Finding inner peace on ocean wave

Updated: 2013-08-01 09:33

By Peng Yining (China Daily)

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Mental adjustment

Xie Ruqing, chief medical officer of the Chinese escort fleet, said the excitement everyone felt during the first few weeks of the deployment has now faded and the unusual has become commonplace. "After a few months, the gulf starts to become boring. Every day is the same as the day before," he said. "You find yourself repeating the same actions over and over again."

He said the Chinese navy pays great attention to the mental health of the sailors. "We organize activities, including parties, movie nights and sports meetings. They're good ways to relieve boredom and anxiety," said Xie. "We don't have psychologists on every ship, but the departmental chiefs talk to their crews as often as possible to ensure that everyone is in good condition."

Finding inner peace on ocean wave

Life aboard the Peace Ark can be a high-pressure existence for the crew. Ju Zhenhua / for China Daily

Eventually most members of the crew become accustomed to life on deployment and just get on with their work, according to Xie.

During a lecture on mental adjustment, Ma was trying to explain and induce group hypnosis to the Peace Ark's dozens of helicopter pilots and ground support crews.

"Hypnosis? What if I fall asleep during the lecture?" asked one officer. "Then you'd better not snore," replied another, prompting gales of laughter.

Hypnosis is actually just autosuggestion guided by a psychologist, according to Ma. It has very little to do with actually falling asleep, instead it opens a door to the subconscious and allows you to do things in your mind you can't do in reality, such as visualizing taking a trip home.

"There is a door you are familiar with. It's the door of your home. Open it, and you'll see your families. Maybe it will be your parents, your wife or your child," said Ma, speaking gently as soft music played.

The porthole curtains were pulled tight, the lights were dimmed and the crew sat with their eyes closed; everyone was imagining a journey home. Suddenly, one officer jumped up and ran out the room sobbing.

He later consulted Ma. He told her that he is on his first deployment and he is suffering equally from seasickness and homesickness.

"Military officers are usually too proud to cry," said Ma. "Hypnotic suggestion can relax them and help release the pressure. That's much healthier than suppressing their emotions."

More than 300 members of the Peace Ark's crew recently filled in a questionnaire handed out by the medical team. In response to the question, "What has bothered you most during the voyage?" key answers such as "seasickness", "homesickness", "loss of appetite" and "irritability" cropped up frequently.