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The Mind Blog

Written by Michelle Witte

Moral Injury and How it Impacts Us

Moral injury as defined by

"In order for moral injury to occur, the individual must feel like a transgression occurred and that they or someone else crossed a line with respect to their moral belief."

This event can be experienced by people who witnessed violence perpetrated against others (mass shooting, police violence, gang violence, domestic violence, or extreme unfair treatment of an individual due to prejudice), people in the helping profession who have had to triage a situation and people were harmed or died based on their decision or the policies of their employer, and war veterans or law enforcement who has to kill or mame in the line of duty.

These extreme experiences ask us to question our belief systems and our own moral consciousness. This questioning can lead people to start experiencing persistent negative emotions, such as shame, guilt, disgust of themselves or their actions. Some people dealing with moral injury have a hard time trusting others, themselves and people in power positions. They start to avoid situations that trigger memories of the event and may start using maladaptive coping mechanisms like alcohol, drugs, gambling or other addictive behaviours to help them cope.

How can you help someone with moral injury or help yourself?

You need to engage in mindfulness activities like meditation or just calm breathing. Find things that ground you, that keep you in the now instead of transporting you back to the incident. Some grounding techniques involve engaging your senses: happy photographs, scents that are calming or textures.

Getting professional help can be really helpful, the therapist can help you challenge those negative perceptions, help you learn better coping techniques and gives you a non-judgemental space to explore the incident and process it. Most of all, a therapist can help you reach a place of self-forgiveness and self-love.

You are not alone, let's connect today.

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