What should we be hurt by?

Poking around the internet, I ran across two interesting articles that seemed to be linked only by offhand comments about the legitimacy or ‘realness’ of certain kinds of suffering.  First, from Mother Jones piece on PTSD:

Whatever is happening to Caleb, it’s as old as war itself. The ancient historian Herodotus told of Greeks being honorably dismissed for being “out of heart” and “unwilling to encounter danger.” Civil War doctors, who couldn’t think of any other thing that might be unpleasant about fighting the Civil War but homesickness, diagnosed thousands with “nostalgia.” Later, it was deemed “irritable heart.” In World War I it was called “shell shock.” In World War II, “battle fatigue.” It wasn’t an official diagnosis until 1980, when Post Traumatic Stress Disorder made its debut in psychiatry’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, uniting a flood of Vietnam vets suffering persistent psych issues with traumatized civilians—previously assigned labels like “accident neurosis” and “post-rape syndrome”—onto the same page of the DSM-III.

But whatever people have called it, they haven’t been likely to grasp or respect it. In 1943, when Lt. General George S. Patton met an American soldier at an Italian hospital recovering from “nerves,” Patton slapped him and called him a coward. In 2006, the British Ministry of Defence pardoned some 300 soldiers who had been executed for cowardice and desertion during World War I, having concluded that many were probably just crippled by PTSD.

And then from an Esquire article on injuries in the NFL:

“Injury has not been part of my career,” he said. “I’ve only gotten hurt twice. I got hurt once in college and once in the pros.”

Right, but that second injury, against the Steelers…

“No. I mean now. The MCL.”

“So you don’t consider the concussion an injury?”

“That’s what they consider it. But getting a concussion and hurting your knee are two different things. You get back up from a concussion.”

Willis McGahee was knocked out cold against the Steelers. He went out on the board. He didn’t consider himself injured, though, because like all NFL players he considers himself an expert in what qualifies as an injury and what doesn’t. The loss of consciousness he suffered in Pittsburgh didn’t qualify because it didn’t require rehabilitation. It didn’t put his career in jeopardy. It didn’t exile him from his teammates.

And most of all, it didn’t hurt.

Both of these articles seem to touch on the legitimacy of different kinds of pain.  Normally, we talk about building up strength as though we were developing callouses.  We need to be able to beat the pain, or, if that’s not possible, then it’s time for protective gear to shield ourselves off.

But, when I read the PTSD article, I almost screamed at my computer.  What kind of humans would we be if we didn’t recoil at killing?  We talk about training away a flinch as though it will make us more resilient, but we’re not necessarily learning how to bounce back; we’re shape shifting.

Deciding how to process pain means deciding what constitutes harm.  The football player in the Esquire story would be better served if concussions were as sharply aversive as touching a hot stove.  The soldiers might be better off where the pain of causing harm to another person was judged by society to be as devastating as having a leg blown off.  The trouble is that we’re not sensitive to everything that we’re susceptible to.

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as a statistician for a school in Washington D.C. by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • B. R. Lind

    Just dropping by to point out that “recoils from killing” is not a symptom of PTSD or considered pathological in any way, in case anyone was unclear about that. The constellation of symptoms we call PTSD affect one’s ability to function in peacetime as well as in war. (In fact, some PTSD symptoms are quite adaptive to an environment in which you are in constant mortal danger.)

    • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca Randy

      So how does it get confused with desertion then?

      It seems to me we need the ability to draft people into combat service. If we give them all PTSD as a way out then does it really becomes voluntary service? Can we tell the PTSD people from those who compulsory is supposed to compel?

      • Darren

        Not sure about Canada, but in the US we do not have the draft.

        • Alan

          While we don’t currently have a draft we do have selective service we are required to register for and can legally reinstate the draft at any time so it isn’t a completely moot question.

          • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca Randy

            I know we don’t have the draft now. It has been needed in the past. We should assume we will need it again some day. When it is used desertion during war is typically punished severely. I know in Canada we have all but eliminated the death penalty but we still have it for that crime. It makes sense because you are compelling a person to risk death. How do you do that?

            Anyway, the British Ministry of Defense seems to think they made a mistake in executing those guys. If you are going to say that is wrong then you are back to the question of how do you compel people to face a major risk of death and not have mass desertions?

          • Darren

            Alan;

            Yes, we do have a volunteer military, and as a former soldier, I am proud of my service.

            Also as a former soldier, I feel that our voluntary military is bad policy. It makes the decision to send troops into harms way too easy, too tempting. After all, these people “knew what they were signing up for”. The “gut check” comes from sending in the troops knowing one’s children may be among them. Europe has a better handle on this than the US, and I think it no coincidence the limited engagements in which European troops participate.

            Let’s bring back the draft. Or, barring that, make enfranchisement contingent upon military service.

          • Darren

            Randy;

            I must confess to being a bit puzzled. Over at the SSM debate, you are firmly on the side of opposing SSM lest Catholic institutions and Catholic individuals be compelled to do something against their convictions, like treat gay couples equally to straight couples.

            Yet here, you are pondering how best we go about compelling our citizenry to slaughter their fellow men, and no shirking just because they have _feelings_ about doing so…

            Fortunately, the last time the United States faced a real threat from foreign invaders was during the War of 1812, from the British and Canadians thank you very much.

            The development of the atomic bomb forever eliminated the threat that the United States would again face the sort of large scale immanent invasion threat that would necessitate a general conscription. Everything since has been only the projection of political influence by means of military force in the furtherance of our overseas interests and the interests of our allies.

            Even luckier, the continued automation of our military forces in the form of cruise missiles, unmanned drones, and autonomous vehicles will serve only to further reduce our reliance on the lowly grunt.

          • Mike

            I think you might be confused about the purpose of marriage, family and the point of a strong defense but I can see why you’d think that given your worldview.

