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Impressions of PTSD Posted by Gregory Cochran on August 18, 2018

The following article was composed while benefiting from the serenity in exile provided by my good friend Manny Soprano, with his overtly Caucasian dog, Teddy snoring on my knee.

In this brief post the curmudgeonly Cochran notes that PTSD was not a prominent aspect of post war life before World War I, when shell shock became a term for men who broke down mentally. He decries the evolution of this term into battle fatigue in WWII [a Politically Correct term to be sure] and eventually into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Noting the trauma of pre-civilized life, of the brutality of ancient and medieval life, Cochran points out that PTSD should not exist. He argues that the WWI diagnosis was correct, that this syndrome of post war broken minds was related to the inhuman element of modern war—artillery. Ernst Junger Essentially made the same case in Storm of Steel that his exposure to “the storm of steel” on the Western Front in WWI literally dashed his sanity and he emerged from the experience a different man, forged, literally by the modern gods of thunder.

I am willing to entertain both sides of this discussion, simply because I have noted how much better adjusted military combatants I have known were if they had a religion; the stronger their metaphysical component, the better they handled the trauma of combat and put it into life perspective. I have also noted that violent criminals, hunters and livestock handlers who are called to war emerge with less psychological trauma than the more domesticated men from urban and suburban homes. I have also suffered PTSD symptoms from car accidents, thunderstorms and being hunted in the streets of Baltimore by primitive men, which is essentially the life of the primal hunter Cochran evokes. In my case it took years of stress on the streets for it to manifest itself in post encounter shakes.

I suspect the elements of modern and postmodern PTSD are:

-1. Most of the men engaged in modern and postmodern [4G] warfare have been domesticated by civilization to the point where they are more likely to suffer ongoing psychological trauma, especially once they have been immersed in man-hunting environment and then taken back into a domestication matrix. Such men are no longer the primitive humans of which Cochran speaks, but as to them as the poodle is to the timber wolf. Domesticating, then un-domesticating than re-domesticating seems to be a high stresser and was for me in my last few survival encounters, when I performed perfectly cool and in terms of the predation matrix on the dark street, and then when the danger passed and I had to become a good employee/citizen again in the artificially-lit workplace I developed the shakes. Note that the factors below don’t apply to pre-modern barbarian warriors, but only to civilized soldiers from various ages. Hence, elements 2 through 7 are amplification factors effecting element 1.

-2. Most modern combatants are not members of a non-secular religion [1] and therefore do not benefit from the shamanic and mystical aspects of the traditional religious life that help sooth the soul of the guilty, for warfighters do break taboos in wartime and the afflicted minds among them will require the type of absolution offered by homecoming rites, purification rites, monastic commitments and confessionals which benefitted crusaders, for instance, but which also benefitted all manner of combatants, from the hero of the Iliad to the soldier of the Roman Legion. The treatment of Vietnam veterans was particularly heinous in this regard.

-3. Offensive operations in pre-modern, civilized warfare were generally not a mass affair, with most fighting men performing static roles and then either fleeing or pursuing once army morale broke. Modern operations, most notably the operation of massive combat formations made up of conscript soldiers in WWI and WWII placed many men who are not suited for heroics in a heroic role, thus amplifying stress exposure.

-4. Modern military units are made up of temporary martial brotherhoods and after a year of training and a few months serving together, such men [as my brothers who served in military units] find themselves discharged and back amongst non-martial people, separated from the most meaningful fraternal companionship of their entire life. Their domestication having been interrupted, reversed and then resumed, these men are now permanently lost souls, unable to enjoy immediate social empathy, yet having come to know it and missing it all the more.

-5. One cannot discount or downplay Cochran’s stress on artillery [and this would include other superhuman agencies such as choppers, tanks, jets, IEDs and large caliber machine guns] on the fiber of the organic human. Our fighting men—even and especially the most privileged—increasingly operate machines which have the capacity to withstand action disabling or lethal to their occupants.

-6. The postmodern state is a psychological social organism which relentlessly seeks to assign disease and disorder models to any emotion which is not seamlessly supportive of the SYSTEM. A chief feature of this system is lack of distinction. In past ages, war-fighting activity, especially of heroic intensity, on the part of the individual fighting man, has traditionally been supported by distinctions, all distinctions being notes of difference between the individual and his fellows and the rest of society. Thus, for a fighting man whose primary or only social currency is distinction, returning to a society devoted to erasing distinction is, in and of itself traumatic. Once he has been diagnosed as mentally diseased based on his actions on behalf of the very SYSTEM which now condemns him as a psychological leper, his internal damnation is all but assured.

-7. Postmodern [post atomic detonation] wars are fought for external economics and internal political control in line with no rational morality or traditional value, leaving the returning warfighter un-appreciated relative to his ancient and even prehistoric counterpart who literally fought for the survival of his tribe. In a world which tolerates no authentic tribe [only sports teams], which operates only for the benefit of the elite—an elite which openly despise men-of-action—the fighting man is increasingly alone among his kind, and then when his service is over he is atomized back into the compliance matrix. Indeed, the returning post-modern war-fighter is often stricken with the realization that he fought against his own civilian interests, as if his younger self successfully attacked his older self across time in service to some great evil. This is most starkly the case with recent wars which dramatically increased the very shipment of heroin imported to addict returning war-fighters.

