John Becknell: Mythic Thinking as a Framework for Meaning among First Responders

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In this excerpt from the interview, “Tending Soul with Military, Veterans, and First Responders: A Depth Psychological Approach,” for Discussions in Depth Psychology™, Ed Tick, Ph.D. and John Becknell Ph.D. discuss why using a mythic framework helps make meaning for Military, Veterans, and First Responders.The vast majority of first responders would never be in a position to be diagnosed with classic symptoms of PTSD, but every one of them is changed by the work that they do, asserts Becknell. Often we assign only two options to those individuals: Ultimately, they are either “mentally ill”—they have the symptoms of psychopathology, or they are “OK”. Simply because one has an experience doesn’t mean that they are mentally ill. We can no longer afford do judge people because they are responding to an experience. As a society, we have not found a way to talk about these changes, and they resist the pathological perspective.To this end, rather than focusing on wounding or on diagnoses rooted in psychopathology in veterans and first responders, Tick and Becknell take a holistic approach, exploring communal and psycho-spiritual factors in service of helping warriors integrate and heal. The solution is to find new ways to talk about—which are actually old ways of talking about it, Becknell insists. Hard experiences often leave the first responder or veteran bereft of meaning. The process of finding meaning always takes us into mythology, Becknell insists. Mythic thinking helps provide a framework for “what is incomprehensible.” After a traumatic experience, we look for a context, not for psychopathology. What we’ve lost through modern society is our capacity to look at things through a mythic lens.Listen to the full interview or read an in-depth summary at more about the upcoming program, “Holistic Tending for Military, Veterans, and First Responders—Psycho-spiritual and Communal Support and Healing of Violent Trauma, Moral Injury and Stress” starting May 11, 2017, at Pacifica Graduate Institute:

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