Having PTSD is like living in a science fiction story. “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” is a classic SF story. The pods come from outer space and take over our bodies until the entire planet is run by the Pod People, who still look like normal people. Normal people wonder why Fred now acts so differently compared to his former way of life. Surprise! Fred has been taken over by a pod, he has been snatched! PTSD can make us feel as if we have been body snatched by the Pod People.
Part of the “charm,” of this type of story is watching the remaining “normal” people try to figure out that Fred is different and their attempts to ascertain why Fred acts so differently and what it all means. In one version of this story a wife grows suspicious because her husband took out the garbage without being asked…obviously he has been podded!
The PTSD gives us the PTSD-Identity, it changes us, it harms our souls and our relationships. With PTSD, I still appear the same on the outside. My voice has not changed much. But the PTSD Identity has me doing things that my loved ones don’t understand. Indeed, the PTSD Identity has me doing things I don’t necessarily understand or approve of. For example, I may
- Anger Easily;
- Say, “You don’t know what I have gone through”;
- Do stupid things like have an affair, drive recklessly, get into fights, immerse myself in porn, drugs, alcohol, violence;
- Doubt my self worth;
- Lose my ability to trust others;
- Deny God;
- Isolate myself from those who love me;
- Embrace those who despise me;
To those on the outside, those who did not go through the trauma with me, all of these things make it look like someone else is inside me, controlling my body. It may appear as if I have been body snatched by the Pod People.
I have not been body snatched by space aliens;
I just suffer from the soul wounds of PTSD.
Something’s Not Right: Johnny is Different, Susan has Changed
I frequently communicate with families, friends, and spouses, of those who have PTSD soul wounds. While every single one of these people is unique, important, and individually loved by God, all the initial conversations have a common thread: Something’s Not Right.
- Before he or she was open, loving, and alive
- After they are quiet, furtive, even sneaky
- Before they were trusting and would give you half a chance
- After they are cynical and suspicious
What is the Before & After Here?
The “Before” is prior to their being raped, forced to torture or kill someone, the car wreck, the military service, the clergy abuse. This is before they were traumatized and the seeds of PTSD became rooted into their souls.
most of their actions and beliefs
were life affirming.
The “After” is how these people now cope with their PTSD symptoms. This is how they respond to life when they are being manipulated by the PTSD Identity. This is when the PTSD soul wounds bloom into anti-social, contradictory, mystifying behaviors.
most of their actions and beliefs
are life denying.
The effect of the trauma, on the metaphysical level of their souls, has altered how they understand and experience such things as Trust, Hope, Love, Relationships, and God. The trauma has wounded their appreciation of their own value and essential Goodness. God has acknowledged this goodness for us in Genesis 1, when God makes humankind in the Image and Likeness of God and says they are “very good.” The PTSD Identity seeks to alienate us from the divine goodness, it seeks to separate us from those who love us, and sever us from our own sense of self. It seeks to use us like the Pod People in science fiction and then otherwise leave us dead to our family, friends, and to God.
Can anything be done for our loved ones afflicted with PTSD soul wounds?
Rescue Mission: Body Snatching Pods Vs. PTSD Identity
Usually the body snatching pod people stories end with complete catastrophe for humanity and complete victory for the pods. There may be versions of this story where the humans somehow get their bodies back, but as I am not a science fiction authority, I have not yet run across it. When it comes to finding a solution to the Pod People and body snatching, we usually are dismissed to lifetime memberships in the Department of Tough Shit and give up…and start reading a different (more hopeful?) story.
The PTSD Identity, however, can be turned back. I will be vulnerable to PTSD for the rest of my life, but that does not mean it has to control me. PTSD can be diminished by Love, Forgiveness, and Hope.
PTSD is Allergic to Love, Forgiveness, and Hope
(I am trying to keep this essay under a thousand words. But a thousand words could easily be invested in each of Love, Forgiveness, and Hope.)
Love is Like an Antibiotic to a PTSD Infection.
I wish I could say that our love will always bring our loved ones back. Sometimes the progress of the PTSD is too deep. But we love them all the same. We don’t love to get something back, we love because God is love and it is the most natural things to do. We are designed for it.
Knowing we are loved is like a lifeline thrown into the raging storm
to pull us into the safety of our households and relationships.
The PTSD Identity seeks to damage our self-worth. When others love us, we know we have inherent value; we can discover the goodness in ourselves and seek help and healing.
PTSD Wins When We Refuse to Forgive
Forgiveness is terribly hard to do. That is why it is a divine attribute. I have met many Christians who claim they can forgive anything except _________. They have a particular thing that has hurt them grievously or they comprehend a crime to be so bad as to be beyond redemption. This is, of course, a selfish heresy.
When Jesus teaches forgiveness there is never an asterisk where we get to exclude a particular sin or sinner. To believe that some sins are beyond God’s ability to forgive is to place a limitation on God’s grace. That gives you a small two-dimensional God you can keep in a box under your bed and take out and play with whenever you want to feel religious. Either God is God, or not.
One form of idolatry is to refuse to forgive;
we make the sin the focus of our attention instead of God.
If I feel I cannot forgive something now, then I need to pray for the grace to learn to honestly forgive. It may take years, but God has given me eternity to appreciate divine grace.
PTSD Seeks Unforgiveness
People with PTSD who sin against us can harm us grievously. Only people we truly love can hurt us the most grievously. It is natural to want to lash out and strike back, to make them hurt the way they have hurt us. We may even fool ourselves into thinking we will hurt less inside by making them hurt more.
If we want our loved ones back from the PTSD Identity, if we want the “Before” person, then we must not lash out at the “After” person with their PTSD symptoms. PTSD will try and provoke fights and insults so as to drive the wounded soul into greater isolation.
Forgiveness: Easier Said Than Done.
Try to remember the big picture: You want your loved one back, restored. Lashing back at them will not achieve that goal. Forgiveness is the road to healing for all parties.
Note: This does not mean roll over and be abused. If you are in physical danger, then you need a shelter plan. You can forgive a person who physically harms you, but it does not mean you necessarily should be together.
Hope Keeps Us All Alive
PTSD wants us to give up hope. When we do, the isolation becomes deeper and death approaches. PTSD wants us to give up in all of our relationships, quit trusting, and then die. PTSD hates hope. Hope can help diminish PTSD.
Hope affirms life. We need to never give up. We can deliver love, forgiveness, and hope to our cherished ones. They are all gifts of God’s grace.
If we seek to do God’s Will,
then we should be eager to deliver
Love, Forgiveness, and Hope
to someone who needs it.
We may be buffeted and smeared with mud in the process, but the delivery needs to be made if everyone – including you and I – are to heal.
PTSD is Not Hopeless
Unlike the Pod People and bodysnatching, we can often get our loved ones back from the PTSD Identity through Love, Forgiveness, and Hope.
The journey is a hard one. The person afflicted with PTSD soul wounds and the person who loves them can each become closer to God, more authentic human beings, as they make the journey away from PTSD and back to loving relationships.
Having PTSD can feel like I am a character in a science fiction novel. But unlike the people who get zapped in the novels, we can be restored to ourselves, our relationships, and to God.
(So much for keeping it all under 1000 words, eh? [ca. 1580, Yikes!]) Semper Pax, Dr. Z