More thoughts on battle trauma – the ‘ego problem’, the question of maturity, and the ‘growth lag’

Here are some more thoughts I had about battle trauma:

I have always been under the impression that ego has a lot to do with battle trauma.  By ‘ego’ I mean a sense of self, of a stable self.  Typically, the boys going to war are just that:  boys.  They are not mature enough or stable enough as people inside, though they may appear to be on the outside.  It seems to me that a lot of battle trauma is caused by the ‘breakdown’ of the ego.  As a result, ego maturity is critical in a soldiers development. 

In general, the military tries to develop the ego.  This is a big part of ‘boot camp’.  It’s done in a haphazard way though, quickly and simply.  This is because they only have so much time for each soldier.  The evidence, to me, is that this is failing.  In fact, its such a failure that I feel the whole thing needs to be looked at closer and, possibly, changed. 

What the military tries to instil in the soldiers during boot camp is something like a ‘pseudo-ego’ or a ‘false self’.  It primarily consists of things like breaking them down, yelling at them, and developing arrogant attitudes, such as how their unit is so friggin’ great (have you noticed how everyone is in an ‘elite’ group in the military, or in some form of ‘special forces’?).  This appears to of helped in the past, but with the current generations it does not seem to help.  The evidence seems to show that you can’t ‘teach an ego’ easily, particularly when they are not mature enough for it.  If the boy isn’t ready for it, it’s not going to come. 

The development of an ego is associated with maturity.  As a result, the question of the maturity of the soldiers character will determine, really, if the ‘pseudo ego’ will work.  In America, though, there is a ‘growth lag’ compared to previous generations (and other countries).  That is to say, people are maturing at a later age.  It seems that there is a 10 or more year lag.  This means that a guy in his mid-30’s, nowadays, is like a guy in his early 20’s in WWII.  What this shows is that a typical guy in his 20’s is not all that mature . . . but, yet, this is the enlistment age and the age of the guys sent out to battle. 

This creates quite a dilemma . . . the guys just aren’t that mature. 

But, in America, there is a ‘youth myth’ in America.  This country worships youth.  Everyone is trying to stay young.  Everyone thinks it’s the ‘height of life’.  They tend to think that the ‘youth is better’.  As a result of this, they tend to prefer guys in their 20’s in the military, because of their youthfulness.  Their bodies can take more and their minds are as if ‘ready to be programmed’.  In the past, these qualities have been perfect for this age group in the military. 

But the delay in maturity has thrown a monkey wrench in it all . . .

Of course, a lot of guys join the military in the early 20’s because they don’t know what to do.  They’re ‘green’ and stupid, having no idea where to go.  As a result, they only stay in for a short period of time.  When guys get older they tend to have responsibilities that make them not inclined to join the military.  This means the great influx of guys into the military is actually when they are too young and too immature.  Older guys, I think, are not all too willing to join either.  This puts the military in a dilemma as the guys coming in are of a specific age group . . . with the wrong qualities. 

It seems to me that, nowadays, they should be focusing on older guys, guys who are more mature and stable as people.  This means guys at least in their 30’s.  With the problem of battle trauma, nowadays, I think this needs to be looked into more.  But I also don’t think the military is all that willing to accept older guys.  But, it seems to me, that this is where they should be focusing.  The military needs to make it look more “appealing” to the older guys.  This would mean that a lot of the ‘traditional’ viewpoints toward the military need to be modified.  Most of our attitudes toward the military (or the ones I’m familiar with) seem to have been a result, in large part, due to WWII.  You know:  young guys getting drafted, going to boot camp, marching, partying, and wanting to get out.  This very image of the military makes it appear without seriousness and, frankly, almost comedic.  It makes the military look like some temporary sideshow in a persons life.  Even my conversations with guys seem to show this.  Very few, that I’ve seen, seem to look at it as ‘serious’.  This image needs to be changed, I think.

I have always believed the military needs to look beyond the ‘youth myth’ and see other values in people.  Not only that, is ‘youth’ all that important, particularly in a ‘mechanized military’?  I don’t think so.  I’ve always felt that this point of view has actually hampered the military. 

I also have always felt that the military should be looked at as more of a career, something serious, not like some summer camp.  I’ve always felt that it is silly to join the military only for a short period of time.  It should be like a job, something you intend to do for a while.  I could never understand why someone would do it for ‘a couple of years’.  That fact alone, in my opinion, shows the immature attitude of the guys going in (no wonder they have battle trauma!).  Most of the guys I’ve seen who join take it too ‘casually’, like summer camp.  I’ve always believed that the military is something that entails great responsibility and requires a responsible attitude.  A lot of these 20-something boys don’t even know what that is. 

Another example of the common immaturity in the military is the tendency for many people in the military to party.  Of all people these are the people who SHOULDN’T be doing stuff like that.  People who party are generally lax irresponsible people, who look at life too casually.  Something like the military, with its life/death games, makes it too serious to look at in this way.  And what’s worse, some people in the military seem to think they have a ‘right’ to party.  I’ve heard of people talk almost like its a ‘tradition’.  I’ve heard people say it’s so they can “vent” too.  From what I’ve seen (and I’m no expert) that’s all nonsense.  Again, that’s probably a remnant of WWII, part of the ‘image’ of the military coming from the behaviour of the soldiers in that war.  In my opinion, guys in the military should be too responsible to party and get drunk every weekend.  That’s generally a sign of immaturity.

All in all, I think the evidence shows that the question of maturity is critical in the military.  It is something that should not be looked at lightly or casually.  It makes me think that the military needs to change its ways to not only promote maturity but to inspire responsible people to join (and not a bunch of 20-something man-want-to-be’s).  The military also need to rid itself of a lot of the bad ‘images’ and qualities that surrounds it (such as that its some temporary summer camp where everyone parties).  It seems to me that this should be a priority issue . . .  in my opinion anyways.

This entry was posted in Battle trauma, Current affairs and events, Psychology and psychoanalysis, The military and war and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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