In the PTSD Ecstasy Self-Test we apply the definitions of ecstasy to our own personal experiences. In doing this exercise we hope one sees how the ancient understanding of ecstasy and ecstatic experience can help us to better understand our own experiences and our PTSD, and perhaps contribute to soul healing.
The PTSD Producing Experience (Then): Ask yourself how each of the italicized sections listed below describe the traumatic experiences that gave you PTSD. Now write it out.
The Ongoing PTSD Life (Now, Since Then): We have survived the events which initially gave us PTSD. But now we have PTSD. How people treat you will cause your soul to be either nourished or further harmed. Ask yourself how each of the italicized sections listed below describe the ongoing experience of living with your particular PTSD. Now write it out.
After the definitions I have written some limited examples of how this self-test might be undertaken. If I gave a full response then each of them would actually fill a few pages, but the short examples give the general idea.
Before conducting the self-test please read the Warning Section near the end of the page.
You may be interested in the “Extra Credit” section just above the Warning Section.
To help with the self test, the definitions of ecstatic and ecstasy are here for your reference.
Ecstasy: The term ekstasis has the following range of meaning:
1. distraction, confusion, terror, literally, being beside oneself (often with a sense of amazement).
2. trance, ecstasy, a state of being brought about by God, in which consciousness is wholly or partially suspended.
An example: When they said the plane was going to crash, it was as if I was outside looking in. I could see myself hearing the news and trying to look stoical and calm. I could see the plane in the air, one of the engines sputtering to a stop.
Ecstatic: The term existemi contains the following range of meanings:
1. change, displace, then drive out of one’s senses, confuse, amaze, astound.
2. become separated from something, lose something (in the ancient literature this is always in the sense of losing spiritual and mental balance);
2a. lose one’s mind, be out of one’s senses;
2b. be amazed, be astonished, of the feeling of astonishment mingled with fear, caused by events which are miraculous, extraordinary, or difficult to understand.
An Example: I remember when he pressed the barrel against my head (I still see his face). His hands shook. He spoke rapidly. I could not understand him. People were yelling at him not to shoot me and put the weapon down. Something left me then. I was different after that.
An Example: It was the 24th day in a row that I was almost killed and XXX occurred. At the time it seemed just same shit, different day. Later on in my billet, and now more than twenty years later I am astonished I am still alive. How did that happen?
An Example: I remember how coolly and calmly it was explained to me back then. My life did not matter. I would die and nothing would change, nothing would be gained. Tagged, bagged, and another one just like me would take my place. Something left me then. It slipped right out of my head and departed the general AO.
Extra Credit!! Lastly, for the advanced students and those seeking extra credit: do the same exercise again, but apply it to something joyful in your life.
Joy could be any number of things: For some folks this would be their marriage, birth of a child, a divorce from a schmuck, experiencing the perfect sunset, listening to, or composing the right piece of music, encountering or making a meaningful painting or poem, or an experience of teaching or being taught.
An example: I remember on January 1st, 1996, I spent three hours drawing the head of a certain snow leopard I knew. I never left the chair. My legs went numb and I quit feeling most of my body. It was me, the snow leopard, the paper, the pencil. But rather, it was all in one, together, combined. It was as if I was not there doing the drawing, but actually there immersed as a part of the thing, without boundaries or definitions. In any other circumstances I can never sit for 10 minutes without having to shift painful legs and arms, but then I was lost, I was outside of myself, in the drawing, in the moment, an ecstatic moment that on earth was three hours long but felt like a blink of the eye.
While the PTSD Spirituality Blog focuses on trauma, much of the dynamic inherent in ecstatic experiences applies equally to joy as well as suffering.
Warning: If one honestly completes this exercise it can stir up a lot of pain or joy and emotion and lead to cathartic healing.
If you choose to do this be aware that you may need some space and room for yourself for a little while. This exercise asks you to be honest about some of your vulnerabilities. Don’t undertake it around people who will treat you like dirt. No reason to cast your pearls, or open your wounds, before swine.
If you have a person whom you can trust, then sharing this information can help them better understand your life, what it has done to you, and why at times you have a PTSD-Identity and exhibit PTSD behaviors.
This exercise can help you understand better how your soul has been wounded. That in itself is part of the road to healing.
The exercise can also be conducted in other ways such as with painting or poetry, or short story writing. Before I was able to ever publically acknowledge PTSD and speak about it in front of strangers (some whom have been very supportive and some who have further harmed me) I first made paintings and drawings. Eventually I was able to articulate PTSD in other media such as poetry, fiction, and music.
Be patient with yourself. Finding the medium of your expression can take a while, but it is worth it.
I hope the PTSD Ecstasy Self-Test was of some value to you.
Semper Pax, Dr. Z