PTSD Spirituality: PTSD Tries to Change Our Hearts

PTSD wants to give us an involuntary heart transplant.

Tiger in GrassIt wants to replace a warm, beating, heart with a cold as ice, mechanical, heart. It wants to change out a heart that is loving, warm, and willing to be vulnerable, with a clockwork machine, which is indifferent to itself and others, and is so scared it refuses to risk opening up to others.

PTSD endeavors to destroy who we are and replace it with who we are not. PTSD desires to change our identity so that we seem like someone else to our loved ones. At times, we might even doubt who we are given how deeply PTSD has damaged us. We can become unrecognizable to ourselves and to others.

In the King James Version of the Old Testament Book of Proverbs we find one of its more famous verses,

Proverbs 23:7 :  As he thinketh in his heart, so is he.

I’ve seen it also translated as ,”As a Man Thinketh…” which is great, I guess, for all of the males in the room…for women, not so much.

To update the language a bit, without doing any violence to the original text, one could understand it as follows:

For as a person thinks in their heart, so they are.

The actual Hebrew text is a warning against the type of person who offers you welcoming hospitality, but actually does not want to offer it to you. In other words, the guy is a phony and trying to fool you into thinking he likes you. See this link if you are interested in more of the Possible English translations of Proverbs 23:7.

So What Does Proverbs 23:7 Have to Do With PTSD?

PTSD wants to change our hearts. Like the author of Proverbs, PTSD knows that what we hold in our heart will ultimately reflect who we really are. PTSD seeks to overwrite your real, loving, heart and replace it with the PTSD-Identity. The PTSD-Identity seeks to alienate all of our healthy relationships, engage in self-destructive behaviors, and make it appear as if we are taken over by our own Evil Twin.

PTSD wants us to feel like we are worthless. The more worthless it can make us feel, the more likely we are to engage behaviors that further damage us into a spiral of despair.

PTSD wants us to think in our hearts that we are hopeless, irredeemable, unworthy of being loved, and unable to love another.
PTSD wants us to close our hearts to others, ourselves, and God.

If, due to our traumatic pasts, we start to think in our hearts that we are permanently stained, then we are more likely to give up hope.

The damaging spiritual force wielded by trauma can be immense. Yet, the situation is not hopeless.

Love is like an antibiotic against much of PTSD. This does not mean we should abandon the medical side of PTSD treatment. It’s real and needs solid medical care. Love and Hope can help us reclaim who we think we are in our own hearts (and I don’t know of any pharmaceuticals which can infuse hope and love).

How can we reclaim some of the Love and Hope which should dwell in our hearts? There are decisions we should engage because they promote love and hope. And, there are activities we should disengage from because they deaden our heart to just who we really are and who we really can be.

We Should Disengage From:

  • Alcohol Abuse, drunk two nights in a row is abuse
  • Drug Abuse, both street drugs and misusing prescribed meds
  • Seeking Violence, looking for fights, watching snuff films
  • Consuming Porn, which just treats us all like meat puppets
  • Affairs, physical and virtual, prostitutes (see Meat Puppet above)

We Should Engage:

  • Writing, journal, no one else has to read it
  • List the characteristics of the type of person you wish you were
  • Artwork, especially drawing and sculpture, Create Something
  • Music, learn how to sing or play an instrument, Create Something
  • Exercise, take walks, work out (if physically able)
  • Help Another Person, do some dishes, mow someone’s yard

What We Should Risk:

  • Telling God about all the crap that has gone on and how it makes us feel
  • Having an honest conversation with no yelling or breakage
  • Making Commitments for Today and Tomorrow
What Sort of Commitments?
  • Commit for today and tomorrow that you can disengage from the items listed on the Disengage List above.
  • Commit for today and tomorrow that you will try at least one or two of the items on the Engage List above.
  • If you are strong enough, risk some of the relationships commitments in this essay.

The Disengage List, the Engage List, and the What We Should Risk List, can all be lengthened with additional items. Think about what you can add to the Disengage and Engage lists that would customize to your particular situation.

In a nutshell: creativity, honesty, and communication, are some of the areas we need embrace in order for our hearts to reflect who we can be.

Having PTSD, flinching from triggers, trying to understand what is happening to us, can eat at our hearts. PTSD wants to corrupt our hearts, and thus, corrupt us and harm our most precious relationships.

As mentioned near the top of this essay:

PTSD wants to give us an involuntary heart transplant.

But, we are not without hope. Even though PTSD wants to rip out our loving heart and install a cold, insensitive and spiteful, clockwork mechanism in its place, we are not required to passively submit.

Each of us can enter the fray to decide who will control our hearts. PTSD wants you to lie down and be consumed. Love and Hope know you are created in the Image and Likeness of God (Genesis 1:26) and this means you have value and do not have to give in to PTSD.

The traumatic experiences you have survived are indeed awful, no doubt about it. Having PTSD trying to replace your heart and who you really are is a horrendous experience…but, it is not an inevitable outcome. You can heal, find value in living, and truly come to the knowledge that God loves you and that you have value.

You can heal. It is not hopeless. You have value. Without you, the world is a lesser place.

Semper Pax, Dr. Z


  1. I am finding this all to be true. Ended up in the ER last week because I had given up hope in the last six months and because a couple of changes in medication turned out to be very bad. Got a terrific psychiatrist there who helped get me back on track. My goal is to stop alcohol and learn to play a new instrument. (One day at a time.)
    Thank you for reinforcing what I am SLOWLY learning.

    • Hello Doniabeth,
      First off, I am so glad you survived the events which took you to the ER. Medication changes, while sometimes necessary, can really send us for a loop sometime. I’ve had to not take some meds because their side-effects were worse than what they were trying to treat. Am also very glad your new doctor is one of the great ones.
      Stopping the alcohol is worth it. It can be pretty tough at times to stop, but overall it’s a good thing to keep in the past…congratulations for making that part of your plan.
      I envy you a bit in the opportunity to start learning a new instrument. Music is so cool, especially music that we either write or play ourselves; it’s a wonderful form of prayer. Music and art have made nice, healthy, replacements to me for alcohol. Reaching for a drawing pencil or a musical instrument has helped me to not use alcohol as a way to deal with PTSD.
      Congratulations for still being here and for moving forward in such a positive way.
      Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  2. Great post! Thank you for your wisdom.

    • Thank You! And, thank you for the healing and important work you are doing with the Univ. of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s May 19th-20th Trauma Conference to help veterans and their families. Your work helps people to stay alive.
      Semper Pax, Dr. Z

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