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~ By, Austin Brandt

Tolle totum or “treat the whole person” is one of the foundational tenants of naturopathic medicine. Research has shown that one’s psychological health plays a major role in one’s overall sense of well-being. I believe that one’s identity plays a significant role in one’s overall psychological health. Therefore, how we identify ourselves within our community impacts our overall sense of well being. In my story of how I found naturopathic medicine, I talked about how I felt like I had lost my identity after leaving the service. Special forces was my tribe, and being a special forces soldier was my identity. I believe that this sense of lost identity significantly contributed to the decline in my health that I experienced soon after leaving the military.

Contributing to the Tribe

For many veterans, our identity was that of a soldier, sailor, marine, or airman while we served our country. The branch of service we chose became our tribe, and as a member of that tribe, there were standards and values by which we were measured and by which we measured others. Every soldier is constantly being evaluated by their peers based on: Honor, Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Integrity, and Personal Courage. Additionally, each member is constantly being evaluated for intelligence, leadership, strength, and mastery of skill. Not all members of the tribe are equal, however, every member has something unique to contribute to the survival and success of the tribe as well as the defeat of the enemy. Our position within the tribe can change at any moment, and those that betray the tribe, or that have nothing to offer to the tribe’s success are removed from the tribe. It is this membership to the tribe that gives us our identity. We have a place and a purpose within our tribe that cannot be changed by how outsiders try and define us according to their interests.

Loss of Community

I believe that as people around the world have become more connected through social media and 24 hour, non-stop news coverage, many of us have lost our connection to our tribal roots and as a consequence our identity. Instead of identifying as a member of a close-knit tribe, we have begun to see ourselves as members of a global community, “one world, one people”. As this happens, people lose touch with their tribe and lose their identity. Now those same social media platforms and 24 hour news corporations tell us what our identity should be, what ideas, words, and actions are acceptable, and that we are all members of a global community. On the surface this sounds like a great way to promote tolerance for others and peace. However, one of the major problems with this is that the accepted ideas, words, actions, and beliefs are constantly changing according to whatever the popular opinion is for that day, and so people are constantly changing their identity in order to fit in and be accepted into the global community.

What Connects You?s

I have read a lot of different opinions on why so many veterans either struggle with or are unable to assimilate back into the civilian population. Many blame it on PTSD, some have claimed that it is simply because veterans don’t want to assimilate back into a society that is dominated by shallow and constantly changing values. I believe it has more to do with no longer being in an identifiable tribe where we are measured and tested by our peers.

So my question is, “What is your tribe?” All you need is to find a group of other like-minded people with similar core values and beliefs. Find ways to challenge each other physically, mentally and spiritually. Find ways to get together as a tribe and support the needs of your local community. It is through our tribes that we will re-discover our identities, and when that happens, we will be nourishing our psyche and sowing seeds of health. Not just for ourselves, but also for the communities in which we live, work, and play.