The Goal within Your Control:
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Social Psychologist & Personal Advisor
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A "syndrome" is a reoccurring pattern or condition that manifests the same set of associated symptoms. Post Traumatic Stress is indeed a "syndrome" that appears in the lives of many people.
When this pattern of reoccurring symptoms is called a "disorder," . . . there is a potentially deceiving implication in the term: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. According to the assumptions of what I call "It's-Not-Your-Fault Psychology," when you "have" PTSD, . . . all your stressful symptoms are assumed to happen, beyond your perception and choice; instead, all your inner turmoil is said to be "caused" by an outside event . . . and comes upon you . . . like a disease.
(For those who have experienced the extremes of atrocities and abuse, I offer a further explanation of Post Traumatic Stress especially for you. I explain where my approach to overcoming PTSD came from. Just click the hyperlink at the bottom of this page).
To understand the "syndrome" of Post Traumatic Stress, one must differentiate between two types of Suffering:
Situational Suffering: Suffering that is directly "caused" by an aggravating event in the present moment; versus
Self-Inflicted Suffering: Suffering that is chosen years later "be-cause" people cognitively conjured a reason in their head to hang on to the pain of yesterday's Situational Suffering.
Both brands of Suffering are REAL . . . the first is like a REAL sunset . . . and the second is like REAL stage scenery of a sunset--it's constructed. Situational Suffering hurts necessarily, and Self-Inflicted Suffering also hurts . . . but it doesn't have to hurt . . . the "construction" of it need not occur.
As Naomi Judd said in the July 2005 issue of the Greentree Gazette:
When experiencing Situational Suffering you are truly a VICTIM of tragic circumstance, but after the aggravating event has disappeared into the past, there is a point of transition . . . a moment when a person is at choice to "get over it," and "get on with it."
When people choose to construct the stage scenery called "Self-Inflicted Suffering," they find reasons to keep throwing a "Pity Party" about an unfortunate Past; they wallow in Self-Made Misery and essentially VOLUNTEER for extended pain and suffering!
Depending upon how "Post" . . . one's Post Traumatic Stress IS . . . it's often quite clear that some claiming victimhood . . . are really just "volunteering." This doesn't discount the initial Traumatic Event that necessarily caused pain, . . . and was REALLY hard to bear in the beginning . . . it simply means that years later . . . further suffering is REALLY optional . . . and chosen . . . and ironically . . . volunteered for.
(After reading the explanation herein, . . . if you are still unclear about HOW Post Traumatic Stress can actually be "volunteered for," . . . you can Ask Dr Matt a question directly.)
A determining factor in whether one extends real victimhood . . . into optional volunteering . . . is in the way people assume that human memory happens. Here is an excerpt from my book, "Changing Your Stripes," that suggests an alternative to the popular & pervasive "brain as computer hard drive" paradigm:
Re-Membering the Past. Since "memory" is a noun-word, it has a "thing-ish" meaning in the minds of many, . . . and the "thing" that memory is commonly compared to is a "computer hard drive." When conceived as a noun, memory is regularly reified into a thing-ish container of historical data; but this not the best way to conceive of "memory." In the case of computers, particular documents are retrieved in the exact same form every time; but in matters of memory . . . past events are re-called creatively, interpretively, and variably. Memory is not a thing-like "brain-container" that stores hard facts; instead, memory is "an activity" of re-constructing what happened.
A governing principle for how we will re-member yesterday's aggravating events is identified by Stephen R. Covey:
"You don't see the world as it is, . . . you see it according to who you are."
What today and "yesterday" means to us is dependent upon "how we are perceiving" our world; and the way we perceive particular moments in the NOW, . . . and the way we re-member particular moments of the PAST is determined by "how we are being"--whether of Integrity or Disharmony. This is why the Sioux Indian holy man Black Elk said: "It is in the darkness of their eyes that men get lost." C. Terry Warner adds "When we cannot see our way, we think darkness is shrouding our pathway, when really the darkness is in ourselves."
When we live in spiritual disharmony, we see the world differently, we see the world through darkened eyes; hence, we bring to particular situations our dark definitions, not because the situation is dark, but because we are dark. We get lost in shadows of our own creation, and it follows that dark emotions flow from impure perceptions. (Changing Your Stripes, page 2-36)
The Division of Response-Ability Principle applies:
This means that TODAY'S activity of "stewing in hostility" and "ruminating in resentment" over an unfortunate event that happened YESTERDAY . . . is like choosing the misery of eating mud while refusing the feast of today's healthy meal. Such is "volunteering" for misery! If an aggravating event is no longer happening today, . . . it cannot directly "cause" a person to feel misery; instead, it is the person that re-members . . . that "causes" the misery!
Through the conscious act of re-membering, the "meal of misery" comes into creation; it occurs . . . "be-cause." Self-Inflicted Suffering occurs "be-cause" people cognitively conjured a reason in their head to hang on to yesterday's pain.
The distorted thinking can go like this: If I can actively resent and hold a grudge today about injustices of yesterday, maybe I can launch some psychic arrows toward my abusers to get back, . . . to punish, . . . to reap revenge. Sending resentful energy is an enormous waste of time and effort. The person that suffers most from such an exercise IS the person doing the resenting . . . the re-sending! Remember:
Resentment is the poison that you drink,
Think this through carefully: A tragedy happened yesterday and is no longer happening today, . . . this means the afflicting faucet has been turned off. Hence, the only torment that you experience today IS the torment of "re-thinking" the experience over and over in your mind.
Thus, instead of feasting upon the freedoms and opportunities that a new day affords, instead of choosing a better way today, instead of embracing The Truth of Bright White Reality, . . . some engage in the creative re-construction called "PTSD," . . . they fret and brew in Post Traumatic Stew and with small-minded rancor they resentfully ruminate upon yesterday's injustice, . . . with self-absorbed alienation, they gnaw upon yesterday's dead bones!
As Mother Teresa advised:
"Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not come.
When you re-construct the past through the bitter filters of resentment, you climb into a boiling pot that YOU yourself have pushed into the fire, and being up to your neck in the hot water of resentful emotions, YOU stew and ruminate upon past calamities. "It's-Not-Your-Fault" Psychology calls such torment "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder," . . . but I call it "Post-Traumatic Stew" . . . and YOU are the Soup Nazi makin' the brew!
As we anxiously stew about yesterday's unfair adversities, we engage in a faithless fretting that suffers from near-sighted vision. We fail to see that the far picture and purpose of existence: The Creator will answer all injustice with perfect judgment, justice, and mercy (Changing Your Stripes p. 3-56).
Your experience of reality does not exist apart from the meaning you make. This is such an important truth to internalize that it bears repeating:
Your experience of
Therefore, facts/reality will mean . . . according to the interpretations you bring. The activity of re-membering is a "bringing of meaning" to past happenings.
And here's the stunning application of this truth: When the facts of the past "mean" something different today . . . than they meant yesterday, then . . . the past has literally changed! This is because "the past" was never just the raw facts, . . . but the meaning you bring to those facts.
Again, "facts" do not speak for themselves; they require interpretation by YOU. Nevertheless, you can't simply choose to interpret "the past" or "the present" any way you want; instead, your interpretations spontaneously flow from who you are, . . . your way of seeing flows from and the "abundance of the heart," . . . or lack thereof.
Who You Are determines how you perceive your world,
* * * * * * *
You are not responsible for the pain and suffering that was caused by an aggravating event when that constraining event is presently pressing upon you, . . . but you are completely responsible for all your future responses . . . after the dust of that difficulty has long since settled. Understanding these ideas are crucial to releasing yourself from the torment and suffering and syndrome of Post Traumatic Stress.
Because the Division of Response-Ability Principle maintains that YOU are RESPONSE-ABLE for all the Responses of Heart, Mind, and Soul that come out of YOU. On the other hand, you are not always response-able for damage done to your body, . . . some bodily damage due to unwanted acts of physical aggression or accident are literally "caused" by things and beings outside of you.
So the KEY . . .
If you happen to be a war veteran, or someone who has been violently abused,
Changing Your Stripes is a
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