            Interesting you say you’d like to bring back the draft. I think you’d find alot of support for that idea on the so-called right of the political spectrum. That way the pain would be shared equally. So the liberal elites who insulate themselves so well from suffering would be forced to partake in some of it.

          • Darren

            “I think you might be confused about the purpose of marriage, family and the point of a strong defense but I can see why you’d think that given your worldview.”

            Sure, thing, Mike. Why don’t you explain it to me, then.

            Explain to me why renting a KofC hall to a gay couple, or Hobby Lobby having insurance that allows birth control pills, is a _huge_freekin’_deal_, but enslaving a couple of ten thousand teenagers to be our dutiful little kill-bots, then sending them off to murder and die so that the Saudi royal family can spend more of its money on Rolls Royce’s and less on F-15’s, well, that’s just fine…

            This is why non-veterans shouldn’t be allowed to vote…

          • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca Randy

            I must confess to being a bit puzzled. Over at the SSM debate, you are firmly on the side of opposing SSM lest Catholic institutions and Catholic individuals be compelled to do something against their convictions, like treat gay couples equally to straight couples.

            That is not the reason I oppose SSM so I have failed to communicate that very well. I oppose SSM because it is bad for society. A proper understanding of marriage is good for society. A disorder understanding is bad for society.

            I do expect that Catholics people and Catholic institutions will be threatened with severe consequences if they try and live their faith. Is that a good reason to oppose it? That would be a selfish reason. It is natural for a secular society to do things Catholics can’t accept. We end up with the choice of caving in or paying the price. It can get ugly. But the church will always be fighting evil. Society will fight with hatred and violence. We will fight with love and martyrdom. It is what we do.

            How does this relate to military conscription? Not sure. I am still thinking of the good of society. If we didn’t have conscription would we have won WWII. I doubt it. If we didn’t have Gen Patton slapping soldiers in the face and calling them cowards we might not have won either. War is messy. PTSD is part of it. If you believe there is such a thing as a just war then you have to ask what are the rules. What does a Christian nation fighting a war look like? The crusaders struggled with that.

            Anyway, I know in previous wars people tried to fake injuries to avoid combat. Would PTSD be the ultimate injury anyone could fake. I mean everyone get stressed in war.

          • http://ayearoflivingadventurously.wordpress.com Emily

            Y’know, some of us CAN’T serve in the military. That doesn’t mean that we should be barred from voting. What sort of sense does that make?

          • Darren

            ”That is not the reason I oppose SSM so I have failed to communicate that very well. I oppose SSM because it is bad for society. A proper understanding of marriage is good for society. A disorder understanding is bad for society.”

            Color me skeptical. So, the Pope gives a press release tomorrow saying the whole Catholic opposition to SSM was a big misunderstanding. You’re still out there manning the barricades?

            ” …If we didn’t have Gen Patton slapping soldiers in the face and calling them cowards we might not have won either. War is messy. PTSD is part of it…”

            Honestly, I am just at a loss as to how to even begin with this. Two things only come to mind:

            1. That it is thanks to people like me that people like you are free to speak as you will, and that by uttering such unadulterated horseshit you are doing a very poor job indeed of honoring that sacrifice; and

            2. The more I talk with people like you and Mike, the more I really think that non-veterans should not vote.

          • Darren

            Don’t worry, Emily; not gonna’ happen.

            Even if it did, there would still be plenty of puff assignments to keep our rich men’s sons far from the mud and the blood.

          • Mike

            Darren,

            A couple years back 2 women sat down for lunch at a gay men’s restaurant in Montreal and were politely asked to leave. They didn’t want to but were told it was a restaurant for men only. They sued. I don’t know if they won but I hope not.

            The men have a right to their restaurant unless of course there’s no where for women to eat. The same goes for the KofC. It’s their hall and they should be able to align their consciences with their public activities without being threatened with legal action. They aren’t harming anyone. You know sometimes I suspect that we Catholics are more libertarian than you atheists.

            The same goes for not being forced to pay for something you think is wrong. Can the gov. force orthodox jews to serve pork in their delis? There are of course other issues to do with what the gov. can force you to pay for.

            Darren, were you as for gay marriage 5 years ago as you are now? How come it didn’t feature on the radar of say 99% of people 10 years ago? If it’s such a fundamental issue of justice surely it should have gotten play before like last week, no? You know the truth. It’s a political wedge issue. It’s the hip in-thing now. But just because the RCC has the courage to say well no 2 men can never be married to each other, not because we say so but because nature designed us that way, we get heat. And that’s not right, that’s wrong.

          • Darren

            …and just for the record, I am not pro-SSM; I am anti-bullshit.

          • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca Randy

            That it is thanks to people like me that people like you are free to speak as you will, and that by uttering such unadulterated horseshit you are doing a very poor job indeed of honoring that sacrifice; and

            This is very confusing to me. I was defending Gen Patton. Not completely but he was who he was and we tolerated him because we thought he gave us the best chance to win the war. I am not sure they were wrong. I can understand not wanting to take the risk. So how does that dishonoring the sacrifice of veterans?

          • Darren

            Sigh…

            Did you even read the article Leah linked to in her post? Or the one that I posted in response?

            Tell you what: go sign yourself up, spend some time getting _your_ ass shot at, murder a couple of your fellow human beings in a just war fought by a Christian nation, then come back and we’ll talk some more.

          • Mike

            Darren,
            I am also against bs. Like the bs that a pair of men, that that relationship is equal to a man and a women. Now if anything is bs it’s that. No disrespect meant to anyone but come off it man.

            Oh and just becaues you’ve been in a war you volunteered to fight in doesn’t give you the right to denigrate other people’s ideas of valour. It just makes you sound like a dick.

          • ACN

            “I am also against bs. Like the bs that a pair of men, that that relationship is equal to a man and a women. Now if anything is bs it’s that. No disrespect meant to anyone but come off it man.”

            I’m going to disrespect the piss out of you, no disrespect though.

            “It just makes you sound like a dick.”

