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War and the Soul: Healing Our Nation's Veterans from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (Quest Books, 2005)

From the Introduction:

The mortars have stopped falling. The tracers have stopped screaming. The mountain and villages have stopped smoldering. But years later, veterans still have nightmares and flashbacks in which old battles rage. They still watch for threats and stand poised for danger. Their hearts respond to everyday situations as though they were vicious attacks and to ordinary relationships as though they were with long-dead comrades or enemies….

 

For these survivors, every vital human characteristic that we attribute to the soul may be fundamentally reshaped. These traits include how we perceive; how our minds are organized and function; how we love and relate; what we believe, expect and value; what we feel and refuse to feel; and what we judge as good or evil, right or wrong. Though the affliction that today we call post-traumatic stress disorder has had many names over the centuries, it is always the result of the way war invades, wounds and transforms or spirit….

 

War and the Soul reveals the substratum of all war as well as the universal dimensions of veterans' wounding and healing.

 

Part I established the traditional context of war in history, mythology, and religious and spiritual traditions. It examines what has happened to that context as civilizations developed more sophisticated weaponry and as during our modern era we have shifted to the practice of distant technological warfare… The more destructive war has become, the more one of its original functions as a rite of passage has been compromised, which is a major factor in the prevalence of PTSD among vets today.

 

Part 2 concerns the effects of war in terms of the symptoms that make up what we now know as post-traumatic stress disorder, but with an important distinction…. PTSD is not best understood and treated as a stress disorder… Rather, it is best understood as an identity disorder and soul wound, afflicting the personality at the deepest levels…. Part 2 describes in depth the aspects of understanding PTSD in terms of identity issues. We see why veterans' healing is so difficult to achieve and why conventional modalities often fall short…. One of my goals became to map the war survivor's inner world so that veterans could find their ways through it and healers and loved ones could have an effective guide for facilitating veterans' homecoming.

 

Immersing in the universal dimensions of war also gives us hope for healing PTSD. Part 3 describes some of the ways… that can enable a disturbed vet to find healing. Some sources for such practices are found in shamanic, ancient Greek, Native American, Vietnamese and other traditions. Some are revealed when we listen deeply to what PTSD is asking of us rather than imposing our conventional ideas upon it. Specific techniques include purification, storytelling, healing journeys, grieving rituals, meetings with former enemies, soul retrieval, initiation ceremonies, and the creation of a warrior class…. This work facilitates initiation as warriors and offers understanding, acceptance, inclusion, transformation and honor….

 

War teaches hard lessons. What we lose, we lose. After war or other traumatic loss, we are different forever. We can neither get the old self back nor return to a state of innocence. We have been through a psychospiritual death.

 

But like the mythological phoenix, from death we can attain a rebirth. When we reconstruct a survivor's identity from veteran to warrior, we open up dimensions of soul that modern society ignores, including those most painful and usually excluded from everyday life…. In these healing efforts we must deal with our moral and spiritual dimensions. This is because warriorhood is not a role but a psychospiritual identity, an achieved condition of a mature, wise, and experienced soul. By modeling warrior traditions worldwide in ways that are relevant and adapted to modern life, we can grow a new identity strong enough to carry the wound and heal the soul.

 

War and the Soul holds forth the possibility that we can regrow the war-wounded soul in both individuals and cultures to nurture and educate a positive and affirming identity that surrounds the war experience with love, compassion, meaning and forgiveness. When the survivor can accomplish this, PTSD as a soul wound evaporates. The survivor can truly come home and serve the causes of peace, justice and healing. When nations can accomplish this, in the words of the old gospel song, "We ain't gonna study war no more."

"With a resounding salute to those who have given their lives, this book empowers us to overcome the soul loss that is the result of all wars." Jan Scruggs, Vietnam Memorial Founder

 

"As the world hangs in the balance, Ed Tick illuminates the path that could pull humanity back from the brink." Kenny Ausubel, Bioneers Foundation Founder

 

"Dr. Tick brings to the task a deep compassion for the worldwide legion of war victims. Beyond that, he brings a scholar's sense of history, a visionary's gaze into the heart of darkness, and a poet's grace to make these stories… affirmative of the human spirit."

Stephen Larsen, Ph.D.