This is usually experienced by men who have had previous combat experience and by women who have had a horrifying experience such as a physical or sexual assault.
To be able to understand the physical and spiritual dynamics behind post traumatic stress disorder, it is important for you to first read through the following three chapters which have essential background information:
- You need to have an understanding of how the brain works (how thoughts and toxic strongholds form) which was explained in the chapter “Essential Background Knowledge of Disease from a Medical Perspective” on pages 14 – 21.
- “Long Term Effects of Fear, Anxiety and Stress on the Body” on page 180. Pay special attention to the section under the heading “External and Internal Stressors”.
- “Discerning The Source of Your Thoughts” on page 85.
The following criteria are used to diagnose post traumatic stress disorder 32:
1. The person was exposed to an event where both the following were present:
a. The person experienced or witnessed an event that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury or threat to physical integrity of self or others.
b. The response involved intense fear, helplessness or horror. (In children this can be expressed by disorganized or agitated behavior).
2. The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in more than one of the following ways:
a. Recurrent and intrusive recollections of the event including images, thoughts or perceptions (repetitive play with event themes in children).
b. Recurrent and distressing dreams about the event.
c. Acting or feeling as if the traumatic events were recurring (children reenact the event) and may include the following:
• Sense of reliving the experience.
• Illusions, delusions (a strong false belief about something) or hallucinations (seeing or hearing something that is not really there).
3. The person experiences intense psychological distress and has a physical response (stage 2 and 3 of stress and/or the symptoms of a panic attack described 2 pages back) on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble some aspect of the traumatic event.
4. The person persistently goes out of their way to avoid anything that reminds them of the event, for example:
a. Efforts to avoid thoughts or feelings or conversations associated with the trauma.
b. Efforts to avoid activities or places or people that arouse recollections of the trauma.
c. Inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma.
d. Marked diminished interest or participation in significant activities.
e. Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others.
f. Does not show emotions.
g. Sense of foreshortened future.
5. Persistent symptoms of increased arousal:
a. Difficulty falling or staying asleep.
b. Irritability or outbursts of anger.
c. Difficulty concentrating.
d. Being excessively alert (hypervigilence)
e. Exaggerated startle response.
6. The symptoms cause significant distress and impairment of social, occupational or other important areas of functioning.
After a traumatic event it is normal to have the above symptoms for a few days or even weeks, but when they persist for more than a month, this is post traumatic stress disorder. A person with post traumatic stress disorder is at risk of developing depression and many people fall into the trap of substance abuse (for example they start drinking).
In the chapter “Long Term Effects of Fear, Anxiety and Stress on Your Body” I explained that you don’t just respond to external things, you respond to what is going on internally in your thought life as well. In post traumatic stress disorder, the traumatic event was not dealt with properly in your mind and that lead to a toxic memory or “thorn tree of fear” being developed in your brain. This also opened the door to the spirit of fear which comes in to reinforce that memory.
When you are exposed to situations (people or places) that resemble or symbolize that event, that preexisting memory (toxic thorn tree of fear) in your brain is reactivated. The toxic thorn tree then activates the hypothalamus which sets in motion the whole cascade of physical reactions of stage 2 and 3 of stress. Therefore your body is put in the same physical state of fear and stress, even in the absence of the original external stressor (i.e. you are just as anxious and afraid as you were in the original traumatic event).
You can take your life back by getting rid of the spirit of fear and renewing your mind with the Word of God.
I initially referred you to the section on “Discerning the Source of Your Thoughts” on page 85 because I wanted you to understand where those thoughts of fear come from. The spirit of fear reinforces and amplifies the memory of the traumatic event by giving you thoughts, feelings and flashbacks of what happened in the first person. As long as that toxic thorn tree of fear and the spirit of fear reinforcing it is there, it is going to keep your body in a constant state of stress. However you do not have to allow that traumatic event and the memory of it to ruin your life. You can take your life back by getting rid of the spirit of
fear, pulling down that toxic thorn tree in your brain and renewing your mind with the Word of God. The chapter on page 523 will help you with this.
In ministry you cannot remove the trauma as the memory of the event will always be there. However when God heals you and delivers you of the spirit of fear that is amplifying and reinforcing that long term memory, the pain of the victimization and trauma will be gone.
Often when we experience serious traumatic events, we get angry – often at God. Life events like these can be a staggering attack on our faith. We begin to question why God would allow something like this to happen and we even begin to question if there really is a God. I have been through two traumatic faith shaking events myself that lead me to ask these questions. I don’t claim to have all the answers to why these things happen, but what I would like to say to you is let the cross be your anchor of hope. Allow me to explain:
As children of God, we are not promised a trouble free life. Psalm 34 v 19 says that many are the afflictions and evils that confront the righteous, but the Lord delivers them out of them all. Jesus said in John 16 v 33: “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]”
One reason we may go through traumatic life events is because we have simply stepped out of God’s umbrella of protection through disobedience – we are not living in right relationship with God. According to Psalm 91, when we are walking in obedience, the devil cannot touch us because we are utterly inaccessible to Him. The Lord’s protection (His angels) will be there to protect you in all your ways of obedience and service. I discussed this in detail on page 66 under the heading “Protection from Physical Trauma and
Disease Comes from Obedience.”
