PTSD and the requirements of society

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I didn't want to put this in the speaker's corner; primarily because of the prevalent absurd positional statements/posturing, but also because I think this is too important a topic to be reduced to a niche.

First and foremost, this is not a discussion about any war/conflict or the use of military force, and I want it to remain independent of the political justifications of any international conflict.

The linked article is a piece written by a former soldier of mine taking a look at a possible relationship between PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and the social maturation of the source populace (think 1st world vs. 3rd world) using Maslow's hierarchy.


While a seemingly simple exploration of a basic philosophical/psychological concept, I think that it bares a few very real truths. There are unconscious expectations we, as a society, place upon those who would protect us from a societal "evil". Additionally, there are hard decisions which must be made when life is on the line, but the average individual has not encountered these decision (nor do they think they are necessary (Thankfully!!!)). This can lead to some difficult conscious/unconscious transitions upon return from a named area of operations.

How can we as a society better empathize with the requirements for actual conflict? How can we better prepare ourselves for the (hopefully infrequent) eventuality that we must defend our chosen way of life with force? How can we ensure that those who have faced this sociological dichotomy can be returned to the fold, fully healed/reintegrated?
γνῶθι σεαυτόν

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Hmm. My father and both grandfathers were in the military. I probably would have gone into something myself, had I been a bit more physically fit in my youth (Ironically at 43 I'm in better shape than I was at 17.)

My father's father never talked about his military service with any of us. My mother's father didn't really either, but I got more exposure to him. I saw what it did to him. After he died (Drinking, smoking and several pots of coffee a day did him in, I think,) I found out a bit more about it. One day he'd apparently wanted to go fishing, so his best friend flew in a plane on his behalf. The plane subsequently crashed and all aboard killed. He was also on a ship at Perl Harbor and had a shrapnel wound to attest to the fact. I'm sure he witnessed many horrors in his service. I'm honestly surprised he was able to function at all after that.

For him to do what he did, he had to unleash a demon within himself, something he didn't want to gaze upon. He probably didn't want to be someone who killed people, and reconciling that with the loving, caring father of six children and a bunch of grandchildren may not have been something he could have done. I think what he was most afraid of was that the demon he'd been required to unleash might one day slip from his control and force him to harm someone he loved. Also ironically his drinking made that more likely to happen. You could see that rage start to slip out the more he drank.

When I was younger, I also felt that rage, though I was never trained to kill. It manifested in unpredictable ways when I was younger. I felt a black demon in my heart, ready to rise up. I don't know if it was because of my exposure to the military and so many of their children who had become broken by the lifestyle, or if all men (or all people) feel it to some extent. Certainly every time I see someone speed down the road angrily, I can see an echo of it. And military training just fans those flames. You don't just put them out when you come back. You're not the same person after that.

I wish I could show you a path after that, to find peace and keep yourself from turning that rage against yourself or others. I suspect it's different for each person, though. I can tell you with absolute certainty that drugs and alcohol are not the way, though. You must face that which you fear, not run from it.

For all that I enjoy it, skydiving was as much about facing my fears as it was anything else. In the course of a year I've grown more as a human being than in the previous 42 combined. I've become stronger, more confident, less afraid -- of everything, more at peace and less irrationally angry. Whether you find solace in a physical sport, gardening, meditation or religion, I think you can find something that brings you to a place where that demon you were forced to unleash can no longer harm you, where you can master it. That quiet place beyond anger and hatred, I think that's what they failed to teach the grandfather I knew. Maybe they don't even know it's there.

Don't think I think I'm a saint either. I'm far from perfect. I think genetically we're all similar and we all have far more in common than we think. Most of the time, I think I'm just a bit of a jackass who enjoys jumping out of airplanes for fun. I don't really think I stand out in a crowd of seven billion.
I'm trying to teach myself how to set things on fire with my mind. Hey... is it hot in here?

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This post is an example of why I, at least, hope this can remain in Bonfire. Thanks.

Wendy P.
There is nothing more dangerous than breaking a basic safety rule and getting away with it. It removes fear of the consequences and builds false confidence. (tbrown)

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The article is really interesting, but doesn't take into account a few factors.

One, war is very different now than it was back in the day. In WWII, or even Qari in the article, soldiers were facing consistent stimuli... the battles were ongoing, no breaks, no reprieve. Now, it's not so constant and much of war is carried out from afar. Drones. Air strikes. There will be a long calm followed by sudden, shocking trauma. That inherently will lead to more PTSD than in someone like Qari who just regards war as a way of life and can't imagine any differently. There is actually some decent research that indicates that this may be part of the dramatic increase in PTSD now compared to a soldier in WWII on the front lines.

Second, PTSD is not unique to the military by any stretch. There is research showing that victims of crime, including child abuse, may suffer it. Those who witness brutality, including fatal accidents may have some effects from it. Those who have their psychological construct of 'real' overturned, such as the spouse of a sex addict who learns suddenly what has gone on behind his/her back.

Third, there are multiple forms of PTSD, not all are the same. Some fade with time naturally, others are lifelong battles. There are so many variables involved, and some of them quite likely include, but are not limited to, the factors in the post.

Do or do not, there is no try -Yoda

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another thing that i have not seen mentioned is that people were a lot stronger in ww2. that generation had a lot more hardships to face on a daily basis and they faced death and bad shit first hand and were more involved with it. this generation are more insulated and a bunch of pansies. no offense to anyone, it's just the way it is. just like my generation is more insulated than the one before, and so on. technology is making us softer. there was a great show on the other night called going ape. it was amazing watching us act just like chimps. and it actually surprised me how much warfare is ingrained in them.
Si hoc legere scis nimium eruditionis habes

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another thing that i have not seen mentioned is that people were a lot stronger in ww2. that generation had a lot more hardships to face on a daily basis and they faced death and bad shit first hand and were more involved with it.

I'm not so sure about attributes such as "stronger." They did face more hardships and many were exposed to death at an earlier age.

One thing that hasn't been talked about is the overall survivability built into US forces today. Today's fighters are far less likely to die. Oh they'll suffer the horrors of war alright, but whereas a simple scratch could kill a person in WWII and Vietnam due to infections and the like, our current forces have much better battlefield care. Injuries are just different.

I think this is part of the PTSD problem. A higher percentage of people died in previous wars before PTSD could be a part of their lives.

quade -
The World's Most Boring Skydiver

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