Cynicism Among Veterans Who Struggle to Adapt to Life After Combat: Towards an Understanding of Adaptive Functions and Maladaptive Consequences

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Abstract

The current perspective offers advances in contextualizing and conceptualizing returning combat veteran obstacles, with a focus on cynical worldview development, function, and consequences. Specifically, the current theory describes military training and culture focused on promoting survival and mission completion through developing an effective, context-relevant cognitive-appraisal system. The same useful cynical social-cognitive-affective appraisal processes that promote instinctive decisions and behaviors in combat environments also serve as a distal defense in the wake of combat experience by providing a meaning-making lens, in-group cohesion among fellow combat veterans, and cognitive clarity amid social-reintegration obstacles. Maladaptive consequences of postcombat cynicism are also detailed, emphasizing dynamic interactions associated with psychopathology, meaningful living, social relationships, economic disparity, and engagement in the health-care system. Conclusions focus on applications of this perspective in treatment in addition to future research directions. The ultimate goal of our perspective is to re-purpose cynicism from its traditional operationalization in personality psychology to provide a clinically useful and empowering conceptualization that can improve the lives of struggling OEF/OIF/OND veterans.

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