Interview – Three experts delve into the post-traumatic stress induced by war and terrorism

Authors: Mohamed El-Ghazi and Karim Bouali
Algeriepatriotique: We are interested to hear that the Transcendental Meditation program has a rapid and profound effect at relieving PTS – post traumatic stress. To begin with, would you please describe to our readers, what is post traumatic stress, how is it acquired, and what has been the treatment history so far?

Authors: Mohamed El-Ghazi and Karim Bouali
Algeriepatriotique: We are interested to hear that the Transcendental Meditation program has a rapid and profound effect at relieving PTS – post traumatic stress. To begin with, would you please describe to our readers, what is post traumatic stress, how is it acquired, and what has been the treatment history so far?
Atmane Kouider: PTS (also known as PTSD – Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a mental disorder caused by experiencing or witnessing deeply traumatic events, such as war, great violence, sexual abuse or natural disaster. The common factor in all cases of PTS is deep-rooted stress brought about by being the victim of horrific violence, or witnessing other people being subjected to horrific violence. The other people could be loved ones, or even, for example an enemy guerilla child soldier, the same age as one’s own child, whose life one is forced to take in the course of battle. The human psyche reacts to this horrific violence by storing it at a very deep level of experience.
As a result of this trauma, the individual carries a deep mental stress that produces experiences which include frequent painful recollections, flashbacks of the original trauma, feeling indrawn or separate from others, with the possibility of suicide, anger, and tendency towards violence. These symptoms may continue for years or, without effective intervention, may become the chronic condition, PTS. Post-traumatic stress (PTS) has been very resistant to treatment from conventional medical means, including drugs, psychoanalysis, etc.
However, as a study published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Traumatic Stress explains, 90% of Congolese refugees, with high initial levels of PTS, became non-symptomatic with 30 days of regular practice of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) program. Groups across Africa are finding significant reductions in symptoms, even with 15 days of learning this program. An April 2013 study in the Journal of Traumatic Stress showed that PTS symptoms among African refugees went from « severe » to « non-symptomatic levels » after 30 days of TM and remained low at 135 days. The February 2014 issue of the Journal of Traumatic Stress documents significant reductions in PTS symptoms within ten days among African war refugees from the Congo who were taught TM. In a month, eleven subjects were virtually free of symptoms.
You are specialists who have studied post-traumatic stress syndrome, who are the African people that have been exposed?
Atmane Kouider: One leading psychiatrist, Dr. Eugene Allers, past-president of the South African Society of Psychiatrists, estimates that whereas there has not been outright war in South Africa, up to 25% of the entire population may have PTS. In war-torn countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, South Sudan, etc. estimates range from 25% to 50% or more of the entire population suffering from PTS. Therefore PRN estimates that roughly 10% of the one billion people of Africa, or 100 million Africans, have PTS.
This is why in 2011, the David Lynch Foundation and African PTSD Relief co-sponsored an initiative to make the Transcendental Meditation program, also known as TM, initially available to 10,000 Africans suffering from PTS. We support this initiative. Any organization, whether a school, business, or a military, would be pleased to know that its members are operating free of PTS. They would also want to be more effective and efficient, whether during war or peace. We recommend that TM be put on these programs because it brings out the best in any individual, and any organization would be pleased that its members are working at their optimal levels.
Do you have any specific insights into Algeria?
Atmane Kouider: Many areas of Algeria have suffered or continue to suffer from serious trauma: due to such things as war, violence, terrorism, natural disasters, as well as sexual abuse. Algerians like many other African people have suffered dearly throughout the years. There were over one million casualties in its war of independence from France (1954 – 1962). Many Algerians experienced severe repression and torture. Even today like veterans of other nation’s wars worldwide they can still suffer from the deleterious effects of Post Traumatic Stress. Natural disasters have also taken their toll from 1980 – 2010. There were 64 events which included 14 earthquakes and 36 floods). The horrific acts of nature affected 1.5 million Algerians. Basically, the entire Algerian population was exposed to stress and is being held back to its negative consequences. Seemingly during the so called « Black Decade » (1991-2001) security forces were more targeted: police, gendarmerie, army, but in fact everyone was touched. Terrorism caused individual and collective murders, sexual abuse and torture. All social layers, all professions were targeted. This led to the rupture of many social and family links. Behind the 100,000 casualties, thousands of orphans, handicapped and widows could be counted. Many families left their villages to seek security in towns. Thousands of artists and intellectuals sought refuge abroad. The daily climate of horror and insecurity caused much deep trauma in all generations, adults and children.
