This essay discusses basic views of the terms resilience and spirituality. The introduction provides the definition and evaluates the depth of the given terms. The main part represents how main questions that can be asked by the soldier before the fight might be answered. The questions are listed and discussed with relation to sin, faith, betrayal, family, war, trauma, death, background and recovery. The first questions discusses families and the natural aspects of mind challenges. After that, the problem is described with the help of religion. After this discussion, the list of special recovery programs that study the same topic is presented. The conclusion part summarizes the information and provides special tips.
In the world of exhaustible natural resources, war is a common thing. History describes great noble battles, conflicts and glorious rulers. Every decade has stories about typical soldiers that save lives and do heroic things. However, parallel to the history of fights are emotions what were there, excluding the feeling of death, pain and the picture of suffering humans.
Children sometimes try to pretend that they are the heroes they have heard about, but when they grow up. Some of them ask questions:
- What do you feel when you are ready to die?
- What do you feel when you are preparing for battle?
- Are you stuck in fear or running with honorable strength?
- Are you willing to cry or scream from happiness?
Those are the typical question that each of us can ask. Easy questions are easy to answer with experience. Although, modern psychologists want to understand the process of preparation better. “How high will I bounce?” is a frequently asked question by Major General Bob Dees. People from the battlefield ask about pain, the possibility of survival, and the consequences. In this research the background of experiences will be addressed. How can a young man handle terror? What challenges does he experience and how do they relates to his faith, family, trauma or someone’s death? How hard is it to live after the fight? How hard is it not to fall against all the odds? How to be resilient and “bounce back”? What are the spiritual motivations? Answers may vary, but the provided psychological research will provide the basic picture.
The Definition of Resilience and Spirituality
Firstly, resilience and spirituality need to be defined. Resilience by itself is a physical term that describes an ability of some material thing to adopt a particular shape, size, strength, etc. after the physical influence. Like when one throws the ball into the wall, it deforms and bounces back, returning to the same shape that it had before it met the barrier on its way. Talking about humans, this feature is different in some way. To put it shortly, resilience for humans is an ability to fight the odds, misfortune, or changes and keep moving forward towards the better future. It is the same as “bouncing back” after encountering problems, or barriers, during the lifetime. The “bounce” is a measure of how one survives critical situations. It is about how one can live on after the death of someone special (Robert F. Dees). “Nobody is going to hit as hard as life. But it is not about how hard you hit, but it is about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward” (Sylvester Stallone).
Every action has a reason or motivation. Motives may vary, but usually people find something that they fight and live for, something that keeps them moving forward. The best word to describe this condition is spirituality. The definition of this term usually correlates with the ability of humans to put reasoning aside understanding that something may be more important than they are. Spirituality guides through tough times with the help of faith. Understanding the purpose, pros and cons, and evaluating each decision allows resilience to become easier and more flexible. Mostly, the usage of this term correlates with the church and God. However, sometimes it describes people that believe in the bright future of their family, nature, etc. In any expression, most of the times this character’s trait leads to the healthy lifestyle, mental strength and resilience.
One of the worst feelings for anyone is doubt. Doubts cause people to lose faith and reason. The Bible presents hundreds of stories about the challenges of faith and teaches people to go through tough times and be resilient against all odds. The military is a natural place where each soldier starts to think about the reasons and questions that have to be answered. Why does the violence exist and why is the death so close (Claude Pigeon)?
Why is he still alive? Why do the suffering, pain and war exist in the world loved by God? Why should he protect the people that betrayed or hurt him in the past? Moreover, did those people who died think about the same thing? Thus, this point in the Resilience Life Cycle is on the edge between “before” and “during the storm” (Robert F. Dees). Before the critical situation, each man builds resilience, and prepares and adapts to every barrier faced before. When the new challenge is on the horizon, the person decides how hard it will be for and whether he or she will get through problems. “After the storm” phase encompasses experience and further heading to the “before” phase of another situation. Thus, before each fight, the soldier asks questions, answers them somehow (or just prays) or does something else to move forward, or “bounce back”. Then he prepares for another fight all over again. For this reason, such pattern is referred to as a cycle (Robert F. Dees).
