"Ten feet tall and bulletproof": A necessary belief among soldiers and RCMP willing to walk into harm's way. It takes a lot of guts and a lot of training to see yourself as larger than life. It gets people through tough days in getting the job done. But, is there a downside? I think there can be when 'stuff' seeps through cracks in the armour. Watching children or innocent people hurt or starving, watching friends lose their lives, or questioning the mission can all take their toll. When the invincible man or woman is reminded of human fragility, the instinct is to file it away, ignore it, keep moving forward because there is no place for these things. If they are traumatized, this is also tucked away. The idea of reaching out or talking about how they are doing is not even on their radar. Those members who show signs of weakness like becoming emotional are quietly viewed as weak or not up to the job. They are a threat to the myth of invincibility. What do invincible people do to manage? Many jump on the adrenaline train even harder; looking for the next rush, the next call, the next deployment. All the while ignoring and on the run from the past because that is what training tells them to do - keep moving. Some will get into drinking to switch off, others will look for fights or have extramarital affairs to keep their images intact, and still others will start having unexplained physical problems like irritable bowels, headaches, or grinding their teeth down. When sleep starts to go off the rails, this is usually the first wake-up that something is off. Even then, the idea that the invincible person may be having mental issues and may need help from someone else often does not register for them. This would mean that they are weak. As I see it, invincibility is a shield but it can also be a prison because there are no outlets to just be human and to put down some of the loads they may be carrying.
John J. Whelan
John J. Whelan, Ph.D., is the author of Going Crazy in the Green Machine, available now on FriesenPress.