MORAL INJURY: Violation of Meaning

Apr 7, 2022

Photo Credit: A grief stricken American infantryman whose buddy has been killed in action is comforted by another soldier. In the background a corpsman methodically fills out casualty tags, Haktong-ni area, Korea. August 28, 1950. Sfc. Al Chang. (Army) NARA FILE # 080-SC-347803 WAR & CONFLICT BOOK #: 1459. Harry S. Truman Library & Museum.

Moral injury violates our sense of justice, loyalty, and meaning—and creates a storm in the soul. Those who directly affect others’ lives are most at risk of suffering irreconcilable conflicts between behavior and belief: military, police, medical, educational, and other human service providers. The purported “cost of doing business” also calls us to confront institutional shadow–moral injury does not belong to the individual alone. The integrity of organizational and community values plays an important part in condoning morally distressing situations—and should play a role in healing the injured. Conflicts between actions and values are inevitable in life, and the core of being human is our unique capacity for choice. There is no way to escape shadow, and we are more than our mistakes. They are neither our totality nor our destiny.

Here’s The Dream We Analyze:

“I am standing near a well. I have to go down into it. When I am in the well, I am me, but I am also a slightly younger, stronger man. The cylindrical walls of the well are grim, dark. There is a cylindrical metal structure, and on the outside of this are two dead babies/toddlers and a slightly older one who is not quite dead but needs resuscitating. The water has been polluted as a result of the bodies. I shout, “Rocket up.” This is so the babies can be pulled up. I wake up and feel dark. As I think about the dream, it occurs to me that “Rocket up” could have been “Rock it up.” However, in the dream, although I didn’t see the structure move up, I imagined it going up at great speed.”


Jonathan Shay. Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character. https://www.amazon.com/dp/0684813211/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_FVEHY95SXRA73DWABH7M

Film: Quo Vadis, Aida? https://www.amazon.com/gp/video/detail/B08YP6238S/ref=atv_dp_share_cu_r


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