Do you think this problem is taken into account in the countries affected by war or violent conflicts?
David Leffler: Relief efforts for war victims are difficult when a war is raging. So if a war is taking place, the first effort of the governments, and friendly nations, and the world community, should be to stop the conflict. This is possible through a TM intervention group – a Prevention Wing of the Military that learns TM and it advanced practices and brings an influence of calm and order that reduces the violence, so that relief efforts for civilians can begin. (This is discussed in more detail later in the interview). Regarding the lingering effects of Algeria conflicts, to its credit the Algerian government has done a lot in terms of material and financial compensation to victims of independence war, Black Decade and natural disasters, but has been somewhat at a loss when it comes to PTSD. For instance, the Civil Concord law promulgated in 1999 which aimed at the cessation of violence, was not able to fully address the necessity for healing and rehabilitation.
Who should take charge of this problem: the government, civil society, the media, perhaps the doctors?
David Leffler: Relief from post-traumatic stress through TM practice is of such vital importance that all organizations responsible for the well-being of society should be involved in bringing it quickly to the millions of war victim, refugees and other displaced persons, suffering from PTS. Both the government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have the means available to make TM widely available. The media can publicize the good effects of these efforts. Doctors can educate themselves and their colleagues about these benefits, begin the practice of TM themselves, and then prescribe it for their patients. In particular, the Algerian government as part of its responsibility and policy to bring peace and security to the country, should, along with the substantial support that it is already granting the victims, give full support to the TM program to be applied as an effective scientifically proven solution for PTS. A vast TM teacher training program should be supported by the government with the opening of TM centers in all Wilaya (counties) of the country.
Wars take place in Afghanistan, in Syria, in Iraq to mention only the Muslim countries. Do they have a psychological impact on the populations of the other Muslim countries?
David Leffler:
A war victim, whether they are injured, displaced, hungry, etc. has had their life severely disrupted. This disruption causes stress and anxiety. When there are numerous war victims that level of anxiety among many people naturally causes a rise in anxiety in neighboring countries, and even throughout the world. As human being, we all share the desire for a better, more abundant, peace, happy, healthy life. So when any human being suffers, the whole human race suffers. For this reason, it is important that TM be made available in the educational systems of all peoples. TM relieves the basic cause of suffering – the basic cause of suffering is weakness. When the individual is strong he is able to fulfill his own desires and the desires of those around him in a way that supports progress for all of society. So through TM we are able to uplift all of society, one individual at a time.
Question specifically for Dr. Atmane Kouider: You have personally taught the TM program to Algerians during the Black Decade. Please describe your students experiences and how did this effect their Muslim faith during this difficult time?
Atmane Kouider:
Islamic terrorism hits the Algerian population at its very core. Religion which was considered the purest field of life became a generator of fear and mistrust even amongst relatives, neighbors and friends. It was not possible in fact to distinguish one Muslim population from another. Anyone on the street or even in your family could be a potential terrorist without your knowledge. The impact of this stress on individual and collective consciousness was indeed very profound. Throughout the black decade our TM center located at the heart of Algiers remained opened and received people who had suffered from extreme experiences and the TM technique helped them tremendously. Thousands of citizens from all walks of life learned the TM technique and many reported relief from PTSD. The TM technique is universal and does not interfere with any culture or religious beliefs. As a matter of fact, many persons whom we taught the TM technique reported that it helped them become better Muslims. The peace, quietness and release of stress which it brought developed a greater « khoshoo » or reverence in their religious practice. Many still meditate today and confirm that the beneficial results are greater and more stable as time goes on. Regular practice of the TM program also dissolves anxiety and stress and promotes greater energy, creativity and intelligence, which provides the basis of success in all aspects of life. In addition, many Muslims have found that TM raises love and respect for everything in God’s creation. As a Muslim myself, I can say that Transcendental Meditation develops in individuals all the highest qualities of the Muslim faith: positivity, compassion, tolerance, steadfastness, purity, and surrender to the will of God, and usefulness to oneself and to all others.
