Action 98

I can address any “moral injuries” or “soul wounds,” sense of guilt or shame I experienced as a result of my deployment or traumatic experience.

Useful Information

Some service members have found it helpful to address their “personal hurt,” their “moral injuries” and “soul wounds”, and accompanying feelings of guilt, shame, and anger by using an empty chair exercise” (See Action #34). Using their imagination, the service members can have a conversation with another person for whom they have great respect or with a moral popular authority figure.

The service members tell the imagined moral authority figure what has changed in them and their behavior since the distressing deployment events. They describe the impact of any guilt, shame, and/or anger on their life and on the lives of loved ones. The service members are asked to consider what the moral authority figure would say to them after hearing what has just been said. The service members can switch roles and now assume the advice-giving moral authority figure. This conversation is to be conducted in the present tense. What “wise” and “supportive” advice would be offered? Is there anyway the service members could use such guidance?

An alternative procedure that has been used to help service members address the need for personal forgiveness and compassion is to ask them to use the “empty chair exercise,” but this time imagine they are speaking to someone for whom they feel protective like a younger brother or junior comrade. They are asked to imagine that particular person confessing to guilt and shame-engendering actions and the emotional aftermath. The service members are asked to consider what they would say. The empty-chair exercise (also see Action #34) can help the service members develop “healing stories” and resilience.

Action 99