We have examined the three toxic goals of the PTSD-Identity (links to each separate essay are included further down). As we finish that topic off (for now) we still need to ask about the sequencing of these three life-destroying goals. Additionally, can we use this information to pursue healing and not only use it too quantify damage?
Before getting started, let’s list the links to the previous essays on the Three Goals of the PTSD-Identity.
Now that we possess an awareness of how PTSD seeks to destroy us, we need to examine two final points. First, what can we know about the sequencing of the toxic PTSD goals? Second, knowing what we know about the destructiveness of the PTSD-Identity’s three goals, can we utilize this information in a positive, healing way?
1. Can The Toxic Goals Overlap Or Are They Rigidly Sequential?
Will these awful PTSD outcomes always happen in a strict one, two, three, order? Will part three only happen when parts one and two have concluded? If a PTSD-sufferer is caught up into PTSD’s second goal, does that mean they will no longer have more damage from PTSD’s first goal? You get the picture of the kind of sequencing questions we have here.
Overlapping Sequences, Not a Step Function
One needs to note that these goals can be overlapping. While they are to some degree sequential, they can still overlap one another. This means while a person may start to isolate themselves (the 2nd PTSD Goal) they may also still be alienating some of their healthy relationships (the 1st PTSD Goal). Even during the third goal, where a person with PTSD is physically harming themselves, they may still be alienating their final relationships (1st Goal) and even further isolating themselves (2nd goal).
Thus, while the three goals of PTSD tend to occur in a first, second, and third sequence, they do not ordinarily stop before the next one starts. This a long way to say they are an overlapping, usually sequential, set of PTSD goals. They are not a step function where one must end before the next begins.
Goal three is reinforced by the first two goals and can be expected to reinforce the alienation and isolation of the PTSD’s first two goals.
In the toxic spin to destruction, each of the goals PTSD has for us serves to reinforce and buttress one another. It can be likened to the bumpers in a pinball machine. The ball hits the bumper and gets new energy as it is propelled to another set of bumpers. Each of the noxious PTSD goals attempts to bounce us into another damaging PTSD goal…and we spiral deeper and deeper into loss and destruction. Game Over.
2. We Can “Walk Back” Some of the Damage
While the subject matter of the previous three essays on the toxicity of the PTSD-Identity’s goals is a rather grim range of material to survey, there are also some bright points embedded in the narrative. We need not despair.
If we find that we are harming ourselves LESS, we are walking back PTSD’s Third Goal.
If we find that we are risking social interaction MORE than we used to do, then we are walking back PTSD’s Second Goal.
If we find that we are RESTORING our alienated relationships and/or at least engaging some NEW healthy relationships, then we are walking back PTSD’s First Goal.
It can be pretty awful to survey the range of damage by which PTSD seeks to harm us. Yet, understanding these potential outcomes means we can also strive to avoid them. If we cannot fully avoid them, then we can still strive to heal these breeches into our soul.
Love, forgiveness, and compassion can help provide a healing environment for the PTSD-sufferer. Those who people who love or care for the PTSD-sufferer are often themselves soul-bruised as the PTSD compels the survivor to alienate them.
Sometimes, the relationship is damaged beyond mortal repair. The harm caused by the PTSD is too great and the relationship does not heal, but instead shatters.
The shatter may throw out its own PTSD-causing shrapnel, wounding those who care about the original suffering person. This is why we must be careful that we are not ourselves damaged beyond repair and start a new round of PTSD damage and shrapnel. One needs to watch out that they don’t then throw their own PTSD shrapnel on others, like their kids, thus creating a downward inter-generational PTSD spiral.
It is never easy to decide when and if a relationship is beyond human repair. We pray about the situation, journal about it, and seek third-party counsel. Then, we strive to make the best set of decisions we can.
But, knowing that PTSD has these three goals for us, that it wants to harm us, enables us to seek to roll-back any gains it might have made against us.
If we know what we are up against, then we can better prepare ourselves for the journey back to love, hope, and relationship.
Staying Proactive and Staying Aware
We can take some practical steps to prevent PTSD from gaining ground in its race to damage our soul and ruin us.
We ought to write down in our journals how PTSD seeks to damage us in particular. Explore how it has damaged our relationships. Survey how it tries to force us into deeper isolation.
If we are aware of how PTSD seeks to encourage us to engage in self-harming actions, like cutting oneself, burning oneself, too much drinking, porn, reckless actions, etc., then we know when we are tempted into those activities that it is the PTSD trying to override the love and grace God has placed in your soul. While each of us as trauma-survivors will share aspects in common, we are also unique individuals. This means we are not always susceptible to the same destructive temptations.
Just as we should do with our PTSD Triggers, we should keep a written list in our journals of what we are most vulnerable to. If you have someone with whom you can share the deepest trust, you can tell them verbally how PTSD tries to destroy you (This has an aspect of risk to it as not everyone is really able to listen, not judge us, and be able to listen with love and compassion).
Regardless of whether we cannot share this information with another person or not, we should explicitly talk it over with God. In our prayer life, we should name these vulnerabilities and temptations to God. We need not dwell on them, but simply state them. Then ask God to protect us from these evils.
If I know beforehand I am susceptible to a destructive PTSD-behavior like excessive drinking when I am under a lot of stress, then I can better fend off that toxic behavior.
In Sum: The more I understand how PTSD is trying to destroy me, then the more I can take effective precautions and try to walk back the toxic destructiveness of the PTSD-goal.
We can keep a “score card” of sorts to help us avoid the toxins.
In my own life, I am tempted to seek too much isolation from other members of the human race. I have my reasons for this. But, in order to prevent PTSD from pushing me into destructive isolation, I go out at least once a week to a coffee shop and spend at least 30 minutes there. At times it is easy, other times it is very difficult. When I first started, it was very difficult to be around other people whom I did not know for even five or ten minutes.
When I am able to be out in society like that, I walk back PTSD’s effort to fully isolate me. If I am tempted to too much alcohol and yet I still refuse to get plastered, then I am walking back PTSD’s attempt to harm me. If I can walk back that destructive behavior then I prevent further damage to my most important relationships. In fact, those relationships become healthier.
Once we figure out how PTSD is trying to destroy us, we can begin to set personal goals that help us to engage in healthy relationships and to avoid seeking total isolation. Once we get it figured out, we can engage in physically healthy activities (and not physically destructive activities).
In the Image of God
Even as PTSD attempts to kill us, we can choose life. We never have to give up. Each of us has value and is worthy to both love and be loved.
As we walk back PTSD’s three toxic goals, we become more authentically human and we rise to more authentically fulfill our potential as having been created in the image of God.
Semper Pax, Dr. Z