March 13, 2023

How to cope with war traumas: peculiarities of their impact on the human psyche

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  • What are war traumas and the traumatic field?
  • Variants of war traumas.
  • How can we influence the solution of the issues of war trauma?
  • How can we help a person to go through the adaptation process after the war?
Psychological war trauma belongs to the category of rather serious issues the solution of which is going to need a considerable amount of time and attention.

In order to solve a number of destructive consequences it is necessary to understand what kind of impact is made upon a person by the events taking place in the country.

What are war traumas and the traumatic field?

Thinking about war traumas it is important to bear in mind that we can understand them as the negative experience the person gets from the events that are taking place around her. It concerns not only the people who currently live on the territory of Ukraine, but also those who have been staying abroad for a considerable amount of time. When we regard the war trauma we can speak of such important issue as the traumatic field. Here we can recall the Second World War and all the events that took place 80 years ago. Here belong:
  • other people’s memories;
  • memoires;
  • artefacts.

When we speak about the traumatic field, we look at the traumatic field of the Second world war, where people lived and fought with the war, they fought and won over all the consequences. Only then the traumatic field remains in the past, but those facts and witnessing of life during the war have remained in our time.

Today we are speaking about the traumatic field of the contemporary war which is unfolding at the territory of our country. Here we should return to the beginning of the year 2014 when the first infringement of the eastern part of our country. The formation stage of the traumatic field started at that time, and it achieved its resultant size in 2022.
An important question arises: how should we define the traumatic field of the war? One should understand that it includes not only various traumatic events but also total changes in the life of a person. Here belongs the whole atmosphere that surrounds contemporary humanity. The peculiarity of the traumatic field is that in remains even when the traumatic events are not taking place any longer.

The traumatic field is quite a long period embracing a person from all directions and filling them with constant worry about their future. The traumatic field of the war allows to become aware of oneself in the conditions of the war and to understand the continuity of the process. This continuity becomes the background against which the traumatic events unfold.

Variants of war traumas

Before we look at how the war influences the psyche of the people, let us mention that the war traumas can be classified as primary and secondary. A primary trauma is the trauma which was received immediately by a participant of the war (combatants). The combatants are the first to receive the attacks, ruinations, death and destruction of everything around us.

The secondary
trauma includes the trauma of the people who communicate with the combatants but do not participate in the military actions. This category of people constitutes the buffer which connects the combatants as those who bear the primary trauma and the society itself.

The bearers of the secondary trauma experience the same level of difficulty but it is not as evident to the surrounding people. Not only combatants can receive primary trauma, but also the category of the civilians who are situated in the zone of active military actions, including medical doctors and paramedics who offer primary medical aid.

How can we influence the solution of the issues of the war trauma?

During communication with the bearers of the primary trauma it is important to pay attention the the level of their destruction and the disruption of contact with the environment. Here we can speak of a situation when a person was wounded and became disabled as a result.

This person compared to the others will have much more difficulty with returning to their usual life because they have limitations. But their close people are making effort to return the person to the state in which they used to be before. It causes a situation when a person has to take upon themselves certain difficulties that are taking place in the life of the combatant.

When social adaptation of the combatants to the usual life is taking place after the trauma, it is important to understand how their closest people can help them enter their usual life rhythm as soon as possible. Here belong:
  • the physical aspect;
  • the emotional component.
The relatives and the other close people have the main task – to do everything possible so that the combatant should feel the best possible way despite the problems that have occurred in the physical plane. It is important to be careful so that the adaptation forms should not be destructive.

How can we help a person to go through the adaptation process after the war?

The important stage is the adaptation to peaceful life after the completion of the military actions. It is quite difficult to put this process to reality by oneself. If a person who has primary trauma shows the signs of the healthy part in their social environment when they return to their usual life, we can assume that their adaptation process has already taken place. We can guess that this person has rather high levels of resilience and all the traumas haven’t influenced their psyche. But even a person like this who shows all the signs of stable adaptation should be given special attention regarding their behaviour after 4-5 months after the return to their usual lives.

There is another category of people who have big difficulties in returning to the normal after war traumas. It is almost impossible to predict today what amount of the population will face this problem, but according to the results of former military actions one may say that it won’t be less than 30%. Among them there will be 8-12% of the people who will need maximum attention. With their whole behaviours they will show that everything is quite difficult in their lives and that they need help. It is possible to help such a person only if they are ready to share their traumatic experience.
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