A person’s time in the military is filled with unique experiences and cultures. However, these cultures, daily routines, schedules, and more can make it difficult for veterans to connect with others in civilian life. On top of navigating the challenges prevalent throughout this transition, it may also be necessary to adjust and address the “military persona” to promote a healthy transition to civilian life. Relinquishing the expectations and challenges of this military persona can help veterans adjust, thrive in newfound lifestyles and interests, and pursue necessary help when needed.
What Is the Military Persona?
The “military persona” is a collection of the attitudes, perspectives, and behaviors that an individual adopts to navigate military culture. For many, this can be the collection of learned behaviors required for operating effectively on a military base or communicating with brothers and sisters in arms. Each individual will experience some degree of shift in their personality or attitudes in order to best assimilate into these cultures.
However, the military persona can also be influenced by outside expectations or perceptions. Societal expectations of veterans may portray these individuals as heroic, brave, undaunted, and more. While this can still be true, a veteran defining themselves by these expectations can have negative effects on their mental health, feeling pressured to meet these expectations at all times. Relinquishing the military persona and distancing oneself from these expectations is necessary to prioritize each veteran’s mental health, needs, and goals in civilian life.
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The Dangers of the Military Persona
Defining oneself by the expectations of others or by the cultures of the military, even after leaving such an environment, can be dangerous, birthing new stresses and challenges that can affect a veteran’s mental health and even influence the use of drugs or alcohol. Constantly forcing oneself to exude traits of heroism as expected by others is emotionally exhausting. It can even cause veterans to deny themselves things they may otherwise need to develop a healthy life.
From helping veterans be more honest with themselves about their mental health needs and trauma to empowering an individual to pursue professional addiction treatment, overcoming the military persona is necessary. Letting go of these expectations and the need to exude certain traits can allow veterans to better communicate and connect with civilians in veteran life. It can also help veterans pursue personal interests and hobbies that further define their interests and develop their civilian personalities.
Breaking Down the Military Persona
Identifying the existence of the military persona is crucial. There are ways to better challenge the ideas, structures, and behaviors that were imparted onto an individual throughout military life. From allowing oneself to feel vulnerable or pursue a personal interest, deconstructing these expectations is key to a healthy and sustainable new lifestyle.
Find a Hobby Group
Hobbies are important in each veteran’s transition from military to civilian life, but it can be difficult to adjust to such a sudden change. However, this change can also be an opportunity to explore a new hobby, interest, or outlet that was not previously available while on active duty. Joining a sports league or getting involved in a local hobby shop, book club, or cinema club can all be great ways of allowing veterans to explore their personal interests and identity in veteran life.
Vulnerability can be a strange thing to “practice.” However, it is also necessary to deconstruct any barriers that may have been erected as a result of military culture and influence. Expressing vulnerability or emotional needs can be quashed on base or perceived as a kind of “weakness.” Still, it is also necessary to best identify and address each veteran’s needs, whether they are processing trauma, mental health disorders, or substance use.
Using journals to document personal needs, working with close loved ones, and expressing smaller needs can all be ways to begin deconstructing this mentality and allowing oneself to ask for and receive help for overcoming personal challenges. As an individual continues to adjust to this new mentality, it can birth a willingness to pursue professional treatment for overcoming trauma or addiction without feeling limited by unhealthy or unrealistic expectations.
Try a New Routine
Veterans can often carry their strict military routines and schedules into civilian life. However, this can also make it difficult to separate a veteran’s civilian life from active military structures. Exploring a new routine, complete with self-care outlets, can be a way to further differentiate between a veteran’s military past and civilian present. This can empower veterans to not only create new routines but also address how military structures may continue to influence their emotional health and any unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Pursuing Professional Veteran Treatment
Veterans face no shortage of challenges as they transition from military life, with the use of drugs or alcohol being incredibly common among the veteran population. Breaking down military personas is just the beginning of allowing veterans to explore their personal needs – something that can feel foreign and strange during this transition. Professional, trauma-informed, and veteran-specific treatment programs in Hawaii are essential for connecting to professionals and fellow veterans navigating their own needs and can be the catalyst for empowering veterans to deconstruct the military persona and pursue a fulfilling civilian life.
Military life comes with a myriad of stresses. Being able to let go of the intense cultures or mental states that military life can impose is necessary to create a healthy civilian life. At Hawaii Island Recovery, we are committed to helping you address these stressful, emotional states, all while developing personalized programs to address trauma, stress, and even the use of addictive substances through our professional alcohol and drug rehab programs in Hawaii. Exploring personal needs and spiritual healing, all while overcoming stress and the use of drugs or alcohol, is necessary for a comprehensive and transformative approach to a healthy civilian life. For more information on how we can personalize your time with us, call (866) 390-5070.