A Moral Conflict -v- A Moral Injury


I believe a parallel would be the folks who don't want to use the word victimized.
yeah and i have a big problem with this in general, like i've mentioned a couple of times, "victim versus survivor" is such a useless f*cking distinction anyway. we went through trauma and it was bad, and it had long lasted, permanent effects on who we are as people and our brains and every thing else.

but on top of that, many of us have trauma that happened in childhood, when we were helpless, that was done to us by other people. like, if i identify as someone who is the victim of a crime (my abuser went through the legal system) does that mean i'm like, looking for attention and wrong and helpless and what ever else? if i'm not a "survivor" or whatever-like, it's absolutely semantics.

and for some people it is helpful but i'd be very careful about broadly painting "victimhood" in a bad stroke because it does put down a significant portion of the population who are severely traumatized, who have helplessness responses, and who aren't bad or healing wrong because those are their responses.

those responses may not be useful to you (general-you) but at some point in everyone's journey you feel helpless, hopeless, despair, blah. all that. and you can move back and forth along that continuum as people say, ptsd is a cyclical disorder. you can move from helplessness ("victimhood") to solid foundations ("survivor") and right back to victimhood again real quick.

that being said, semantics are useful. bc i've bitched about this for like a hundred f*cking posts, the language we have to use to describe some of these experiences, particularly when they involve actions that you have done-not just that your morals are violated because someone did something to you, but they are violated because you did things-

or the perpetrator trauma in particuler. that stuff is real hard to put into words and a lot of people today still do not understand what you're talking about. you can't google it effectively at all if you don't know the precise terminology (which i didn't, for years, even when i was making concerted efforts to research this and start to work through other people's testimonies and things from environments where i thought this was more likely to be occurring)

i still never encountered these terms. it was just people talking about the events that happened to them that in that clinical environment were "understood to happen often" but still weren't being even named that frequently. so not only are they not available to the general public, but even when they are made available they don't always describe everything that's going on or the different factors that can be relative and all of that.

having language to describe your experiences is very crucial. and when you don't have it, the search to find it, looks semantic. and meaningless to other people when what we have is "good enough." "torture" and "participation induced trauma" and "moral injury" are "good enough-" they're good enough for other people, but for us, they aren't.

and that may be a facet of being traumatized itself-i don't know. @One step at a time made a good point in one of my threads that a lot of the, "state" of being traumatized is being in a state without words. because trauma is defined by things that are difficult to put into words-not only for others, but for us to name everything that happened.

and also because when you try and talk about it your brain is misfiring and things are getting mixed up and things. and also because unless you are able to access a lot of these academic articles (which most people aren't), you just aren't even going to have a lot of access to this information in the fist place. i would love to find a bunch of resources on this, but they aren't there.

(and sorry srg this was not particularly in response to you but just piggybacking off of this.)
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This may not be helpful, I was thinking about the following:
Is a moral conflict injurious? Certainly. But I take issue with the entire freaking concept of “moral injury”… for several reasons. Not the least of which, or even mainly; how limited it’s scope, how Victim-Glorious, & how much invented/false helplessness is attached.

A moral conflict is what happens AFTER the events transpire. Otherwise it’s all nonsense; as what one believes one might do, until one actually does; involves no conflict. It’s only after one does what one thinks one would not -or would never- that things get painful.

As does injury.

It’s just that injury is only a PART of the conflict, instead of the whole kit & kaboodle.
The best I can think of is a real life example, of an EMT at the scene of a brutal murder (butchering) by a man of his wife and children and in-laws with an axe or machete. The EMT said she watched herself in essence give him life-saving care (I think he had been shot in the chest by the police), all the while surrounded by a sea of blood and the victims and the results of his brutal actions. To what degree she could internally debate whether she wished or wanted him to die, or that he should, she still expressed the surrealism and did her job professionally. But did the conflict come before she provided care, or while she was providing care, or knowing she wanted to not provide care but her job required it?. However she was haunted by it and she kept repeating (when sedated following surviving a suicide attempt), "He killed his children, he killed his children, he killed them all". So, I think the conflict there was in motion, but the moral injury was neither recognized or used as victimhood, or helplessness. She did have to leave work, but she was basically having a breakdown, and by then had ptsd.
Being at war with one’s self -v- “simply” having a injury to recover from.
Idk if it's as simple as recovering from the injury, if one feels so much self-hatred or horror at themselves for their commission or omission. I would argue that although it is an injury, the person may see them selves more as the perpetrator, or bystander that didn't intervene for someone else who was the victim. And the conflict perhaps is there is no real way out, no decision that one would willfully choose if not in that circumstance. And the crisis of immediacy, and second guessing, and that surreal component of surely this can't be the only way? Not just so much, 'Who am I?", but "Maybe I never was different than this?", or "this is what I am" . If that makes sense. I would say too, likely within a climate of other's involvement or influence too, or outside the bounds of expectation of what would/could be faced within their life or role. Just a humble thought though.
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IMHO, conflict implies the powers between the two people involved is equal. Injury implies to me that one has power over the other (real or not).


