How Does Trauma Affect the Spirit?
Friday, September 14th, 2012 • PTSD Guest Post: Professional Perspective •
On the show (you can listen to the archive here) I asked Dr. Nagib how trauma affects the spirit. In the post below she provides an in-depth overview of the answer. And on the show in our interview she explains to how to address this problem in treatment, plus the three most important elements in healing it.
Guest post by Dr. Margaret Nagib
Clinical Development Institute Faculty, Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center
Trauma’s Effects on the Human Spirit
We were created body soul and spirit. Our spirit is that part of us that gives us life, meaning, and purpose. It is that part of us that connects with God the giver of life and with the spirit of others around us. It is the essence of our being.
When an individual is affected by trauma, it usually affects the whole person – body, soul and spirit, because they all work together. While we often talk about them separately, the body, soul and spirit are the whole of who we are.
For example, in cases involving the trauma of sexual abuse, the trauma comes via a physical violation of an individual’s body, but this usually also has devastating effects on the individual’s soul which I define as the mind, the will, and the emotions. It can also have a tremendous effect on his or her spirit.
The effects of trauma on the body and soul are usually more evident. Physical injury and complaints, body memories, low self-esteem, depression and anxiety are all manifestations of the soul and body that have been affected by trauma. Clinically we see things like PTSD and other anxiety and/or disassociative disorders. Medication and good psychotherapy are used to free a person from these negative effects.
The consequences on the spirit however, are often harder to detect and neglected by traditional treatment methods. Remember, the spirit is that part of us that embodies the essence of who we are. It is the part of us that helps us connect to God and our overall meaning and purpose to life. Therefore, the negative effects of trauma on the spirit are related to this.
Often after a trauma, individuals struggle to feel like they have any real value or purpose and meaning to their lives. They may find themselves jumping from job to job, experience after experience, or even relationship to relationship, as if they are lost and wandering aimlessly in their life. An individual who was once so filled with life may seem like a walking shell of who they used to be. On an extreme level, the person is suicidal. When an individual gets to the point of not wanting to live, then you know the spirit has been gravely and negatively affected.
So, what does this all mean for recovery from trauma? It’s important to address the trauma on every level – body, soul and spirit.
Dr. Nagib is a clinical psychologist specializing in Christian counseling, inner healing and treating eating disorders, trauma, addiction, self-injury and mood disorders. As Spirituality Clinical Coordinator, she oversees the Christian treatment component at Timberline Knolls. She is responsible for the development of faith-based groups that are experiential, process, and educational in nature. These groups help residents to grow in their relationship with God and His power to heal them. These optional groups are open to any residents who would like to participate. Dr. Nagib also supervises and trains a group of committed Christian primary and family therapists as well as the Chaplin at Timberline Knolls. All are passionate about integrating the Christian faith within the treatment program. Click here to read more about Dr. Nagib.
The opinions expressed in this piece solely represent those of the author.