Psalm 91 v 1 – 12: ”1He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand]. 2I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I [confidently] trust! 3For [then] He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. 4[Then] He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings shall you trust and find refuge; His truth and His faithfulness are a shield and a buckler. 5You shall not be afraid of the terror of the night, nor of the arrow (the evil plots and slanders of the wicked) that flies by day. 6Nor of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor of the destruction and sudden death that surprise and lay waste at noonday. 7A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not come near you. 8Only a spectator shall you be [yourself inaccessible in the secret place of the Most High] as you witness the reward of the wicked. 9Because you have made the Lord your refuge, and the Most High your dwelling place, 10there shall no evil befall you, nor any plague or
calamity come near your tent. 11For He will give His angels [especial] charge over you to accompany and defend and preserve you in all your ways [of obedience and service]. 12They shall bear you up on their hands, lest you dash your foot against a stone.”
However, not every hardship and trial that comes our way is because we have stepped out of God’s umbrella of protection through disobedience. We may have terrible faith shaking things happen even whilst we are serving and loving God to the best of our ability. These trials and hardships come our way to mature our faith and develop our character – this is the refiner’s fire that moulds us into the image of Christ.
James 1 v 2- 4: “2Consider it wholly joyful my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. 3Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience. 4But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing.”
In the emotional aftermath of a traumatic or faith shaking event, we are not able to see how it can possibly have any good purpose, we feel as though our world has crumbled and God is not there. When “the bottom falls out” in your life, I’d like to encourage you to look to the cross and hold onto it as your anchor of hope.
When “the bottom falls out” in your life, I encourage you to look to the cross and hold onto it as your anchor of hope.
Try to imagine what it must have been like for the disciples on that Friday when Jesus died on the cross. They must have thought that this is the worst thing in the world that could ever happen – the Son of God crucified and killed. As they stood at the foot of the cross, looking at Jesus’ ravaged and bleeding body, they must have thought, “How could there ever be any good purpose in this? How could God allow this to happen?” There seemed
to be no hope or sense in it at all. But for us, over two thousand years later, we look back at the cross and we see the glorious purpose in it – Jesus’ shed blood paid the price that we
could not pay, that we might have eternal life and be restored back into a love relationship with the Father. Furthermore by the stripes that wounded Him, we are healed and made whole and set free from our diseases (Isaiah 53 v 5; Matthew 8 v 17). For us, the cross is the most beautiful thing in the world.
You may not be able to understand why that terrible thing happened, and as long as you live you may never understand why. But my message to you is to hold onto the Cross – let that be your anchor of hope. Don’t get angry with God or doubt Him – stay in Him. Remember Jesus said “In Me you will have [perfect] peace and confidence” (John 16 v 33).
Hebrews 6 v 12, 16 – 19: “12In order that you may not grow disinterested and become [spiritual] sluggards, but imitators, behaving as do those who through faith (by the leaning of the entire personality on God in Christ in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom and goodness) and by practice of patient endurance and waiting are [now] inheriting the promises…16Men indeed swear by a greater [than themselves], and with them in all disputes the oath taken for confirmation is final [ending strife]. 17Accordingly God also, in His desire to show more convincingly and beyond doubt to those who were to inherit the promise, the unchangeableness of His purpose and plan, intervened (mediated) with an oath. 18This was so that, by two unchangeable things [His promise and His oath] in which it is impossible for God to ever prove false or deceive us, we who have fled
[to Him] for refuge might have mighty indwelling strength and strong encouragement to grasp and hold fast the hope appointed for us and set before [us]. 19[Now] we have this [hope] as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul [it cannot slip and it cannot break down under whoever steps out upon it – a hope] that reaches further and enters into [the very certainty of the Presence] within the veil.”
Faith always involves some unanswered questions. Although your circumstances may tell you otherwise, He is a good God, His plans are to prosper you, not to harm you – His plan is to give you a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29 v 11). Know that God is in control, and that there is a good and divine purpose to all of this. When Jesus was crucified, there were people who made choices – the crowd chose to set free Barabbas and wanted Jesus crucified. The guards made choices to whip Jesus and nail Him to the cross. There was freedom to make choices in terms of the crowd and the soldiers…but was God still in control? Oh yes. Did His plan and purpose prevail? Definitely.
Romans 8 v 28: “We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are fitting into a plan] for good, to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.”
In dealing with the fear and anxiety coming from this terrible event, you are going to have to make your peace with God, forgive others and maybe even forgive yourself. The chapter on page 481 will help you deal with this.
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