War-inflicted moral wounds
Posted on November 13, 2012
I just came across an excerpt from what looks like an interesting new book, Soul Repair: Recovering From Moral Injury After War, by Rita Nakashima Brock and Gabrielle Lettini. It seems a central aim of the book is to add to our understanding of post-war trauma — now considered mainly an issue of either physical harm or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) — the new concept “moral injury.” Take a look:
Moral injury is not Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but often overlaps with it. Many books on veteran healing confuse and conflate them into one thing. The difference between them is partly physical. Post-Traumatic Stress occurs in response to prolonged, extreme trauma and is a fear-victim reaction to danger. It produces hormones that affect the parts of the brain that are involved with responses to fear, the regulation of emotions, and the connection of fear to memory. A sufferer often has difficulty forming a coherent memory of a traumatic event or may even be unable to recall it.
The moral questions emerge after the traumatizing symptoms of PTSD are relieved enough for a person to construct a coherent memory of his or her experience. We organize emotionally intense memories into a story in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, where self-control, planning, reasoning, and decision-making occur. The brain organizes experiences and evaluates them, based on people’s capacity to think about moral values and feel empathy at the same time.
You can read the full excerpt here.