Dedicated to Alan
The last six weeks of my life I have been desperately trying to get my family into our new home. This has entailed an immeasurable amount of DIY, from gardening, to painting, to the polishing of floorboards. The benefit of this laborious paint-stroking and on-and-off-waxing has been two-fold:
1) I have had a great deal of time to consider the merits and causes of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, otherwise known as PTSD,
2) I’m finally ready to take on the Cobra Kai at the next All-Valley Championship.
When assessing what I consider to be spiritual problems, I generally pay only minimal attention to the possible intervention of secular topics, for whether the secularist chooses to believe it or not, his spirit is as influential in his life as it is for the religious man. Reader Alan, however, is a non-believer. He suffers from PTSD and depression, and discussing only the spiritual viewpoint is unlikely to help him, which I sincerely hope to do. It is for this reason that I am breaking my views on PTSD into two categories, and each is independent of the other. They are The Mental, and The Spiritual.
When we experience extreme trauma, as occurs in living the extremities of war, something undeniably different occurs in our mind. It’s not like the experience of the daily mind, which causes us to live in a near-zombified state, more attentive to our thoughts than our surroundings. In moments of extreme trauma our mind experiences a state of being that is extraordinarily uncommon.
To understand the mind-state to which I am referring, consider what happens to you psychologically in a car crash. You are driving along, your mind is wandering to-and-fro, when you are suddenly alerted to a new state of being. Your mind, no longer asleep but now entirely sharpened, is not concerned with pointless and unproductive thoughts, but is entirely in the moment. Everything moves quickly, yet also in Matrix-like slow motion, and the mind takes it all in, aware of every dream-like detail.
For small rear-enders you are likely to be a little shaken up, but still pretty okay. For larger incidents in which you fear for your life, the psychological impact will be far worse, and you will probably experience shock.
This latter example is but a morsel of what happens to the mind when it experiences extreme trauma. The mind, not used to being completely alert, suddenly awakens, and it does so not to positivity but to the most severe kind of negativity. Due to its alerted state it takes in every detail with acute accuracy, and the effects of the experience multiply to uncommon levels, resulting in uncommon emotions.
How then, once experienced, can we overcome the suffering caused by the permanent imprint of these experiences?
Without resorted to spiritual methods, the answer is ironically similar to the cause, but unfortunately far more difficult to achieve. It is, of course, to free the mind of the thoughts that haunt it. It is to return to the state of being that was felt while experiencing the trauma in the first place. This is not done to re-live the experiences with the hope of overcoming them (as some therapists would have you do), but to fill the mind with current experiences, and to refresh it endlessly in every moment.
Although trauma is real in the hearts and minds of those who experience it, once it has occurred it is not the trauma that continues to affect us, but the recollections of and associations to it. An incident is recalled and all conscious presence in the moment is lost. While there is no danger, and there is no threat, yet the sufferer sufferers anyway. This is what happens with PTSD.
What the aforementioned experience is, is a negative state of being. You are no longer living in the moment but escaping it to live in your thoughts. When you don’t think about the trauma you don’t experience it, and joy and happiness become possible. But when you do think about it everything goes to shit, and this is is why one of the common traits of PTSD sufferers is avoidance. However by trying not to think about it you are most definitely on the right path, and you simply haven’t learned the mechanisms to achieve it.
So how do you stop thinking about it?
Not easily. Zen masters have practiced non-being (or being) for generations and have never achieved it without struggle. What they have all learned is mechanisms for returning to reality. They do it through intense meditation and deep mental practice, as they learn to recognise when their mind is drifting and to pull it back to the moment.
A Zen master is as present as the rest of us in body, but even more present in mind. His thoughts do not run away with him, nor he with them. As quickly as they come to him, he lets them go. He is as thoughtless as you were in your traumatic moment, except that he is free of himself. Some call this egolessness, and others call it being, but what is really boils down to is living thought-free.
So should people like Alan simply ‘let go’ of the memories that cloud their thoughts? That would ultimately be the goal. For the man who does not believe in the spiritual the only solution is to free himself of his mind, and to just be. He has no choice but to learn to live in the moment. He needs to learn to let the thoughts go as easily as they come, and he needs to do this through extensive daily meditation and simple, stress-free living. His priority in life must be mindlessness. It is the only way.
We’ve all heard of Born Again Christians. While many understand this to mean they have been ‘born again in life’, its intended meaning is that they have undergone a spiritual rebirth. This is necessary as the spirit records everything that happens to it, whether good, bad, or inconsequential. Being born again cleanses the soul of past experiences and gives it a new spiritual beginning, hence why they say Born Again [spiritually as a] Christian.
Traumatic experiences, such as those that cause PTSD, are pure evil. We don’t get PTSD from seeing two people fall in love on a ferris wheel, but by being exposed to the worst extreme of the spiritual spectrum. Evil permeates the soul, and in the absence of its extreme (good), it leaves its mark on the life of the sufferer.
Experiencing evil brings us to a state of spiritual imbalance, tilting us affirmatively towards hell. The resolution must be a spiritual one, and it must counter the imbalance that has taken place.
Think of it as a scale. On one side of the scale (the evil side) there is a lone weight knocking it off-balance. On the other side (the good side) there is either nothing or much less countering it. The imbalance can be corrected in one of two ways. An item of equal or greater weight can be placed on the good side, or the weight can simply be removed from the evil side.
Barring divine intervention, attempting to balance the scale with goodness requires time and a very open and positive mind. Life will need to be lived with an appreciation for all of it’s goodness, and a sincere belief that in spite of the evil, life and people are fundamentally good. The catch-22 of this approach is that due to the events that have caused PTSD, there is a natural inclination towards negativity and suffering. Life seems bad because bad has entered the soul, and this can blind us to what is truly good.
The best way to address spiritual imbalance is to undergo a spiritual rebirth. Spiritual rebirth can only be achieved by turning yourself over to God and allowing him to enter and cleanse your spirit. God is the ultimate source of goodness, and when he enters your heart and your life, all evil is remarkably forced out. Through God the soul gets a new beginning, and it is a beginning filled with goodness and warmth, free of the cold, brutal imbalance caused by evil.
ANY man who turns himself over to Jesus Christ will find happiness. It has happened too many times throughout history not to be true, and it will continue to happen through our lifetimes. He who is willing to be reborn will have his troubles washed away from him and his soul will be set free. He who is not willing will continue to suffer, and life will be his torment, with he as his own tormentor.
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew,[a] he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicode′mus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.[b] Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born anew.’ – John 3:3-7
PTSD is a spiritual problem, and those who experience it require a spiritual rebirth. To have it they must let go of their ego and give themselves completely to God. He will reward them with a new mind, a new spirit, and a better life.