Thursday, April 14, 2011

Military training

Where I live, in recent times there has been a good deal of discussion about what some young trainee soldiers did at a military academy. One male student had ‘relations’ with his girlfriend who was also at the military academy. Whilst this was happening he video tapped it and streamed it out live via Skype to some of his cohorts. These people were all in their late teens or early twenties.

This has lead to an outcry by many about the mistreatment of women in the military. One can safely say it was mistreatment of a particularly humiliating kind. A bad thing was done indeed. Social commentators, politicians and the press to some extent are all expressing their indignation at this. But is the blame going in all the right directions?

I have worked with many who have served in the military at some time. I always find particularly interesting from a psychological point of view how the military train their personnel.

What has to be achieved at some point is shown by this diagram

FC desentitization

The FC or the sensitive aspects of the personality have to be sealed off. I have diagrammed this by showing the FC being hidden behind a wall so to speak which will protect it from a very unpleasant environment. The sensitive aspects get hidden so in essence they become desensitised. You cannot have sensitive people going into a war zone as they will simply not psychologically cope. The military training has to desensitise them before they get there.

To get a person to desensitise or hide away their FC one has to assault them in some form. They have to be brutalised in some form as that is the only way the psychology of the individual will do what is required of them as shown in the diagram.

Lady rifle

How does one brutalise a trainee solider? There are a whole variety of ways to do this.

Firstly one can physically assault them. I imagine this is not allowed these days in military training, so they get them to physically assault each other. Hand to hand combat training and body contact sports would do the job there. Other than this you verbally assault them, demean them, humiliate them, threaten them, scare them, make them exercise to the point of vomiting or exhaustion, leave them with no control over their life, dehumanise them with uniform haircuts and clothing, train them to think that the bad guys are subhuman, get them to do repetitive meaningless tasks and so forth.

All these will get them in the right psychological frame of mind to handle a war zone situation. We need them to go into a war zone and be brutal, to kill other humans. If we brutalise them first then we train them to be able to brutalise others. Now all this is good and well except for when they come home and they are in that same frame of mind but that is for discussion at another juncture.

If you brutalise young adults (mainly males) in order for them to be brutal to others then you can’t be all that shocked when they behave in a brutal way. What those males did to the female one could say was brutal. I suspect in their minds they would have seen it as a practical joke. Clearly they need to understand the severity of what they did and it is not just a practical joke. But they were doing what they had been trained to do - be brutal.

To be able do this to a ship full of human beings one has to have a particular psychological frame of mind.

However, we see politicians get up and ‘crucify’ these young men and how they behaved in such a depraved way. Perhaps we (larger society) need to also accept some of the responsibility as well. Acknowledge that we support a system that brutalises these young male adults so they can go and fight the bad guys and keep us safe. At the same time some of them get killed or mutilated along the way.

In the public statements being made on this topic one does not see a lot of people saying what I am saying. Politicians accepting some of the responsibility for the brutal acts by these young adult males? One never sees that. Other public commentators are now given a ripe opportunity to vent their anger at how bad the youth of today are and seizing the moment with zest. Will they acknowledge their part in how these young men behaved - I think not.



  1. Off topic.

    Can you direct me to any good resources on dealing with very early attachment issues.

    Pre-verbal, not believing that my parents will be reliably there or take any interest in me kind of stuff.

    Lots about the impact of poor attachment, Bowlby etc

    But can't find much on the therapy - how to communicate to that young child and let them know they are cared for.

    Any ideas would be most extremely welcome. Thanks.

  2. Hi Evan,

    unfortunately I don't have a lot to provide to you except bowlby as you have already mentioned. The only other material that I know off hand is mine I have written