PTSD Spirituality: Can Love Flourish Where There Is PTSD?

Can a person with PTSD love or be loved?

The short answer is “Yes.” The longer answer is also “Yes” and would probably fill a couple of books (and might best be expressed in novels).

PTSD Hates Love

PTSD seeks to corrode relationships. PTSD hates love. One of the ways it manifests its hatred towards love is in its attempts to destroy healthy, love-based, relationships. It endeavors to harm these healthy relationships through actions that diminish the meaning of love and the valuation of personal worth and trust. PTSD seeks to alienate us from our relationships and encourages us to self-harm.

But There is Very Good News!

It is always important to register that PTSD does not automatically exclude the ability to love and be in a healthy relationship.

A person who experiences PTSD can both love someone else and can also allow themselves to be loved by that particular someone else.

Having PTSD does not automatically exclude us from being able to love and being able to accept the love of another.
Even if one or the other partners has PTSD love can flourish and help us heal.

Many people with PTSD have healthy, loving relationships.

As an aside, I should mention that when I use the words “love” and “relationship” the meanings of those words signify a lot more than just having sexual intercourse with someone else. While sexual relations can intensify a loving relationship, sexual relations do not by themselves define a loving relationship…which is why I suppose that a Viagra prescription neither cures PTSD nor ensures a happy, loving relationship.

And, as an aside to the above aside: Sexual relations with one’s spouse can be beautiful and part of the healing of PTSD. I am rather “old school” about these things and understand that sex with one’s spouse is more than physical. It can be sacramental, spiritual, metaphysical. The sharing of love, vulnerability, openness and trust, together can help to heal the corrosion that PTSD tries to insert into our most healing and healthy of relationships.

But, Putting Those Above Asides to the Side…

An honest, open, love-soaked relationship can help us heal from our PTSD. We are less likely to self-harm or fail to see our own inherent self-worth when we share a meaningful love with another person.

Will such a healthy, positive, supporting relationship guarantee a complete healing from PTSD?

No. There are no guarantees. I wish there were.

A healthy relationship cannot cause a traumatic experience from our past to simply vanish as if it never happened. What has happened has happened (Gosh! I don’t know if that sentence sounds really stupid or really profound!? Profoundly Stupid?! Yikes!) But, regardless, love can inoculate us against the worst of PTSD’s symptoms and its insistence that we abandon hope and begin to self-harm.

Authentic love, like an authentic faith, cannot rewrite a traumatic past as if it had never occurred. If we took a wound, lost a limb, gained yet another scar, our love cannot unmake those events. But an authentic love, like an authentic faith, can help us heal from the wounds and not be controlled by them.

We can move forward, cognizant that at times we may feel the pain more some days than others. We can deeply know and acknowledge we have value and that we are worthy of someone else’s love.

We can risk greater openness and reveal our vulnerabilities.
We can risk trusting another member of the human race.
Through a journey of mutual love we can share our being with another.

We need not abandon authentic, meaningful love – the risk of happiness – because we have PTSD. Neither should we shun those with PTSD as if they cannot ever accept an honest, authentic, love.

Daring to be part of a loving relationship has all the risks and rewards – regardless of one’s PTSD.

Love, commitment, trust, are important and often violated or fail to find a foundation between people even when PTSD is not part of the picture.

Just as relationships where there is no PTSD may flourish or fail, the same holds true for relationships where PTSD is a factor. I have seen relationships whither away because of PTSD and I have seen relationships heal and flourish even though PTSD is present.

The good news is that having trauma and PTSD in the picture does not automatically disqualify us from loving another person or being loved by them.

We are all worthy of loving and healing.

You have value.

