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How Does A Moral Injury Affect Our Lives?

The majority of us can kill an ant, squash a bug, or even swat down a spider without much thought. They’re bugs, after all, mere insects, and we don’t feel too morally objective toward abruptly ending their little lives. Some of us are hunters and shoot down big game like deer, moose, elk, boar, pigs, and fowl. Some of might be hunters of the sea as fishermen, spearfishers, and more. We have a certain set of beliefs which either connects us to the act in a spiritual sense or disconnects us from the act in a way that tells us there is no harm done in hunting or fishing.

Yet, for most of us, we wouldn’t want to hunt a dog. Though we might eat veal, which is the meat of a young calf, we wouldn’t eat a puppy, the meat of a young dog. We aren’t likely to delight in suckling kitten the way we might delight in suckling pig or make sushi out of our living room aquarium fish. Our moral values regarding some animals versus another prevent us from certain behaviors. Were we to make a burger out of our Labrador Retrievers instead of farm-raised cows, we would likely feel completely and utterly ill about it in mind, body, spirit, and our sense of morality. What marks the difference between eating an animal we feel moral care toward and an animal we don’t feel moral care toward is the element of shame. We’d be ashamed of eating our family dog, but not ashamed of eating a nameless cow from a farm we’ve never visited.

Going against our morals in a real or perceived way has a profound effect on our lives and causes us a great deal of trauma. Our moral conscience is compromised in a deep and troubling way. When we or someone else commit a moral transgression, we experience shame. Shame can become a toxic experience, wielding unrelenting amounts of pain, criticism, and conflict which can inspire us to hurt ourselves, numb ourselves, or act toward ourselves in ways which challenge the idea that we have a moral conscience at all.

The idea of moral injury and trauma came from the experiences of veterans of war who carried an incredible amount of shame for acting against their personal moral values. The Moral Injury Project at Syracuse University defines moral injury as “the damage done to one’s conscience or moral compass when that person perpetrates, witnesses, or fails to prevent acts that transgress their own moral and ethical values or codes of conduct.”

Moral injury is not necessarily trauma, though the symptoms of moral injury can near-perfectly resemble the symptoms of PTSD and cause an equal amount of suffering. People who have experienced a severe moral injury in their lives deserve the opportunity to heal through the important act of forgiveness toward themselves and toward others.

At The Guest House Ocala, we offer residential treatment programs specialized for the care of traumas, addictions, and related mental health issues. Call us today for information on our trauma treatment programs and our concierge style customization for every guest: 1-855-483-7800