Summary: For military Veterans & families to help understand how PTSD is developed & some ideas on how to deal with it.
This is written with the aim of explaining to both veterans & their families the reasons behind this major problem & to give some advice as to how to manage it successfully. Post traumatic stress disorder is not necessarily for war veterans, but can be caused by stressful experiences in life such as being conditioned by specific training such as that experienced by all military personnel. Active military service can reinforce that the military training we received during our recruit & initial employment training phases was 100% effective & necessary. The psychological training, in some cases, is more important than the physical.
From the time of recruit course we are aggressively conditioned. Yelled at to disembark the bus, lined up together, marched off to have our heads shaved, our personal belongings were bagged & taken away, issued with everything deemed necessary by our new family (army, navy or air force), given a regimental number, assigned the rank of recruit (lowest of the low, civilians & unit mascots outrank recruits), & given a familiarisation march to show us everywhere we can’t go as well as the few places we can go. -all of this to the tune of those without mothers, drill Sargent’s.
Civilian life differs from military, recruit course helps the transition, that is why we are different after we graduate. For approximately 3 months we are conditioned & retrained into the military way of life. Theoretically, we sleep from 10pm until 6am, unless you are volunteered for fire-picket duty or some other detestable activity for upsetting those in charge. During this time we are also expected to clean personal equipment, study required topics & generally organise anything required for the following day. Each day is physically & emotionally demanding with the added burden of being aggressively conditioned to comply to all commands given-regardless of personal opinion.
Every human has a fight-or-flight attitude that is instinctive. The military culture trains each recruit so that their human stress response is compatible with military objectives. Few people are naturally aggressive enough to want to enter a war zone to clinically operate with the aim of killing the opposition. This conditioning is developed initially at recruit course & further developed at initial employment training/corps training. We naturally run from danger, but the military need us to run into it & eliminate the threat. Drill is conditioned into recruits by repetition & aggressive commands, these actions are practiced until they become instinctive. Individuals are punished for initial mistakes, but continual mistakes have the group punished. This tends to lead to the group punishing the individual/s responsible, not condoned by the hierarchy yet not suppressed. Once these actions are performed instinctively (regardless of opinion or feelings) it is rewarded with a graduation/march-out parade, leave & pay.
Infantry initial employment training is where contact drills are conditioned into each soldier/officer. At a contact the immediate action is to run, drop, crawl, observe & return fire. At the same time we are to yell out contact front/rear or ambush right/left. This is not natural as we have the human response to run from danger. This is conditioned into each soldier/officer by simulated weapons fire (using live/blank firing & other explosions) to have them instinctively response the military way. If a soldier/officer is not trained this way they will not function clinically to eliminate the threat, but run like a coward & may even endanger the lives of fellow team members &/or themselves. When we make such mistakes people die.
This training sets up the soldier/officer for post traumatic stress disorder, prior to them see active service. An example to clarify this would be where a riot occurs & they are targeting you. If you are not trained in the military methods you will probably run, a safe & good choice. If you have been trained the military way you will instinctively run into the rioting group to attack. In some cases this action is justifiable, but when you react this way towards daily situations (over reacting to each situation as if it were a life & death situation when it is not) regularly you need to wind down given the low threat level.
We were all taught to fight the enemy by exploding on/at them & by hating them & this helped us to kill, this was the end result regardless of the methodology. If we use the analogy of a barrel with different liquids representing different issues to explain the following. The barrel is filled mainly with “good stress” from bottom to about half way. At the top is the “stand-by” level, which activates the fight. Between the “good stress” & the “stand-by” level is the “alertness” level. “Major stresses” are on top of the “alertness” level, area of hyper-vigilance & exaggerated startle response, which are actioned on the overflow. These can be mines, contacts, identifying friend/foe…etc, which trigger the fight to begin.