Sunday, December 14, 2008

An exercise to help traumatized keep God in their lives

You tend to see three kinds of people with three different reactions to a horrible trauma or loss in their lives. The traumas I am speaking of are things like losing a loved one in an accident, a fire, to illness, or being the victim of a crime or some other form of deeply traumatizing abuse.

The first group are those who have a deep faith in God, and that is not shaken even after the trauma. They may, of course, question why this happened, and the larger meaning within the body of their faith, but they do not diminish their connection to God. Many, actually, feel a stronger attachment to God.

The second group are those who have faith in God, which they may have felt was deep prior to the event, or it may have been a moderate or nominal background belief. Individuals in this group feel anger at God that is beyond the normal "getting back one's bearings" after the trauma and often deny God, blame God and as they often say "no longer believe in God" or have "lost their faith."

The third group are those who are mostly secular in orientation. Thus when they have a trauma they tend to interpret the trauma and their reactions using a philosophical and logical attitude, which may or may not help. For the many that it does help this is because they retain their focus on the facts, which is that a fellow human, or a factual circumstance (mechanics, illness, accident) caused the trauma. For those who find they cannot fully feel better and heal by focusing on personal philosophy and facts, some feel a calling to God (a second chance at life after surviving their trauma), while a small number harden their stance that there must not be a God because a "good" God would not allow these things to happen anyway.

Just in the past week we have seen in the news examples of all three.

Now, this is the point that I wish to make. I want to address those from group two and group three who feel even farther from God after a trauma than before. I have here an analogy, an exercise, to help you to understand that this is not only a matter of faith, but that such a reaction, carried to an extreme, is not rational.

1. Suppose that you have been kidnapped and abused by a gang. Would it be a logical response to no longer believe in the existence of police?

2. Suppose that you have been injured in a car smash and are lying, wounded, in your car, or on the side of the road. Would it be a logical response to no longer believe in the existence of ambulance crews? And if, when the ambulance crew shows up, would you say that your wounds are their fault?

3. Suppose that you are trapped in a building that is on fire. Would you lock the door on the firemen who come to rescue you, saying that you no longer believe in them? Would you say, "Well, you obviously must think that fires are a good thing or you would not have chosen to be firemen in your career?"

4. Suppose that you or a loved one has been sexually abused. If God came to comfort you, would you say to God, "Go away... I'd rather stay here with my living abuser." Rather than accompany God and abandon either the continuing reality or the living memory of the abuse, would you cling even tighter to the ongoing endless loop of the abuse, and refuse to go with God and thus start to leave the abuse reality or the grip of its memory on you?

5. Suppose you saw terrible things done by humans to fellow humans in times of war. Seeing just what humans do to other humans, would you continue to then "cast your lot" with humans alone and remain in their value structure, at their fickle mercies? Why is it a logical decision when repelled and abused by what you witness in a war to remain even firmer in that milieu, and refuse to find refuge in the values of God, which are far, of course, from the evil that humans do to each other?

It is important to be sympathetic to reasonable faith being reasonably shaken in horrible circumstances.

However, it is not helpful to enable illogical thinking. If one is horrified by what humans do to fellow humans, why would you reject being more of the values of God and less of humans as a result? By any measure that does not make sense, and that does not promote healing.

This is why I have developed this exercise for you to think about when you experience a trauma, or have already done so, or read about one in the papers, or hear about it on the news. Think of the trauma and the factual human/mechanics/biological cause (taking a leaf from the wise people of group three). Then think about how for every trauma there are fellow humans who try to prevent it, even if their numbers are few and their voices not heard. This helps you to recall that trauma is a human/human situation.

Then contemplate how illogical it would be for the trauma sufferer to further "endorse" the existing situation by rejecting the only alternative to human failures, which is God's realm, where there is no death, or suffering, or betrayal by loved ones. Why would you draw strength by only believing in the half of life where there was such a dismal failure or tragedy?

I do understand the pain and I hope that this helps.