            Dearest Pot,
            There is a good friend of mine, his name is Kettle, the too of you should meet. You can discuss your mutual affinity for matte black surfaces.

          • Mike

            :) ok good point ACN. You’re right but I did only say it made him sound like a dick and besides he’s the one who put not being a dick into his Humanist manifesto.

            I only said no disrespect because I didn’t want to have people like you jumping down my throat for trying to come to a point quickly. I of course for the 1000th time do not believe that gays in gay relationships are in any way not equal to anyboday else. The status of the relationship is another matter – it is by it’s very nature NOT equal, in the strict sense of the word. But I really don’t want to get into that right now.

          • Alan

            Darren – I’m sympathetic to the notion that a draft, at least for national service if not military service, would help decision making in this country at the same time I am persuaded by the evidence that a volunteer military is more effective than a drafted one, the concern of forced conscription as a form of forced labor and the observation that decision making when we did have a draft didn’t exactly demonstrate enlightened thought.

          • Darren

            Randy;

            I assume you argue from lack of understanding, not ill intent, so perhaps I can yet help.

            War is not the black and white thing that we like to tell ourselves it is. In the real world, there is no Good versus Evil, there is just us versus them. There are just causes, no argument, and even just wars, but the soldiers in those trenches are not demons, or orcs, or aliens, they are men and women, just like us. They have mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. Once upon a time, they were little children, playing with balls or running in yards. They may or may not believe in their cause, they may or may not have had a choice, and in the end does it really matter? Dead is dead, and everything they ever were, everything they might ever be, is gone in the pull of a trigger.

            Sure, Hitler was a bad guy, and the SS had it coming, every one, but there were an awful lot of German teenagers that we had to cut our way through to get them.

            Sadam Hussein was a bad guy, and the Republican Guard in Kuwait (Desert Storm) had it coming as well. But Joe average Iraqi on the front lines? There were just rounded up and trucked to the front. By the time US forces cut through, they had not been fed in weeks. Most of their tanks didn’t even work. The only thing keeping them there was that their own command had put minefields _behind_ them so that they could not retreat… They were begging to surrender, but they had to wait for us to dig them out of their own minefields!

            Yeah, there are Just Wars to be fought, but I would suggest you think hard about what that really means when you get all pumped up and excited. This is not Call of Duty, this is real life. It is not just our blood we are talking about, but all the poor bastards that we have to grind into hamburger to achieve that Just Victory; guys that got told God was on their side, too…

          • ACN

            “I of course for the 1000th time do not believe that gays in gay relationships are in any way not equal to anyboday else. The status of the relationship is another matter – it is by it’s very nature NOT equal, in the strict sense of the word.”

            The subtext of what you’re saying is at odds with your tacked on “no disrespect”. It’s not enough that your claim is actually deeply disrespectful, you have to additionally disrespect (or insult the intelligence) of your reader by tacking on “no disrespect” onto the end.

            Stop me if you’ve heard this before:
            “I’m not a racist butttttttttttttt………”

          • Darren

            You are right, Alan, fortunately no one listens to me so I am free to spout all manner of poorly conceived advice.

            I do find it troubling the lack of military experience among our elected officials, though. Many times have I wished, for our sake as well as the sakes of the Iraqi’s and Afghani’s, that it had been President McCain sitting in the oval office, September of 2001…

          • Darren

            ACN;

            How does every ethnic joke begin?

            [turns head to left, turns head to right]

          • Mike

            Oh geez ok ACN you got it I am a raging whatever-phobe you want me to be :). No I am just having a bit of fun with you. But seriously what could I have said? That I have gay friends? LOL The only thing you want to hear is gay relationships are equal to straight relationships ad infinitum. Ok so let’s say they are. The reality will not change. But anyway no hard feelings.

            Darren, the first iraq war is very close to me. I know from personal experience that when Bush 2 decided to invade iraq a second time the shite minority fell to it knees and thanked god for coming to their rescue. Not too many americans like to think about the millions of people who were freed as a result. Do you remember any mention of rape rooms under Sadam?
            War is ugly. Humanity can be ugly and beautiful. It is a mix. But it is real, both of it. There is real love and real hate. We in the west confuse disagreement with hate because we haven’t suffered in a while. That’s a good thing but it can also warp our understanding of what we should be hurt by. Anyway that’s it for now.

            God bless.

          • ACN

            Keep digging Mike.

          • Mike

            :) LOL oh come on ACN. Anyway, I’ll keep digging if you keep filling ;).

          • Darren

            “…I know from personal experience that when Bush 2 decided to invade iraq a second time the shite minority fell to it knees and thanked god for coming to their rescue….”

            Man, Shiites falling to their knees and thanking the Catholic God for G. W. Bush (a Presbyterian, if I am not mistaken). How’s _that_ for a multicultural moment…

            BTW, Shiites are the _majority_ in Iraq…

            Must not have mentioned that on O’Reilly…

          • Mike

            “Must not have mentioned that on O’Reilly…”

            Like I said I have direct, really, direct knowledge of this. (It doesn’t matter how but believe me Shiites LOVED GWB.) The Shiites were brutally oppressed by Sadam and so when GWB decided to invade many of them including many of them abroad held special services to thank God. I don’t know if this was mentioned by Bill but back then I thought he was a right-wing nut. I don’t think that anymore but that’s another story. Darren, not everything is done with some ulterior malevolent purpose in mind. Sometimes things really are just what they seem to be. Anyway, as for God being a Catholic or whatever, I don’t think so, so not sure where you got that idea.

          • Darren

            Mike;

            Of course the Shiites loved being liberated from the brutal oppression of Sadam Hussein’s _minority_ Sunni regime.

            You seem to think that just because I share Leah’s horror at murdering my fellow man, and just because I object to you and Randy cavalierly stating that “well, war just sucks, and PTSD is part of it, but can’t let those lazy soldiers go malingering when there’s killin needs doin’”, that this must mean I am some “Born on the Fourth of July” born-again peacenik. Let me disabuse you of that notion. My fierce advocacy for the common soldier and my sympathy, _extending_even_to_the_enemy_, in no way applies to the politicians and leaders who so careless spend those lives.

