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PTSD: National Center for PTSD

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Spirituality Just World Belief


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The Just World Belief

The Just World belief is the idea that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. Sometimes traumatic events are perceived to violate the concept that the world is fair. The Just World belief may lead trauma survivors to think that they are bad and perceive the traumatic events as a form of punishment. In other cases, people may not be able to make sense of a world with a Higher Power that allows innocent people to be hurt. Therefore, they may question their belief in a Higher Power. Still others may change their beliefs over time and embrace new ways of understanding the world that do not include the Just World belief.

You may be able to assist those who are struggling with why or how their Higher Power could have let traumatic events occur via a discussion about how a Higher Power would not take away free will, even from those who cause harm in others36. In traumatic experiences not involving others (e.g., natural disasters), you may be able to reflect on the lack of evidence that a Higher Power would use these kinds of events to punish specific individuals, as the effects of these events extend far beyond a single individual36. You can also promote evidence-based PTSD treatments, like Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), which systematically explore and challenge negative beliefs. Finally, because self-esteem has been found to mediate the relationship between belief in a just world and self-forgiveness, you may be able to promote and foster self-esteem to reduce the likelihood that a person will blame themselves, and to increase their motivation for corrective action, if needed19.

PTSD Information Voice Mail: (802) 296-6300
Also see: VA Mental Health