There are abundant psychological questions that require answers. It is advisable to start with those questions that relate to betrayal, most of them are easy to understand. This topic can correlate with faith, but for now it is enough to concentrate on families, government, and human beings. Why should I live if my wife betrayed me and I do not have anyone to wait for me at home? Why should I protect the nation that betrayed me? Those who survive the first question usually wish to prove themselves that they are worth something or just want to find peace in God. Therefore, the background is important, as it is necessary not to be alone when one needs experience and resilience. The second question is well-described in the Secret Santa episode of the Lie to Me show. During the episode there was a situation where Cal Lightman had to talk with an American expatriate who betrayed his mission and country. As the movie proceeds, the author unveils two different decisions. One is where an expatriate betrays his country after a long time of waiting for the rescue. The second one is where he saves two hostages and defends American soldiers. There is a contrast between two different thinking backgrounds. One is where he thinks that his country and his nation betrayed him, so he changes sides. The second one is where he hopes to be useful to his country and to rehabilitate, so he acts like a hero (Michael Zinger). Only the “Building Bounce” phase makes a difference.
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What concerns faith, one more point is important. The sin is the origin of doubts that makes people wonder whether they will go to hell or not. “Storm” is the phase of mental suffering, and, as believers know, sin is the main source of such challenges. Declining Gog “after the storm” is a terrifying outcome for every believer. Why is the world so violent? How could good God allow the world to become so evil? If he is all-powerful, then why could not he create something better? However, the answer is freedom of choice. People move forward after they understand that God did not make the world evil, humans did (Salt and Light). He gave them freedom to choose their destinies, and that is why the world is not perfect, but still beautiful in its own way. The “all good” world is the utopia where humans are blind believers. Although, the main challenge of faith is a bad occurrence under the condition of no control. For example, cancer, child’s death, or bomb that destroys the house of peaceful citizens are some examples. Evil destiny is the worst challenge that God could create. It is possible to try to understand this side of the problem with the help of the Bible. David, the King, one of the most important characters in Jewish history, can help to understand the point. According to the story, one day David climbed onto the roof and saw a beautiful woman taking a bath (Ken Spiro). Her name was Bathsheba. She was a wife of one of the generals. He called for her and spent a night with her. After she got pregnant, he tried to get rid of the responsibility and called for her husband Uriah to come back home to his wife. However, he could not rest knowing that his men are at war without him. In response, David sent him to the front line of the army to die. Shortly after his death, the wizard came to the King and told him the story. He described the situation when there were two men. One of them was poor, but the other one was rich. The rich man had many sheep, while the poor man had only one ship that he fed from his own plate and treated as a family member (Ken Spiro, n.d.).
However, when some guests arrived to the rich man, he decided not to kill one of his own sheep, but killed the poor man’s one. “Such a man should die” was the reply of David. “This man is you, David.” As the punishment, David was at war for his whole life and had serious troubles with his family. Their first son died with Bathsheba. One of his other sons raped his sister, and the other one killed him in revenge. Moreover, his son tried to kill his own father, but changed his mind at the end. David still believed in God and loved him, and his heart and soul were repenting. At the end of her life, Bathsheba gave birth to their second son Solomon, who was the wisest figure in the Bible after this (Ken Spiro, n.d.). It was the forgiveness of the God. During this story Bible teaches one more lesson. When one has sinned, he should not ask the sinners for help. Such people will find the way to acquit others’ actions of responsibilities (Salt and Light). This story can also be divided into three phases. “Before” is when David saw a woman on the roof and was trying to make a decision. “During” is the sin and punishment. “After” is the “bouncing back” where he still loves God through all of the tough times and awaits forgiveness. Therefore, the evil destiny is always the challenge and the punishment for someone’s sins. Although, is God so cruel to punish even innocent people for the sins of others? It is hard to judge, because a simple person cannot understand God’s intentions. All that humans needs to comprehend is that He wants to teach everyone and make people better through experience. This is the essence of spirituality which allows us to feel as a part of something bigger. If so, bad things that happen are the part of His plan and humans have to be resilient and bounce back every time.