In this case, though, I think the "conflict" is in your head more than anything else. If I understand right, it's a conflict between how you think, or believe, you should behave and how you actually do. And, for it to matter, it's got to be a deeply held and valued belief. The "injury" also occurs within the individual, and results from that internal conflict. But, what I got from one of @Friday 's early posts, apparently sometimes the two terms are also seem to have the same definition.


These words, a moral conflict, came right out of the therapists mouth yesterday during our session. I was really taken aback at what seemed to me to be a manifestation. One part of my therapy popping up in another. Something like that. Anyway I responded with I can't believe you just said that, as I've given this thread quite a bit of thought.


I think the difference is the tense. I'm going to use two episodes of Mash to highlight each.

Conflict is ongoing. A bomber pilot is shot down and sees the results of what he does as Hawkeye operates on children who were bombed. (can't remember the episode)
The pilot lives in a clean sterile environment where he flies, drops his bombs and goes home. His family is in Japan and he spends his off day with them. Shot down, he ends up at Mash while they are operating on children who's village was bombed. The weight of what he does is brought home when he sees Hawkeye operating on a child the same age as his daughter.

Confilct resolved: My dad used to duck hunt with a Captain Roy Brown who was a pilot in WW1. (My dad said it wasn't rare for him to come home with 2 to 3 times more ducks than empty shotgun shells.) Among his "kills" was the Red Baron. When I asked my dad if he ever talked about he told me that only once at a town event someone was bugging him and he simply said I put three rounds into him and to never mention it again. "It's bad enough that you have to kill a man, never mind bragging about it." He had resolved what he did in his mind.

Injury happens after your morals are compromised, usually not by your choice. Quo Vadis Captain Chandler (season 4) What he is doing is so against his morals he can not continue and escapes into an alternate personality to resolve the dilemma. He's caught in a "Catch 22" What he does is so against his morals he can not continue. What he did in the past is so repugnant to him he has created a world where he is a gentle loving person. Where he is not Captain Chandler who drops bombs but instead a "Saviour" who loves and heals.


I'm with this. There is conflict while there is still a choice to be made, between options that both go against ones morals.

That may not be what it meant in the 1700s. But, once the act has been done, there's no more conflict, there is aftermath.

As to moral injury in ptsd, particularly with respect to the meaning of the term in warfare, the VA has a confronting article about that here that may clear things up (or, make them a whole lot muddier) about the current use of the phrase "moral injury".
Sideways....I agree with this.....there is a conflict....a choice to be made.....options to weigh......either to muddy the water and do something against one's personal moral standards or to choose to take the high road and stick with my personal moral standards..........that's the choice part.
Now if someone fails to attend to the detailw (like fall-out-or emotional casualities) when going through the options for response to a conflict.....that's when there's the greatest chance for creating a moral injury to another person. Just my take....


My guess?
The moral injury is what happened during trauma that you can never look back on and not feel anything but disgust for yourself for doing whatever you did because it violates everything you thought you knew about yourself

Before trauma you have a picture in your head of how the world works and exactly what your place is in it. It's what you believe about the universe. It's what you believe about yourself.

Then you're put in a position where you have to do something that completely contradicts every moral that you have. And there's just no way to justify why you did it - even if it was for your survival or someone else's. Because your actions crossed the line in the sand in your own mind, in your own belief system

You'll never look at yourself in the mirror the same way again. Because the person looking back at you is someone capable of doing things that you never thought you would do. Things that offend you to your very core

There's no coming back from that.

Does that imply victimness? I don't think so. Because it runs deeper than being a victim. A victim is someone who was damaged but can heal.

A moral injury is a damage to your soul. And that's not something that can be fixed

Moral injuries can't be healed. They can simply be learned to live with, because they change you so fundamentally that you're never the same person again.


I really like what Freida said. I’d add ‘conflict’ for me is not necessarily a word of ‘finality’ like ‘injury’. Conflict might have resolve in a number of ways- a solution , education, on going conflict that’s uncomfortable but not injurious ( I think we live with a lot of this I just edited out an example but I could give several for me that are conflicting but it is not injurious ).


