Monday, October 8, 2007

Shrinking The News...

A column by Peter Sheehy

"But my dear man, reality is only a Rorschach ink-blot, you know"
-Alan Watts

Congratulations to Boston psychiatrist Jonathan Shay, who last week received a MacArthur Foundation “genius award” for his "for his pioneering work in using literary parallels from Homer's 'Iliad' and 'Odyssey' to treat combat trauma suffered by Vietnam veterans.

Shortly after beginning work at the Department of Veteran Affairs in 1987, Shay noticed that the psychological trauma suffered by Vietnam Veterans was eerily similar to the psychological devastation that plagued the warriors in ancient Greek epics such as Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey. Shay asserts that "as long as human beings go to war and try to come home from war, these [epics] will speak to us," because "they truly hold up all that is generic about going to war and coming home from war. . . There will never be a war where people don't get hurt psychologically."

(Note: Shay prefers to use the term “psychological injury” or “combat trauma” rather than the DSM terminology of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The latter, he believes, is stigmatizing, while the former does not distinguish mental and psychical wounds.)

The MacArthur Fellows Program describeds Dr Shay as “important for delivering healthcare to all those who put their lives on the line in the service of our country” is “a passionate advocate for veterans and committed to minimizing future psychological trauma,” and one who “strives for structural reform of the ways the U.S. armed forces are organized, trained, and counseled.”


Click here to listen to Shay on NPR discussing a scene in the Odyssey and how it relates to the war in Iraq.

Click here to watch Shay interviewed by the Macarthur Foundation

Shrinking the News is a column written by Peter Sheehy, who earned a PhD from the Department of History at the University of Virginia. His dissertation is on the cultural history of psychotherapy. Dr Sheehy teaches history at the Horace Mann School in New York City and is working on a book about the history of psychotherapy.

1 comment:

SeaSpray said...

Thank you for this post.