            Make no mistake, I would have volunteered for a month of KP to be the one to put two bullets in the back of the MF’s head _personally_, then had my sidearm bronzed and hung it up over my mantle to show to my grandkids some day.

            _still_ does not change the fact that is a hard, fucked up thing killing a man, for all that sometimes it has to happen, but it is for damn sure not a thing to take lightly.

            And the Shiites would have given thanks to _Allah_…

            Mercy but you get my blood pressure up…

          • Mike

            Yeah I hear you. Sorry I got your blood pressure up. But hey that’s why we’re on here, to pick fights in good faith and to duke it out, for fun. Anyway see on the next post.

        • just sayin

          Yes we do…its a backdoor draft which was in effect insituted when all those “volunteers” started getting sent back again and again for multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan…in Vietnam you only had to serve one tour and you were done.

      • Iks

        For one thing, PTSD is more likely to occur in people who have already seen action. Someone drafted for the first time in an emergency war situation would be less likely to have it.

        These are the symptoms:
        ” Diagnostic symptoms for PTSD include re-experiencing the original trauma(s) through flashbacks or nightmares, avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, and increased arousal—such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, anger, and hypervigilance. Formal diagnostic criteria (both DSM-IV-TR and ICD-10) require that the symptoms last more than one month and cause significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.”

        It would be possibe to fake but you’d have to keep up the screaming fits for at least a month. There are questinnaires to determine symptoms. Plus you’d have to make up a traumatic event in your past, which could have triggered it.

        “Standardized screening tools such as Trauma Screening Questionnaire and PTSD Symptom Scale can be used to detect possible symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder and suggest the need for a formal diagnostic assessment”

        From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posttraumatic_stress_disorder#Diagnosis

      • http://ayearoflivingadventurously.wordpress.com Emily

        “Rich” is defined as….what?

        • Darren

          Oh, there were ways to avoid the draft.

          If you just wanted to avoid the draft, then having money to stay in college would do. If you ran the risk of graduating before the war was done, just flunk some classes (Dick Cheney).

          If you had enough connections, you could just tie up the whole draft process for years until the draft board gave up and moved on (Bill Clinton).

          If you wanted to have military service, maybe to help in your political career down the line, but you did not want to risk actually being shot at, you could have some strings pulled and end up, say, protecting the skies of South Texas against enemy aggression. That sort of dodge would require pretty significant pull, though (George W. Bush).

          Or, you could starve yourself and stop bathing for several weeks before your physical, hoping to become sickly enough to get a medical exemption (Ted Nuget).

          Back in the day, you could just tell them you were gay (Cpl. Max Klinger), but President Obama took care of that one…

          But in all seriousness, there will never, ever, be a draft in the US again. N-E-V-E-R. It is too politically costly, and the modern battlefield no longer relies on the mass bodies that conscription provides.

          • just sayin

            In the Vietnam era you could claim to be homosexual and avoid the draft.

            Guess that ones out now.

  • B. Durbin

    I saw a documentary play about PTSD in American veterans partially based on (and named after) the book Achilles in America. What is interesting is that there is an Army psychologist who has been doing strong, in-depth research into the roots of PTSD, and of the reluctance to actually treat it as a real issue (the latter being why there is such a high suicide rate among discharged PTSD sufferers; while there are resources in place, the culture is still very much geared towards the idea that they’re “malingering.”)

    His research indicates that the prime cause of PTSD is not necessarily the killing itself—witness the large percentage of soldiers who do not get those symptoms—but from a kind of cognitive dissonance cause by the fact that we train soldiers to kill with their bodies but don’t work through the psychological ramifications of killing, so they kill before they’ve even had a chance to process what they are doing. (This is not to say that you need to teach people that killing is right or okay; it just means that processing that sometimes killing is necessary is essential. Domestically, folks are less likely to be traumatized from having to kill someone in order to save their child’s life, though they may have trauma from the attack itself.)

    And of course, that type of training—where you learn to shoot by rote—was developed precisely because if you give soldiers a chance to think about what they’re doing, a large number won’t shoot at all. So that psychologist proposes developing a concurrent stream of training that helps adjust the soldiers (and hopefully helps to change the culture of seeking help afterwards.) As of yet, his suggestions have not been implemented.

  • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca Randy

    I think we are looking at a few populations who are trying not to be sensitive. Soldiers and football players do expect to suffer and still perform. Those are the exceptions. I think we more typically have the problem of being overly sensitive to pain and suffering. So these guys are hard for us to understand. We are quick to leave marriages. We are quick to call for euthanasia. We reject the suffering of chastity. We don’t expect anyone to be open to life. We are quick to declare people victims and demand society do something. We can accept any evil except suffering.

    This is why the cross of Christ makes so little sense. Why the Catholic teaching of making sense of suffering and giving meaning to suffering is confusing. You mean we still suffer? Actually, yes.

    • Name

      It’s the kind of language you’re using about ‘declaring’ people victims that can lead to people with mental disorders, like PTSD, being ignored or stigmatised as malingerers. Do you believe that it’s possible to be mentally ill? If so, who do you think should be diagnosing such disorders? Are the professional psychologists not doing a good enough job? What would you change about the way they make their diagnosis?

      If I had to choose between living in a society that was oversensitive to suffering and one that was undersensitve, I’d pick the former.

  • math_geek

    I love NFL football, and disagree with Leah’s claim that it’s immoral, but the Willis McGahee concussion was horrible. I remember seeing it and being horrified, along with my best friend (who’s a Bills fan and strongly dislikes McGahee). The Steelers stadium went silent. It was clear that something had happened that wasn’t supposed to happen.

