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Spiritual Distress in the Wake of Trauma

The American Psychological Association defines trauma as “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster.” The effects are long-lasting and might take the form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a debilitating anxiety disorder characterized by symptoms such as nightmares, feelings of hyper-arousal and multisensory flashbacks reminiscent of the traumatic incident. A less commonly talked about result of PTSD is the spiritual distress in the wake of trauma. If you or a loved one has experienced spiritual distress in the wake of trauma, seek help at the PTSD treatment center in Tennessee.

Spiritual Distress in the Wake of Trauma Expertise

Nationally renowned trauma expert Christine Courtois, Ph.D., ABPP, refers to a certain form of PTSD as “post-traumatic spiritual distress.” In a recent presentation called Trauma Affects the Spirit: Spiritually-Oriented Psychotherapy for Trauma, she discussed the intersection of psychological shock and spirituality. Her description of trauma calls it “an assault on the self of the individual,” especially child abuse, which she refers to as “soul murder” and says robs the survivor of a sense of safety and sovereignty. Courtois referenced author and motivational speaker Bill O’Hanlon, who describes spirituality as having three components: connection with something bigger than the self, compassion, and contribution. “Spirituality is a sense that there is something bigger going on in life,” O’Hanlon wrote in Solution-Oriented Spirituality: Connection, Wholeness, and Possibility for Therapist and Client. “Religion, on the other hand, involves specific beliefs and practices.” Spiritual faith helps many people cope with trauma, as well as maintain stability and sobriety. Prayer, meditation, contemplative reading and time in a house of worship can be therapeutic after spiritual distress in the wake of trauma. Some people experience a renewal of purpose or even a new calling to be of service as a result of the challenges they’ve overcome.

Strength From “God-Wrestling”

There is either a strengthening of spirituality or cause of spiritual distress in the wake of trauma. It’s common for those who’ve been wounded by others’ actions or by happenstance to ask, “Why me?” They might feel victimized by a God who they feel didn’t protect them from assault or another form of loss, or perhaps was even punishing them for some perceived shortcoming. Redefining God and reframing circumstances is sometimes in order. Spiritual teacher Ram Dass has said that after he experienced a debilitating stroke in 1997, he felt as if he’d fallen from his guru’s grace and protection because he’d believed that his spiritual faith would keep him safe from tragedy. He came to recognize it as “fierce grace” that enabled him to persevere in his recovery. Today, he continues to write and teach, mobile in his wheelchair. Even the most faith-filled person questions the nature of reality. There are many examples of “God-wrestling” when a loved one is near death. They state aloud “He’s mine, and you can’t have him.” But a voice responds that your loved one is on loan, the voice of God. An encounter like this becomes a pivotal moment in spiritual evolution. Rather than shaking faith, the message strengthens, even as you deal with the trauma of loss. Spiritual distress in the wake of trauma shows up as a positive force in these instances.

Regaining a Connection to the Divine

What happens when someone’s beliefs are tested and they’re called on to do something that’s in opposition to their intrinsic values? In war zones, military personnel is faced with that question almost every moment. Medics that work to heal others experience spiritual distress in the wake of trauma in the midst of a war. How can someone regain their connection to the Divine after feeling abandoned? Therapists refrain from spiritual discussion unless the client requests a spiritual licensed counselor. Counselors may pray with them and provide spiritual comfort.

Treatment for Spiritual Distress in the Wake of Trauma

When you or a loved one experiences spiritual distress in the wake of trauma, The Ranch provides the following programs that may be combined with spiritual counselor meetings:

Call 1.844.876.7680 to discuss spiritual options during mental health treatment. Contact The Ranch about programs for spiritual distress in the wake of trauma. The original post was written by Edie Weinstein, LSW.

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