4, ah 5, days since I posted this… not only not the worst turnaround I’ve ever managed, but sadly on the better side. I’m terrible at responding to my own threads. Cough. Just to hit a few points that have come up repeatedly ((EG - I obviously did a crap job at explaining)) before joining the convo itself. Which isn’t to stop the current discussion, I asked for thoughts, and they’re interesting/useful. Just to better explain where I was coming from:

A moral conflict occurs when one’s most deeply held convictions do not match one’s actions.
I posted the definition, just because, as I said later, I’m eyeballs deep in reading diaries and journals from the American & French Revolutions, the Indian Wars, the Napoleonic Wars. ((Because I like exploring how people just like us, having experienced the exact same things as us, talk about both the things themselves, the results, and solutions. Crowd sourcing the cemeteries 😉))

So, yep. Using the older definitions here, in my own thinking about it:

Moral Conflict = when one’s most deeply held convictions do not match one’s actions. IE It’s the result (past tense) of attempting to reconcile what is already done. “Melancholy &/or Madness” are the 2 most common end results, if a person doesn’t come to some kind of internal understanding, and resolve the conflict. IE depression, anxiety, PTSD, phobias, psychosis, suicide, and all the other common results of trauma in modern parlance.

Moral Dilemma = future tense, as one is attempting to reconcile what is to come / make a decision that goes against -or may go against- what one believes.

There was a fantastic example of an EMT or doctor saving the life of someone they believe should die for their crimes. Either way they decided to act? That can create a moral conflict, depending how deeply they believe both sides. If they break their oath & avocation to save lives, in order to let the person die (or kill them themselves); OR if they save the life of someone they’d always deeply believed not only should die, but that they themselves would kill if ever given the opportunity. <<< That’s a common enough dilemma (and often conflict) in medicine that the ETHICS involved are not only in every step of the training, but often coded into law. It doesn’t “matter” what you, yourself, believe. The standard is XYZ. (And xyz varies, a helluva lot. In the US alone we have 3 common versions; the ability to pay, priority of life (who gets treated first), & triage (ie most life threatening first; unless it’s a disaster, and then it’s the most likely to be saved). None of which allows for moral discrimination. “Just” financial, occupational, & need.

Probably a more common example than that (or my own trauma history) on this forum would be people who believe ABSOLUTELY that they would NEVER stay with someone who abused them. Not as an always/never cognitive distortion, but as a fundamental belief about themselves, and conviction abot how they choose to live their life / what kind of person they believe themselves to be. Who believes anyone who stays in abuse is wrong to do so. Maybe they had no history of abuse in their childhood, and simply couldn’t comprehend that any smart/reasonable person would choose to do so; maybe they watched one parent get beat -or even killed- by the other parent and swore up & down, day in & out, for their whole lives… that would never be them. And yet? Wakes up one day, to realize they’re a battered spouse, in an abusive relationship. Having going against everything they’ve ever believed in. Actions not matching beliefs.

A moral conflict? Is more complicated than a moral injury.

It’s not JUST something that happened to you, or something someone else did to you. It’s something you, yourself, chose. 100% your fault. And now have to somehow reconcile past/present/future.

Whether it’s a simple choice, or a complex series of choices over time, it’s the end result of having chosen to do something that goes against everything you believe in. ((And, no, that doesn’t make everything everyone else chooses to do your fault. Fault is one POSSIBLE facet of a moral conflict. But it’s a neutral facet. And not always present, or even often. Rather than the misplaced blame victims of abuse/rape/etc. attempt to claim. It’s NOT misplaced blame/fault/etc., but both the true fault/blame/consequences of the decisions one has made, and all the rest od the murky fault/blame/consequences that domino from those choices.))

Probably a less common example of a moral conflict that most people here might have experienced, but could also accept the always/never aspect NOT being a cognitive distortion, but a deeply held belief? If someone believes they would never rape another person… then is put in a position where it’s either rape a person, or die? Or rape them, if you don’t want them to die? The resulting CLUSTERf*ck after raping someone to save your own life, or theirs, is the conflict. The deeply held belief is that rape is wrong & you wouldn’t rape anyone. The dilemma is choosing to rape someone or die/get them killed. The conflict is the end result of having your actions not meet your most deeply held beliefs. <<< And, nope. That’s not a choice I’ve had to make. Although it IS a piece of my trauma history. Gang rape where everyone is armed, and both the person balking and the victim is shot if someone hestitates or outright refuses? Is a very real thing.

okay… I THINK I’ve done a better job of explaining? Prolly with way the f*ck too many words.

Moral conflict = complicated & the end result of your actions not matching your most deeply held beliefs/convictions.
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