Experiencing Moral Injury In The Face of Violence, Indifference, and Confusion

Experiencing Moral Injury In The Face of Violence, Indifference, and Confusion
Image by solvig

Moral injury is a wound to the soul. It happens when you participate in or witness things that transgress your deepest beliefs about right and wrong. It is extreme trauma that mani­fests as grief, sorrow, shame, guilt, or any combination of those things. It shows up as negative thoughts, self-hatred, hatred of others, feelings of regret, obsessive behaviors, destructive ten­dencies, suicidal ideation, and all-consuming isolation.

You may experience moral injury if you’ve survived abuse, witnessed violence, participated in the chaos of combat, or ex­perienced any form of trauma that’s changed your understand­ing of what you, or other human beings, are morally capable of. For many combat veterans, moral injury is inflicted during war, when they are split into two different versions of them­selves: the person they were before war, whose morality was ingrained in them by their parents, religion, culture, and so­ciety, and the person they became during war, whose morality was replaced with a sense of right and wrong that helped them survive in a war zone.

When the smoke clears and the chaos of war ends, these two selves, with two different sets of moral values, confront each other and continue to battle. The prewar self points to the postwar self and says, “Hey! I know what you did. I know what you saw. You were wrong, you are bad, and you can never be good again.”

Experiencing Moral Injury

A soldier may experience moral injury when reflecting on his or her actions during combat. But they can also experience moral injury by bearing witness to the actions of others. The cool indifference of a commanding officer as he stands over a dying civilian; the capture and torture of men who are known to be innocent; the bomb that was planted purposefully to destroy human life: all can call into question our deeply held cultural belief that all people, deep down, are innately good.

Bearing witness to the moral indifference of others, or the premedi­tation of violence, is enough to warp your understanding of morality and make you question the moral character of every­one you meet. This makes it hard for veterans to trust other people and to assume the best in others, and in themselves.

In The Face of Confusion, Powerlessness, and Betrayal

In addition to participating in and witnessing violence, there’s a third, lesser-known cause of moral injury that impacts soldiers returning from war. It’s the sense of confusion, power­lessness, and betrayal that soldiers feel when they come home and try to transition back to civilian life.

Some people call them heroes, but most veterans don’t feel like heroes, so there’s a disconnect between the actual experi­ence of war and the perceived experience of it. That discon­nect makes veterans feel isolated and misunderstood.


 Get The Latest From InnerSelf


Others question veterans’ moral character for participating in wars started on false pretenses, or in any war at all. A small but vocal minority calls veterans leeches or lazy. They say veterans are taking advantage of the government, and subsequently tax­payers, when they partake in the benefits promised to them for their service. When faced with these accusations, misunder­standings, and questions, veterans start to question themselves.

Soul Level Injury

Moral injury is emotional, psychological, and spiritual. This makes it different from post-traumatic stress disorder, which is more of a physiological reaction — the brain and body’s responses to extreme, prolonged stress or fear. Some of the symptoms of PTSD — nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia, disassociation — can be stabilized with medication. But moral injury doesn’t seem to respond to medication, at least not per­manently. Not at the soul level.

Time in and of itself is also not enough to heal the suffering of moral injury. Time can soften the sting of moral injury, but it can also harden memories, making emotional scar tissue even tougher to heal. That’s what happens if you leave a wound to fester without tending to it. And that’s why so many Vietnam veterans take psychiatric medications for decades and then, when they retire or divorce, or are otherwise forced to face themselves and their past, still find a world of pain waiting for them. The medication has only treated their symptoms, not the root cause of those symptoms. The wound can grow so big, so consuming, it feels like the only way to escape it is death.

The VA estimates that in the United States, twenty veter­ans take their lives every day.* While the majority of those who die by suicide are over the age of fifty, the number of younger vets who contribute to that twenty-a-day statistic is steadily increasing. If the veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan fail to acknowledge and heal moral injury, the millennial gen­eration of veterans will continue to face the same fate as those who’ve gone before.

Healing is possible even when traditional methods like talk therapy, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), and medication have failed. A healing method is accessible to anyone who’s willing to sit still for a few moments and just breathe. As soon as an individual is willing to take responsibility for his or her own healing, grace rushes in to relieve the pain, unravel traumatic memories, and release the past for good. Meditation, breath work, and the body’s natural intelligence can help heal deep trauma in ways the mind can’t. You can’t think yourself into feeling better. You can’t will yourself to heal. But in taking on a discipline like meditation, you create the space where healing can happen, naturally. The act and discipline of meditation can redeem a life — no matter how deep the wound.

