“Whatever the technological advances of modern society—and they’re nearly miraculous—,” writes war journalist Sebastian Junger in a June 2015 Vanity Fair article, “the individual lifestyles that those technologies spawn may be deeply brutalizing to the human spirit.” Junger’s article, entitled, “How PTSD Became a Problem Far Beyond the Battlefield,” theorizes in part that for many war veterans, a substantial part of their trauma comes not from the experience of war, but from re-entering society after war. Whereas in war soldiers experience an intense camaraderie with others out of necessity, modern American culture in particular discourages such connection, promoting instead a lifestyle of isolation perpetuated in part by advances in technology and digital distraction.Read More
In the book, Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma and PTSD, co-author David R. Kopacz adapts Joseph Campbell’s cycle of the mythological heroic journey to that of the experiences of war veterans. Campbell breaks the heroic journey into four stages—beginning/ending, separation, initiation, and return.
Kopacz writes of this cycle, “Separation is the call to adventure that takes one away from the everyday world. Initiation is the challenge, the trial, and it is the acculturation to a new world, an unknown world. Return,” he writes, “is the journey home, with new knowledge, a new sense of self, and a gift or boon to give to society.” Kopacz remarks about this return, “Society needs the returning hero, but is initially distrustful because the hero has gone where ordinary humans should not go and has been exposed to the mysteries of life and death.”Read More
Wilfred Owen was a British soldier who fought on the frontlines of France in World War I, and who was eventually diagnosed with shell shock, or in more contemporary terms, post-traumatic stress disorder. Influenced by the poet and fellow British soldier Siegfried Sassoon, Owen wrote extensively, through poetry, of his experiences fighting on the front lines in France. Owen’s writing was revolutionary at the time in that it refused to glorify war, but instead captured vividly the grotesqueness of on-the-ground fighting. For instance, in his poem “Dulce et Decorum Est,” Owen described in gripping detail the horrific effect of mustard gas exposure:Read More
In his 2005 book, War and the Soul: Healing Our Nation’s Veterans from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Edward Tick, PhD, calls for a new approach to addressing PTSD among veterans. Rather than seeing PTSD as simply a stress disorder, he argues that it is “best understood as an identity disorder and soul wound.”
He recounts one Vietnam veteran coming to his office and describing the idea of soul wound like this: “You can feel the connection between your body and your soul when it starts to break. It’s like a thread that starts fraying.” The veteran continues, “I tried so hard during those long nights, the earth shuddering, my hands over my ears. I concentrated to keep that thread from snapping. But I could feel it getting thinner and thinner.”Read More