It’s my day off. I need to get away from this bleepity-beep computer. But more importantly, I need to write something about a situation I have been observing. It is a situation where people are locked in an endless battle because of impositions about how someone with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) should behave (feel, really) regarding a situation.
Imposing values or feelings on someone is a dangerous business if one wishes to maintain any semblance of a peaceful relationship. It is even more dangerous, however, when someone attempts to impose feelings or behaviors on a person with PTSD.
These are some rules I believe we should all attempt to live by in general, but especially when we are interacting with someone who has experienced trauma.
- We do not get to determine how someone should behave or feel regarding a situation.
We get to try to control our own feelings and actions regarding a situation. We can never presume, however, what it feels like to be another person in that person’s situation. Applying our own logic, values, or feelings to the situation is passive-aggressive abuse of a person with PTSD.
- Winning an argument is unimportant.
Every person subjectively views their world. Our memories are tainted by perspective and individual experience. It is a fallacy that there are “always two sides to every story.” There are actually as many sides to a story as there are people who tell it. There is no universal truth.
- If someone with PTSD feels harmed, apologize!
Express real remorse. Even if we did not intentionally hurt the person, the person is hurting. Defending our actions based on principle is going to continue to hurt the other person. So even if we don’t fully comprehend how our original actions hurt someone, continuing to defend those actions are blatantly harmful.
- Helping someone with PTSD feel safe is the only thing that matters.
People with PTSD live in a world that is viewed as threatening. Simple tasks most view as benign or take for granted are considered high-risk situations for the person with PTSD. For example, walking across a large parking lot, though does have some risk, is considered safe by most people. For someone with PTSD, this action can be viewed as an inherently dangerous act. Reassurance in the form of understanding and empathy helps – do it! Arguing that the situation is safe or benign is harmful – just don’t!