PTSD endeavors to ravage us in multiple ways. While there are a variety of ways it can damage us, there tend to be three things the PTSD-Identity strives to do on the spiritual level. PTSD has three goals: goals that are so toxic that they have the potential to destroy us. These three goals are so poisonous that not only do they harm the particular trauma survivor, but they also seek to harm those who care about them. And, the more we love and care about the trauma survivor, the more likely we are to get splashed by the PTSD-Identity’s three toxic goals.
This essay will examine the First Goal of the PTSD-Identity
The First Goal of the PTSD-Identity is to Damage/Destroy Healthy Relationships
Over the last few years I’ve written a few essays on the particular types of relationships that PTSD seeks to damage. In general there are four relationships we need to keep healthy and in good repair in order to keep PTSD from defeating us. They are the following: God, Communities, Creation, and the Self. When I teach my undergraduates about the fuller, biblical, meaning of the word “Peace” we examine relationships. Peace is more than the lack of physical violence. Peace is about being in a set of right relationships – and PTSD seeks to harm those relationship, thus destroying your peace. Click for the Peace Category here at PTSD Spirituality.
The more PTSD can harm our relationships, the more we are pushed into isolation. The more we alienate others through our PTSD behaviors, the more our healthy, right relationships are strained and damaged. Since healing from the spiritual damage of PTSD can at times be painful, many will opt for alienation instead. It too is painful, but choosing alienation is also a path of least resistance. As we become more isolated our relationships become more damaged and a cycle of damaged relationship and further isolation develops.
The further PTSD-behaviors can push us away from our healthy relationships, the easier it is for PTSD to remove us from any of our former healthy environments. This has a snow-balling effect: we may seek to self-medicate the pain and anxiety of PTSD with alcohol, drugs, porn, or trust-destroying activities. These activities, on the one hand, are sought out to try and alleviate the terrible aloneness, loss of self-worth, and confusion that PTSD inflicts upon us. On the other hand, these activities promote the very PTSD symptoms we seek to alleviate.
Since these behaviors also damage our families, friends, our employment, and our spiritual life, we may dig ourselves deeper into the mire of the alienation from our healthy relationships.
Our PTSD-Identity may alienate us from our family and employment communities (as well as our spiritual communities) and compel some of those communities to distance themselves from us, if only from self-preservation. Yet, it is important to remember, God does not abandon us.
Does God Shut Us Out?
The effects of the PTSD-Identity can cause us to feel as if God has abandoned us. We may feel as if we have become so soiled, through what we have done and/or what has been done to us, that God could not possibly forgive or love us.
The bottom line is that God does not abandon us.
Granted, God will not send a choir of angels to rejoice if we engage in negative PTSD-coping behaviors that cause alienation. It is no secret that God rejects sin, but still loves the sinner. The PTSD-Identity wants us to deny or forget that we are worthy of love and that we can love others.
If we feel as if God has rejected us because of the awful things we sometimes do to numb the pain of PTSD, then we need to pause, reflect, and keep some facets of our relationship with God clear. If we do awful things that cause alienation to any of our right relationships (God, Self, Communities, and the Creation) we may feel as if God has become more distant to us. Yet, God is not the one who has moved away, it is us – compelled by the PTSD-Identity.
We feel the distance to God widen because PTSD-behaviors set up barriers.
These obstacles seek to prevent us from being fully open to the warmth of God’s love.
God is always still present and loving us. But PTSD-behaviors create barriers to our ability to be more completely open to God’s love. PTSD-behaviors, especially those that destroy families and healthy relationships (which is pretty much all of the PTSD-Identity’s behaviors now that I think about it) reduce our sensitivity to God’s love.
As we are distanced from being able to know God is Love we also become more cynical, suspicious, and lose our trust of our own self and of others. Each new layer of the various negative PTSD-behaviors renders us less sensitive to the love of others and we feel more personally worthless.
As this progression develops it begins to reinforce itself and the PTSD-sufferer loses more and more of their healthy relationships and becomes all the more alienated from love.
If we are damaged by PTSD-behaviors, then those behaviors spit hot shrapnel out on those who care for us. Those people have no requirement to hang around for us to recover (although I hope they would make some honest effort).
The pernicious effects of our PTSD-behavior can cause our loved ones to doubt their own self-worth, relationships, and closeness to God.
Most folks will give saving the relationships and one another a lot of effort. But they do not have to drown into their own, new PTSD out of misplaced loyalty. They should make a strong effort to understand, forgive, and love, but they are never required to sink into the mire so far that they themselves drown.
Yet, Hope and Healing Persists
Still, we are not without hope. We know that with God, love and healing are always possible.
Many of us will manage to return and learn to love again. Many of us can return as we realize that no matter how poor our behavior, that we can be loved, that God has not abandoned us.
No Mechanical Solutions
There are no mechanical solutions. There are things we can do that will encourage receptiveness to love and healthy relationships. Yet, we are never guaranteed that they will produce the results we might want. Unfortunately, PTSD still destroys relationships and frequently leads to self-harm or suicide.
Much like the biblical Book of Job, there is no obvious solution set that will guarantee complete recovery and understanding to everyone. There will be times we don’t understand our own suffering or the suffering of others.
Sometimes there will be a recovery of the ability to love and be loved. At times, a PTSD-sufferer is able to return to his or her original relationships. But it is not every time. Sometimes, families and couples reunite, other times they do not. It is not my intention to discourage readers, but I should still be as upfront and realistic as I can.
Healing can and does occur, I’ve seen it.
The more we learn about how PTSD attempts to damage our relationships, the better we are prepared to withstand its seductions. There is much that remains to be understood about the spiritual dimensions of PTSD. The PTSD journey is a long and hard path. The trail runs in two directions: descending into alienation or ascending into loving relationships. The more we understand, the better prepared we are to come to a fuller, more loving experience of God.
Semper Pax, Dr. Z
[Essays for Goals #2 and #3 are on the drawing board and – hopefully – are soon to be completed. Thank you to each of you who have encouraged me to continue to write and heal as part of my own journey.]