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shrinkykitten

"...another reason I'm intrigued with the hanged of Salem, especially the women, is that a number of them aroused suspicion in the first place because they were financially independent, or sharp-tongued, or kept to themselves. In other words, they were killed off for the same sort of life I live right now but with longer skirts and fewer cable channels." Sarah Vowell, The partly cloudy patriot.

5.04.2007

This is terrifying

The pentagon released a report about the effects of stress on the troops. I am too exhausted to look up the real data ... maybe tomorrow - but I think you'll get why this terrifies me.

A slew of soldiers in the survey said they would NOT report a fellow soldier for killing a civilian.

A bunch of soldiers believe that torture is good (or something like that).

[in case you are wondering, both "slew" and "bunch" are technical terms for differences that are either statistically significantly different - or are approaching it - or that no statistics were done, they are just big ass numbers to scare us.]

I don't know if they did this survey at the beginning of the war or not (no, they didn't, just checked - they did longitudinal mental health surveys, but not ethics ones)- it would be interesting to compare. But regardless, these are stunningly terrifying findings, and again highlight the parallels to Viet Nam. Our soldiers are stressed, afraid, see potential attacks everywhere, cannot trust anyone to be a friend, even women and children could be suicide bombers, and the war is not being won (despite Bush's constantly changing definitions of what success looks like). They feel hopeless, defeated, and most concernedly - they feel angry and as though violence against even innocent civilians is justified.

Unless we are aiming for another Viet Nam, we do not want soldiers who feel this way.

Interestingly, those who screened positive for mental illness (depression, acute stress, anxiety) were LESS likely to have ever mistreated an Iraqi. LESS LIKELY. What intrigues me about this is something I remember conjecturing about in my first year of my PhD program - and that I was ridiculed for. We had some sort of colloquium or something, and one faculty member was talking about how horrible it was that some people got PTSD from war and asserted that that must mean that they were in some way mentally defective before the war and thus were more vulnerable to the development of it. I suggested that perhaps in fact the development of PTSD (a reaction to extreme stress/trauma) might actually be a good thing and that we might want to be more worried about people who go through war and DO NOT develop any kind of stress reaction. I remember one prof in particular told me that was stupid. It seems to me that those who never develop any kind of depression, stress reactions, or anxiety are in effect perhaps pathological. Going through a way, killing people, being attacked, seeing people getting killed and NOT being affected seems to me to be pathological (and these seem to be the kinds of guys who may commit the atrocities). Going through all that and getting depressed, stressed, or anxious seems to me to be the most human response possible.



Oh okay, here's an article about it. And if you are interested enough to read the whole report, read it here.

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4 Comments:

At 4:01 AM, Blogger Ianqui said...

I suggested that perhaps in fact the development of PTSD (a reaction to extreme stress/trauma) might actually be a good thing and that we might want to be more worried about people who go through war and DO NOT develop any kind of stress reaction.

I'm not a psychologist, but I've always wondered about this too. It seems kind of logical to me.

 
At 10:22 AM, Blogger Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I tend to agree. We'd be worried about someone who witnessed a horrific murder or accident and didn't have some kind of emotional reaction afterward.

I suppose the idea is that there is a difference between being impacted by the war and PTSD, which is an abnormal reaction? I still don't see the truth of the defect analysis.

 
At 10:33 AM, Blogger Limon de Campo said...

Chris Hedges discusses that idea (of "normal" people developing PTSD) in his book War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning. Have you read it? I'd be interested to read what you think.

 
At 1:09 PM, Blogger shrinkykitten said...

ianqui: indeed.

itpf: I guess the issue is that it is very possible that PTSD is NOT pathological - rather that it is a normal reaction to abnormal circumstances. I mean, who wouldn't have an exaggerated startle response, flashbacks, some avoidance behaviors, etc., after a hugely traumatic event? Is that pathological? Or completely normal in the face of something hugely abnormal and horrifying?

limon: i've not read it - but I'll check it out.

 

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