    I don’t really see the virtue in sending people to war without trying to minimize the effects of war on them (including trying to prevent PTSD). Sure, it’s natural that we have a BSOD upon killing another person, we are dramatically doing something that we were not supposed to do. War, even Just war, is an abomination and a perversion. But while causing war is certainly evil, I’m not convinced that responding to a war that already de facto exists is even close to the same thing.

  • Ashley

    “But, when I read the PTSD article, I almost screamed at my computer. What kind of humans would we be if we didn’t recoil at killing? We talk about training away a flinch as though it will make us more resilient, but we’re not necessarily learning how to bounce back; we’re shape shifting.”

    I really don’t understand your reaction to this article. PTSD is a mental response that is often crippling wrt to living in everyday society, but you seem to be interpreting it as a moral reflex to killing. It isn’t, and “training away” the “flinch” is not a moral regression, it’s a treatment. Many people recoil at killing. Some do not. There’s no correlation I know of between a person’s response to or attitude towards killing and PTSD.

    • http://adaldrida.wordpress.com Liz

      I agree. PTSD is crippling and is not a good way of responding to killing. It should be possible to replace it with a healthier response. Numbness to killing is not the only alternative.

      Personal example: One of my dorm neighbors committed suicide. I felt partially responsible because I had never paid any attention to him. It hurt excruciatingly for a few days, but I decided to turn the experience into something productive and use it as in impetus to learn to be kinder to the people near me. But that didn’t work because I got PTSD. I couldn’t sleep or think straight. I couldn’t make decisions and certainly couldn’t be kind to my friends. My original intentions would have been a far better response.

  • Joe

    I wonder if PTSD rates go up in a conflict most people find futile? I don’t mean to suggest that soldiers would claim PTSD to get out of fighting I just think that killing for an unworthy cause would be more traumatic then killing for an achievable goal or worthy cause.

    • Mike

      Good point. I bet there were fewer PTSD cases among the resistors in the Warsaw uprising than in say Afghanistan. The morality of a conflict matters alot I think. BTW I am not saying the Afghanistan war is not moral; it’s just a convenient example.

    • Darren

      PTSD rates go up with the intensity of the conflict – intensity here being how constant and severe is the stress.

      • Mike

        I get PTSD everything my in-laws are over. :)

  • Mike

    Sounds like in both cases pain is a blessing. It’s telling both guys to slow down and take care of themselves; that there is danger on the horizon and that what they’re doing is dangerous. It seems to me sin does something like that. It warns people of dangers to their spiritual health. So in that sense even sin is a necessary evil. And so are what seem like small sins because they lead to bigger sins.

    It’s weird, our culture’s focus on ridding the world of pain and suffering. On the one hand it’s what we’re called to do as members of the RCC but on the other it’s something we’re supposed to enter into and transform. It seems like a contradiction. How can you eliminate something by entering into it?

    I guess pain without meaning is the worst kind. At least the soldier with PTSD and the footballer with a ticking time bomb in his head are hurting themselves for something greather than them. The soldier is doing it for his fellow soldiers and his country and the footballer for glory and for his family. They are sacrificing themselves for the greater good. Their pain is a small price to pay in the final analysis it seems. I guess that’s just the price that somebody has to pay. Would we watch hockey without the hits or football? We wouldn’t. Do we honor killer drones? No and good thing too.

    • http://thinkinggrounds.blogspot.com Christian H

      “Would we watch hockey without the hits or football? We wouldn’t.”

      Actually, that would be the condition for my watching.

      • Mike

        No offence but you’d be the only one. To be clear I wouldn’t miss the skull cracking shoulders to the head hits or the blind side broad sides but hits and good clean hits are part of the game, part of the intensity. Of course that’s because hockey and footbal are by design contact sports whereas basketball is not meant to be. The fighting I don’t really care about in hockey. But no contact football, say flag football or no hitting hockey wouldn’t be the same.

        • Erick

          No pain, no gain.

          I agree Mike. The contact highlights the skill and strategy in both sports. Without the punishment, the finesse becomes boring. Ever watch the Pro Bowl or the All-Star game… that’s what happens to football and hockey without hitting.

        • Dan

          He’s nowhere near the only one… at the very least, the whole of my very, very, extremely large family disdains violence in general and violence inside sports with a passion. The past two generations were and are effectively forbidden from engaging in sports that tend towards violence. Anything that gets much worse than american touch-football (outside of martial arts, which are considered an unfortunate necessity) is frowned upon as gratuitous self-injury or irresponsible parenting (in other words, full-tackle football & hockey with its violent tendencies are reviled).

          This trend has only increased with the growing percentage of professional and arm chair philosophers (of pretty much every traditions), clerics (of multiple faiths) , nurses, and doctors. I actually appreciate this trend, to be honest.

          • Erick

            I disagree with the classification that the violence in sports like football and hockey are gratuitous.

            1) There really is no non-contact defense possible in those two sports. It’s not like basketball where face guarding is good enough. If the players were not allowed to hit in those sports, you would have to rely on mistakes by the offenses in order to make stops. While this may be ok in pee-wee or lower levels where skill sets are not that well formed yet, it becomes an uncompetitive scenario in professional levels.

            2) Sports as defined today (and as the Olympics will tell you) is really about not just reaching the maximum extremities of human skill, but also extending those maximums (higher, faster, stronger, smarter, etc.). In this way, football and hockey fits right in with any other sport.

    • Maiki

      Um… I like hockey for the game. Just like I like soccer for the game. Them breaking out into fights stops the game and is distracting, actually.

    • Tom

      Many non-contact sports achieve large audiences.
      People watch things like gymnastic or figure skating as well, where there’s no direct competition and part of the score is the beauty of the performance. Or dancing, where athleticism is just in the service of art, not competition.

    • http://delphipsmith.livejournal.com Delphi Psmith

      Would we watch hockey without the hits or football? We wouldn’t.

      I would be much more likely to watch it without that. Give me skill over physical violence any day.

