#41 – Soul Sickness

When truth is buried, it grows. It chokes. It gathers such an explosive force that on the day it bursts out, it blows up everything with it.
Emile Zola

“It was a week when the Death Star of Donald Trump’s evil galactic Space Force blanketed the earth with darkness.”  (1)   Has Maureen Dowd gone too far in her poetic yet perhaps reactionary zeal to draw the battle lines between the “dark forces” of illusion and the “better angels” of truth? Nope! As usual, she is right on the money honey. Many Americans can’t seem to tell the difference between the truth and “fake news” lately or don’t care. However, we are content to let the facts speak for themselves. But let’s first acknowledge that the “darkness” is global and not just a darkening American shadow.

What is natural for any person and is in fact necessary to be healthy, is to know the truth. Any attempt to avoid the truth, such as denial, leads to “soul sickness” with both physical and mental symptoms, hence, the opioid and suicide epidemics in parts of the Global Village. For example, we have Saudi women committing suicide in a society that is abusive and frustrates their natural True self or “soul’s” expression. As one anonymous Saudi woman observed: “I don’t remember the last time that I saw the light of the outside world. I am giving myself one year. If life doesn’t change, there is no solution except suicide, as many other girls have done.”  (2)

We can turn at this point to philosophy for guidance. Metaphysics is that branch of philosophy that makes the distinction between reality and illusion. It is in the gap between the two that the causes of the opioid crisis and the suicide epidemic can be found, it is the locus of our species’ existential despair.

Much has been written of late that the disintegration of the human psyche in the Global Village is caused by meaninglessness. “Empirical studies bear this out. A felt lack of meaning in one’s life has been linked to alcohol and drug abuse, depression, anxiety and—yes—suicide. And when people experience loss, stress or trauma, it is those who believe that their lives have a purpose who are best able to cope with and recover from distress.”  (3)   Sounds good—but ironically that is the problem—it appeals to our logic, our intellect. Joseph Campbell had a more profound insight which he revealed in his interview with Bill Moyers in their filmed conversation in “The Power of Myth.” What a healthy soul longs for, Campbell opined, is not the meaning of life but an experience of life.

The “experience” of life that Fallon Steenhoek, 30, a resident of Marshalltown, Iowa has had with her addiction to opioids and other drugs, which includes that of an overdose, has definitely not be good for her soul. Her nurse case manager, Andrea Storjohann, asked her how many times she had used an illegal drug or prescription medicine for a nonmedical reason in the last year. She replied: “Like 300.”

Life in Paradigm B coping with a false-self core identity is more challenging than many of us can hope to cope with successfully. What are some of Fallon’s challenges? Nurse Storjohann asked Fallon if she had been a victim of violence or abuse including emotional, physical, sexual, or financial abuse? “Ms. Steenhoek’s face crumpled, ‘All of it,’ she said, starting to cry. ‘My daughter’s dad was pretty textbook.’”  (4)  Women in America thankfully are beginning to stand up to their abusers and we may have entered a new chapter in the transformation of our culture but for many, like Fallon, that change may have come too late.

American males also have a special vulnerability to the soul sickness that comes with being born into a toxic story and the self-destructive identity that comes with that narrative. We are referring to their identity as warriors. It was hoped by some war theorists that drone technology enabling American warriors to kill the enemy thousands of miles away would soften the trauma of killing other members of the same species. What does the research say so far?

“Far from exhibiting a sense of carefree detachment, three-fourths reported feeling grief, remorse and sadness. According to another recent study conducted by the Air Force, drone analysts in the ‘kill chain’ are exposed to more graphic violence—seeing ‘destroyed homes and villages,’ witnessing ‘dead bodies or human remains—than most Special Forces on the ground.’”  (5)

What is the origin of the “soul sickness” suffered by any human being who perpetrates violence on another whether that violence is domestic sexual violence or killing the enemy in war? We cannot transgress our innate sense of what is morally acceptable, our True self identity, without violating a core principle upon which a sustainable human community can be created. In a 2009 article in the journal Clinical Psychology Review what we are calling wounds to the soul was further defined. “In other words, they defined it as a wound sustained when soldiers wading through the fog of war betrayed themselves, through harmful acts they perpetrated or watched unfold.”  (5)

Try as we might, through self-medication, pleasurable distractions or even suicide, we cannot escape the ultimate consequences when we allow our nation to engage in conduct that violates our innate sense of what constitutes moral behavior. How can we begin to heal those who are suffering from “soul sickness?” Meditation, yoga and talk-therapy can prove effective. “Another is to turn them into moral agents who can deliver the truth about war to their fellow citizens—and in turn, broaden the circle of responsibility for their conduct.”  (5)

Sharing this essay with your friends is one way to broaden that circle of responsibility and clicking on the link below will increase your personal commitment to the pursuit of the truth.

Insight # 41:  We cannot engage in behavior that violates our moral codes, our innate need to treat all people with compassion, without suffering grievous damage to our mental and physical health.

Link: 

  • Soul in The ABCs of Simple Reality, in print and on this blog, by Roy Charles Henry, 2018.

References: 

  1. Dowd, Maureen. “Local Girl Makes Good.” The New York Times. July 1, 2018, page 9.
  2. Takenaga, Lara. “For Saudi Women, Challenges Go Far Beyond Driving.” The New York Times. June 24, 2018, page 12.
  3. Routledge, Clay. “Suicides Are Up. Is This an Existential Crisis? The New York Times. June 24, 2018, page 9.
  4. Goodnough, Abby. “Opioid Addiction’s New Adversaries.” The New York Times. June 24, 2018, page 16.
  5. Press, Eyal. “The Wounds of the Drone Warrior.” The New York Times Magazine. June 17, 2018, pages 34-35 and 47.

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