Soldier’s Heart presents a unique approach to contending with the warrior experience that is new to most contemporary troops and veterans, but draws from many cultures of the past.
We seek to show modern warriors that what we commonly refer to as PTSD or “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” is a normal and natural response to the battle experience. It is not a pathology or a disease to be treated, but rather one part of a larger path that a warrior must follow. We help soldiers follow their calling through the many steps of the path of a warrior:
- Isolation and Tending
- Affirmation of Warrior Destiny
- Purification and Cleansing
- Restitution in the Community
Like the Plains Indians, we take our lessons from the buffalo.
In Warrior’s Return , Dr. Ed Tick describes the Warrior archetype and the Hero’s Journey:
We see by now that the Warrior is a foundational archetype built into our spiritual, psychological, cultural, historical and social lives. In dealing with its warriors any society is dealing with the warrior archetype’s contemporary manifestations of identity, role, social, historical, political and economic functions, psychological stage of development and spiritual status. Every society should be concerned with healthy, honorable and creative warrior development.
Popular culture has recreated the traditional concept of “warpath.” Mainstream society applies the word to combat rather than the warrior’s entire way of life. This eliminates its psycho-spiritual and life-mapping functions and considers “warriors” to be those who have been in combat regardless of wounding. Meanwhile, our nation regularly reverts to war as a political and economic tool whether or not the country is immediately and directly threatened. It has transformed veterans from storied individuals into patriotic totems. It has remained on a war economy since World War II in order to increase national wealth and power. It has eliminated universal service. It has substituted a profession of arms whose troops have been used for political ends by American leadership with greatly increased willingness, frequency, violence and secrecy in recent decades. It uses war and violence as forms of socialization and mass entertainment, including in the rearing of children. In all these ways the nation remains on the warpath.
Being away from home and homeland and in combat is a most challenging, difficult and transformative part of the journey, yet we must focus on the lifelong journey supporting its unique and irrevocable identity. To the warrior even the negative, betraying or morally questionable dimensions of military experience can provide opportunities for growth and reintegration into a positive identity. To be on the warrior’s path includes the spiritual and social conditions of warriorhood, the private and public identities of individual warriors, the relationship between warriors and their societies. Our modern culture tends to treat warriorhood today as either the rare and specialized identity of one who follows the Profession of Arms or an honorable interruption of the common civilian life journey that often makes it more difficult. Traditional cultures mapped this path and it was available to almost every adult male as well as some women.
The mythologist Joseph Campbell mapped the “hero’s journey.” It is a universalized road map drawn from Campbell’s exhaustive studies of world mythological, religious and spiritual traditions. Though there are many individual and cultural variations in how journeys unfold, the underlying pattern is identical across cultures, religions and civilizations.
Campbell mapped three stages of the hero’s journey: departure, initiation and return. Real and imaginary culture heroes and their adventures – Gen. Eisenhower vs. John Wayne, the historical vs. the mythic Davy Crockett — exemplify and model the stages of this journey. Initiates depart from the conventional, go through trials and ordeals, struggle and are transformed, and return with wisdom and boons necessary to the well being of society. Through this journey they transform into culture heroes. The journey’s purpose is not in what it provides the individual, though that is much, but rather to preserve, grow, develop and evolve the culture through the hero’s newly acquired maturity and wisdom.
Every one of us may replicate the journey. Our souls yearn to travel this path. If we do not, we remain immature, deficient, lonely and longing for inexpressible inner experience. When we do, we develop the inner warrior archetype whether or not we serve in the military. (Tick, 2014, 168-169)