November 21, 2008

The Combat Veteran and the Birthing of Dissociation

Combat Attachments Born of Blood

I think that the world needs to know what a combat veteran goes through on a daily basis. If PTSD goes untreated, more than likely it will become a permanent and chronically debilitating mental wound. The combat attachments born of blood do not leave us because we depart the battlefield, they become an empty feeling inside of us. The soldier develops a highly narrow functioning self-organization in conjunction with his or her other squad members. This organization, a "troop-organism," becomes an extension of the combat-self, no different than an arm or leg. We do not will our arms or legs to move, we react from the expectations of intentional imagery based upon the combat values structure. It happens, such as the members of the "squad-herd" where each part of the troop-organism acts in a homogeneous way, each troop becoming part of the others self-states.

These attachments to the other, require a splitting within the interpersonal self-states where many such dissociated selves birth into existence, as each of the value system constructs do not match and out of necessity, develops into a complete compartmentalized self while maintaining the "whole" sub-self organizations. Each running parallel to one another and capable of switching back and forth when the proper situation requires appropriate specialized skill sets. The interpersonal self of the civilian life becomes supplanted and filed away by the combat self, due to the incompatibility of the value structures for survivability that requires a conforming from a civilian society to the norms of the combat environment.

Without an reintegration of the self, a combat veteran can and will run afoul of friends, family and society. The returning combat veteran face hurdles that they have not been trained to handle, the training and experiences they have navigated and survived leads them to think that civilian life will be easy compared to the battle life. What they do not realize is that they are still operating from the combat value system and attachments, where in American society the individual is the central concern.

Military enculturalization subsumes the civilian self with the combat self, what I term "combat values theory" into an identification with a culture of survival, born of blood and dependent on the assimilation of the “firing squad” mind set, where a troops thoughts and actions relate to an extension of his battle buddies. Fluidity of boundaries births and envelopes the “troop organism” and forever impairs the returning combat veteran by returning home without his “other selves.”


  1. This explains so much. I wonder if you'll post about how, given the 'combat values theory', etc., reintegration might occur. And also, what processes, procedures, therapies might alleviate some of the symptoms that arise from the remaining 'troop organism' mentality.

  2. I will be in my next post, these ideas have been percolating for awhile due to my having to write a paper for school. The combat values theory has to do with a value structure that replaces or overrides our civilian values schema. They consist of primitive instinctual defensive mechanisms of survival and the disintegration of our inhibitions of taking a human life.

    The troop organism remnants may never be completely healed, but with an empathetic and educated therapist in the ways of combat trauma and its effects and the nuances that this entails then the veterans or soldier can begin to over come. In this endeavor the therapist can use a technique that prior was considered something to avoid at all costs. The transference-countertransference between therapist and client, enabling the client to gradually share the burden and and by doing so the client can exchange the combat attachments and close the wound by the therapist showing where these attachments lead to and how to regain that piece of themselves, thus closing and integrating the feeling of incompleteness, the empty feeling.


Please share your comments, stories and information. Thank you. ~ Scott Lee