PTSD is perhaps partially a disease of civilization, taught peers and the current society. Some people think it’s gotten worse. I think it’s gotten better. Now we have a word for PTSD’s symptomology, prognosis, and diagnosis, which gives medical people some idea how to approach CPTSD or PTSD prior to its onset, and afterwards, in treatment.
Think about our ancestors. Most were born into an environment ripe for developing “PTSD” – by our standards. They were surrounded by death, gore, barbarity, sexuality, sexual abuse, rape, incest, and more. The further you go back, the more environmental incidents occur. In a landscape dominated by animals, where human beings become prey to all kinds of fates, from syphilis to smallpox to a lion’s attack – or a neighboring tribe or family wanted your stuff – where animal’s were butchered on the hearth and your mother made love in front of you . . .
Think about the Dark Ages. Plague, famine, war . . .it wasn’t uncommon for somebody – or some child – to stumble across dead bodies, sometimes days or weeks old . . . families living in a hut where privacy was unknown. Children witnessed the conception of their siblings and the farm animals. Life was raw, personal and up-close – there was no looking through the safety glass of what we call “civilized living”. The stench of raw sewage would have permeated your nose, and the meat in the butcher’s shack might be several days old – never mind. At the time, if you were raised in this, all was good to you. If you had been asked, you would have claimed it was “civilized”.
There were the sanctioned punishments – things ‘taught’ by their society and done in public. The rack, chain, stocks, whip. The Spanish Inquisition. There were public beheadings, flayings, quartering victims, burning, breaking, and scourging. You name it – there were cruelties beyond imagination – and our forefathers did it, sometimes in public, sometimes in the name of justice, always proclaiming it the “civilized” thing to do. As barbaric as it seems today, our forefathers felt they were acting on the behalf of God, government, justice, or society. If you had asked them they would have said haughtily exclaimed they were quite civilized and had done nothing wrong, cruel, or hateful – from before even the Roman times.
It is the society which says what is ‘wrong’, ‘right’, civilized or not. Not the individual person, though free thinkers will find themselves split by what they believe – and what they are taught.
Every society feels it is the height of civilization. If you ask them, they will tell you so: “We are civilized.”. From the Amazonian Incas to China and Rome: their people thought they were ‘civilized’ and so were the things they were doing. Things that would give us nightmares now were going on here not so long ago, and in many other places.
So why didn’t more of our ancestors develop “PTSD”? Why didn’t more people go “insane”? They were a lot like us.
It’s almost as if mankind is recovering from a general “PTSD” and has been ever since or trying to heal, albeit in an unguided, half-blind sort of way. Slowly groping towards something better with no psychologists for the whole, with only politicians to guide us or leaders who loss sight of the goal. Religion gave a hand – it is in religion that we first find the phrase “Love (and help) your fellow man” – but eventually (or at first) it degraded into a system of control, ensuring obedience to its masters by threatening a people’s soul.
A little PTSD is all right sometimes. It keeps you aware and on your toes. The world is a strange place sometimes, and violence knows no bounds . . .
But as the Army has found (or is finding) – what an individual has experienced previous to a potentially PTSD inducing event comes to play when they face it. If you’ve been up to your elbows in gore, a little more ain’t gonna hurt you, so to speak. And as an “abused child” I find that strange: my experiences when I was young really prepared me for anything (which was “the trick” a little voice in my mind says; one of my controllers, I presume). I was supposed to be ready for anything – so they made me ready for anything that came along (or would come along, or they suspected I might have to deal with). A lot of the horror went into that; pushing me to limits my mind couldn’t understand – and went over the rift, baby, bathwater and all.
But I kind of get that now – and what makes some soldiers more resilient than others: what they’ve went through. You can’t “justify” killing when society (and people) have said it is so wrong for so long – but when you are in a war, and having to do your job . . .
Splitting the personality is easy for ‘me’, but not so much many others. “I” can summon up my “Soldier” half and my Marine ‘side’ and do what I need to do – and with another couple parts, even enjoy the killing and ‘stuff’. “I” can be quite (and viciously) cruel. But I can also set that “part” down and “get rid of it” (or at least put those parts to sleep) – while monominds can’t.
It’s enabled me to survive, but it’s also gotten me more curious. Perhaps someone with DID symptoms would make a better soldier than someone without – because when they come back home they can ‘separate’ that part of themselves (the killing, destroying, sometimes enraged, sometimes hugely grieved) – from the ‘rest’ of themselves – setting ‘it’ apart for some therapy (if need be).
And I think my past, abuse and all, helped me prepare to deal with it.