OTHER SOCIAL ISSUES

Competing Narratives: Hero and PTSD Stories Told by Male Veterans Returning

Article

This thesis documents a study into the male veteran-civilian identity, through exploration of ‘hero’ and ‘post-traumatic stress disorder’ narratives.

Abstract

This qualitative study seeks to extend the existing body of scholarly literature on returned veteran civilian reintegration by exploring “hero” and “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” narratives. The character of the hero, as a social construct located within hegemonic notions of masculinity, is widely portrayed and believed to possess highly prized, extraordinary, almost superhuman personal qualities. However, this widely disseminated belief stands at odds with some of the stories returned veterans tell. This qualitative study explores and illuminates the enigmatic intersectionality of hero and PTSD narratives. Extant hero and PTSD narratives contain paradoxical implicit meanings embedded within them. The hero is understood to be fearless, strong, independent, and physically and emotionally tough. PTSD, on the other hand, implies personal deficiencies, enervation, dependence, diffidence, and other personal shortcomings. The apparent contradictions between these two cultural narratives elucidate how hero narrative are founded less in the lived reality as experienced by returned veterans and more in socially circulating stories about returned combat veterans as disembodied people. Most problematic is the tendency for widely circulating stories about them as the hero character to disguise the reality of day-to-day life as returned combat veterans live it. Through narrative analysis it is revealed that the popular cultural image of veterans as strong, independent, and courageous “warriors” may conflict with reality as lived by combat veterans. Paradoxically, however, returned combat veterans may employ the hero narrative in making sense of themselves. As a result, returned combat veterans may find it difficult to act in ways inconsistent with the hero narrative, such as asking for help, admitting a damaging personal problem, exacerbating the civilian reintegration experience and potentially significantly lowering returned combat veterans’ quality of life. This problem may be especially salient for veterans experiencing symptoms of PTSD who may feel trapped between two the cultural narratives of hero and victim.

Full Reference

Woolf, A. G., 2012. Competing Narratives: Hero and PTSD Stories Told by Male Veterans Returning Home. PhD. University of South Florida.