Soul Care Conversation (Spiritual Model for Healing from Moral Injury; First Step – Acknowledgement)

February 9th, 2017 Posted by Blog No Comment yet

(The purpose of Soul Care Conversation is to create a place to generate dialogue, initiate thoughtful consideration for the challenges our veterans face each day, share ideas of veteran and family well-being and healing, and spark within all of us a call to be engaged with the veteran and caregiver community. Click here to visit the forum and join the conversation!)

Last month we discussed a study by Duke University on a successful therapy for military sufferers of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The study reviewed an article published in the JAMA Psychiatry suggesting that cognitive processing therapy (CPT) significantly reduced PTSD symptoms. (“Duke study shows therapy effective for military sufferers of PTSD,” News and Observer, written by Gavin Stone, 28 November 2016)

As we discussed, CPT is a method of treatment that involves evaluating the thoughts and beliefs associated with a patient’s traumatic experience, which for many in the military involves blaming themselves for events in combat that are out of their control. We then did a deep dive into guilt and shame as it pertains to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Guilt and shame is also a symptom for warriors experiencing moral injury.

In our conversation we discussed that people experience guilt and shame for various reasons. Many find it difficult to move past guilt or shame, which can lead to chronic psychological issues such as depression and anxiety. However, guilt and shame have more than psychological implications. From the perspective of a chaplain or a pastoral counselor, guilt and shame as it is associated with trauma and trauma care must also consider a spiritual dimension.

For this reason, we discussed a spiritual therapeutic model which includes the following components:

  1. Acknowledge – take an honest assessment of thoughts and behavior, then acknowledge guilt and shame, and anger
  2. Forgiveness – choose forgiveness of self in the trauma experience as well as others who may have had responsibility
  3. Self-acceptance – renounce self lies like; I’m no good, I’m nothing, I’m worthless, I can’t be loved, and accept the reality of being a child of God
  4. Renewal – begin to retrain mind
  5. Amends – restoration involves a direct way to repair what has been damaged or broken (for the veteran, maybe difficult to go back to place of injury, however, there are other ways; contribute to refugee or orphan fund in the area of the war, volunteer at a shelter or soup kitchen, etc)
  6. Accountability – be in a community that offers accountability and support

We will discuss in some detail each of these components. For this week’s conversation, let us discuss the first component, acknowledge.

BACKGROUND  

“Acknowledge” is defined; to admit to be real or true, recognized the existence, truth, or fact of.  A synonym is confession.  Confession is a written or oral statement acknowledging guilt. Confession has deep roots in traditional religious rites in both Judaism and Christianity.

As we examine the religious act of confession, we are reminded that from the opening pages in the first book of the Torah, the Hebrew scripture tells us something has gone wrong; loving relationships have been broken, creation has been marred, humanity has been separated from God because of human sin. All of creation is in need for God’s healing. What are we to do? The first step toward restoration with God is to acknowledge our sin. Confession becomes a vital part of our fellowship with God as it provides an opportunity to be reconciled within the community.

THE PRACTICE OF CONFESSION

When we sin we alienate ourselves from God, community and self. Sin blocks us from becoming all that we are created to be. We acknowledge our sin through confession. Confession enables us to be reconciled to;

  • God
  • community
  • self

Confession. The word stirs up memories. Whatever the memory, most likely it is not pleasant. For many, confession connotes pain from failure and being weighed down with guilt. However, confession offers us healing through a face to face encounter with the grace, love, and forgiveness of God.

As humans, no matter if through faith we are committed to God, we still have difficulty turning away from sin. We recognize our weakness and constant need for turning back to God and be reconciled. We do this through confession of our sin.

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