[Paleopsych] war and mental health

Michael Christopher anonymous_animus at yahoo.com
Wed Apr 27 19:46:16 UTC 2005

Stephen says:
>>"Preparation" for combat related stress most likely
consists of emotional numbing, which is not very

--I think soldiers experience a range of emotions,
some are able to fully acknowledge their emotions
without falling apart, others need to crush their
feelings in order to function, later taking them out
on loved ones or numbing further with alcoholism or
some other outlet. Some lose their humanity, some

War, like incest or family violence, is dehumanizing
to the degree that one is forced to hide one's true
feelings to reconcile the public and private self. One
problem is that soldiers who witness or participate in
atrocities (or are simply disturbed by callous
attitudes or incongruity between heroic talk and
questionable behavior) are not likely to speak up,
given the way Kerry was trashed for reporting on war
crimes in Vietnam. His testimony was consistent with
what was documented at My Lai, but he was still
accused of betraying veterans and slandering the
military. Not a great way to encourage the unburdening
of toxic secrets in returning soldiers, which means
soldiers who see or do things they cannot reconcile
with their moral code will more likely take it out on
their family or through addiction, promiscuity etc.

What's really damaging, I think, is when one has to
reconcile two moral codes, the one at home and the one
at war. If those codes diverge too much, it can
destroy a person's soul. It is only when the stories
of soldiers are fully heard that people get a real
picture of what war does to the mind, and that usually
doesn't happen until a decade or two after the war is
over. It also makes a huge difference whether one
trusts one's friends. A soldier whose friends are
racist or enjoy gratuitous violence (shooting animals
along the road, etc) will have a very different
experience from one whose friends uphold a more
honorable code of behavior. Dissonance between one's
public morality and one's private actions is always a
source of anguish, and dramatically affects one's
experience of a traumatic situation. But in order to
keep a high standard of behavior, it's necessary to
hear all the stories and get feedback. Otherwise, war
really is hell, the loosening of moral restraints and
the corrosion of human values to the point where
individuals cannot stay sane and cannot keep their war
stress from bleeding into peacetime life.


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