Artwork and any form of creativity can disrupt the PTSD Destruction Cycle. As survivors of trauma we are often silenced by society. PTSD wants us silenced so it can kill us. Artwork and creativity helps us find our voices, these liberated voices encourage the healing of the PTSD soul wound.
What is the PTSD Destruction Cycle?
It is where the PTSD-Identity tries to “overwrite” your soul, deprive you of self-worth, and motivate you to engage in dangerous behaviors. When that happens then PTSD can disrupt our most important relationships, isolate the individual, and then kill that person fast or slow. This cycle is very difficult to overcome alone because we often find we are unable to verbally articulate what we are experiencing.
Society Reinforces Our Silence
Whether our trauma was caused by military service or if it occurred in a civilian environment our modern culture encourages us to swallow the trauma, don’t admit to the damage it is still causing, and keep the story to ourselves.
In the military, with only a few exceptions, troops are still encouraged to remain quiet about how they feel in regards to all of the terror and violence that has swirled around them. Troops who were planning on a military career know that if they admit to stress and its side-effects they will usually receive poor fitness reports and may find their careers cut short when they are not promoted.
On the civilian side of trauma, people are all too frequently told to “Get Over It!” They are told that compared to soldiers they have not really suffered. Civilian trauma survivors learn to keep silent about the deep inner turmoil. They learn that to keep their jobs they must paint on a happy face for public consumption. Frequently, we are not allowed to grieve and mourn the fact of the trauma itself nor how the trauma has further damaged our ability to be in relationships. All too often, our friends and acquaintances want us to act like we were before: As if our child wasn’t killed, As if we had not been diagnosed with cancer. We learn that very few people are willing to be helpful and compassionate beyond three days. Beyond the third day we are often labeled as self-absorbed pests who are too selfish to know that other people have suffered too.
Whether our PTSD comes from the military or civilian environments, our cultures want us to be silent.
When we are silent, incommunicado, PTSD can flourish.
For both civilian and military trauma survivors, we often find denial amongst our peers and the relevant authorities. It’s easier for them to say we are exaggerating or telling lies than have to deal with the truth about trauma. If they dealt with the truth they might have to do something about the trauma and they might have to offer long term care to the PTSD survivor. Heaven forbid that they should manifest compassion for more than three days in a row.
PTSD will flourish when we keep our silence, when society enforces our silence. This means victims and PTSD sufferers are deprived of their voices, their expressions. This enforced silence is a type of solitary confinement – even if we are walking in a crowd of people. In this confining silence PTSD finds fertile soil for self-harm, self-loathing, despair, substance abuse, infidelity and loss of healthy relationships.
Striving to Regain Our Voices
We need to be able to project our voices in two time zones.
The First Time Zone is that time in our past that, whether a single incident, or a series of incidents over time, inflicted the trauma on us.
The Second Time Zone is our present and how our PTSD symptoms are trying to drag us further and further into the Destruction Cycle.
We need to re-discover our wounded voices so as to articulate the traumatic events of our past, and also how the current symptoms of the PTSD soul wound continues to traumatize and ruin us in the present.
The PTSD soul wound has a better opportunity to heal if we can articulate the traumatic moments of both back then and right now.
Our New Voices are Not Always Vocal
We are not always able to go from years of keeping silent about our traumatic experiences to being able to articulate those experiences with words. Few of us who have kept silence for decades can suddenly flip a switch and speak clear cut sentences and paragraphs about our traumatic experiences. Those who have survived trauma more recently, say in the last ten years, have a better chance of being able to talk about and express their traumatic experiences.
We can progress to fuller and fuller articulation. It is hard, it is time consuming, like physical therapy, it can be painful, but it can over time liberate us from the silence our society has inflicted upon us.
Any Form of Creativity or Participation Liberates Our Voices
When we are creative, or even when we experience someone else’s creative work, we begin to chip away at the ironclad cocoon of silence which has imprisoned us.
Rarely do we find 100% of our voice in just one moment.
The rest of our life is sanctification journey of finding and exercising of our voice.
At some stage in our sanctification journey we may even be able to help others liberate their own voices.
Not everyone will value the sanctity and meaningfulness of our traumatic soul wounds. Our experiences are like pearls, and frankly, quite a few people are like swine. Yet, over time, we can learn who is trustworthy enough to share our voices with. We learn which individuals will respect our wounds and which individuals just want to be peeping toms who get off on other people’s trauma.
Every time we are able to exercise our voice, we weaken the grip of the PTSD soul wound.
We may take our first steps through the venues of artwork and music. We may find our voice through physical exercise and taking long walks. We may find drawing, sculpture, or painting as useful steps that heal us and help us peel away the shackles of silence. We may be able to eventually write some poetry or fiction where most readers will not think of trauma, but we know the deeper meanings.
Some of us will find our voices in writing. Others will find their voices in music. There is no single right way to find our voices and begin the process of healing the PTSD soul wound. There is no real wrong way to find our voice, except one. The only wrong way to find your voice is to not seek the means to express yourself. In art, there is healing.
Your life has value, you matter. Your story has value, it matters as well.
If there is no one you can trust with the deeply personal aspects of your PTSD soul wound, then know that God is there, always there. Create an expression of your then and now time zones for God.
Over time you may find human beings you can trust. But never let the lack of another trustworthy human being keep you from writing, sculpting, composing, crafting, walking, or even knitting, as ways to process through the memories and regain your own self from the PTSD which seeks to cripple all of us.
When we are creative, and when we appreciate the creativity of others, at those moments we are healing from the PTSD soul wound.
Semper Pax, Dr. Z