Saturday, November 26, 2005

Post-Traumatic Growth

It has become a stereotype that infantry combat wrecks a man's psyche. Somehow, after the VietNam conflict, it became the accepted wisdom that everyone who saw serious action came home with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I knew this wasn't exactly true. I had known some veterans of that conflict who seemed happy to talk about their experiences there, especially if you expressed some quiet admiration for their efforts. I had also read extensive first-hand accounts of that war, and I knew that some soldiers had actually enjoyed it at several levels.

When I tell this to people, they often look perplexed. But now I can point to the psychological research mentioned in this article from the Washington Post.

"Combat's potential to inflict psychic wounds has been recognized as far back as the ancient Greeks, but so has its ability to exhilarate, intoxicate and instruct those who experience it, experts say."

One of the experts makes the interesting point that being in a battle is not enough to get the positive effect. There's another couple of key steps. First the person mentally goes over the details of what happened. "And then there's a much more abstract process of finding some higher meaning . . . in what has transpired."

War is hell.
But some come out well.

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