Post Traumatic Story Disorder: Using the Power of Narrative to Heal the Invisible Wounds of War



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Soldiers traumatized by war often experience debilitating effects of invisible wounds such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). An obstacle to recovery from PTSD for male soldiers can be an inability to share their stories. This obstacle is exacerbated by the construct of American masculinity in the military and society. The purpose of this thesis is to explore the efficacy of the use of narrative to overcome male soldiers’ inability to share their stories. Using psychiatrist Jonathan Shay’s concepts of moral injury, the shrinking of the social and moral horizon, and the berserk state, this work illuminates the moral injury that can lead to PTSD and explores the brain injury associated with PTSD― two factors that can contribute to post-traumatic story disorder. The research methods used for this thesis included a literature review exploring the timelessness of war trauma, the experience of trauma and its effect on the physiology of the brain, and the effectiveness of narrative intervention. This review covered historical and contemporary narratives from wars in Ancient Greece, Renaissance Europe, the American Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I conducted interviews with service members and veterans with and without PTSD, health-care professionals treating soldiers with PTSD, and veterans currently using writing as a form of healing for themselves and others. I also participated in a conference employing the arts as a mode of expression for service members with PTSD. My research, interviews, and observations resulted in an understanding of the power of narrative to facilitate storytelling and listening, particularly for male soldiers. As an indirect form of communication, narrative can help soldiers tell their stories through the words and experiences of others, and provide tools to give shape and meaning to their own experiences. Narrative also offers a window to the world of war and war trauma that can facilitate understanding for civilian personnel caring for soldiers with PTSD. In conclusion, I propose the utilization of narrative interventions by military, medical and civilian communities in an effort to help soldiers recover from the invisible wounds of war.



Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, narrative, invisible wounds, renaissance humanist,trauma,construct of American masculinity, military, storytelling, renaissance narrative tradition, moral injury, shrinking of social and moral horizon, beserk state, moral shrapnel, Civil War, Vietnam War, Iraq War, Aghanistan War, World War I, World War II, narrative interventions, veteran writing workshops, traumatic brain injury, war trauma, hippotherapy, writing as a form of healing, The Iliad, The Odyssey, The Things They Carried, The Mailbox, effect of trauma on the brain, disassociation, shell shock, neuropsychosis, W.H. Rivers, Regeneration, War Horse, Dispatches, Shot at Dawn Memorial, suicide, military suicide rate, Department of Veterans Affairs, Let There Be Light, Red Badge of Courage, Philoctetes, Ajax, Theater of War Project, letter writing in the Civil War, IEDs, resiliency, Jacqueline Genovese, William Freeman, Cedric Carrington, Military Experience and the Arts Symposium, Veteran's Writing Project, Journal of Military Experience