Feb. 1, 2017    Body as Slave: Military Culture through a Psychodynamic Lens

 Scott Steiner Ph.D

 Veteran Affairs Clinic,, Austin, TX  1.5 CE/CME/CEU/PDs (Clinical)

The indoctrination to military culture and values is a time of stark transition from traditional individualistic American cultural values. This transition occurs during a critical period when the developing self is highly malleable to the potent and manipulative influences characteristic of “Basic Training” and subsequent military training and experiences. Aspects of this training, including the denial of self and unquestioning relationship to authority, create a relationship where the body becomes a veritable slave to the mind and the mind a slave to the “mission” of the military. These experiences result in relatively predictable changes in soldier’s intrapsychic and interpersonal relationships. Through the evolving lens of Malan’s Triangle of Conflict and Triangle of Person, we will explore the lasting impact of this culture on soldiers’ (1) heightened conflict with many of their emotions, (2) defensive patterns, and (3) transference of military relationship experiences onto civilian relationships. Implications for some of the challenges this presents in psychotherapy will then be explored.

Scott Steiner, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist who graduated from the University of Texas in 2002 with a special focus on the study and prevention of alcohol and drug use and

other risk-taking behavior. He has worked at the Austin VA treating complex co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders for more than 13 years. In his practice he blends attachment, mindfulness, psychodynamic, somatic, systemic and cognitive-behavioral treatment approaches. He has been teaching and training practicum

students through licensed professionals in areas including military culture, addictions, co-occurring substance and mental health disorders, complex trauma and dissociative disorders, as well as somatic, attachment and short-term psychodynamic treatment approaches.

Learning Objectives:  At the end of the presentation, participants will be able to:

     Articulate common “heavy braking” relationships soldiers have with their natural “accelerator” emotions.

     Describe typical defensive patterns you’re likely to encounter in soldiers.

     Describe military transference reactions that are likely to show up in soldiers’ and

veterans’ civilian interpersonal relationships.


Malan, D  (1979).  Individual Psychotherapy and the Science of Psychodynamics. London, Butterworth.

McCullough, L and Kuhn, N (2003). Treating Affect Phobia: A Manual for Short- Term Dynamic Psychotherapy. New York, New York, Guilford Press.

Porges, S. (2011).  The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-Regulation. Norton & Co., New York, NY.

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