Healthy Transformation after Facing Combat Events
Posted on January 6th, 2017

Dr Ruwan M Jayatunge 

Partly because PTSD is the most widely known impact of trauma but also for other complex reasons, trauma’s impact is often seen in terms of symptoms of psychological disorders. Dissociation, flashbacks, and nightmares that are among the diagnostic criteria of PTSD are not the only symptoms associated with experiencing violence designated by mental illness diagnoses. Diagnoses of depression, anxiety and panic disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, psychotic disorders, and eating disorders are commonly given to individuals who have experienced violence (Allen, Huntoon, & Evans, 1998; Briere & Elliott, 1994; Browne & Finkelhor, 1986; Margolin & Gordis, 2000). Living through traumatic events changes the ways the self and the world are experienced. Kemmerer & Mazelis (2006) indicate that numerous studies suggest that experiencing trauma heightens vulnerability to other traumatic events. These traumatic events transform the victims.

Although negative transformation following combat related psychological trauma have been reported throughout the world sometimes veterans use these traumatic experiences to achieve positive transformation and self-growth. The story of the Emperor Ashoka of India (273 – 232 BC) discloses the positive transformation after facing traumatic battle events. The Emperor Ashoka was devastated by the events that occurred during the Great Kalinga battle. He used these psychologically devastating events to achieve a complete positive transformation. Admiring Asoka’s character the British Historian H.G Wells wrote ” Ashoka the greatest of Kings.

The modern wars and armed conflicts have produced a number of combatants with positive transformation after facing traumatic battle events. Sergeant Alvin Cullum York (WW1), the Soviet Fighter Pilot Alexey Maresyev (Red Army WW2), First Lieutenant Audie Murphy, (US Army WW2) General Denzil Kobbekaduwa (Sri Lanka Army ), General Romeo Dallaire (Canadian Army who served in the Rwandan Peace Keeping Mission) etc. were able to turn their bad combat experiences in to positive life energy. Every combatant is capable of positive transformation despite the distressing combat events that he / she underwent. They can turn these adverse life experiences in to meaningful and productive outcomes.

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