Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Our understanding of the post-traumatic is still evolving

The Apostle Paul and Post-Traumatic Stress,
From Woundedness to Wholeness

We can suspect a grasp on post-traumatic realities is as old as human consciousness and memory itself. It was not until 1994, however, that it was adequately described in a psychiatric diagnostic manual. Since then our understanding of it has still been evolving. First came the notion of the “complex” (with abused women and children) and then of a greater severity with “perpetrators” of violence.

I suggest you and I think through a couple more refinements. In that psychiatric manual first adequately defining PTSD, there was the perception the post-traumatic could not be diagnosed until the lapse of thirty days following the life threatening event. Until that specified time passed, what had been experienced was technically an “acute stress reaction.” The problem with that is one of the characteristics of the post-traumatic experience, with which we are increasingly familiar, is that of denial. The emotional impact often is repressed for months or even years..Personally, I must have been trying to set a record for denial; Annelie didn’t, but she has just a kid. When I was a young pastor the bulk of what I saw was about ten years after the papers were stamped “ending” WWII.

It seems those specified thirty days have a real usefulness in lowering a shocked person’s expectation of further suffering, but it would be more realistic to describe that period in a more generalized and open ended way, as an “acute anxiety response.” A lot of divorces occur when no flashbacks occur, but the post-traumatic is working its way along the subsurface. 

It would be helpful to drop the term “disorder” as well, but sometimes it is that. A woman told me, as I am sure you have been told, too, that her very young brother came home (from one of our wars) but never regained “normal.” Many persons, however, experience the post-traumatic but never significantly leave the “normal.” One other fellow shared with Annelie and I that he had been bothered for about five years (after one of our wars) – but then proudly took off his shirt so he could show us his tattoo of a famous airborne unit! I would prefer “syndrome,” to disorder: syndromes can be specified and worked on individually. That’s generally how it is done best, I think.

There is another consideration. Flashbacks may be overwhelming but the Creative is always there for us humans. Being emotionally overwhelmed is scarcely desirable: but we humans have the capacity to evolve the worst into a best next step.

And let all the people say, Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment