Concerning the possibility of esoteric manifestations due to PTSD, the second question was: What if because of the pain it allowed you to have premonitions? To engage this question we need to look at premonitions, insights, and prophecy. When are these experiences likely to be connected to our PTSD pain and when are they likely to be authentic? Are there connections to Despair, Hope, or Compassion for Others?
Learning From Our Pain
What some people call premonitions usually falls into a category of enhanced insights and the ability to reliably predict how certain events will lead to particular outcomes. If there is an insight directly influenced by the Holy Spirit then we begin to speak of prophecy.
If one can overcome PTSD’s desire for us to sink into despair, become isolated, and then get killed (and those things are not easy to overcome), then we can possibly put our suffering to good use.
While we do not seek to suffer or generate inauthentic trauma in the hopes of esoteric insights, we can still learn from our suffering. Ideally, we would learn from all of our experiences, especially the ones which are most genuine and authentic. As mentioned before, if we go out of our way to create our own suffering, we are not likely to receive genuine insights.
Sharing Compassion, Sharing Wisdom
One of the redemptive suffering aspects of PTSD is that we can become more compassionate and caring for others. This compassion matures into genuine concern for others and may extend to an ability to foresee probable outcomes.
Thus, we may be able to better “connect the dots” when we look at a situation.
To an outsider it may look like a premonition, to ourselves it is an insight or flash of intuition. We learn from our experiences and learn how to apply those insights beyond our own narrow parameters. Some people may refer to this as a benefit from going to the “School of Hard Knocks.”
In my 50s, I may be able to foresee an outcome that a kid in their 20s cannot perceive. Likewise, someone in their 70s or 80s can help me foresee something that I don’t. They have more information and experience to go on than I do. Is this a sort of mystical knowledge? Sometimes it feels mystical, but it is usually the result of wisdom accrued by benefit of survival. Is it possibly mystical? Yes, that possibility does exist. After all, wisdom and mysticism usually go together.
We can find meaning in our suffering, especially if it is suffering we did not inflict on ourselves. The experience of that meaning allows us to sometimes see how things are going to unfold before others figure it out. Some people will call that a premonition.
Wounded Healer, Elder, Bodhisattva, Sponsor
Over time, years or decades, we may be able to transform our pain into wisdom for the benefit of others. There is no guarantee this will happen. And, if it happens or not, we still will keep the pain itself, it does not usually dissipate.
In some cases we may become a “Wounded Healer” who can help others understand and survive situations we ourselves have been through. In these cases, our chronological age is a matter of indifference. If a kid in his 20s has survived cancer, he can give me good advice and guidance if I should have cancer later in life. People who already have survived and still carry a wound, even soul wounds, can serve as an elder to those experiencing that wound for the first time.
This idea of the Wounded Healer appears to transcend religions; it appears across a spectrum of religious thought in terms of theory and practice. In Jewish and Christian terms once can absorb what is going on in Psalm 51. In Christian terms we can speak of the “Wounded Healer” and redemptive suffering. In shamanic terms we speak of an Elder or Senior Shaman, in Mahayana Buddhism we speak of the Bodhisattva. In Alcoholics Anonymous there is a more experienced survivor of alcoholism, a “Sponsor,” who helps those struggling with alcohol. This is rather important since many people who suffer from PTSD develop alcohol or other drug problems.
In cases of prophecy, if it is biblically based, it will focus more on the here and now and not so much on the future.
Real prophecy informs us on how to mature into an authentic relationship with God right now.
Real prophecy teaches us how to live in the covenant, how to treat ourselves, others, and the Creation, with the respect and compassion God would have us learn.
Real prophecy is not about fortune telling, getting the lottery numbers, or predicting national elections or geo-politics: It is about learning to love God and the Creation full-time, all the time, right now.
Biblical prophecy focuses on how to treat the most vulnerable members of our society, which in ancient society were the widows and orphans.
Yeah, But, the Televangelist Said…
True, there is some razz-a-ma-tazz prophecy about the far future, but by then we will be dead anyway. Maybe we could risk trusting God to handle the far future for us.
People who focus on the far future form of prophecy, who demand to know when (or if) the rapture will come, tend to want to ignore the right now, get right with God, prophecy. Why? Because it means they would have to treat people with love and compassion right now. It would mean the televangelists could not keep hitting you up for money. That’s money you need for your family.
PTSD & Pain-Induced Premonitions? Prophecy?
So, can the pain associated with PTSD cause premonitions? I suppose it is possible. I, myself, am more comfortable with a term like “insight” as opposed to “premonition.” Regardless of how one categorizes it as a vocabulary item, the ability to make sense of things in the past or to predict what will probably happen in the future, can be a positive side-effect of learning to deal with PTSD. Yet, having PTSD and the pains that go with it does not necessitate premonitions or insights.
If we are discussing prophecy as a result of our interaction with the Holy Spirit, then we must remember two things: First, we cannot choose to turn prophecy on or off at our own whim. We work for the Holy Spirit, not the other way around. Second, genuine prophecy will affirm the lives and value of the most vulnerable people in our society.
If someone’s prophecy does not help the poor or vulnerable, then that prophecy does not derive from the Holy Spirit.
In Sum: Our Pain Can…
While we don’t seek out pain or tragedy, we can learn from it. If we are able to transform our pain into compassion and hope, then we have spun gold from wet straw. If we avoid despair we can learn how to be more compassionate. The more compassionate we become, the more authentic we become in our own existence.
Over time this suffering, this pain that inhabits us, can be used to help others on a similar trail. Our compassion and striving for the Good, can plant hope in others so they will not give up, so they will not despair.
The pain from our PTSD can indeed provide us insights, some might say premonitions, about the future, or what we can expect given certain circumstances.
Yet, we need the caution to know that this is not a mechanical process. Just like we cannot force God into action by reciting certain prayers nor performing certain rituals, neither can we turn on the ability to foresee the future. In terms of spiritual gifts outlined in the Bible, once we start trying to have a spiritual gift, at that moment we are most likely to lose it.
In the bigger picture: PTSD can be the result of pain. And, PTSD generates additional pain. If we avoid despair we may grow into wisdom. That wisdom may help us to better discern the future and to help others who are on paths similar to our own.
We can always hope. No one can take our hope away, only we can discard it. Stay hopeful and know your life has value no matter what.
Semper Pax, Dr. Z (In our next essay we will take on the third question: Could these changes to the mind and soul take on a physical aspect of let’s say health issues?)