Volume 8   Number 1     Springs 2014

Dialogical Tensions in Heroic Military and Military-Related Moral Injury

Jacob K. Farnsworth
University of North Texas

pp. 13-37

ABSTRACT: In recent years, greater attention has been provided to military-related moral injury as an important risk factor for the mental health of Veterans. As research into moral injury is still in its nascent stages, this area of inquiry would be bolstered by additional theoretical accounts of moral injury’s detrimental effects on psychological well-being. To this end, Hubert Hermans’ theory of the dialogical self is applied to moral injury in male Veterans with an emphasis on understanding how the interplay of cultural myths and masculine identities may combine to make Servicemen deployed in the theatre of war more vulnerable to moral injury. Specific emphasis is given in reviewing how the mythological figure of the hero informs both military culture and hegemonic masculine ideals and fuses them into the westernized soldier-hero figure. It is argued that male Veterans who identify strongly with this soldier-hero figure may be ill equipped to face the moral uncertainties presented by war. Quotations of Veterans from published empirical and clinical sources are then used to demonstrate how identification with the soldier-hero figure may put male Veterans at risk for moral injury. Finally, clinical recommendations are provided for clinicians seeking to assist Veterans recovering from combat-related moral injury.