  • Darren

    Lest we get off target, PTSD is caused by others trying to kill _us_, not the other way around.

    Do we want to talk about the difficulty one human has with killing another, or do we want to talk about PTSD, cause thay are not the same thing…

    • Darren

      From Wikipedia :

      “PTSD symptoms can follow any serious psychological trauma, such as exposure to combat, accidents, torture, disasters, criminal assault and exposure to atrocities or to the sequelae of such extraordinary events. Prisoners of war exposed to harsh treatment are particularly prone to develop PTSD. In their acute presentation these symptoms, which include subsets of a large variety of affective, cognitive, perceptional, emotional and behavioral responses which are relatively normal responses to gross psychological trauma. If persistent, however, they develop a life of their own and may be maintained by inadvertent reinforcement. Early intervention and later avoidance of positive reinforcement (which may be subtle) for such symptoms is a critical preventive measure.”

      Another big population – victims of sexual assault…

      I think what Leah is after, here, is the human reluctance to kill. A (very) brief search found this article, which at a skim seems to be reasonable enough:
      The Psychology of Killing :

  • Clare Krishan

    um… “It seems to me sin does something like that. It warns people of dangers to their spiritual health.”
    … er
    No actually. Compunction does that. For which you need a more or less well-formed conscience and a good dose of effective grace (as opposed to sacramental grace that heals the wound of “sin makes you stupid”)
    I think Leah is assuming a lot when she equates rational cogniscance of suffering (when the sensation reaches the mental apparatus that makes sense of it) with the moral awareness of same (when that mental cogniscance reaches the conscience apparatus that makes hale or harm of it) .
    IMHO those afflicted with PTSD may have weaknesses in either anthropological skill: their minds — the frontal lobe amygdala in particular– may be more sensitive (I’m thinking here of Aspies who often surprise their loved ones by being reliably level-headed and conscientious but then unreliably burn-out mid-career when their amygdala can take no more stress) or their conscience is more developed by a religious component or an advanced station in life (where responsibility for the welfare of others — or the informed insight into lack of same in one’s neighbor or superior — burdens the soul).
    Reflexive conscienciousness is the anthropological skill we used to call “virtue,” the first hurdle of which was a desire for self-knowledge, a necessary openness to compunction. In our age compunction has gone out of fashion, no one has to ‘suffer’ any more in pursuit of self-improvement. This is a collossal weakness of culture that plays out in some egregious ways – for example, war reparations owed to the Christians decimated by the misguided US war on terror? Not going to happen (for then Mr Bush and his ilk would have to “suffer” compunction and ‘fess up to responsibilities, for actions have consequences).
    Love freedom? Yes!
    Pay the price for the moral hazard of getting it wrong? Never!
    This is the arguement behind Nicholas Nassim Taleb’s antifragility thesis: pain is not all bad. In fact the more small bumps you get to experience, the more prepared you may be to avoid bigger ones. Subsidiarity in a nutshell: the social justice component of virtue, very much neglected by modern nanny-statism which infantilizes citizens and defers their pain to others yet unborn.

    • grok87

      Taleb also makes another interesting point using weightlifting as an example. He advocates a practice called “maximum lifts” (he did not invent it, i think it is a standard approach) whereby you don’t do a lot of “reps” of weights of moderate weight. Rather you do one or a few lifts of a large amount of weight, and you try to increase that from week to week. So you lift say 100 lbs this week, then 120 next week, then 140 the next week and so on until you presumably max out at some point. He says
      “in weightlifting… the body overshoots in response to exposures and overprepares (up to the point of biological limit, of course). This is how bodies get stronger” (loc. 995).
      So he thinks if you have been lifting 100 lbs, and then lift 120, you body will overshoot and prepare for you to lift 140, and so on.

    • Wki

      If you’re going to talk about the causes of Ptsd, at least read the wikipedia article first, otherwise it’s impossible to take you seriously.

      That goes for everyone making guessess about how it works without citing any evidence.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posttraumatic_stress_disorder

    • Mike

      Yes, thank you. Compunction is a better word for it. I was using sin loosely just to cut to the chase.

    • http://adaldrida.wordpress.com Liz

      “This is the arguement behind Nicholas Nassim Taleb’s antifragility thesis: pain is not all bad. In fact the more small bumps you get to experience, the more prepared you may be to avoid bigger ones.”

      Wikipedia: “Predictor models have consistently found that childhood trauma, chronic adversity, and familial stressors increase risk for PTSD as well as risk for biological markers of risk for PTSD after a traumatic event in adulthood”

      In this case, what doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.

      • Darren

        Nicely turned.

  • keddaw

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/februaryweb-only/16-11.0.html

    Knock yourself out with your nutty new religion….

    • Mike

      …for real? lol.

    • Margaret Catherine

      Nothing new about the practice, but hadn’t heard that JPII used the discipline. Thanks for the link!

  • http://www.havingleftthealtar.com Katherine

    I think PTSD as you speak about it here testifies that there is something inherent in human beings that recognizes a sameness with other human beings and the inherent dignity of being human such that atrocities can criple the individual who has experienced or witness their reality. Perhaps being immune to atrocities commited to human beings is when we deny the inherent dignity of the human person? If that is the case, denying human dignity can become a defense mechanism but likewise seems to reduce the person to no more than an animal.

  • Clare Krishan

    Dutch monk Benedict van Haeften advised “cordis circumcisio” in his chapbook (self-improvement Baroque-style)
    (and Anglican Christopher Harvey translated his ode based on Deut 10:16 into English thus
    http://collection1.libraries.psu.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/emblem/id/304/rec/3
    click tab for pgs 057-058)
    After you’re over the sting of slicing your heart’s metaphorical foreskin, man-up for the brutal pounding if just beginning – turn to pgs 061-062 to place your heart under the pestle in a spiritual mortar
    “HOW gladly would I bruise and break this heart
    Unto a thousand pieces till the smart
    Make it confess that of its Own accord
    It wilfully rebell’d against the Lord ”
    [full word search version at books.google.com/books?id=yNgDAAAAQAAJ]

  • Cam

    People need to be aware of the different forms and causes of pain, and treat them appropriately, sure. We don’t do this well, sure.