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Obviously, the soldier can be a non-believer, so he can think about his family. What will they do if I die? Will I see my child/wife/parents once more? All of those questions are relevant to the spiritual strength. All the answers are the reasons to survive, bounce back and move forward. The hope is one of the main attributes of resilience. Hope is the reason why prisoners survived in the concentration camps during the World War II, holocaust, etc. Every day resilience helped them to live and move forward, and it did not matter how. “Before” is where these people live and fight. Their experience of the past life is the reason to live on. “During” is where they are treated like animals or worse, forced to starvation, traumas, and weaknesses. “After” is the story why and how they survived.
What about traumas and death, some examples that general Dees talked about in his introduction paragraph of the Resilient Warriors should be mentioned. Those are not military examples, but they can explain the basics of human resilience after getting hurt or after having seen death. The first one of those examples is Joni Eareckson Tada. She is quadriplegic, paralyzed everywhere but head. The trauma was the start of the “storm”. She was depressed, thought about suicide and God’s inexistence. In two years, she started to paint with her mouth and sell her works. As of today, she has written 14 books, she is a famous singer and Christian figure, advocate for the disabled, radio woman, etc. It is not about how hard the life hits, but about how honorably one keeps moving against all odds (Life Story).
The next famous example is Gabrielle Giffords. “Before” she was a congress woman. As a matter of fact, she attempted assassination where she was shot in her head. The suspect shot 19 people on the day of her first “Congress on your corner” gathering. “During the storm” Gabrielle had a long rehabilitation, but at the end she survived and “resurrected”. “After” she met President Obama and took part in a congress voting. Shortly after those events she retired. For now she is honored with the battle ship named after her.
The next example is 9/11 attacks. 2 996 people died that day (History.com). Those who magically survived getting stuck in traffic or something at home that day had to go through hard times after. Why am I alive? I should be there in his place; I should die, not him, etc. Survivors’ guilt, question why God is so cruel, etc. – all of these led to numerous challenges of faith all over the world. However, military people feel those torments every day. Seeing death everywhere becomes a habit that can break someone’s soul. Fear, fury and misunderstanding on the battlefield are the main reasons of self-destruction, depression, illness and sometimes death. Same as always, “before the storm” people live their everyday lives and prepare themselves for different situations. “During” they see the death, injuries, suffering, think about the existence of the God, challenging beliefs. The final phase may vary from the further self-destruction to the healthy after-life with stronger resilience. In general, the other side of the trauma or war is the living after it. Less than one percent of the US population served in military. Although, according to statistics (Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.), every year 714 families are affected by the loss of their family member in military.
Post Traumatic Syndrome
As a result, not only warriors themselves can face mental traumas, but their families, too. However, there is even more. 32223 soldiers have been wounded since 2003. Some of them cannot walk, touch their wives, and have jobs or healthy lives. Some of them will be suffering from pain till the end of their lives and some of them cannot even care for themselves. However, when a soldier comes home healthy, he can still face some mental discomfort. He got used to enemies in every corner and peaceful life begins to be an odd phase of life for him. Comparing to Sparta where all the men were warriors, it is harder for a soldier to get used to the society where only one percent served in the military. Not only because they do not understand him, but also because he can start to see enemies in peaceful people. This behavior can turn into an illness called Post Traumatic Syndrome.
A decent example of the mental illness is the React to Contact episode of the Lie to Me show. Sgt. Jeff comes back from Iraq and always thinks that someone wants to kill him. As a result, he almost shoots his child. After some tests, doctors recognize the Post Traumatic Syndrome, because of which his brain thinks that he is in danger. Dr. Cal Lightman and his team help him to remember the betrayal of the captain. His brain just refused to remember the killing of an American soldier and an Iraqi child who was as old as his son. It was a problem for his whole family and for himself. As a result, Lightman’s group cured him allowing him to escape charges (Michael Zinger). So, “before the storm” Sgt. Jeff served his country and tried to do his best to survive. The critical event was the fight where he saw the death of the young soldier and the betrayal of the captain. “During the storm” he lived with a mentally damaged brain and the feeling of danger everywhere. Because he wanted to be a good father and husband, he wanted to be cured with the help of doctors. That is why the “after” phase led to relief and a healthy life with his family.
