“How few there are who have courage enough to own their faults, or resolution enough to mend them.” (Benjamin Franklin)
Resolution 1: the act or process of resolving: as
a: the act of analyzing a complex notion into simpler ones
b: the act of answering : solving
c: the act of determining
My resolution for 2013 is the commitment to finding simple solutions to the complex problems of Combat PTSD. This blog series is titled Beyond Eros because I have already learned that one important component of the solution is an unconditional form of love for our Veterans from families and communities, a form of love far beyond the physical and romantic. My intent is to explore the nature of such love in its various forms and effects.
The first lesson in this kind of courage comes from Maj. Gen. John Cantwell of Australia. His story is neither unique nor special, but it does illuminate a concept for me. It helps me begin to understand the nature of moral trauma.
We do not all react to the horrors of war in the same way; however, many of us share some tendencies, and the collection of these tendencies is called a disorder or mental illness.
It is not.
It is the equivalent of a moral fever.
A fever is a desperate attempt to right a wrong, to attack an intruder, to restore health. It is the body’s way of protecting itself from something dangerous.
A fever is not a disease. It is a symptom of physical disequilibrium and an attempt to re-establish that equilibrium, a process referred to as homeostasis. The disease is some bacteria, virus, fungus, or substance such as a protein interpreted as threatening.
Post Traumatic Stress is not a disease. It is a symptom of moral disequilibrium and an attempt to re-establish that equilibrium.
War is the disease.
My psychologist (Ashley B. Hart II, PhD) tells us, “Only good people feel guilty.” PTS, the term now preferred by the U.S. Army, is a condition shared by good people.
General Cantwell is a good man. I know this because he feels guilty. His moral equilibrium has been disrupted by the atrocities of war, images and events that cannot make sense within his personal moral code.
We can treat a physical fever with anti-inflammatory drugs, but health is not established until the invader is repelled. We treat both symptoms and causes.
PTSD (I use the D to refer to Dilemma as in the unresolved moral disequilibrium) is not a disease. It is a desperate attempt to resolve a moral dilemma. It is the courage to own our faults (as participants in morally unacceptable events). It happens only to brave, good people, people who struggle to accept the reality of an unacceptable reality.
Physical fever can lead to delirium.
Moral fever can lead to a kind of moral delirium. We become, on occasion, what we despise. We get lost.
Instead of hating the delirium, can you love us back home?