, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 316-326

Can Anyone Here Know Who I Am? Co-constructing Meaningful Narratives With Combat Veterans

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Abstract

The discourse on psychosocial reintegration of combat veterans in the United States has largely been confined to discussions of the best treatment for those diagnosed with psychiatric disorders. Yet analysis of the data indicates that all combat veterans are changed by their experience. It also indicates that the current medical model of treatment is insufficient. The author suggests that another model is called for; one that benefits from psychoanalytic insights on war and violence. A model that supports veterans’ experience of changed consciousness might best help them form a coherent narrative that connects their past lives and combat experience to their lives going forward. She argues that this approach may not have been taken because the same mental processes that cause combat veterans to split off their experiences also cause society as a whole to distance itself from them. Clinicians can be most effective when they create a link to the veteran by acknowledging the veteran as part of society, not a split off aberration, and recognizing the universal role of aggression within and without in creating the war that the veterans fought, and shaping the social response to their return. Literature drawn from psychoanalysis, cognitive neuroscience, and clinicians from the global south is combined with that of military psychiatry and global relief and development to support these positions.