I was recently watching this Ted Talk titled “How Frustration Can Make Us More Creative”and the talk is basically about exactly what the title describes: How frustration, those hair-pulling moments, can actually lead us to some of our greatest moments of creativity.
This got me thinking about combat veterans and why I’m seeing so many of them turn to the arts after the war.
Who doesn’t know about Edgar Allan Poe? He is famous around the world for his powerful poems and short stories, but not everyone knows that he was a member of the US Military before he became a great novelist (there’s even a funny story of him showing up naked to formation). Just like him, a lot of veterans are successfully letting go of their dark and traumatic pasts and venturing into self-expression through different art media.
[pullquote]”Sometimes, we need to go through those hurricanes and rainstorms, to see and appreciate the sun.”[/pullquote] The mid-1900s was really a dark period in history as this is when numerous wars took place. Members of the military had to be in the battlefield for many weeks, months, or even years. Aside from having no means of keeping in touch with their families, veterans were exposed to a hostile environments, without any avenue for peace and quiet. This intimidating and disturbing experience took a toll on most of them, even after the war. Unfortunately, a lot of veterans who served during the war(s) were diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD, which could result to trauma, apathy, or depression.
Stress is a negative emotion and people have associated it with trauma, apathy, or depression. Because of what happened in the past, people somewhat expect veterans to be demotivated and a lot less outgoing. However, with the right mindset and tons of encouragement from family members, friends, and other concerned citizens, some veterans were able to overcome this stage in their life with the help of arts.
Psychologists have proven the power of visual, written, or performing arts as an effective therapy for people with PTSD. A traumatic experience could overwhelm a person; thus, he may distance himself away from people and completely avoid interaction. People with PTSD are usually scared to vent their feelings and emotions, worrying that any form of reminder of the experience they have been though could be unbearable. With the help of different types of art such as writing, painting, playing instruments, or performing in theaters, veterans now have a channel to let go of their suppressed emotions, fears, anxiety, and loneliness. Any of these mediums give a veteran a sense of entitlement and a spark of positivity, something that they have been deprived of during the war period.
Today, there are many non-profit organizations that serve as avenues for veterans to explore their creative side. These organizations provide support and training for veterans and help them smoothly transition from military to civilian life. They also pay honor and recognition to the invaluable contribution of our veterans with programs and activities that campaign and promote the overall well-being of U.S. veterans and their families.
Groups like Warrior Writers and Words After War encourage veterans to utilize creative writing as a means of communication and self-expression. Other groups such as the United States Veterans’ Artists Alliance (USVAA) and the United States Veterans Art Program (USVAP) offer a holistic approach and a more comprehensive artistic media such as music, theater, photography, and film. Despite the differences in each group’s method or type of approach, their goal and mission is one and the same — to help veterans let go of their traumatic past and realize that there is life after war, and it is beautiful.
I think this is why beauty can come out of some of the ugliest of places. Sometimes, we need to go through those hurricanes and rainstorms, to see and appreciate the sun. There is nothing uglier than war and it’s why so many combat veterans are flocking to the arts. The storms have filled them with creativity inside and they need a release. It’s also why I think so many therapies that help veterans with PTSD include the arts. There’s a certain pent-up-ness that veterans need to get out and if they keep it inside too long, it leads to mental constipation. Art gives them that release from the frustration.
Civilianized: A Young Veteran’s Memoir
In this dark humored War Memoir, Iraq veteran Michael Anthony discusses his return from war and how he defeated his PTSD. Civilianized is a must read for any veteran, or anyone who knows a veteran, who has returned from war and suffered through Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
“I wont soon forget this book.” -Mary Roach
“A must read.” -Colby Buzzell
“[S]mart and mordantly funny.” –Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Anthony delivers a dose of reality that can awaken the mind…” Bookreporter
Order your copy of Civilianized: A Young Veteran’s Memoir .