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Combat-Activated Thymic Disorientation

Alexander, David (2016) Combat-Activated Thymic Disorientation. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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This thesis addresses the complexity of the experiences of severely distressed contemporary combat veterans in the Western world. It examines the specific features of their affliction that is not accounted adequately for either by the existing psychiatric approach to mental health disorders or by the complementary psycho-philosophical “moral injury” paradigm.  Following a systematic review of the relevant literature, a new approach is proposed to address these distressing phenomena of combat-related disorientation based on thymos, an ancient Greek anthropological concept. The “moral injury” paradigm has previously examined the relevance of thymos in contemporary veteran care, but has limited its consideration to Homeric material, and has also cross-interpreted the concept through modern psychological and physiological lenses in order to develop clinical applications. The original contribution of this thesis is the provision of a diachronic lens for investigating thymos in its organic philosophical context from Homer through the Golden Age of Greek philosophy, the teachings of early Christianity, and its current use in Eastern Orthodox Christian monastic tradition.       This diachronic perspective provides an existential understanding of certain features of such combat-related disorientation that were previously unidentified. More specifically, it discerns a systemic dysregulation of three essential capacities for human flourishing that can occur, often sequentially, after exposure to intensely adverse events in combat: primary emotion, instinctive motivation to action, and moral intuition. Moreover, it develops a comprehensive account of two distinct features that are previously not addressed sufficiently: (1) the enduring sense of self-horror after a perceived “absorption of evil” in battle, and (2) radical loss of the ability to attribute meaning to events or to maintain narrative coherence of life’s experiences.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, Department of
Depositing User: David Alexander
Date Deposited: 21 Nov 2016 09:47
Last Modified: 21 Nov 2016 09:47

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