A practitioner of diverse palliative arts considers the towering problem of war-inflicted trauma on military members, their families, and the community.
Bobrow (Zen and Psychotherapy: Partners in Liberation, 2010) is the founding proprietor of the Coming Home Project, a nonprofit program that seeks to combine intervention, prevention, and treatment for scarred veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. On scenic retreats, the program offers an “integrative, bio-psycho-social/family-spiritual approach,” bringing “secular rituals” to veterans, who share, bond, self-regulate, focus on purpose, meditate, and practice yoga and qi gong. There are also “polyvagal theory” and art sessions, journal writing, and talent shows. Bobrow prescribes “turning ghosts into ancestors,” but what that actually means remains obscure. The author supports his arguments with illustrative anecdotes and comments from satisfied participants, but he doesn’t provide enough information about long-term efficacy. Bobrow is a psychoanalyst and a Zen master who writes a truly heartfelt indictment against a system that inflicts such grievous harm on those it sends to war while most at home have little or nothing at stake. The author excoriates the Department of Veteran Affairs, the Department of Defense, reckless officials like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and George W. Bush, and, especially, those dysfunctional agencies that do not embrace his holistic techniques. By providing scant care for the ravages of rape, the moral injuries, the consequences of PTSD, and the patent dangers of suicide, these institutions have betrayed the traumatized fighters and their families. Bobrow is especially vigorous and self-assured in writing about the evil of war itself, but the New Age jargon does some disservice to his righteous message. Too frequently, it smacks of an infomercial for Coming Home retreats. The author concludes with some 27 recommendations that may be of more value to fellow practitioners than the general public. An appendix contains three original narrative poems.
A sincere, prescriptive text on a vital subject that deserves a stronger treatment.