Why should I care about PTSD? This question usually indicates Compassion Deficit Disorder. In my experience it tends to come from hypocritical Christians, Plastic Patriots, and Chicken Hawks. Rarely does it seem to come from someone who actually wants to be educated so as to help someone who suffering from the soul wounds of PTSD. I have to be careful because this question, especially, when delivered in a scoffing tone can trigger my own anger and secondary PTSD. I must remember when I hear this that it is an opportunity to teach (even if they don’t really want to learn about PTSD). If I put my ego on the sidelines and teach, someone might learn to value other people’s lives when they did not truly value life before.
When I get this question I tend to experience a visceral response. Some of my anger and indignation begins to build. Behind the question, frequently, is the Not My Problem, So What, Don‘t Expect Me to Do Anything About It, attitude of those who blame the victims.
At its core, the question can mean, I don’t have to care because PTSD suffering is not worthy of my caring. Or, they should not have joined the Army in the first place, or she should not have been walking outside after dark in the city – so they earned it! I get riled up most when it comes from a self-described Good Catholic or some other self-declared Christian or a Plastic Patriot.
Hypocritical Christians, Plastic Patriots, and Chicken Hawks
Hypocritical Christians are nothing new. Plastic patriots are those who want to send your kids to war, but not risk their own kids. They think having an “I Support the Troops” sticker on their bumper means they have done something substantial for the troops. Plastic Patriots are usually a type of Chicken Hawk, that is, someone who supports going to war, but avoided or evaded military service themselves.
Compassion Deficit Disorder
Why should I care about men and women and children who suffer the physical and soul damage from traumatic experiences? Because it is the compassionate thing to do. The three great monotheistic religions of the world, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, all teach the necessity and value of compassion. So do Hinduism and Buddhism. Both secular and religious Zen, as I understand them, emphasize compassion.
If all of these terrific religions teach about compassion, then why do we see so much Compassion Deficit Disorder? Because to be compassionate costs money and is risky to our social status. To be compassionate can make one the object of derision. Jesus of Nazareth cared about the poor, women, children, the sick, and those possessed by unclean spirits, and was rejected for it. In the time of Jesus, fashionable society dismissed those who needed care – and still does.
The Cost of Being Compassionate
If I am compassionate, I must spend portions of my time and my money (if I have any) to alleviate the suffering of others.
Those who suffer from compassion deficit disorder fear they will have to give things up to be compassionate. There is a social “cost” to compassion:
– They will lose prestige by associating with the unworthy,
– They will lose money if they donate to a woman’s shelter or Veterans for Peace,
– They will lose time if they pay attention to those in need. They will not be able to play as much racquetball or watch re-runs of Friends because they are wasting time on the suffering person.
The Benefits of Compassion
If I am compassionate at least three things can happen:
– I alleviate suffering
– I nourish my own soul
– I open myself to experience more of the mystery of the divine
The more I am compassionate, the closer I get to the divine. The less I focus on myself, the more I can focus and help others.
There are other benefits of compassion: Alleviating the suffering of others means fewer tax dollars are spent in emergency situations. So, if one is strictly a utilitarian (in which case I doubt they are reading anything I have to offer), the more compassionate we are, the less money we spend over time taking care of emergencies and cleaning up the mess. The economics of preventative care saves money and lowers taxes. I am less likely to have my life “interrupted” by someone with a devastating need – so I even save some time to watch Friends and play racquetball.
Yes, Isn’t Compassion Wonderful, But What About PTSD?
What about the spiritual dimensions of PTSD? What about PTSD as a soul wound? What about the physical changes to the brain caused by PTSD trauma? What about the suicides, unemployment, migraine headaches, and destroyed relationships which so often follow PTSD?
In an hour I leave for three and a half days of a PTSD Healing Retreat. I will be a participant and a speaker. I hope to further my own PTSD healing. I will speak about the spiritual dimensions of healing the PTSD-Identity. When I return, I will write more about why PTSD, itself, is worthy and demanding of our compassion.
But first, one needs to be aware of Compassion Deficit Disorder and the real intangible benefits of a commitment to compassionate living. Thank you for reading these posts and feel free to comment. I’ll see you when I get back.
Semper Pax, Dr. Z