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Keeping a Life - Dr Mike Colson


Before you do, consider that there is much at stake. This stuff can prevent hardship that hits DoD Contractors hard…where we live and work. This bulletin seeks to examine WHO you are, WHERE you are and WHAT you are…based on sound research information.

WHO YOU ARE: Individuals who attempt to remain private in spite of living cheek to jowl in close proximity in combat zones worldwide. You are amenable to taking on the challenge of this type of employment. You are focused on that work. You continue in it for good (and often personal) reasons. You recognize that you are part of something greater than yourself. You are fulfilled by freedom and personal autonomy and the opportunity to excel.

WHERE ARE YOU: Admit it, this type of work is not for the faint of heart. Not everyone feels comfortable in a combat zone. Where you are is right in the middle of an industrial society that by its very nature seeks to imprint each member with certain characteristics. In a combat theater of operations, this imprint can have both positive and negative impacts. The good bits tend to nurture personal productivity and performance. The negative impacts tend to retard self-care and may slowly alter the way the brain takes in and reacts to outside stimulation. Note that changes are expected because of where you are. And, that some freedoms and the loss of some autonomy is a fact in any industrial organization.

WHAT YOU ARE: Many combat zone personnel can come off the rails right about here. We all evaluate ourselves, and we are often our own worst secret critics. When the complex arrangements required for success in a combat zone are "sidetracked" – a common event given the fluctuating circumstances –we react. Then, we adjust. And finally, what we become is different over time. When things do NOT go as we planned, or we think we are "swinging in the wind" with respect to our goals and objectives... we take that seriously. Some people panic at this point while others get real quiet. Note: What we are is more often than not determined by what others say we are. A life skill that is vital for good health, welfare and morale is for you to take charge of that process and work hard at accomplishing what is best for you, your success, and your future. Sound obvious? Several recent research articles on our class of contractor rate our potential for traumatic change the highest of all career fields – and – our ability to practice self-care the lowest. What we are might be in danger of change!

PERATO’S 80/20 PRINCIPLE & LIFE THREATENING ACTIONS: 80% of the time things are A-OK. But 20% of the time the crap can hit the fan. In the 20% zone, brain changes noted above can erode a person’s ability to self-protect. We all need to prepare for that 20%! And, be on guard for changes in others. Why? Because the statistics are very clear. People in dynamic circumstances – both before and after - are at risk with respect to suicide. Because of brain changes suicide can become a reasonable option for some. Abnormal? Yes! But if my brain is functioning abnormally, and I encounter difficulty, then life-threatening acts can materialize.

YOU... NOW: You have a reputation for getting things done. Privacy concerns, productivity mandates, focus on results all make “self” and “other” care hard to manage. When there has been a death – or – something like suicide happens in a community, we have learned that the best course of action is to stand down. During this time, reflect on the reality of WHO, WHERE, and WHAT we are. Examine our pressure points. Affirm our commitment to one another. Grive and heal. And frame once again what is vital to us as individuals.

YOU…SUGGESTIONS: (1) Live large when things are going well! (2) Be prepared for the 20% of time when things get tough. (3) Know your confidential resources – vettrauma.org or lifelines.com (4) Invest yourself in your community. (5) Engage your faith traditions if you have them.(6) Learn how to live well.