This week I would like to discuss Veteran Resilience. We have all seen or experienced it in our lives, whether we knew it or not. Resilience is defined as the ability or capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. According to Litz (2014), resilience, like the constructs of stress and trauma, signifies a process and an outcome. As a process, resilience entails a relatively unspecified and under-researched transaction between personality traits, resources, and the environment. These transactions involve hard-wired, psychological, biological, behavioral, social, and spiritual processes that mediate outcomes. The second concerns the complex interplay of the post-traumatic experience and personal coping assets. The result of these transactions depends on the individual’s lived experience and their ability to adapt. This outcome is highly dependent on the degree of exposure, whether maliciousness was involved, the age and development of the person, and the social, cultural, and economic resources that are available. As adults, we learn to become more resilient throughout our lives as we are introduced and more exposed to stressful events such as the life-threatening situations encountered by military service members in combat. This resiliency helps us to maintain healthy psychological, emotional, and physical functioning. Research has shown that crucial resilience factors in veterans are emotional hardiness, social support, and mind-body practices to protect them from mental health problems and even enhancing post-military employment, stable housing, and other aspects of community reintegration.
According to Litz (2014), only seven percent of the general American population experience traumatic events like assault, disaster, or combat that have reactions that won't go away, disrupt daily life and develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) similar to that of veterans. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans experience eleven to twenty percent rates, while Vietnam veterans experience thirty percent rates. This PTSD experienced by the veteran has life-altering effects that can change people's lives,causing homelessness, domestic violence, addiction, suicide, and other issues, all at a high cost to individuals, families, communities, and society as a whole. Resilience helps people “bounce back” and cope more effectively with whatever we encounter in life. Through resilience, those who experience post-traumatic stress learn to see that all stressful events provide an opportunity to find out who they are and find ways to continue to grow as individuals.
One thing that the military does is to create a profound sense of interdependence and a level of trust that most people never experience. These situations are orchestrated from basic training through all forms of military deployment, creating the kind of group cohesion that life before the military often does not recreate. Even for people in close-knit families, the bonds that form in the military are not the same, especially for those who experience combat and must rely on each other to survive. One’s fire team becomes one’s family. This family is who we share our stress from traumatic events and how we build our individual resiliencies. These resiliencies keep us alive.
As a society, we continue to make mistakes in our thinking that individual outcomes are mainly products of individual resilience factors. It is tempting to say the individual is responsible because it gives us more of a sense of perceived control. Individual resilience is not the model of what the military creates or instills into our way of thinking, and it is not what we should emphasize for many who come out of the military. To learn to be seamlessly, interdependent is a goal for every veteran to reach their maximum human potential. According to Springer (2016), the lifeblood of the elite members in the military is the trust and respect between those who would lay their lives down for each other. It is apparent that the most recent disconnect in recent veteran issues challenges that occur at reintegration after discharge from the military. After discharge, civilians often display an ignorant approach to veteran's issues, who may ask intrusive questions, and demonstrate a mind-boggling tendency to focus on shallow matters, may become pervasive, constant triggers to veterans following military discharge. Rather than approaching veterans with fear and judgment, society needs to be educated on receiving veterans back into the communities with open arms with trust and respect. This will help create and establish resiliencies into their new transition back into civilian life.
There have been multiple times throughout my life when I have been faced with some challenging and stressful times. The big thing that I have always remembered is that I can get through anything with persistence, resilience, and my ability to make sound decisions during times of adversity. No challenge is too big to overcome. If you can’t handle it, get help! Your military family is always here to help. Anyway, that is it for this month. Have a great month. Happy Thanksgiving!
Springer, S. (2016). Reflections on Veteran Suicide, Veteran Resilience, and Tribe. Psychology Today
Litz, B. T. (2014). Resilience in the aftermath of war trauma: A critical review and commentary. Interface Focus, 4(5)
Image provided by Military.com (2014). Top 10 Myths About Army Resilience Training. Retrieved from https://www.military.com/spousebuzz/blog/2014/02/top-10-myths-army-resilience-training.html