The throbbing pains disappear in an instant. The heart beats faster. The wandering brain rushes into focus. The subconscious begins to apply all that the conscious had trained. Actions are swift and immediate–instantaneous rehearsed reactions. The moments of extreme chaos are almost euphoric. There is some peace residing within the fury. The feelings are primitive. The sympathetic nervous system wakes from its slumber. It overrides the parasympathetic in an inherent process. The emotions can rapidly shift through the spectrum; anger, joy, hate, love… The senses heightened and dulled as the brain and body consume and conserve resources to survive.
War is primitive. When the tools of war are focused on one another, the body reacts as it always has. The inherent systems activate the fight or flight response bestowed upon us from our ancestors. It matters not the tools of war (rocks, spears, bullets, bombs), the body reacts as it always has. We might have honed, tuned, and channeled these reactions, but they are inherently primitive. This stress, these reactions, are what these systems are for.
They are not the stress and reactions from modern society. They are not from social media, political divisions, or workplace disputes. The stress and reactions from war are tangible. They are some deep-rooted pieces of our human selves that few ever truly experience. War can then become a drug that frees us from our modern selves. It becomes a drug that taps into our most basic instincts. It frightens and enlightens. It consumes and frees. The worries of the world melt away. All that is left is the most basic of human reactions.
Jake Smith is a law enforcement officer and former Army Ranger with four deployments to Afghanistan.
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.