Post Traumatic Story Disorder: The Power of Story Telling and Story Hearing to Heal the Invisible Wounds of War


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Beyond the visible physical wounds they suffer, soldiers traumatized by war often experience the debilitating effects of what psychiatrist Jonathan Shay calls moral injury and shrinkage of the social and moral horizon. Shay’s book Achilles in Vietnam argues that soldiers have suffered these moral and social injuries since ancient times. These same kinds of invisible injuries now threaten the life and health of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Often, these injuries are compounded by the restrictive definition of masculinity the military inculcates. Medical humanists are aware of the power of narrative in its various forms—drama, novels, and memoir—to facilitate understanding between patients and health-care professionals and the necessary process of reentry into personhood and community that leads to recovery. Narrative provides traumatized soldiers with a nonthreatening method to process their anger, rage, and fear, and health-care professionals with a method to approach debilitating psychological injury. Using the multidisciplinary perspectives and methods of the humanities, I will explore the insights and tools offered by narrative and trauma studies to help provide both an understanding of the unprecedented suicide rates of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans and a therapeutic approach based in narrative and rooted in the humanist tradition.



Post Traumatic Story Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, moral injury, narrative, story telling, veterans, The Things They Carried, The Mailbox, Achilles in Vietnam