The responsibility to acknowledge, accept, and heal from moral injury doesn’t just belong to those suffering from moral injury. When we send our youth into battle on our behalf, we are complicit in their actions. We are responsible for bearing our portion of the pain those actions cause. And in taking re­sponsibility, we are empowered to help these women and men rebuild their moral scaffolding, reclaim their place in the soci­ety they volunteered to protect, and remember what it means to be human — and to belong.

Relief From Pain

I thought I was writing this book because I wanted to give you a glimmer of hope. My goal, when I started out, was to help you find some relief from pain. But you deserve more than that. You can have so much more than that. You are so much more than that.

You may feel 100 percent certain that you’ll never feel any better than you do right now. You may want to crawl right out of your skin because the past is crushing you and it hurts so damn much to be you every day.

I know how much it hurts. I know how fucking unbearable it can seem.

But pain is not the ultimate truth. Pain is an illusion of this world. It’s not who you really are in the grand scheme of things. In our world, God manifests as good and evil, the truth and the lie, the light and the darkness. But your true nature is much bigger than what happens here.

You don’t have to believe that God is in everything and that everything happens for a reason. You don’t have to see moral injury as a gift, a powerful teaching tool that’s meant to forcibly, painfully, remind you who you really are. You don’t have to believe that the shitty things that happen to us are our best learning opportunities meant to shake us and wake us up and change us for the better. You don’t have to understand that moral injury highlights who you aren’t — that the pain and grief and guilt and shame hurt so much because those things are so contrary to your true nature. You don’t have to under­stand that it hurts to experience moral injury because moral in­jury is so not you.

But , even when you feel consumed by moral injury and alone in the world, you are not separate from the beauty and good that exist here. You are still a part of that. You are connected to that, whether you feel it right now or not. You can experi­ence that beauty and goodness again, if you want to.

If you cry out for help and relief, help and relief will come. They may come as a man painted in black and white, with feathers and a dead wolf on his head. They may come as a quiet, kind, mustached man or a herd of deer at the window. Help and relief might come as a kindly teacher, but they may come as a small, brown-eyed boy begging you for a piece of candy, or a girl who dies in the arms of your friend. They may even come as a man in black diving behind a parked car as he tries to end your life.

Healing begins when you stop resisting the teachers in your life, no matter their form, and start getting curious. Get curious about your pain. Start asking questions about it — about where it comes from, what’s causing it, and what might make you feel better. Then get curious about the ways in which you’re trying to heal.

You might ask questions like, “Why am I always in such a shitty mood after I drink?” or “Why do I still feel de­pressed even though I’m on medication?” If you ask questions and seek truth with an honest heart, the answers will appear.

In the meantime, a good place to start is right where you are. So sit down, get still, and take a deep breath. Then maybe take another. If it’s hard to sit still, ask why. If you feel lots of resis­tance, get curious about that. Be gentle with yourself. Setbacks are okay. Setbacks will happen. If you’re still breathing, there’s more right with you than wrong. If you’re still breathing, there is hope.

Excerpted from the book Where War Ends.
© 2019 by Tom Voss and Rebecca Anne Nguyen.
Reprinted with permission from NewWorldLibrary.com

Article Source

Where War Ends: A Combat Veteran’s 2,700-Mile Journey to Heal ― Recovering from PTSD and Moral Injury through Meditation
by Tom Voss and Rebecca Anne Nguyen

Where War Ends by Tom Voss and Rebecca Anne NguyenAn Iraq War veteran’s riveting journey from suicidal despair to hope. Tom Voss’s story will give inspiration to veterans, their friends and family, and survivors of all kinds. (Also available as a Kindle edition and as an audiobook.)

For more info and/or to order this book, click here.

