Confusing Supererogation With Pride
Veterans are too prideful to seek help is one concept to describe why veterans neglect assistance in their lives. I recently saw the depiction drawn by Paul Combs (above) of a soldier being dragged down by pride as the sharks of depression, PTSD, suicide, etc., circle the soldier. I agree with 95% of what Paul Combs laid out and would like to take this opportunity to discuss on focus on the main issue that he has highlighted of Pride. I also want to stress this is simply another viewpoint to further the discussion of suicide, PTSD, depression, addiction and other issues that impact our veterans. It is not an attack on a thoughtful illustration by Paul Combs that depicts issues with our veterans. Here is where I differ with the cartoon depiction and see as troubling and possibly problematic when the term “Pride” is used to define veteran’s behaviors in failing to seek assistance for themselves. While it is understandable that many and even the veteran may confuse the conduct as prideful, it is not. Unfortunately. and unintentionally the message that is being delivered to our veterans is: “You are to prideful; get rid of it and get help.” Maybe, just maybe their pride is the only thing keeping them alive; or maybe there is no pride at all; maybe it is guilt of something not done; shame of what could have or should have been done; or maybe they have lost their way and don’t even know where to start. Many veterans learned or had reinforced in them to always maintain a sense of duty, to go above and beyond and never let others down, carry your burden and do it quietly. They should demonstrate supererogatory actions. Supererogation is the term for actions “…that go beyond the call of duty…actions that are viewed as morally good although not (strictly) required by a society (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). Here is the conundrum, in many cultures supererogation is easily determined as it is unusual behavior, in the military it is often expected, not exempted. It is more than a philosophical statement, it is a way of life; it is not prideful, it is an obligation, a call to duty, a commitment to a way of life.
Labeling veterans’ actions as prideful, can hinder future assistance. We must listen to grasp what the veteran is seeing and feeling, ask clarifying questions, and provide a safe haven without judgment or rescue (Dichotomy of Suicide). What is supererogation to many, is expected and required of others. Ultimately what is perceived as a duty or strength becomes a weakness. Then irrational solutions can become rational to someone questioning their very existence through what they perceive as weakness and seen through eyes of pain. As I once stated before fortitude, pride, perseverance and self-will have nothing to do with it, in fact sometimes an individual’s perceived strengths can bring them to the breaking point.
The VA states there are four (4) main reasons veterans don’t seek care for PTSD: Access (distance), Knowledge (knowing the signs), Belief (can treatment help?) and Social Support (stigma). I would ask Paul Combs to think about drawing another depiction of our military’s burden, but instead of pride dragging the soldier down, show a continued supererogatory sense of duty dragging our veteran / military down with the guilt and shame pressing from all sides, and the spiritual loss and hurt blocking the path to healing. It could also show friend, families and professionals (mental health and spiritual) who are there to help and provide a lifting hand to not carry the burden, but to provide the support that is required to make the burden lighter. Paul Combs is an excellent artist and his drawing did exactly what he wanted it to do, it got me thinking.