferry small groups of wounded American soldiers to the places they had been maimed. The goal is to help these men and women “achieve psychological closure.” The Operation, referred to by Army surgeon Dr. John Olsen as “an important psychological step,” was started by a small foundation in Laurel, Maryland.
The program selects only the wounded that have already made “good progress in coping with their injuries.” According to a New York Times article the hope for these wounded soldiers “is that returning to places many of them left while unconscious or in agony might reassure them that their losses have been worth it.” For the groups of men that have already returned to their combat zones the Operation seems to have worked. For many, the trip secured some form of closure, developmental growth, release of the burden of guilt, and even an end to night terrors.
Unrealistic fear relies on old thoughts that you regurgitate over and over inside your head. It feeds on negative experiences from the past and makes you relive them. Fortunately, the past is gone and nothing about it applies anymore. You must put a new mental image in your thoughts, an image that shows you as the person you want to be, living the life you want to live.
One of the soldiers who returned to Iraq with Operation Proper Exit commented on the silence he found upon arrival. The noises he had experienced while he was in combat – the mortar shells and the distant sounds of exploding roadside bombs – were no longer to be heard. Things had changed since he was last there.
This is exactly how you’ll feel when you revisit the scene of your negative experiences for the very last time. You’ll experience total silence because the episode has long been over. You’ll also find peace, because you’ve accepted your past and have moved on to something new and exciting. Putting the past behind isn’t easy but with care, time, and patience, it can be done.
Rob Norland, Wounded Soldiers Return to Iraq, Seeking Solace. New York Times, April 15, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/15/world/middleeast/15exit.html
Operation Proper Exit. The USO, http://blog.uso.org/tag/operation-proper-exit/
Troops First Foundation, http://www.troopsfirstfoundation.org/int_exit.php