PTSD Spirituality: Can Someone with PTSD Love?

Can a person with PTSD love another person? Can a person with PTSD allow themselves to be loved? Can a person with PTSD have healthy and loving relationships? I Love this Guy and He Loves Me!

The short answer: Yes!

The longer answer: Yes, but it can be complicated.

PTSD attacks love, attacks hope, attacks life. At the same time, knowing what PTSD attacks also tells us how to defend ourselves from PTSD attacks. Life, hope, and love, can help us heal and then thrive in spite of our PTSD. We should also throw in a dash of forgiveness, too.

Unfortunately, there is no quick light switch to flip, or a magical pill to swallow, that cures us from PTSD. This is especially true when we factor in our relationships with others. On the question of cure, see Two Groups State PTSD is 100% Curable.

PTSD seeks to alienate us from our healthy relationships, isolate us, and then harm us as much as it can. Those are the three goals of PTSD. They are also the types of attacks that PTSD makes upon us. For more on PTSD’s Three Goals, see PTSD’s Goal #1, PTSD’s Goal #2, PTSD’s Goal #3, and Finals Points on PTSD’s Goals.

Healthy relationships include a spiritual component. For those readers who are of the Catholic persuasion, we know that marriage is a sacrament, which means that it is a relationship predicated upon the grace and reality of God. This is why the Catholic Church can often be difficult, if not outright obsessive, about divorce. Divorce in the context of the sacramental marriage also means the fracturing of a graced relationship with God. If a sacramental marriage is healthy, the grace element serves to amplify the love between the partners.

Healthy relationships also include ranges of forgiveness in all of its vastness.

PTSD Hates Forgiveness.

There are not enough words to describe the wide arena which encompasses the world of forgiveness. Much like love, forgiveness is a continuing experience in whose depths we can only try to immerse ourselves but never fully plumb.

Frequently, we need to not only forgive others, but to forgive ourselves. PTSD wants us to feel we can never risk or experience forgiveness.  Like love, forgiveness is also a grace.

Please note that forgiveness is not the caricature of grace by which some attempt to dismiss it. Forgiveness does not mean we can just forget what happened and not be affected by it anymore.  Forgiveness is not permission for someone (or myself) to go on sinning and harming others.

Forgiveness allows us to set aside hatred and despair.

Forgiveness allows us to seek grace, accept love, and continue the journey of sanctification which (hopefully) describes our life with or without the wounds of PTSD.

Forgiveness does not mean we suddenly become chummy pals with the person or institution who wounded us.

Forgiveness requires love. The more we can be open to love (and I understand this is not always a simple thing to do), the more we can forgive others as well as ourselves, and continue healing from our PTSD soul wounds.

Is it easy? Nothing’s easy.

Can Love Help PTSD? Can Love Fail PTSD?

Genuine love can help to repel the effects of PTSD.

Genuine love can help us to heal from our PTSD.

That said, there are no guarantees, even when we factor in love. Even the strongest antibiotics do not always eliminate an infection.  Yet, even when strong infections are resistant to antibiotics the doctors do not give up on employing antibiotics in the treatment plan. Likewise, even though PTSD can be resistant to love, we strive to combine our love with hope, in our efforts to heal from the ravaging consequences of PTSD.

We are each individuals and we vary from one another. There is uniqueness to each of us. We are not all pre-programmed robots who always respond in the exact same way no matter what situation we encounter (with the possible exception of Marco Rubio).

Our individuality matters. We don’t join our lives in marriage with just anyone who happens to be available. Some individuals appeal to us, many others do not…many many others do not (did I mention MANY do not?).

So, just as there are no guarantees that we will be healed through the authentic love of others, conversely, there is no guarantee that love will NOT help us to heal and thrive.

Anecdotally, in my work with PTSD survivors, love always seems to help to some degree. It may not create the situation we fully want, but it always does help to some extent.

Love makes an immense difference in healing from soul wounds.

Love is an ongoing reality which can sustain us against all sorts of adversity.

Just because we suffer from the PTSD soul wound does not mean we are irretrievably broken. An individual who suffers from PTSD is capable of loving another person, they may need to realize first that they are themselves lovable, that they can be loved.

Tied in with this is the reality that if we can learn that we can be loved, and that we can actually love one another, then we can further realize we are redeemable.

When we discover we are redeemable, our chances of healing goes up.

When we discover we are lovable, our chances of accepting love increase.

This is, of course, not always easy. If it were easy, you’d not have scoured the internet to try and understand why someone you care about has become so distant and unloving.

So we come back to the question: Can a person with PTSD have healthy and loving relationships?

Yes. A person with PTSD can still love and be loved. It’s usually a journey.

Having PTSD does not rule out the ability to love.

Semper Pax, Dr. Z

(I’ve been sick again, even more than my usual day to day amounts. Two great things about being chronically ill: First, I get great parking! Second, being chronically ill is a consistent way to lose weight!

In other news: I fell down the stairs and am delighted I did not break anything, except for the bruised ego and other general bruises. On top of all that I’ve had throat problems again. I started trying to “write” this essay using voice software and had to give up. This essay is not quite where I wanted to take it, but in the big picture, I think I will declare “victory” and post it before I try my next set of stairs…Gadzooks! It’s always something, innit?!

Don’t forget, You Have Value.)

 

 

Comments

  1. And Marco Rubio needs to read this post, methinks! 😉

  2. Forgiveness and Gratitude are fundamental choices for life. For me, they are a way of living. There are days when choosing them is difficult, however it is always rewarding.

    Thank you for your insights and wisdom!

  3. Thank you so much for this! The words on forgiveness are timely for Lent, the Year of Mercy, and where I’m at with healing. Thank you also for reiterating that PTSD does not mean people cannot love or be loved–that is the most heart-breaking and difficult stigma in all of this. Peace and prayers to you!

    • Hello, The Season of Lent is certainly the right time to contemplate forgiveness, not only of others but also of ourselves. As God-created beings we are automatically, inherently, worthy of love and redemption…and one might say, we are especially so if we have survived trauma. Who knows, perhaps this PTSD stigma is a modern form of stigmata? We become walking rorsach test for others’ compassion, all the while we carry our own cross through a daily Lent. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  4. I see Google has figured that I should pick up the Marco Rubio memoir. Fail.

    So good to read this and simply to hear from you. For some reason, your last sentence meant the most — “You have value.” 🙂

    So sorry to hear about the fall and that your illness decided to kick up again. To catch up, at the first of the year, I finally went for ECT for the depression (and also because of this study I read: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/826168). Intellectually, the ECT treatments have been quite cool. Bought Carrie Fisher’s book — “Shockaholic” — funny.

    Back to your essay, my 20-year relationship took *a lot* of bruising ’cause of the pit-filled PTSD journey, but we seem to be holding firm. 🙂

    All my best to you, and, as always, thank you for your interesting, one-of-a-kind perspecitive.

    BTW, I forwarded to my physician your article about PTSD and anger outbursts after I had an inappropriate response in the clinic. Thought it might help him understand.

    So great to hear from you!

    Harry

    • Hi Harry,
      Yeah, I don’t plan on picking up Rubio’s “memoir” myself (I am currently re-reading some James Clavell novels), unless it’s ghost written I can’t imagine that particular youngster being able to fill up more than a couple of pages….oops, I think I’m being “ageist”!
      I’ll be reading the ECT article you referenced. Thanks for that. Am glad your relationship is holding together. Even a couple of decades in, PTSD will still try to ruin things. Hope your physician found something useful in the anger article.
      As always, simply a treat to hear from you.
      Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  5. Great post, and much needed.

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