first published on May 10, 2017 by Trevor
There is a continuous call to action in the veteran community. It is a call that proposes that we “resensitize” warriors to violence in response to desensitization, the correct term is actually “sensitize”, and it can’t be done. The idea is simple and honorable enough, and it is a battle that we lose over and over as the military haphazardly attempts to prepare its warriors for life after their service.
Anyone who believes that the desensitization to violence has any less effect on the human mind than other traumatic events such as a near death experience, or rape, is even more disillusioned than the veterans who cant let go when its all over.
The “teaching method” is used to desensitize our warriors to violence, this occurs through training, and the lifestyle of our fighting forces. The final bell rings once the individual has their violent experience first hand, and they react without emotion. Regardless of the mental preparation for violence, it is an experience, and it is a memory. The experience or experiences remove the sensitization to violence, and that cannot be reversed.
A person needs to learn to live with the life that they have now. For combat veterans that means living with the memories, and the knowledge that violence will never again affect them the way it had before their service. Adaptation is the key to rehabilitation; this is true regardless of the trauma. Make no mistake, desensitization is a form of trauma, it is just that veterans accept and desire it. Therefor veterans must learn to live with it, they cannot simply forget it.
We do not posses the power or technology to wipe memories. That is what is required to sensitize someone to any trauma that they have experienced. There are many victims of trauma who would surely accept such a treatment, and if it were possible, it would already be in wide use globally. Any focus on sensitizing someone to trauma serves only to stall their growth as they try to move on.
The better question would be how do we help veterans live with their desensitization? If they are in fact, suffering from its affects. The answer seems clear, help them to embrace the life that they have. Help them to see that they will never get their old life back, and that maybe that isn’t so bad. We all wish that things are different, but we do so without knowing what else those changes would bring.
We make choices in life without ever knowing the full effects the decisions will have on our lives. Veterans and anyone who has ever experienced trauma do not need, or deserve, fairytales about getting back something that they have lost. What they deserve is a happy life, and our desire to help them achieve it.