    But PTSD isn’t skydaddy tripping your magic conscience when you’ve done something wrong, and that’s what you seem to be asserting. This is very bad misinformation.

  • Arizona Mike

    One of the populations with the highest incidence of PTSD are those who have been prostituted:

    http://www.prostitutionresearch.com/ProsViolPosttrauStress.html

    The research reflects that women who are prostituted have higher rates of PTSD than returning Iraqi war veterans, which is a frightening statistic. You can blame this continual hypervigilant state on violence by pimps, johns, and those who hang out in red-light districts); the non-stop demand for income from pimps, and the violent response by pimps to infractions of their arcane rules; the stress of separation from family, friends and support networks; the high rate of other stress-related diseases (asthma, PID, STDs, common pre-existing emotional and mental conditions such as cutting disorders, ADD, addictions, etc.); terrible nutrition and health care; lack of sleep; a non-stop environment of violence; and lowered self esteem and destruction of human dignity.

    This has been an issue the Catholic Church has fought against for centuries. St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. Patrick, and St. Nicholas all fought for the dignity and safety of those victimized by prostitution, often at the risk of their own lives. Such Catholic charities as DIGNITY House (http://www.catholiccharitiesaz.org/ServicesForThoseInNeed/SexTrafficking/ResidentialProgramDignityHouse.aspx) provide safe houses, job training, and legal intervention for the victims. Their workers are deserving of our respect and help.

    I was reminded of this while reading “Les Miserables” lately, with Hugo’s insightful treatment of the plight of Fantine:

    “What is this history of Fantine? It is society purchasing a slave.

    From whom? From misery.

    From hunger, cold, isolation, destitution. A dolorous bargain. A soul for a morsel of bread. Misery offers. Society accepts.

    The sacred law of Jesus governs our civilization, but does not, as yet, permeate it; it is said that slavery has disappeared from European civilization. This is a mistake. It still exists; bit it weighs only upon the woman, and it is called prostitution.”

    • Jubal DiGriz

      I feel obliged to point out that there are other kinds of sexual abuse that can trigger PTSD that the Catholic Church has been less proactive about.

      http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/child-sexual-abuse.asp

      http://www.ts-si.org/soc-&-psych/24620-analysis-links-between-sexual-orientation-violence-and-ptsd
      [quote]The researchers suggest five mechanisms for the increased risk of victimization and PTSD among sexual minorities:

      Hate crimes—almost one-third of sexual minority adults in the U.S. report being victims of a hate crime.

      Gender non-conforming behavior in childhood, which increases risk of being bullied and victimized.

      Social isolation and discrimination due to sexual minority orientation.

      Elevated risk-taking behavior stemming from social isolation and perceived stigma.

      Limited access to mental health care.[/quote]

    • Mike

      Very good point. Sexual slavery is flourishing in parts of Europe. The girls come from eastern europe and are in turn sold in western europe. Taken, the movie, was a sensational depiction of what probably happens but I bet it got alot of it right.

      PS Sweden seems to have a really good approach to this. Prostitution is illegal and stricly enforced but the girls are never charged. They go after the johns and go after them hard. It seems to me there’s something to this approach – although I am hesitant to give too much credit to Sweden as it is almost 100% white and ethnically and culturally homogeneous.

      • http://ayearoflivingadventurously.wordpress.com Emily

        The Church *is* becoming proactive on the subject of human trafficking, as are the states. This was part of this year’s March for Life–human trafficking was listed on the materials I saw as one of the causes the marchers supported.

    • grok87

      @Arizona Mike,
      good les Mis quote.

  • Rider

    Concussions don’t hurt because the brain itself has no pain receptors. That’s because it’s the place where pain and other sensations are processed. It’s why they can do brain surgery on people who are wide awake without any ill effects. Yeah, it might be better if they did hurt, but it would be a strange kind of brain that had pain receptors in the middle.

    Personally, I think it’s up to the football player if they want to risk brain injury. As long as they understand the risks involves, which I think most of them do, then it’s their life and their body they are damaging. A lot of sports have a risk involved. I used to ride horse. I fell off several times and banged myself up. I could have broken my spine. I’d still have been very annoyed if someone had taken the freedom to ride horses away from me.

    Of course there are sensible precautions people can take, which don’t ruin the game. Like wearing helmets. But you can’t guarantee an injury-free game.

    • http://ayearoflivingadventurously.wordpress.com Emily

      Amen. I have expounded on this is the Thanksgiving Football Post. :)

    • keddaw

      Even though it has been shown wearing helmets leads to an increase in head (and spinal) injuries?

      Humans are a strange bunch, make something safer through a reasoned, sensible measure (helmets) and we’ll find ways to not only mitigate that risk but even make it more dangerous (using the head as the focal point of tackles, aiming for solid parts of the opponent [knees] to try to damage them more with your brain-containing metal encased weapon).

  • Kelley

    Here is a good site by the VA to explore PTSD. http://www.ptsd.va.gov/

  • http://ayearoflivingadventurously.wordpress.com Emily

    Well are we talking about PAIN or are we talking about SUFFERING? Because those are two different things. Pain is a feeling. Suffering is a verb, it’s something you DO. Thus, every person is going to have a different threshold for it. It also has an emotional component, whereas pain is pain. It’s like being hungry or cold or too hot.
    Trauma is a completely different category all together. So I think we should probably define our terms. I, for one, due to life circumstances, have a really high pain threshold, and a really high suffering threshold. And yes, the Catholic belief in redemptive suffering has proved helpful to me. So it’s probably good that I don’t have kids, because if I did I’d be a pretty hard core mom. “Are you bleeding profusely? etc.”
    Someone who has PTSD might not be “pain”, so to speak–as in, morphine’s not going to help. He is probably undergoing emotional trauma, which leads to suffering.

