Thursday, February 23, 2006
“War and the Soul: Healing Our Nation’s Veterans from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder” by Edward Tick, Ph.D. is probably the best book on PTSD and veterans I have ever read, and I’m an MA student studying the effect of killing in combat on veterans’ experiences with PTSD. Tick’s premise is simple: PTSD is not a stress/anxiety disorder, as it is currently classified by psychologists. It is a disorder of the identity, of the soul. His use of psychology is easy to understand; he writes for the educated lay person. He relies on the psychology of Carl Jung to explain the soul. He uses mythology to elucidate the human identity. He references everyone from Mircae Eliade, Paul Keegan, Homer, Sophocles, and Elie Wiesal. He quotes the masters of his field: Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, (ret.), Jonathan Shay, and others, but he relies on mythology to interpret the human need for combat as a rite of passage and to explain how modern combat, with distance fighting and increased mortality, has lost its ability to provide the rite of passage. Men and women are trapped between life stages. This identity crisis becomes PTSD. While in combat, this in-between stage explains war atrocities (thought Tick never attempts to explain the routine and systematic destruction of cities that occurred during wars centuries ago, for example Rome’s destruction of Carthage). Tick claims thus that PTSD is better treated by completing the transition from one life stage to the next than through drugs. He describes many of his patients and how his work has helped them. The interviews with veterans are illuminating and heart-rending. Though occasionally too political, this book clearly illuminates the effect modern warfare has on the common soldiers’ souls and the steps needed to save them.