[Paleopsych] What's the survival value of post traumaticstressdisorder?

Lynn D. Johnson, Ph.D. ljohnson at solution-consulting.com
Wed Apr 27 16:18:46 UTC 2005

Steve makes interesting points, but doesn't understand the preparation 
of a special forces soldier. We were not 'numbed' so much as taught to 
improvise and to "expect the unexpected" (contradictory as that is). I 
felt the opposite of numbing; I felt the most alive I had up to that time.

I recently spent a couple of days once with a lieutenent colonel who was 
a fellow psychologist and had spent much time at Ft. Bragg working with 
the special forces. He found they could induce a lot of confusion and 
trauma into Air Force pilots who took the Escape and Evasion course 
there, but when they put the SF guys through the same course, they were 
calm. The 'field expedient' training gave us the feeling that we could 
cope.  That is what prevents PTSD, not numbing.

Throughout evolutionary history, humans have endured violence and death 
as a matter of course. Howard's works are beautiful recaps of this. It 
is doubtful they had PTSD at least to the extent we do, probably because 
a person from a warrior culture accepts his own death. Like Alice's 
point about narrative, the warrior has symbolically enacted his own 
death and the deaths of others and views it as a normal course of 
events. Similarly, my great-great grandparents (I have the diaries) 
accept deaths of children, for example.  They are sad, but death is not 
unexpected. It has become unexpected to us. Thank God, yet depression is 
higher than ever (a cohort born in 1925 has a 4% lifetime incidence of 
depression, someone born around 1975 has between 10 - 20%), anxiety is 
higher, divorce is higher . . . hummm . . .

We have denied this side of ourselves, we deny death (except perhaps to 
those judged to not have a high enough quality of life) and suppress it. 
A child is expelled from school for bringing knitting needles. Another 
child is expelled because he forgot a water pistol was in his backpack. 
Where I grew up I was never more than a dozen steps away from unsecured 
.30 caliber hunting rifles in my home (small house!) as were most of my 
friends. Our recreation was carrying .22 rifles and shooting dangerous 
cans and bottles. I never heard of any school shootings. So I think 
perhaps the more we try to deny and suppress violence the more it 
becomes unmanageable, both internally and externally.

PS: I have consulted with VA hospitals, done therapy with PTSD vets, and 
I don't believe anyone is told not to say anything. That is not the VA 
way. The therapists want the vets to open up, talk about it. We don't 
have the rituals to allow that, so the symptoms continue.

I think the notion that PTSD vets lives are wasted is a mistake. My dad 
had a form of PTSD yet was very successful, great contribution to our 
small town. When he died, there were 2,000 people at his funeral. 
Bombing german cities was an awful job, and it left some scars, but his 
was not a wasted life. (hardly a scientific argument)


Steve Hovland wrote:

>"Preparation" for combat related stress most likely
>consists of emotional numbing, which is not very
>Most people are not prepared in any way for combat,
>and perhaps cannot be.  They will be ptsd, and large
>parts of their life will be wasted because of it.  They
>will also damage the lives of people around them.
>I have heard that Iraq vets are being given multiple
>prescriptions for anti-depressants and are being
>told not to say anything on pain of proscecution.
>There will be no relief for them.
>Nothing valuable is learned from being raped.
>Telling the story may reduce the pain but it never
>goes away completely.  And our society has little
>interest in going to the root cause of the anger
>against women that motivates rape.  So we
>learn nothing from it, any more than we do from
>the suffering of war.  
>A part of us loves suffering, and loves to inflict it 
>on others.  Pleasure is fleeting, but pain can go
>on forever- a much more reliable source of
>energy for those who feed on it.
>Creative people constantly learn from the
>"accidents" in their work.  But although an 
>accident in a painting can be useful, an accident 
>in a car is useless.
>Steve Hovland
>-----Original Message-----
>From:	HowlBloom at aol.com [SMTP:HowlBloom at aol.com]
>Sent:	Tuesday, April 26, 2005 10:26 PM
>To:	andrewsa at newpaltz.edu; paleopsych at paleopsych.org
>Cc:	gradientor at yahoo.com
>Subject:	Re: [Paleopsych] What's the survival value of post	traumaticstressdisorder?
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