PTSD Spirituality: Why Should I Care About PTSD? or, What is Compassion Deficit Disorder?

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

Comments

  1. Thank you for your insight! These writings are the best descriptive narative of the ptsd symptoms and cycles I am struggling with. The intertwining of spirituality and ptsd recovery through grace and compassion aids and comforts even in a somewhat isolated life. Your words have served me in mixing these tools into a more digestible thought process for progressing with life.
    Thank you!1

    • Hello, While PTSD has a definite medical component, the need to consider the spiritual dimensions is usually ignored. That has started to change to some extent, even when compared to as recent as five years ago. Our real healing comes when we are able to seek not only physical, but also spiritual opportuntites to understand and heal. Thank you for visiting and taking the time to comment. I am encouraged that the site is useful to the healing journey of others and not only my own PTSD journey. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  2. Thank you for your very compassionate article!
    I suffer from a very prolonged and previously undiagnosed or treated case of PTSD; and Bi-polar.
    To start off with my mother had a bad case of Post Partum Psychosis; the next majot trauma; aside from continually failing at jobs; relationships; or school; was the near fatal beating I suffered at the hands of a well known local mobster. Next one of my many fiances terminated her pregnancy; and my mother laughed at me the night before. And finally; I found out in 1997 that I had Hepatitis C; that it had been known 9 years prior; and that I had deliberately not been told. This resulted in my almost dying 3 times; and being poisoned by a major drug company when I first sought treatment. I have since cleared the virus on the Pegetron treatment; and this past January I celebrated 15 years of continuous sobriety. I have a diploma in addictions; and I have self-produced 5 CD’s in 4 years!
    But I still haven’t found stisfaction in any of my endeavors; either relationally or professionally! And over this past Christmas I got high twice all by myself on magic mushrooms; and I’m planning one more trip and at a higher dose; in an effort to shake my world out of this doldrum I’m in. I go to see a therapist once a month; I take a low dose of clanazepam; 3 mgs of melatonin; and 100 mgs of 5HTP for sleep; but I’m still very restless; and seem to be developing insomnia again; which is something I suffered from for my entire life! I have the address of a company that will send me enough Seconal; and Nembutal to end my life; though I haven’t sent away for it…yet! I was taken out to lunch by a fiarly major music business person 2 years in a row; only to be told no again! I’ve given up looking for work in addictions; and my lady friend dissapproves of me as much or more than my dear sweet mother ever did; and yet I stay on! The bridges I’ve burned can never be mended; and if I wasn’t on Disability I’d be homeless! But; I’ve got to tell you that it was somewhat comforting to read what you had to say; in spite of how hopeless I feel things really are! Any suggestions; sir?

    • Hello, Yours is a tough road and certainly as hard a journey as any soldier has walked. I am grateful that you have some level of medical/disability coverage and are not homeless. Our society casts so many of its traumatized aside and they become homeless and desparate.
      I am also grateful you have not sent off in the mail a request for the drugs to end your life.

      In your comment you indicate a very high level of achievemet, eg., 5 CDs and your diploma. This is no small feat. Your achievements are something that many people can only dream about. I am saddened on your behalf that the magic mushrooms made up the experience of your Christmas (holidays are usaully tough lonely times for PTSD survivors). Someone as experienced as you knows that the mushrooms are only a trick. They will not heighten our senses in any meaningful way and they can kill us. Too often, those who are artistic are tricked into drugs, and highs of one sort or another, to try and achieve some altered state that will help shake the doldrums. They only enhance it and try to get us to take even more drugs that will kill us. As an artist you know that real creation, the creative process, and the producing of a meaningful work, is done from within, from the soul. The mushrooms will put tar on your soul and try and trick you into believing that you just need more. Real creativity stems from a sobriety – and I don’t mean only alcohol – that stems from who we really are, from our authenticity. If we self-medicate to shake doldrums, to try and stop feeling, or to try to feel more alive, all we do is dig are grave and prevent honest, serious, meaningful works of art from being created and shared.

      Knowing as much as you do about abuse, depression, and despair – not only from academic sources but your own experiences -is a gift that you can share in your artwork. As other people read the comments of PTSD Spirituality, and people tell me they do so, they can take strength and courage form your shared journey. That one does not have to give up or zone out because life has been full of trauma. You can now take your trauma and hard experiences and disappointments and not only interpret them so you that you stay alive, but that others will be inspired to choose life as well.

      I’m not sure if I answered your question or not. But I can say that reading the hard traumas you have survived and your will to continue to be a creative person gives me more hope to endure my own small difficulties. I would never wish your tough times on another person, but seeing what you have been through and you refusal to give in to PTSD’s desire to kill you, gives the rest of us even more hope and courage to stay alive. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

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  1. […] who themselves suffered from real trauma in their own lives?  Sometime people will suffer from compassion deficit disorder because when they suffered people showed them zero compassion.  They were told to just get on with […]

  2. […] question I experience in the United States: Why should I care about PTSD?  (Part One concerning Why Should I Care about PTSD and Compassion Deficit Disorder was an earlier […]

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