-8. Submersion in a mind-control matrix which denies the value of all pain and casts pain as a disease symptom rather than a soul forge and promotes addiction to pain moderating drugs as a lifeway, even imparting heroic status to the drug addict, which is an abomination against the individual and collective soul of the fighting man, is the fate of the postmodern warrior upon his return.

Are the factors above, some or all, symptoms or process or both?

This reader’s thoughts are beginning to follow the line of least resistance, which suggests that the fighting man has become subject to an evolved system—not a design—which, being a system of human domestication, must instinctively undermine any heroic person, profession, calling or activity in the cause of its own mindlessly negating expansion. Anyone who thinks that civilization is an artifice for the common good, some tool of ascendant humanity, might want to consider 2 things:

The system of living which we live under works more efficiently the fewer direct actionists are counted among the living, and that the very men who go abroad to do its bidding, when they return, pose the greatest threat to its internal operation. From the point of view of the SYSTEM manhood and all masculine activities—foremost among them war-making—must be internally invalidated even as they might be desired for external use. The current postmodern civilization must suppress the will of the returning warrior and his aspiring internal counterpart.

It’s a matter of life and death.


-1. Non-secular religions or ideologies such as atheism, secular humanism, communism and globalism [2] grant purpose, in the form of justification, to the violent actor but have no deeper soothing mechanisms. Once justification has been employed at the outset another element must be introduced to sooth the soul, which, in a purely material world, takes the form of same-plane demonization, in other words the invalidation of the enemy. The enemy must be rendered subhuman. We are even falsely taught that all societies rendered enemies subhuman and this is not so. Hence, when the fighting man has completed his duty and is in a post-justification stage, he is, rather than being comforted with approval, diminished by being reminded that his enemy was a lower life form, that he had no worthy foe, that his actions were like the weeding of a garden, the poisoning of insect pests, the burning of an infested material; that he was nothing more than the executioner of deserving degenerates. For an example compare the ages old art of boxing, with its traditional [abominations like Ali proving the rule] elevation of the opponent to heroic status to the postmodern sport and sports-entertainment of MMA and pro wrestling where promotion of fights, real and fake, centers around the invalidation and diminishment of the foe. See my books the First Boxers, The Gods of Boxing and All Power Fighting for related discussions of taboos and rites surrounding combat.

Gods of Boxing

The First Boxers

All Power Fighting

A Fighter's View of Mixed Martial Arts from Achilles to Alexander (The Broken Dance) (Volume 3)

-2. In terms of the soul of the combatant unquestioned faith in some necessarily unexamined “truth” a religion makes. Adherence to an examined truth is a philosophical, not religious exercise. Therefore an ideology is a religion, an inferior religion in terms of its long term value and sustainability, but a religion none-the-less, with the central aspect of bot being faith in the unproven. For instance, atheism—wholly derived from Judeo-Christianity and springing from no other metaphysical origin—is a logical reduction and denial of traditional religious faith in an unproven good which is reversed into a faith in, an absolute belief, that no higher power beyond the material realm can exist. This belief that there is no God, faith in a negative which can never be proven, is actually more fanatical than belief in the positive that can never be disproven. The point that bears upon this discussion is that civic, ethical and materialistic ideologies, though they have carried the full fervor of religious fanaticism, keep alive only the hierarchy of thought and belief present in traditional religions with a metaphysical basis and therefore lack mystery, lack the inexplicability in which hope may reside for the torn soul to focus upon while mending.

Thought Crimes: Against the Gods

Plantation America

Poets, Seers and Heroes

Add Comment
KmanDecember 4, 2018 2:41 AM UTC

Dr. David Grossman has studied this at length and in depth. Some of the things he noted were that people killing from a distance (artillerymen and flight crew) tend not to suffer from PTSD, people involved up close and personal tend to. Also that humans have a sort of countdown clock for days in actual combat until they break. Older iterations of war tended to somewhat sporadic and the days in battle count were lower than WW1 and WW2 where men were rotated to the front and kept there for extended periods of time.
responds:December 4, 2018 5:52 PM UTC

I really liked Grossman's book, particularly is departure from the two dimensional "fight or flight" view of aggression.
Bryce SharperNovember 28, 2018 4:57 PM UTC

Martin Van Creveld makes a similar argument to Cochrane in "Pussycats."

Personally, I think your arguments have merit. We are raising "men without chests" in a society that doesn't value them:
ReaderNovember 28, 2018 10:54 AM UTC

Just a note: name was ernst jünger and he served in wwI on the western front.

WwII he was mainly occuppied with drinking and banging in paris.
responds:November 28, 2018 8:16 PM UTC

Thanks for the correction. I'll correct the ww2 typo and the name spelling.