History of PTSD

Last Updated 7/25/2016

Post Traumatic Soul Distress (PTSD), under any number of names, has been with us pretty much since Cain and Abel.  There are tons of references to it in Homer, Aristotle and other Greek Mythology as well as the Old Testament.  In our own nation’s history, it has been variously known as “Battle/Combat Fatigue” (WWII and Korea), “Shell Shock” (WWI) and “Soldiers’ Heart” (Civil War).  Aboriginal tribal cultures have, since time immemorial, coped successfully with PTSD.  They had to, as a matter of survival.  Ancient tribal cultures existed in small villages – typically under 1000 population.  When they had their frequent battles (they didn’t have wars – wars were and are far too devastating), the warriors – human beings, just like us – all came back traumatized.  Now it seems obvious that no village or whatever population group, can survive the loss of their best men to a predictable and inevitable consequence of battle like PTSD.  The only peoples who have survived over the ages are those who learned to deal successfully with this affliction.

Sadly, this important aspect of the healing arts was lost when “civilized nations” (read enormous, organized populations) with “superior weaponry” (like gunpowder, armor, cavalry, smallpox, measles, artillery, etc) slaughtered most of the “traditional” or “aboriginal” cultures.  We have some folklore around how they dealt with the issues that plague us today, but not as much as we’d like. We need to study their ways much more thoroughly and carefully.

For the past forty or fifty years, the treatment of PTSD has had pathetically little success.  The norm might be charitably described as abysmal.  There has to be (and, interestingly, there is) a better way.  However, the first thing we have to do if we aim to be better is to be different.  There’s a saying in peer support groups (and any number of other places) that “… if you keep doin’ what you’re doin’, you’ll keep gettin’ what you’re gettin‘ … “.  A definition of insanity often attributed to Einstein is “… doing what you’ve been doing but hoping for a better outcome this time …”.  That, in many ways, is precisely how the Government and most of the Mental Health Industry has been approaching PTSD.

In this vein, I would invite your attention a couple of books: ‘War and the Soul’ and ‘WarriorsReturn’ ~ both by Ed Tick, a psychologist of some note who discovered in the early seventies that Cognitive Behavioral or “Talk”‘ Therapy (CBT) does not work well with PTSD.  He did a lot of research (notably, reading pretty much everything Joseph Campbell ever wrote) and came up with some innovative (actually, age old ‘traditional’) methodologies that have proven to be a great deal more effective than what we’ve seen from the Mental Health Industry at large.  These two books are easily the best and most insightful works on the subject I have ever seen.  I am thoroughly convinced they should be required reading for anyone genuinely interested in dealing with PTSD.

They are required reading for folks who want to participate in the programs outlined on this site (there are CD recordings of “War and the Soul” available).

Then, we have the (documented by them) record of the VA.  In 2007 or thereabouts, eighteen Veterans were committing suicide every day.  By 2013 or so, after throwing every asset they had (and a bunch more that they appropriated) at the problem, they had succeeded in driving that number all the way down to twenty-two!   One aspect of this catastrophe that remains quite constant is that In both studies, about one-third of the total were in treatment b­y the VA for PTSD when they capped themselves.  The establishment’s commitment to addictive pharmaceuticals and CBT have not had what anyone would regard as notable success in the treatment of PTSD.