The Price of Combat (After the Smoke Clears)4 min read
Coyote Brown’s Little Book of Psychobabble
The Price of Combat (After the Smoke Clears)
Relief, Self-Blame and Other Emotions: “My world was turned inside out.” The mind is its own place and in itself can make heaven of hell, a hell of heaven (Milton – Paradise Lost). “Thank God it Wasn’t Me.” Then my world was turned inside out. One of the guys that I had come to know and respect and I called a friend, was killed. He died in front of me and I couldn’t do anything about it. All of the ways I’d dealt with death up to that time were of no use to me now. I felt guilty that I couldn’t do anything to prevent it. I felt “better him than me” and then I felt guilty about feeling that. I felt alone. I felt the loss of a friend. I felt that if it happened to him, it could happen to me. I was sickened by the way he died. I was pissed that the enemy could do this to my friend. But we were in the middle of a firefight. I didn’t have time to dwell on it so I had to put off feeling anything until later. At his memorial service I cried (Tom Hain – Vietnam Veteran).
You are Only as Sick as Your Secrets. “It’s all my fault.” Children of recently divorced parents are often convinced at some gut level that the demise of the marriage is because of them. They think that if they had just been better kids the divorce would not have happened.
The Power of the Debrief. “Pain Shared is Pain Divided.” Say we are going to debrief the individuals after a traumatic incident. All the participants are present – including the radio operators, who should always be included, since they could be living in hell and very much in need of “filling in the gaps” through the debriefing process. Many of the participants walk into the debriefing with the weight of the world on their shoulders, thinking, “It’s all my fault.” One might even say it out loud. “Man, I think this was all my fault.” Another says, “No, I think it might be my fault.” Still another says, “No, I blew it, because I should have done it differently.” As the debriefing unfolds, each member figures out that it cannot be everyone’s fault and by the time it ends, each person walks out with his fair share of the blame. They came in with the weight of the world on their shoulders, and they walk out with their fair share.
Pain shared is pain divided. They must be there for each other to “divide the pain.”
By the way, the rest of the equation is “Joy Shared is Joy Multiplied.”
First the pain is divided and then the joy is multiplied. “Thank God it Wasn’t You.” After a horrific experience, such as the loss of a buddy, it can be a powerful shock to hear yourself think, “Thank God it wasn’t me.” Then the shock may change to shame, which makes you think, “I wish it was me. I want it to be me. I wish I were dead.” In addition to this, you might very well be convinced that “It’s all my fault” and you have not had the debriefing that will help you fill in the gaps and divide your pain. You are at one of the lowest points in your life. Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, author of nine books dealing with the natural phenomenon of dying, says there is a set of response stages to death: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, and Acceptance. You might walk in the door after your horrible day and run smack into an angry spouse! Someone tried to kill their loved one and they feel helpless and frustrated that there is nothing they can do. At first, they denied what happened but, then they feel anger. It is important, therefore, that right now, while you are calm and rational, you ask yourself: Who are they really angry at? Are they angry at you? No. They are angry at the world that tried to harm their loved one and, in their confusion, they might displace that anger onto you. Once again, can you see how this might distance you from your loved ones when you need them the most? You are a warrior. We talked before about surviving gunshot wounds. If you can take a bullet and drive on, you can certainly take a little displaced anger and drive on. Do not let your loved one’s confusion and misplaced anger distance you from them at a time when you need them most. Hug them, hold them and cherish them. Wait for their emotions to pass and know that they will still be there when you need them. And you will be there for them in the years to come, because your warrior spirit prepared you to survive this challenge.
Please have a safe Memorial Day while honoring our fallen.
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