The invisible wounds of war: Learning from other cultures about healing and resilience

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A 2001 re-enactment in Ashdown Forest, England of the 'Battle of Dewey Canyon' during the Vietnam War. Photo by Shutterstock.

Unlike a bullet wound, trauma can manifest itself unseen within the body for years. A body can be brought home intact, but the mind and soul may still be operating as if they were still in combat. And whereas a soldier undergoes years of training to go into combat, there is no special preparation for the soldier who returns home. 

Edward Tick, psychotherapist, poet, and author of “Warrior's Return: Restoring the Soul After War,” says there are no “reverse boot camps to take the war out of them to bring healing.” Instead, he says, there are all kinds of signs, from domestic violence to criminal behavior and substance abuse, that “a soul is wounded, anxious, and not able to come home.” 

Jonathan Bastian talks with Tick, who recently authored the collection of poems “Coming Home In Viet Nam,” about the ancient and modern traditions of healing the invisible wounds of war. From the ancient Greeks to Native Americans and the Vietnamese, other cultures have understood and cultivated rituals to negate the impacts of war trauma. 

As we try to make sense of the horrific and tragic images and consequences of the war in Ukraine, how can we better understand the necessity of war? If true evil exists, how should we confront it? What can we do to alleviate the helplessness?  

The conversation continues with Rabbi Steve Leder, senior rabbi of Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles and author of “The Beauty of What Remains: How Our Greatest Fear Becomes Our Greatest Gift,” who says there are many things we can do individually: send money, stay engaged, and “stand up for innocence, for democracy, and against demagoguery.” 

Leder explains that “we all stand trembling before some Goliath” at some point in our lives, whether globally or individually, and “when such a person or such a nation says it's out to destroy you, you really don't have options. You have to summon the courage and reach out to your friends and fight back.” 



  • Edward Tick - Psychotherapist, poet and author of "Coming Home In Viet Nam"
  • Rabbi Steve Leder - senior rabbi of Wilshire Boulevard Temple and author of “The Beauty of What Remains: How our Greatest Fear Becomes our Greatest Gift” - @Steve_Leder


Andrea Brody