Is suffering caused only to those who directly experience the horrors of war, or can suffering also be caused when watching video clips of war on tv news or in movies?
David Shapiro:
Rapid means of communication supports the growth of family feeling by all human beings on the planet. There is a wonderful saying from India, vasudeva katumbakum, « the whole world is my family. » So when we see images of our family suffering, we also suffer. The good news is that the same global communication and information technologies that convey the suffering of peoples throughout the world can be used to spread the knowledge of how to rise above suffering through learning and regularly practicing Transcendental Meditation.
You are proposing the Transcendental Meditation progam as a method of therapy, how to apply, depending on the specific characteristics of populations (religion, culture, etc.)?
David Shapiro: Transcendental Meditation is unique in our world. It is so unique that the highly respected medical organization, the American Heart Association, has recently singled out Transcendental Meditation as the only meditation or relaxation technique recommended for use in a clinical situation for relief of high blood pressure/hypertension. Transcendental Meditation releases even very deep-rooted stresses. Thus even horrific post-traumatic stress is neutralized and the PTS victim feels more and more normal and happier, within just a few days of TM practice. Recent medical studies showed that participants reduced their PTS by half in just ten days of TM practice, and they were almost free of PTS symptoms in 30 days of TM practice. The Transcendental Meditation technique has been taught for over 60 years to all peoples, in every nation, throughout the world. Transcendental Meditation is taught in a reliable, standardized way in every country, by certified TM Teachers, who have been properly trained to teach the practice in their own, native language, to their fellow countrymen. As a result, people of all religions, educational backgrounds, ages and cultures have learned and practice it daily, it all parts of the world. There is a global TM Movement, with administrators to organize outreach programs in every country, so that TM is available no matter what language one speaks or in what part of the world one lives.
Are there any references to « good results » achieved by this therapy?
David Shapiro:
Transcendental Meditation, also known as TM, is an evidenced-based solution, with a substantial amount of published, peer-reviewed research that has accumulated since 1970. In both case studies and clinical trials, TM has vastly outperformed other modalities by dramatically reducing stress, anxiety, depression and a host of PTS symptoms. Here are some evidence-based examples showing reductions in *PTS: the February 2014 issue of the Journal of Traumatic Stress documents significant reductions in PTS symptoms within ten days among African war refugees from the Congo who were taught TM. In a month, eleven subjects were virtually free of symptoms. An April 2013 study in the same journal showed that PTS symptoms among African refugees went from « severe » to « non-symptomatic levels » after 30 days of TM and remained low at 135 days. In 2011, the journal Military Medicine published a study showing the effectiveness of TM in reducing PTS in veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Participants had a 50 percent reduction of symptoms after eight weeks of TM. And in 1985, a report in the Journal of Counseling and Development demonstrated a significant reduction of symptoms among Vietnam War veterans practicing TM for at least three months. A control group using psychotherapy was found to have had no significant improvements. More than 350 peer-reviewed research studies on the TM technique have been published in more than 160 scientific journals. These studies were conducted at more than 200 universities and research centers, including Harvard Medical School, Stanford Medical School, Yale Medical School, UCLA Medical School, and Medical College of Georgia. This information has been brought together online at http://www.tm.org/research-on-meditation. Research has shown reduced post-traumatic stress (Journal of Post Traumatic Stress, April 2013 and Feb 2014), and also shows reduced risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke, reduced anxiety and depression, improved social relationships, increased academic performance by students, improved productivity among workers, etc. Every area of life improves with TM practice due to the machinery of action, the mind and body, becoming more stress free and more alert, fresh and healthy. A table listing the American Psychological Association’s twenty DSM-5 symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) along with the scientific research conducted on the Transcendental Meditation program published in peer-reviewed scientific journals addressing each of these symptoms/criteria is available online at: http://www.davidleffler.com/tm-reduces-twenty-symptoms-of-ptsd
Is there a work of prevention when a conflict is imminent to mitigate its psychological impact?
