Exploring research in psychology while making it accessible and relevant to everyday living. The featured PJs here are some of the most viewed/requested answers and are related to issues dealt with through mentoring/coaching.


Military Service and Moral Injury

Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori – it is sweet and right to die for your country. The first section, the Latin for “it is sweet and right” served as title for one of the best known poems from the First World War by Wilfred Owen. Posed as a question, Owen’s prose describes military service in terms similar to Smith’s (2010) description of war as “mangled bodies and shattered minds.” What is remarkable about both instances, nearly 100 years apart, is the absence of any glorious praise. There are no parades, no football game announcements, no carefully tailored Hollywood grandiosity. Instead there is brutality and death.

Reconnected Value: Working through Moral Injury

Trauma is a profoundly human experience, happening to anyone regardless of gender, race, or profession. The degree of its effect is varied, the form it takes is most certainly tied to environmental and cultural context, and what is called into question are the deepest aspects of our lives. While trauma is often immediately connected in terms of mental health with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), there is another framework being explored, that of moral injury. Despite moral injury’s current primary connection with military service, the exploration of it and attempts at offering a frame for working through it, can be helpful to anyone having experienced trauma.

The Expectation of Memory

Memory exists as a source of immeasurable joy and pleasure with loved ones and children and laughter and achievements parading across our conscious lives, even as it holds the repository of one of our greatest fears, that of its loss in dementia, alzheimer’s and brain trauma. The very substance of who we define ourselves to be is constructed out of our memories, as they provide a seemingly unbroken chain of evidence that we are who we say we are. Take away our memories, show them to be anything less than an absolute source for our rationalized self-narratives, and the very foundation of our lives feels like it trembles.

Living Through the Maps of Your Mind

Traveling usually requires directions. They may be obsessively precise or they might be confusingly opaque, but whether you’re deciding to turn down such and such a street or taking a right at the end of the fence-line, there’s still some level of guided movement involved. With GPS, the history of more broadly keeping an eye on where we’re going seems to, however, have gone away. Stories litter the Internet of people who got into accidents because they followed the GPS directions without paying attention to their surroundings. A base assumption seems to be that technology cannot fail, despite almost daily reminders of the opposite.

The Substance and Process of Change

Often in the training received by therapists, there is little differentiation made between the theory of psychotherapy and intervention strategies. We are taught skill-sets for listening, empathic responding and being attentive, but, for instance, no attention is made to just what the “mind” is that we’re supposed to be working with. More difficult is an almost complete lack of appraisal concerning one’s Worldview and how it then relates to the particular Theory being considered.

Emotions Support Our Thoughts

Emotions often get the short end of the stick when it comes to working through the struggles in life. They’re either portrayed as the sole problem (“I wish I wasn’t so emotional about x”) or negatively contributing to the situation (“Emotions are always getting in my way”). Even when discussing so-called “positive” emotions like love and happiness, the tendency is to portray them as being contrary to or unhelpful towards living a more thoughtful and thought-filled life. A favorite example is to consider love as having fallen “head over heels” or some other form of losing one’s mind for love, as if it is a form of madness.

Embracing the Fetishes of Humanity

Directing attention to the atypical by labeling it deviant is a time-proven way of utilizing shame as a social control. “Why can’t you be more like x?” is the parental equivalent of the social admonition “don’t rock the boat” and the childhood condemnation of “you’re a weirdo.” The modern notion of declaring someone insane who’s ideas or behavior is disagreed with, simply carries this tendency forward. Given the power of human sexuality and its ability to inspire change in individuals and society, there’s little surprise that it holds a special place for the labeling of deviancy.