    • Mike

      Redemptive suffering has helped me too; so often in fact that it became one of the things that brought me back to the RCC. People need meaning in their lives. Even if they’re atheists they should be injecting as much meaning into their lives as possible. This is one reason I think we’re seeing what seems like an increase in teenage suicides. We aren’t teaching our young people there is redemptive value to their suffering. It get’s better is a catchy slogan but it doesn’t do anything to transform the pain that is here and now into something that can be offered up and then redeemed.

  • http://ayearoflivingadventurously.wordpress.com Emily

    Exactly.
    Also, if people think their lives are going to be pain and suffering free, they are living somewhere delusional.

  • just sayin

    I interesting how many liberals support the idea of a “draft”.

    Just call it what it is, involuntary servitude and slavery.

  • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca Randy

    Darren,

    I am very confused by the nested comments so I shall move to a new comment.

    I assume you argue from lack of understanding, not ill intent, so perhaps I can yet help.

    Thanks for the charitable assumption.

    War is not the black and white thing that we like to tell ourselves it is. In the real world, there is no Good versus Evil, there is just us versus them. There are just causes, no argument, and even just wars, but the soldiers in those trenches are not demons, or orcs, or aliens, they are men and women, just like us. They have mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. Once upon a time, they were little children, playing with balls or running in yards. They may or may not believe in their cause, they may or may not have had a choice, and in the end does it really matter? Dead is dead, and everything they ever were, everything they might ever be, is gone in the pull of a trigger.

    I agree with all of this, even the stuff I didn’t quote. I think you have me pegged wrong. I don’t let my kids play Call of Duty. I do think war needs to be avoided at all cost. That means I opposed both Iraq wars. In fact, the greatest hope I had for Obama was that he had the guts to oppose the invasion of Iraq when most Dems who knew better waited for the polls to change before they said anything.

    Still I do not expect wars to cease anytime soon. I do not believe that we will never face the need for a conscript army. If and when we do need it we will need it bad. So I think it makes sense to talk about how it would work. PTSD is out there. It has always been there in some form. The trouble is that those shell shocked troops actually won a war that might well have been lost without them. Should we have just taken that risk? That is a serious question. Maybe we have some assurance that such a choice will not need to be made again. I don’t see it but you seem to. If it does happen what should we do? Should we say anyone who thinks they might have PTSD can go home? Actually that is not good enough because PTSD sufferers tend to be in denial. I mean we know the risk of death is real and we accept it, hopefully with serious reluctance. Why is the risk of PTSD different? Would the best strategy be to just win the war and clean up the mess later? I realize how cold and inhuman that is. Still the fact that we are at war and it is, again hopefully, a good decision to go to war then it follows that losing the war has huge negative consequences. We should not get into any war where losing would not be a massive human tragedy.

    I am not even arguing for any answers to these questions. I am just noticing they have not been addressed. It is a strong emotional appeal on one side of an issue that does not really ask the hard questions. That is OK. I just wanted to broaden the topic a bit. I didn’t mean to offend you.

    Eisenhower knew Patton was a jerk. He didn’t dare replace him because he was afraid of Rommel. He didn’t think anyone else could win. Was that a poor reason?

    • LeRoi

      “The trouble is that those shell shocked troops actually won a war that might well have been lost without them.”
      Not really. After they were “shell shocked”, they couldn’t do much anymore. The contemporary descriptions I’ve read of the extreme forms of PTSD that actually got noticed sounded fairly incapacitating. John Keegan points out that it was almost a matter of time, which varied drastically by the individual; sooner or later the nerve would go and then the man was useless in the front lines.

      “PTSD sufferers tend to be in denial.”
      Can you explain? I knew a couple of guys who were pretty upfront about it. Audie Murphy slept for years with a pistol under his head. They were well aware they had PTSD. Maybe you’re thinking Catch-22?

      Also, any idea that only veterans should be allowed to vote is absurd. I assume Darren’s trolling, here. We have, and have always had, a civilian-controlled military. Not ex-military control of the civil sector. And this is because the military exists to serve the civilians, and not the other way around.

      Also, while I’ll grant that many conflicts have been “a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight”, this has not always been the case, or uniformly the case in each conflict. Many Harvard men served as enlisted in WWII, and of course the officers have always had more money, and been from money often, whatever the conflict.

      • Darren

        Randy;

        ”I think you have me pegged wrong.”

        Good, I was hoping so.

        ”That means I opposed both Iraq wars.”

        And the irony being that I was calling for military intervention in Afghanistan during the Clinton administration, and my opposition to the second Iraq war was based on my concern that 1. it would risk the gains made in Afghanistan (I was right) and 2. That GWB would cock-it-up (again, right).

        Patton was a great general; no argument. If FDR had listened to him at the end of WWII, the Cold War might never have happened…

      • Darren

        LeRoi;

        ”Also, any idea that only veterans should be allowed to vote is absurd. I assume Darren’s trolling, here. We have, and have always had, a civilian-controlled military. Not ex-military control of the civil sector. And this is because the military exists to serve the civilians, and not the other way around.

        Also, while I’ll grant that many conflicts have been “a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight”, this has not always been the case, or uniformly the case in each conflict. Many Harvard men served as enlisted in WWII, and of course the officers have always had more money, and been from money often, whatever the conflict.”

        Not trolling, just a nod to Heinlien. He does make an interesting point, in that why should a democracy turn over its supreme authority to those who are not willing to risk their own lives in its defense?

        It’ll never happen, nor am I truly advocating that it does. Our grounds for enfranchisement change all the time, though. It is only our historical myopathy that leads us to believe we currently occupy either the only, or even the best, state.

        Nothing to do with officer or enlisted. The statement was strictly as relates to conscription. The methods of avoiding this were not restricted to the rich (Ted Nuget), but they did have more options. This was one of the main arguments for abolishing it.


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