David Leffler:
This is a wonderful question, because it reveals the greatest benefit that TM practice brings to humanity – world peace – and a world free of crime, accidents, sickness, economic perils, etc. Scientific research has shown that when 1% of the population of a city or a nation is practicing TM, quietly, individually, in their own homes, negative trends are reduced and positive trends increase. Research shows that crime, traffic accidents, hospital admissions, etc. drop, and employment, economic trends and other quality of life issues improve in a city where 1% is practicing TM. This effect has been named the « Maharishi Effect » in honor of the founder of Transcendental Meditation, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.There is also an advanced practice, called the TM-Sidhi program. When the TM-Sidhi program is practiced in a group, the « Maharishi Effect » will be observed when the square root of 1% of the population is practicing the program together. This is called the « Extended Maharishi Effect. » Published research shows not only drop in crime, but drop in war activities, war fatalities and incidents of violence in the region where « Super-Radiance Groups » are established. These studies have been scrutinized and published in respected peer-reviewed journals such as Social Indicators Research, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Journal of Mind and Behavior, and Journal of Offender Rehabilitation.
One important goal of the TM Movement is « global super-radiance » – that is, to create several groups throughout the world that have 8000 practitioners of the TM program practicing together, everyday, twice a day. This will prevent war from ever arising. Thus far there are many smaller « Super-Radiance » groups in different places throughout the world. The longest standing such group is in Fairfield, Iowa, the home of Maharishi University of Management, where 1500 students, faculty, staff and community members practice the advanced TM Sidhi program together twice a day, everyday. Other groups in the USA are located in Radiance, Texas; Bethesda, Maryland; and in many large cities. In England there is a group in Skelmersdale. In Israel there is a group in Hararit. In India there is a group in Madyapradesh. More groups are located in Central and South America. More groups are needed in every area, with emphasis, as mentioned, on several groups of 8000 to create the Super-Radiant Maharishi Effect for the whole world.The result of this Super-Radiance from the Maharishi Effect will be a whole new world order, from an age of suffering and struggle to an Age of Enlightenment. Life on earth will be heavenly. And this goal, of Heaven on Earth for all humankind, is the ultimate goal of the global TM Movement. Many thanks for these questions, through which you have brought out important knowledge about how problems which have plagued humanity for generations can be quickly eliminated. The TM evidence-based research tells an objective story pointing to a simple, fast, and cost-effective solution for not only conquering PTS, but to help alleviate many of Algeria’s other pressing problems. Achieving lasting happiness and peace–both inner and outer, that’s what we all want for all Algerians, sooner, if possible, than later. We urge Algerian leaders to adopt this evidence-based program. For more information or to help organize PTSD Relief, please contact Atmane Kouider in Algeria or African PTSD Relief across Africa. Email: [email protected]

About the interviewees:
Atmane Kouider, Ph.D. is a teacher of the Transcendental Meditation program. He has taught this stress-reduction technique for the past 37 years in Algeria and worldwide to thousands of Muslims in North Africa and Asia. Dr. Kouider currently runs an international company for the production of essential oils-based natural perfumes and cosmetics. Email: Email: [email protected]
David Shapiro, M.A., is Founding President of African PTSD Relief, Twitter: AfricaPTSRelief, YouTube video: http://www.davidlynchfoundation.org/africa.html#video=goWNosrfFvI
an Iowa, US non-profit, charitable corporation dedicated to reducing PTS across Africa by teaching the Transcendental Meditation program to individuals or groups with PTS or at risk of getting PTS. He is a co-author of the two research studies on TM and PTSD in Uganda. For information on African PTSD Relief or to implement a program, please contact David Shapiro at [email protected]
David Leffler, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Center for Advanced Military Science (CAMS). http://www.StrongMilitary.org . He served as an Associate of the Proteus Management Group at the Center for Strategic Leadership, US Army War College. Dr. Leffler is the author of « A New Role for the Military: Preventing Enemies from Arising – Reviving an Ancient Approach to Peace. » He is on Twitter.
 

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