Here's a “fictional” story to highlight a point, a radio operator sitting in an air-conditioned operations room in relative safety claims PTSD after hearing a couple of nine-liners (a calm and accurate report requesting a medical evacuation) over the radio. None of those involved in the actual fight claim PTSD.
What’s going on here? There's a few possible answers to this question; the "warriors" are immune, or; everyone responds to traumatic events differently. Some as a result of their personality type, some through training and some just flat-out don't register any of it as traumatic.
According to some interesting research, the expectancy of violence, and traumatic triggers by extension, are minimised when an individual accept their possible exposure to violence and prepare for it as an occupational hazard. The medical literature supports this statement. Certain personality profiles are at a higher risk of developing stress and trauma related issues. A review examined US Special Operations Forces, extreme sports athletes and others in high-risk occupations. Interestingly, they found that individuals in these "dangerous" occupations had an extremely low propensity towards PTSD in comparison to the general population. It goes on to make a point, they accept death as a part of what they do, and whilst still experiencing the loss of friends and close colleagues similarly to “normal” people, they are better equipped to deal with such stressors.
A study conducted by the US National Center for PTSD in 2003 found that SOF combat personnel were much less likely to suffer symptoms of PTSD than conventional troops. The study tested whether SOF soldiers have neurological differences that make them more resilient to post-traumatic stress disorder than the average soldier. SOF soldiers were tested for levels of a molecule called “neuropeptide Y” (associated with preventing stress) in their blood. The researchers found that nearly all SOF personnel had elevated levels of neuropeptide Y in their blood. According to the researchers, studies have shown a correlation between high levels of norepinephrine and chronic feelings of stress; neuropeptide Y molecule blocks norepinephrine, and this could be the functional basis for its effectiveness in lower stress levels. As an important side-note here, it is currently unclear whether this is a genetic trait, or whether this is cultivated through training. Possibly this could be the result of epigenetics at work? (See our article on epigenetics here)
“Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.” ~Heraclitus
Heractlitus was a Greek philosopher who lived from 535 BC to 475 BC, and without checking, psychology & psychiatry weren't established sciences back then. Do you think Heraclitus describes participants, fighters and warriors based on their physical stature, or their mentality towards violence and war?
Is the current epidemic of piss weak leadership creating a broken mentality as a society? Most specifically within our Defence and domestic Law Enforcement Agencies?
Those in charge of policy and commanders should be held accountable for the current shambles that is going on within Defence and our domestic Law Enforcement Agencies. This risk adverse approach is a result of fearful and weak leadership, where policy and planning are driven by their fear of public opinion, courtesy of a rotten mainstream media platform. Any organisation that has any form of conflict at its pointy end should be driven to support the end-user. None deserve a frail egocentric leader who is fearful of answering some difficult questions, all of which have very simple answers.
This weakness from policy makers and commanders spreads like a cancer and infects every single individual below them. We no longer live in an era of conscription, every single individual volunteers for service. Volunteers accept the risks of their profession, and by extension they should be treated as such. In our current piss weak climate, politicians and commanders alike create cultures of avoidance, deference of accountability and a false safety as a culture. Instead of a culture of meticulously justified and measured violence.
In professions where conflict and traumatic experiences are inevitable we must be harder, not softer. Now, more than ever, we need leaders who have the intestinal fortitude to take accountability into their own hands. We're disgusted to the core when every leaders' public statement surrounding any matter at all, is one where they hang their subordinates out to dry.
Risk aversion versus risk acceptance cultivate two completely different mentalities from the top down. In our current setting, risk aversion and avoidance are sending the wrong message. Currently the top are creating a mindset that casualties must be avoided at all cost – instead of instilling the idea that they are a possibility of conflict. Safety mitigations should be made as a tactical decision, not a strategic approach. Not only does this change in approach send a message to the public. In line with the research just put before you, it inoculates those on the pointy end with the correct mindset towards the application and consequences of violence.
Mental health of Special Forces personnel deployed in battle. Hanwella R. & de Silva, V. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22038567)
Special operations forces and incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. Hing M, Cabrera J, Barstow C, Forsten R. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23032317)
A Meta-Analysis of Risk Factors for Combat-Related PTSD among Military Personnel and Veterans. Chen Xue, Yang Ge, Bihan Tang, Yuan Liu, Peng Kang, Meng Wang, Lulu Zhang. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4368749/)
The role of personality traits in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Jakšić N1, Brajković L, Ivezić E, Topić R, Jakovljević M. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23013628)
Mental health status of Sri Lanka Navy personnel three years after end of combat operations: a follow up study. Hanwella R, Jayasekera NE, de Silva VA. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25254557)
Association of work-related stress with mental health problems in a special police force unit. Garbarino S1, Cuomo G, Chiorri C, Magnavita N. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23872288)
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The consistent application of basic training principles is the little key. The heavy door is whatever your reason is for training the first place. Every locked door opens easily with the right key. You can hard-knock the bastard, breach your way through and get what you need. But in terms of longevity, that door is cactus.
Motivation for the motivated is a funny thing, because it isn’t about motivation at all. A tiny portion of society know exactly what they want, how to get it and what they have to do to achieve it.
They don’t need to be pushed or motivated, they need to be controlled.