Post Traumatic Syndrome, of course, is not the only type of suffering experienced by soldiers. Mental and physical well-being plays a huge role for every soldier in the society. USA government is running a lot of different helpful programs and project for the soldiers to recover after traumas, stress, and discomfort and lead a healthy life.
Some of them are:
– Wounded Warrior project (related to traumas);
– US Department of Veterans Affairs;
– Battle Mind Training;
– Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (important part of the unit trainings);
– Institute for Military Resiliency or IMR (launched by the Liberty University) that runs special courses , which include “The Resilient Warrior and The Resilient Leader.”
These are some examples of the programs that have a goal to combat traumas and improve the immunity to struggle (Salt and Light). Wounded Warrior project is focused on the physical well-being of the soldier, while, for example, the US Department of Veterans Affairs tries to reach better results in healing the unseen wounds. As a result, VA published Spirituality and Trauma: Professionals Working Together (Salt and Light). It was the reformation of Battle Mind Training by the US Army. The new interesting program that comes out of the Battle Mind Training is the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness. This interesting types of healing projects highlight the relevance of faith to health. They are represented by massive corps of the chaplains that help people to rehabilitate. It is like a spiritual fitness program for warriors. A Christian organization developed interesting ways to healing soldiers with the improvement of their faith. Books like When War Comes Home for Spouses and The Combat Trauma Healing Manual are the keystones for the purpose of spiritual healing (Salt and Light). Comparing to Resilient Warriors by Dees that is focused on the military experiences, these books have a wider influence. Dees pictures the experience of the soldier, but these books target the lives of everyone. Christian organizations think that men’s weakness and Lord’s power have a direct link. Keeping in mind that killing is a sin, they explain that every fighter does not fight against flesh, bones and blood. Every soldier fights against darkness, wickedness, sins, powers, evil rulers in order to make this world a better place. The right faith and the right words can make the warrior stronger before he enters the “storm”. That is how Christian organizations improve resilience of faithful soldiers (Salt and Light).
All in all, this research explained how deeply and complicated such terms as resilience and spirituality can be. It is impossible to fully understand any topic that relates to these two notions. Still, psychologists study every branch of complications that warrior may face. This research work provided key sides of the barriers that anyone can face. Sin, faith, betrayal, families, war, traumas, death, background and recovery are main terms that everyone should know about if he or she is interested in the military psychology.
Summarizing all of the facts, some tips may help a person become more resilient:
- Firstly, if the person needs assistance, then he or she should not be silent. Such person needs to find a leader or the chaplain who can guide him and make him stronger not only physically, but also spiritually.
- Secondly, people have to talk to each other. A more experienced man can help someone else with the challenges. That is why there is the hierarchy of titles in the military. It allows younger soldiers to know whom they should ask for the advice.
- Thirdly, to stay mentally healthy, people should practice taking control over their minds. Discipline of the body and the mind can help with stress and grant a healthy life.
- Fourthly, treating someone like you want them to treat you is not the motto only for faithful people. Each person has to be good to others at least because the society needs to be improved.
- Fifthly, sticking to one’s beliefs is important. It does not matter what one believes in – this power has to just be helpful in critical moments.
Those are the main aspects that everyone should keep in mind for the next storm. Of course, it is hard to predict everything. It is always better to be prepared and to never face a challenge than to suffer unpreparedly. In such case, everything that does not kill us makes us more resilient. It is probably the dream of the whole humanity not to stand on the battlefield and ask questions that are not answered in this research work. However, Christianity talks about the possibility to live in a better world. Thus, maybe, one day all the wars will disappear and people will not have to think so deeply about the things that were in dead men’s minds.