Related Books

About the Author

Tom Voss, author of Where War EndsTom Voss served as an infantry scout in the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment’s scout-sniper platoon. While deployed in Mosul, Iraq, he participated in hundreds of combat and humanitarian missions. Rebecca Anne Nguyen, Voss’s sister and coauthor, is a writer based in Charlotte, North Carolina. TheMeditatingVet.com

Video/Presentation with Tom Voss and Rebecca Nguyen: Veterans and Moral Injury: How You Can Help

More Articles By This Author

You May Also Like

AVAILABLE LANGUAGES

enafarzh-CNzh-TWnltlfifrdehiiditjakomsnofaptruessvtrvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook-icontwitter-iconrss-icon

 Get The Latest By Email

First name:E-mail:
 

{emailcloak=off}

DAILY INSPIRATION

citizen of the world dress
Daily Inspiration: March 6, 2021
It is said that when someone asked Socrates what country he was from, his response was "of the…
Daily Inspiration: March 5, 2021
Daily Inspiration: March 5, 2021
There's no need to run away, or run to others for answers. Close your eyes and talk to your Self...
InnerSelf.com Daily Inspiration: March 4, 2021
Daily Inspiration: March 4, 2021
When we think of greed, we usually think about money and material possessions. However, greed can…

INNERSELF VOICES

We Create Our Own Reality By How We See and Interpret Things
We Create Our Own Reality By How We See and Interpret Things
by Pierre Pradervand
How I see my life path is a choice I make minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day… And this…
How to Walk for Health, Fitness, and Peace of Mind
How to Walk for Health, Fitness, and Peace of Mind
by James Endredy
For most people, walking is an activity that requires no thought or intention -- it is rarely even…
Young girl sitting surrounded by lots of book of various colors
How to Recognize Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
by Thom Hartmann
ADHD is not an all-or-nothing diagnosis. There appears to be a curve of behaviors and personality…
How To Recognize Your Core Negative Beliefs and Inner Critic
How To Recognize Your Core Negative Beliefs and Inner Critic
by Bridgit Dengel Gaspard
You may not think you have a core negative belief, but if you’re mysteriously stuck, one or two…
Scrabble letters that spell out: NO HATE
Vaccination or No Vaccination? That Is Not the Question Here...
by Joyce Vissell
This is not an article about the benefits of getting a vaccination. Nor is it an article about not…
heart shape filled with various colors
Quiz: What’s Your Risk of Heart Disease? and What To Do About It
by Maryon Stewart
If you answered yes to more than three questions, I would highly recommend that you follow the…
two balls balanced on top of each other under an arch
Attaining Balance Between Left and Right-Brain by Nourishing the Solar Plexus Chakra
by Glen Park
Aspiration and achievement, power and success, and fame and fortune are presented as highly…
Photo of aurora and moon by Markus Varik on February 22, 2021, Tromsø Norway
Horoscope Current Week: March 1 - 7, 2021
by Pam Younghans
This weekly astrological journal is based on planetary influences, and offers perspectives and…

MOST READ

silhouette of a woman's head and it is disintegrating
Letting Go of All Perceived Pain, Ignorance, and Fear
by Alexis I. Jordan
Thank you, infinite goodness, for your bounteous gifts, including peace, love, freedom and joy,…
Transformation: Taking Back our Power from People and Parasites
Transformation: Taking Back our Power from People and Parasites
by Vir McCoy and Kara Zahl
I believe that both Lyme disease and parasites are teaching us to love ourselves, claim our power,…
picture of colorful fireworks in the sky
Cancer Meditation and Cancer Medication: A Powerful Combination
by Joyce Whiteley Hawkes
Each cell has its own biological clock that controls its individual rate of repair, replication,…
Emotions and Your Moon Sign
How To Deal with Your Emotions According To Your Moon Sign
by Donna Cunningham
The Moon, in the astrological chart, can help us understand how we deal with our emotions. It shows…
a model standing on a runway facing her shadow... all in green
Befriending the Shadow: Transforming Darkness Into Light
by Robert Ohotto
When we don't recognize or accept certain parts of our own nature - positive and negative - we'll…
heart shape filled with various colors
Quiz: What’s Your Risk of Heart Disease? and What To Do About It
by Maryon Stewart
If you answered yes to more than three questions, I would highly recommend that you follow the…
Why Creating Art With Your Children Is Important
Why Creating Art With Your Children Is Important
by Vicky Armstrong
Many of us may be looking to art activities to keep children busy while at home. If you are, I want…
First Aid Buttons: Regulate The Body's Energy Flow and Improve Your Health
First Aid Buttons: Regulate The Body's Energy Flow and Improve Your Health
by Barry Sultanoff, MD.
We came into this world with special "buttons" pre-installed. These "buttons" are specific spots on…

New Attitudes - New Possibilities

InnerSelf.comClimateImpactNews.com | InnerPower.net
MightyNatural.com | WholisticPolitics.com
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.