Prayer and Fasting: Draining the PTSD Wound (Part 1)


The combination of prayer and fasting drains the PTSD wounded soul and helps to heal it at the same time.


Jesus stated that only through prayer and fasting can some of the hardest soul healing occur.  The point here is both literal and metaphorical.  My scripture source is the traditional text of Mark 9:29: “He said to them: ‘This kind can only come out through prayer and fasting.’”


Literal because the damage to my soul wrought by PTSD is substantial and deep rooted.  It does not go away with a quickie 30 second Our Father or Hail Mary.  To heal and recover from at least some of the PTSD soul damage, I need a prayer program, a commitment to prayer in the long haul. 


Just as I eat several times daily to nourish my body, I should pray several times a day to nourish my soul.  Prayer is required in the plural and in the continuative.  It keeps me on the path to proper relationships.  One of prayer’s happy side-effects is to remove the toxins that desire to attach themselves to my soul.


Fasting is required also.  But, not in the form we may usually consider.  Judaism of the Second Temple period and Early Christianity each emphasized the combination of prayer and fasting.  Indeed, fasting is a type of prayer.  Most people consider fasting only in regard to food, not eating.  Fasting without honest prayer is simply a triumph of the human will at best and showing off at its worst. 


In fasting we give something up, it may or not explicitly be given up as an offering.  The sense I am writing about here is giving up something in order to reduce damage and increase life.  Yet, anything which increases and affirms life is also an offering.


Fasting for the PTSD afflicted soul means fasting from PTSD triggers and fasting from violence, pornography, drugs & alcohol, and other toxic relationships.


PTSD includes direct and indirect triggers that reactivate my trauma.  The trigger brings my body to a condition of re-experiencing the horror that traumatized me in the first place.  The trigger may also activate supplementary problems as well.  Some of these triggers I have no control over.  Others I do.  I should not seek out or expose myself to damaging triggers.  Many veterans have a hard time watching news clips of combat footage or war movies.  They may have a hard time viewing a single photo of combat.  In some cases the mere sight of a military uniform or a weapon can be a problem.  For those molested by priests, the sight of a man in a clerical collar can be problematic.  It’s pretty obvious that for someone who has been in combat or a bank robbery that the sound of gunfire or fireworks could be a PTSD trigger.  That would be a direct one to one trigger. 


There are also triggers that are not direct one to one relationships.  Secondary triggers activate our PTSD even though they are not the exact, or even close to, the traumatic experiences we have had.  For example, I have never been in the Holocaust.  I know some people who grew up with Holocaust survivors and their children.  The Holocaust perpetrators murdered a portion of my family tree.  But, I have never myself directly experienced genocide or concentration camps. 


Yet, non-documentary films about the Holocaust activate some of my PTSD triggers.  Someone I know, someone with knowledge of my PTSD, kept insisting I go see Schindler’s List.  What little of the film I have seen triggers my PTSD.  I tried to explain this.  That person could not grasp the trigger connection since my personal trauma was not Holocaust trauma.  The individual kept insisting I see the movie, endlessly.  The person rendered themselves toxic.  They became part of the problem and I avoided this toxic person.


I have even met medical professionals who have been confused how someone else’s trauma can be a trigger for my own PTSD.  Yet, if I broke a bone playing football they would not only bar me from playing football, they would advise me to stay away from activities that place stress on the bone, such as weight lifting or some other sport.


Thus I need to fast from activities that are toxic to me and are direct or indirect PTSD triggers.  I also need to fast from toxic people who are unwilling or unable to understand the dynamics of PTSD.


There is also another form of fasting I must engage.  I have mentioned that I need to fast from PTSD triggers.  But I also need to fast from the by-products of the PTSD Identity.  The PTSD Identity will embrace those things which isolate me from proper relationships.  If I self-medicate with alcohol and drugs, or if embrace promiscuity and pornography, or if I engage in other risky, thrill-seeking behaviors as a means to cope with my PTSD, then I need to fast from those activities as well.  Singly or in combination they can kill me and others.  If they don’t kill me, then they still demean me and others.  If I die, kill others, or treat myself and others as meaningless objects, then PTSD has won.  I am trying to avoid that.


If I am to nourish my soul instead of letting PTSD further erode it, then I need to pray, and that continually.  I need to fast from the triggers that activate and nourish PTSD.  I need to fast from the aspects of the PTSD-Identity that will see me dead or diminished as a human being.


Some folks give up on religion because they pray once, or think that they have prayed, nothing seems to happen and so they give up on prayer.  It is similar to a person who never exercised.  They train once for a few minutes and discover they cannot run a marathon.  Then they declare exercise has no value.


I am on a permanent, life long, session of prayer and fasting.  I pray to better understand myself and nourish my relationships.  And, I must continue to fast from some of my own PTSD triggers in order to stay alive.


The combination of prayer and fasting drains the PTSD wounded soul and helps to heal it at the same time.


Effective spirituality can help ease the pain of PTSD.


Semper Pax, Dr. Z



  1. Wow-I had never considered the existence of secondary triggers and now better understand the soul sickness of PTSD. As I’ve heard you say before, there are two paths to navigate-the “culture of death” and the “culture of life.” Images associated with the former would probably feed the PTSD identity, be they directly or indirectly associated with the trauma. It saddens me that so much of our society feeds on the “culture of death,” from violent video games to music lyrics to movies. I wonder if many people, particularly the generation growing up immersed in this death culture, suffer from a sickness of the soul even in the absence of full-blown PTSD.

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