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Changing Your Stripes
A "syndrome" is a reoccurring pattern that manifests the same set of associated symptoms over time. Post Traumatic Stress is indeed a "syndrome" that appears in the lives of many people.
But when this pattern of reoccurring symptoms is called a "disorder," there is a deceptive implication in the term: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. According to the assumptions of what I call "It's-Not-Your-Fault Psychology," when you "have" PTSD all your stressful symptoms are assumed to happen beyond your perception and choice; your inner turmoil is said to be "caused" by an outside event, and comes upon you . . . like a disease.
(For those who have experienced the extremes of atrocities and abuse, I offer a further explanation of Post Traumatic Stress especially for you at the bottom of this page).
Situational Suffering: Suffering that is directly "caused" by an aggravating event in the present moment—this is the ditch in which you've been dumped; versus
Self-Inflicted Suffering: Suffering that is chosen "be-cause" people cognitively conjured a reason in their head to hang on to the yesterday's pain—this is the ditch in which you've jumped.
Both brands of Suffering are REAL . . . the first is like a REAL sunset . . . and the second is like REAL stage scenery of a sunset—it's constructed. Situational Suffering hurts necessarily, and Self-Inflicted Suffering also hurts, but it doesn't have to hurt . . . the "construction" of it need not occur.
As Naomi Judd said in the July 2005 issue of the Greentree Gazette:
"You only get to be a victim once. After that, you're a volunteer."
When experiencing Situational Suffering you are truly a VICTIM of tragic circumstance, but after the aggravating event has disappeared into the past, there is a point of transition: a moment when a person is at choice to "get over it," and "get on with it."
When people choose to construct the stage scenery called "Self-Inflicted Suffering," they find reasons to keep throwing a "Pity Party" about an unfortunate Past; they wallow in Self-Made Misery and ironically VOLUNTEER for extended pain and suffering!
Depending upon how "Post" . . . one's Post Traumatic Stress IS, it's often quite clear that some claiming victimhood are really just "volunteering." This doesn't discount the initial Traumatic Event that necessarily caused pain and was REALLY hard to bear in the beginning; it simply means that years later, further suffering is REALLY optional and chosen and ironically . . . volunteered for.
A determining factor in whether one extends real victimhood . . . into optional volunteering is in the way people assume that human memory happens. Here is an excerpt from my book, "Changing Your Stripes," that suggests an alternative to the popular "brain as computer" paradigm:
Re-Membering the Past. Since "memory" is a noun-word, it has a "thing-ish" meaning in the minds of many . . . and the "thing" that memory is commonly compared to is a "computer hard drive." When conceived as a noun, memory is regularly reified into a thing-ish container of historical data. But this not the best way to conceive memory, for memory is really activity—not entity. In the case of computers, records are retrieved in the exact same form every time; but in matters of memory, past happenings are re-called creatively, interpretively, and variably.
* * * * *
The hyphenated word “Re-Membering” symbolizes what is actually happening as one Re–Members yesterday: the “members” are “put back together,” they are “assembled again.” Thus, one does not retrieve the past like data from a computer hard drive—the past does not exist like unchanging data stored in a brain-container. In reality, the past does not have a life of its own apart from your re-membering.
* * * * *
Since your only view of the world comes via interpretations you bring, thus, the past is re–constructed according to who you are in the present. If YOU are presently a resentful and bitter human being, you will re-member only one possible version of “the past”—you will re–member the bitter version. Not because that is the “way it was,” . . . but because that is “the way you are.” This means “the past” can be and IS regularly resurrected through the perceptual filters of resentment.
* * * * *
"The past” was never just the raw facts, but the meaning you bring to those facts. Again, “facts” do not speak for themselves; they require interpretation by YOU. The activity of re-membering is a “bringing of meaning” to past happenings by YOU. Yet, you can’t simply choose to interpret “the past” or “the present” any way you want; instead, your interpretations spontaneously flow from who you are; your way of seeing flows from the “abundance of the heart”—or lack thereof.
* * * * *
If you’re living in spiritual disharmony today, you will be fraught . . . with a migraine mental block; this means you are destined to re-construct the past using a defective perspective—an outlook fixated upon the facts, yet fails to honor the Truth. And just like the boring person who brings himself to a perfectly good party, . . . surprise, surprise, the past is made bitter, by a bitter mind. (Changing Your Stripes, 2nd Edition, page 228)
* * * * * * *
A governing principle for how we will re-member yesterday's aggravating events is identified by Stephen R. Covey:
"You don't see the world as it is, . . . you see it according to who you are."
What today and "yesterday" means to us is dependent upon "how we are perceiving" our world; and the way we perceive particular moments in the NOW, . . . and the way we re-member particular moments of the PAST is determined by "how we are being"--whether of Integrity or Disharmony. This is why the Sioux Indian holy man Black Elk said: "It is in the darkness of their eyes that men get lost." C. Terry Warner adds "When we cannot see our way, we think darkness is shrouding our pathway, when really the darkness is in ourselves."
When we live in spiritual disharmony, we see the world differently, we see the world through darkened eyes; hence, we bring to particular situations our dark definitions, not because the situation is dark, but because we are dark. We get lost in shadows of our own creation, and it follows that dark emotions flow from impure perceptions.
The Division of Response-Ability Principle applies:
This means that TODAY'S activity of "stewing in hostility" and "ruminating in resentment" over an unfortunate event that happened YESTERDAY . . . is like choosing the misery of eating mud while refusing the feast of today's healthy meal. Such is "volunteering" for misery!
If an aggravating event is no longer happening today, . . . it cannot directly "cause" a person to feel misery; instead, it is the person that re-members . . . that "causes" the misery! Through the conscious act of re-membering, the "meal of misery" comes into creation; it occurs . . . "be-cause."
The distorted thinking can go like this: If I can actively resent and hold a grudge today about the injustices of yesterday, maybe I can launch some psychic arrows toward my abusers to get back, to punish, to reap revenge. But sending resentful energy is an enormous waste of time and effort. The person that suffers most from such an exercise IS the person doing the resenting . . . the re-sending!
Resentment is the poison that you drink,
When you re-construct the past through the bitter filters of resentment, you climb into a boiling pot that YOU yourself have pushed into the fire, and being up to your neck in the hot water of resentful emotions, YOU stew and ruminate upon past calamities. "It's-Not-Your-Fault" Psychology calls such torment "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder," . . . but I call it "Post-Traumatic Stew" . . . and YOU are the Soup Nazi makin' the brew!
You are not responsible for the pain and suffering that was caused by an aggravating event when that constraining event is presently pressing upon you, . . . but you are completely responsible for all your future responses . . . after the dust of that difficulty has long since settled. Understanding these ideas are crucial to releasing yourself from the torment and suffering and syndrome of Post Traumatic Stress.
Because the Division of Response-Ability Principle maintains that YOU
So the KEY . . .
As Mother Teresa advised:
"Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not come.
After reading the explanation herein, . . . if you are still unclear about HOW Post Traumatic Stress can actually be "volunteered for," . . . you can Ask Dr Matt a question directly.
Changing Your Stripes is a