Social Psychologist & Personal Advisor
The Goal within Your Control:
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When we speak of the misery of PTSD, a distinction must be made between physical pain that lingers because of a bruised or broken body, . . . versus inner suffering of heart, mind, and soul — a type of suffering that need not linger like physical pain felt in a broken body.
This conclusion is based upon the direct experience of Viktor Frankl, whose liberating observations are summarized this way in my book, Changing Your Stripes:
"If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life . . . The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity--even under the most difficult circumstances--to add a deeper meaning to his life. . . . Here lies the chance for a man either to make use of or forego the opportunities of attaining the values that a difficult situation may afford him."
In every challenging circumstance there is an opportunity to obtain value and deeper meaning in life. Even under appalling abuse, there is liberty within: You are the ultimate author of your inner responses. Of his fellow prisoners, Frankl noted:
" . . . Only a few kept their full inner liberty and obtained those values which their suffering afforded, but even one such example is sufficient proof that man’s inner strength may raise him above his outward fate. Such men are not only in concentration camps. Everywhere man is confronted with fate, with the chance of achieving something through his own suffering." (Changing Your Stripes, 2nd Edition, page 13)
Frankl maintains that all humanity possess "inner liberty" and describes this liberty as mankind's "final freedom." This liberty IS a freedom of Heart, Mind, and Soul; it is an inner freedom that Frankl felt even amid the outward abuses of a Nazi Concentration Camp.
If Frankl can find this freedom and feel this freedom in a Death Camp, then all people can realize this "final freedom" in the midst of any tragedy. This is not just Frankl's theory, this IS Frankl's direct experience and observation.
Victor Frankl was a psychiatrist, and it's ironic that his experience of "inner liberty" tends to refute assumptions of mainstream psychiatry. Viktor Frankl's death camp ordeal fits to a "t" . . . the diagnostic criteria for PTSD, as detailed in the DSM of Mental Disorders:
"The person has experienced an event that is outside the range of usual human experience and that would be markedly distressing to almost anyone, e.g., serious threat to one's life or physical integrity; serious threat or harm to one's children, spouse, or other close relatives and friends; sudden destruction of one's home or community; or seeing another person who has recently been, or is being, seriously injured or killed as the result of an accident or physical violence."
Frankl choose to embrace his final freedom, thus escaping the misery and hopelessness to which many fellow prisoner's succumbed. Because most human abuses fall far short of the horrors that Frankl faced, thus Inner Liberty of Heart, Mind, and Soul is well within reach for the rest of us.
The first Chapter of my book is entitled, "Life Is a Set Up!" Here is an excerpt from that chapter that is pertinent to being released from PTS syndrome:
There are four basic sources that bring frustration and even devastation to our lives. As these unwanted events occur we are set up for misfortune and heartache:
1) The Inconsiderate or Abusive Acts of Others,
Making a firm commitment to Changing Your Stripes means continually asking this essential question:
As bad things happen to me,
This is a most critical question because the way you respond to whatever life throws at you determines whether life will be a drudgery or a delight! In the end, your personal happiness is not determined by what happens to you, but by how you respond to what happens to you.
So . . . Life is a Set Up. Welcome to earth! Get used to it, get over it, and get on with it!
However you respond--whether gracious or grumpy--you will act according to the disposition of the animal that you are, presently. Anyone might respond well when surrounded by loving and patient people, but what comes out of you when the going gets tough? (And by the way, the going will get tough . . . that's life). The way you respond to unkind or abusive acts, and the way you respond to unexpected events of accident, nature, or mechanical failure reveals who you are at the heart. How you handle hardships exposes the very core of your character.
"Changing Your Stripes," means becoming the kind of creature that can and will respond with calm and clarity even amid commotion. It means responding to life's toughest challenges with compassion, rather than contempt. Being the kind of creature that will respond well to adversity IS a key to contented and rich living. (Changing Your Stripes, 2nd Edition, pages 2-3)
Because Inner Liberty is available to all human beings . . . NOW . . . this means that as torment of heart, mind, & soul continues long after an inflicting event has occurred, . . . the person who hangs on to such misery . . . is actually "volunteering" for extended suffering.
While Misery is Inflicted in the Moment
When I speak of the Self-Inflicted Suffering of PTSD, I need to emphasize the first letter in the acronym: "P," which stands for "Post" — suggesting that the Trauma that is the source of Today's Stress . . . is IN the Past! And because it is IN the past, . . . you and I are free to let go of the Past and embrace Inner Liberty . . . Today!
So, "after the dust of a difficulty has long since settled" . . . the liberating truth is . . . that a person need not be tormented today . . . by memories of yesterday.
It's not that "war vets" are an exception to this principle, but that their affliction is often to the extreme end of the Situational Suffering continuum. Because remedies of "Cognitive Psychology" are utterly powerless to help or heal the symptoms of PTSD, thus some clinicians incorrectly conclude that PTSD is a torment that is likely to last a lifetime. All a person can do is "cope" . . . for there is no "hope" is a lasting and complete cure.
Ironically, some "helping professionals" assist war vets and other victims of violent abuse in remaining trapped in their torment; they enable victims of past trauma to continue being traumatized . . . even decades after the dust of a difficulty has long since settled.
The erroneous assumptions of what I call "It's-Not-Your-Fault Psychology" directly keep some people from embracing Inner Liberty and completely letting go of the past. The implications of the term "PTSD" are an ironic "enabling" vehicle that helps people hang on to unnecessary suffering. Further, hanging on to the assumptions of "PTSD" is socialized into the Public Psyche via the powerful and pervasive institutions of . . . It's-Not-Your-Fault Psychology.
The enabling rhetoric goes like this: It's not your fault that you toss and turn at night with unsettling memories of past oppression and abuse . . . because "YOU HAVE PTSD." The ailment is sold as a "Disorder," or "Disease" . . . that involuntary comes upon people like Malaria or Chicken Pox. As to ailments of mind and emotion, the truth is . . . you actually "Do your Dis-eases!" And because you "Do" them, . . . you are empowered to "Un-Do" them!
In the case of Post Traumatic Stress, . . . after the afflicting faucet has been shut off . . . any "extended" suffering occurs because of people's failure to embrace their Final Freedom . . . their Inner Liberty to have peace of heart, mind, and soul . . . even amid tragic circumstances.
"Who You Are determines how you perceive your world,
Again, 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 (I call this Situational Suffering), . . . but you are completely responsible for all your future misery . . . after the dust of that difficulty has long since settled (I call this Self-Inflicted Suffering).
Understanding these ideas are crucial to releasing yourself from the torment and suffering and syndrome of Post Traumatic Stress.
So the KEY . . .
Changing Your Stripes is a