I'm Not Who I Thought I Was: A Contextual Resolution to the Identity Loss of Combat PTSD


John Glazer

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Graduate School of Professional Psychology

First Advisor

John McNeill

First Committee Member

Michael Karson

Second Committee Member

Julie Kobayash-Newberg


Post-traumatic stress disorder, Treatment, Identity, Social aspects

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. Permanently suppressed.


Given the historical rates of combat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), one can expect 30% of soldiers returning from current military conflicts to suffer from PTSD. For these individuals, various cognitive behavioral therapies (CBT) are the most commonly employed treatments. Unfortunately, however, symptom relapse can be expected with the various CBT approaches, as traumatic memories remain. Soldiers are imbued with a militarized identity, and the identity loss experienced by those soldiers who suffer from PTSD is particularly painful for this population, as the militarized identity effectively disavows personal suffering. For this reason, many combat veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder experience undue, prolonged suffering as they struggle to make sense of the different person they fear they have become. This paper contrasts certain versions of Western philosophy, which view the self as a fixed and reified entity with certain versions of Eastern philosophy, which view the self as more contextual and fluid, in order to illuminate the value of employing third wave behavioral treatments, specifically Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), to treat the identity loss experienced by military veterans with PTSD. ACT echoes the Buddhist principle that attachment to verbally-constructed conceptual notions of self contribute to undue suffering, and that more vital living can be achieved by assuming a more contextual and experiential perspective on identity. Research and anecdotal accounts are cited to illustrate why treatment for identity loss associated with combat PTSD should be less focused on reconstructing a historically substance-oriented self and more focused on an epistemological reorientation to a deconstructed, contextual self.


49 pages

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