The Upside of Trauma?
Guest: Jim Rendon
It was the last thing he expected to hear.
The Vietnam War had come to an end, and U.S. Air Force psychiatrist William Sledge was assigned to evaluate American aviators held captive and released by the Vietnamese.
Many of the POWs Sledge assessed had been confined in the tiniest of cells, often tortured, beaten, and deprived of food and medical care.
After enduring traumas of such a brutal nature, Sledge expected he’d be meeting with men who had been broken, forever damaged by the horrors they had lived through.
What he found was something much different…
“At first I thought I had cotton in my ears or something,” he recalled after speaking with the POWs. “The things they told me didn’t make much sense. They had a hard time, they were clear about that. But so often they would say things like, ‘I kind of miss it. It was an intense experience. I learned a lot.’”
They missed it?
Sledge went on to find that 61% of the POWs indicated that they had undergone beneficial changes are a result of their captivity. Only 30% of the control group (non-POWs) reported similar benefits.
What’s more, the POWs who were held the longest and received the harshest treatment were far more likely to report positive changes than those held for shorter periods of time.
Sledge was right, it didn’t make any sense.
Or does it?