Semper Pax, Dr. Z

Comments

  1. Thank you for writing this post Dr. Z!

    • Hi, Yaz,
      Thank you very much. I still aim to write more in this direction. Sorry to say that my health has had me kicked to the curb these last several months and has really drained me. That said, I do hope to write more as I heal-up to some degree.
      Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  2. Mark Gebhard says:

    Peace to you, this my first post on PTSD. Suffering from PTSD is a special sharing in the cross of Christ. The path is a difficult one that leads to union and sharing in the life of Jesus if we embrace the cross. This is the first and biggest challenge step toward learning to live with PTSD and other chronic diseases that causes physical and mental pain. There is hope for the person and family who are also affected. Initially, when I learned that the pain I was suffering from a factory accident I tried to deny taking up my cross and following Jesus. This denial just made the affliction worse since I did not find meaning in it. For me, I had to sink to the depths of depression and addiction before surrendering to God. After deciding to unite my sufferings with Jesus on the cross, my life gradually began to change for the better. The pain has not gone away, but I now view it from a self-emptying and redemptive perspective. I still have good days and bad, but I feel with Jesus at the center of my life, I have found meaning and purpose in the midst of this suffering. Trust in God plays an important role in my carrying the cross that God has given me. My prayer for all brothers and sisters who suffer from PTSD and chronic illness is never to give up hope. Join your suffering with Christ and enter into the mystery of the redemption. God bless, Mark G.(Marquette University).

    • Hi Mark,
      Co-suffering with Jesus is one of the ways we derive meaning (and survivability) in the face of our trauma and subsequent PTSD. Our trauma can inspire us to life and love or to bitterness and death. Our spirituality does not make the pain go away, but it can certainly make our pain easier to bear…and, we can help others to bear their pain as well. You have some very valuable insights. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

    • I unite my sufferinf with Christ but I really do not belueve He gave my the cross of PTSD which come from a horrible abusive childhood, more than 1 rape and more than I can countcabusive tocic relationships. I say this because God did not and does ordain sin _ it came from thecenemy. My hope is that God uses the pain for His holy purposes. It does not give me a license to fall out of love walk. I pray ir all who suffer THIS that WE would be be always mindful that our dignity though it nay feel shattered it is not. We are inherently precious. The devil is a theif and he is delights on trying to convince us that it otherwise through painful convoluted emotiobs and peoples meannesa. Thiscis a battlefield and we must hold tight to our divinely created inage.

      We are precious, Children of a loving Gid and we deserve to have our needs met, we are lovable.

      • Hello Enjay,
        You are right: God does not create our suffering. When others harm us, it is not instigated by God; but God will help us through the pain that others cause. I tell my students that our faith will not magically make our suffering go away. If we lost an arm in an explosion, or if we have been raped, we do not become magically un-raped or grow an arm back because of our faith. But our faith can make our suffering more endurable, easier to bear. We can indeed co-suffer with Christ in the Paschal Mystery. In this way we actually become more Christ-like. In all of this we retain the image and likeness of God and hence our human dignity. As you say, we are indeed the precious Children of God.
        Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  3. I believe love can flourish where there is PTSD. Like creating a garden, we must care for the soil and plant seeds, then give them time to grow and eventually blossom. Not all seeds will survive. Not all will blossom. However, the practice of sowing the seeds of love helps to heal us all. PTSD is a like a weed in the garden, one with deep roots that we may have to keep plucking when it shows up above ground. And then keep nurturing the love seeds so they grow roots deeper than the weed of PTSD! Guess spring has put me in a gardening frame of mind.

    • Gardens give life. Gardens allow us to engage as co-creators, which allows us to feel the blessings of community and relationships – and ultimately love.

  4. Donia Peters says:

    Thank you for the reminder. After 7 years with PTSD I am finally getting this! “Love has not been good to me in my life, but I am starting to take a chance again, after learning the difference between toxic and healthy love.

    • Hello Donia, You are right that there sure is a difference between toxic and healthy love. That’s true even when there is not PTSD involved. And when PTSD is involved it can be an even greater challenge. That said, if one can begin to explore (and risk) a healthy loving relationship, then life (and love) look to be much better and far more enjoyable. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  5. Yes, it is!

  6. Love is truly the greatest power!

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