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Moral injury exercises and strategies

In the moment

If you find yourself experiencing a potentially morally injurious event (PMIE), try this exercise to help yourself in the moment. This should take you no more than 30 seconds.

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. If you can, close your eyes and place a hand on your heart.
  3. Call to mind a trusted and loving person in your life. 
  4. Imagine them being there with you in this current situation. 
  5. Now imagine them talking to you. What would they say to you about this PMIE? What words of comfort would they offer to you?

Later, you can remind yourself of these words of comfort as much as possible — whenever you need them.

Reflection and growth


Grab a pen and paper when you have time and space for reflection. Here are some guiding questions to get you started with journaling:

  1. Think about some of the values you hold. When and how did you develop these? How important are they to you?
  2. Reflect on your experiences during the pandemic. What are some of the PMIEs you were exposed to? What happened that left you feeling unsure, distressed, or morally uncomfortable?
  3. What was the impact of these PMIEs on you?
  4. What symptoms of moral injury, if any, do you identify with?

The Matrix


As we describe in this program’s appendix, it’s possible to get stuck in a loop on the Away side of the Matrix. This can happen when your moral pain leads you to behaviours that soothe you in the short term, but don’t move you to the Toward side in the long term.

Even if you somehow free yourself of all the difficult thoughts, feelings, and memories on the Away side of the Matrix, that doesn’t guarantee you will find yourself on the Toward side. And you should know that you can make Toward moves even in the presence of yucky internal experiences on the Away side. On the Matrix, you’re just trying to help yourself spend more time on the Toward side than you did before. We all make Away moves! 

It’s important to be kind to yourself. Rather than focusing on what not to do (“Do not make Away moves”), focus on what you can do (“Do make Toward moves”) to move yourself closer to what matters to you.

Fill out the chart using the following prompts. Start in the lower-right quadrant and go clockwise.

  1. Lower right: Which of your morals or values did the PMIE(s) violate?
  2. Lower left: When you think about the PMIE(s), what thoughts and feelings show up for you?
  3. Upper left: What do you do when you feel this way, or when you have these thoughts about your PMIE(s)? How do these thoughts and feelings influence your behaviours?
  4. Upper right: What could you do instead to move yourself toward the morals or values that feel violated by the PMIE(s)? What kind of behaviours would express these morals or values to the world? Be as creative as possible.

Remember you don’t have to decide if the thoughts and feelings on the Away side are true or false. Once you have finished the four quadrants, look to the centre of the Matrix and notice (with kindness and curiosity) how your responses show whether you are moving toward or away from what matters to you.

The Matrix
Tap and hold (or right click) the image to save and/or print it. (Alternatively, you can draw two lines on a blank journal page to make four quadrants.)