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Trauma: How Can We Heal Our Wounded Souls?

Badi Shams | Oct 8, 2021

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Badi Shams | Oct 8, 2021

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

You’ve likely heard of PTSD – post traumatic stress disorder – but have you heard yet about PCSD? That acronym stands for post-Covid stress disorder, a newly-emerging effect of the pandemic.

Increasingly, mental health professionals are recognizing that the global Covid-19 pandemic has wounded the entire world’s emotions. Our souls suffer from that trauma. That seems logical, since millions have died from the disease, and billions are at risk, causing severe stress, anxiety, depression, and fear.

Do you feel it? Most people do, and it has led to a wider recognition of the role trauma plays in our lives.

RELATED: Is Caring For Your Mental Health a Spiritual Practice?

The Impact of Mental Trauma

Many societies around the world have begun to recognize the impact of mental trauma, no matter the cause. Athletes who have recently withdrawn from the Olympics and other events emphasize the importance of their emotional health and well-being by highlighting the stress they feel. This is a healthy sign – their withdrawal from these events sends a signal that emotional health is more important than fame, medals, and trophies, and gives more people permission to recognize their own trauma.

Some religions claim that psychological injury or illness can only be addressed and treated by spiritual teachings, and even discourage or prohibit their followers from seeking medical or psychological advice – but the Baha’i principles encourage everyone to obtain and follow guidance from competent medical and psychiatric professionals. In accordance with the core Baha’i teaching of the agreement of science and religion, Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’u’llah’s son and successor, wrote that everyone should “maintain your health by consulting with a highly-skilled physician:”

According to the explicit decree of Bahá’u’lláh one must not turn aside from the advice of a competent doctor. It is imperative to consult one even if the patient himself be a well-known and eminent physician. In short, the point is that you should maintain your health by consulting a highly-skilled physician.

Medical science has made tremendous achievements in curing our physical diseases, but sadly we have little advanced understanding of the causes of mental and emotional ills. However, with greater knowledge of the brain’s functioning in the future, we will hopefully have a better chance of receiving the correct remedies for the myriad of mental illnesses and traumas people experience. 

Humanity has long dealt with emotional issues at every level in every profession, but the general advice so far has been to “toughen up.” That approach, which means failing to recognize and then forcibly moving on through the pain and stress, simply doesn’t work. Of course, to achieve a goal in life, one must expend effort, go through some difficulties and stress, and make sacrifices. The question is, to what extent do the limits of emotional endurance have to be pushed to achieve those goals? 

We have made heroes of people who ignored extreme stresses and pains to achieve their goals, but few cared enough to find out later about the emotional and psychological cost of that course of action. What price did those people pay with their bodies and their emotional health?

Medicating Emotional Problems

One of the few currently-available alternatives to just ignoring the inner pain of trauma – psychoactive medications – have helped many. So far, in our fairly limited knowledge of how to treat psychological and emotional trauma, the remedies have generally involved pills of different varieties for every disorder. In many instances, individuals consult professionals who prescribe medications along with their counselling sessions. Some of these medications work well, but others have significant side effects and may ultimately create more problems than they solve.

During my own work in the public school system, it surprised me that many of the students who could not cope with the system were given medicine to calm them down. Sadly, many of them behaved like zombies after taking those medications, which left them without sufficient energy or drive to accomplish anything.

The reality: emotional health is very complicated. Many experts are looking for solutions, but we have not yet progressed to the point that we know how to determine the root cause of emotional issues, so, in the meantime, we resort to medicines that may be band-aid solutions. Thankfully there is increased awareness in this field, and more books have been written, and more support groups are created every day. There have been significant improvements in finding new ways of talking about and tackling these issues. 

RELATED: How Religion Helps Us Cope With Mental Health Challenges

Spiritual Treatment for Trauma

Based on this Baha’i quotation, though, some people may be better served by treating them spiritually rather than medically:       

Illnesses which occur by reason of physical causes should be treated by doctors with medical remedies; those which are due to spiritual causes disappear through spiritual means. Thus an illness caused by affliction, fear, nervous impressions, will be healed more effectively by spiritual rather than by physical treatment.

So far Western medicine has mostly avoided treating these kinds of afflictions with anything but medication. However, we need to further explore the spiritual methods and solutions for these problems, like counseling, consultation, and other kinds of more spiritually-based therapies. If we do not approach these challenges with the right tools, the present solutions may end up as good attempts, but failures nevertheless. 

There is no doubt that medical sciences have made significant progress, and the result is the increase in the life span and eradication of many diseases that in the past would lead to death or a life of great pain. There are now so many ways to make every part of the body function better and correct difficulties, and, in some cases, even replace afflicted body parts.

But it is time to face trauma and the emotional issues it produces with a new and different approach – to acknowledge that the root cause of many of these issues are spiritual, and then introduce spiritual methods to permanently deal with them. For example – we now have countless proven and effective methods of relaxation and meditation in every corner of the world based on some ancient philosophies, traditions and religions. New techniques are also being invented every day. Thanks to social media, they are easily accessible in the comforts of our homes.

In many Indigenous cultures, this sort of spiritual healing is an accepted part of any treatment plan for trauma. In Navajo culture, for example, a spiritual healing ceremony called a sing is often held for returning war veterans, to heal their spirits from what they encountered in combat.

Prayers are essential for any healing. The Baha’i teachings offer many different prayers for physical and psychological healing. This one, from Baha’u’llah, comes from a tablet he wrote to a physician:

Thy name is my healing, O my God, and remembrance of Thee is my remedy. Nearness to Thee is my hope, and love for Thee is my companion. Thy mercy to me is my healing and my succor in both this world and the world to come. Thou, verily, art the All-Bountiful, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. 

Sometimes, it helps to trust our faith in a higher power, do the best we can, and detach ourselves from the outcomes. This process can create a higher level of contentment essential to appreciating our blessings of the things that we have, rather than the things that we do not have and desire.

Physical and emotional illnesses require great efforts to overcome, and having patience is a great asset to face these challenges. Improvements in health or life take time, and patience helps survive the difficulties one day at a time.

Most emotional problems can be remedied temporarily with the help of medicine, but the question remains whether they sufficiently address the origin or the causes of these issues. The future direction of solutions to mental and emotional challenges is essential for humanity’s happiness, well-being, and progress. We have to widen our horizons in search of the most effective answers, and that search deserves wholehearted and earnest striving on everyone’s part.

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Comments

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  • Rafe Bundy
    Oct 9, 2021
    -
    I agree that the world, including the Baha'i community, need to face head on the impact of trauma within communities, and not shy away from the issue. I believe authentic communication, connection and consultation are good first steps, as often victims of trauma and other mental afflictions feel alone and marginalised by the wider community. The work of people like Susan Gammage and Phyllis K Peterson in the Baha'i Community has been vital, as has the work of Gabor Mate in the wider world (see 'The Wisdom of Trauma' film). I have also set up a facebook group (The Baha'i ...Refuge) for Baha'is who suffer poor mental health to help provide peer support and remind people they are not alone . Let's keep up the momentum :)
    Read more...
    • Badi Shams
      Oct 12, 2021
      -
      Dear Rafe,
      Thanks for your positive comments.
      I will check your Facebook page. This subject is not my field of study but is very close to my heart.
      May Baha'u'llah assist you in your efforts.
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