This study explored the lived experience of traumatisation manifesting as enduring undiagnosed post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on the overall psychological functioning of members currently serving in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) from an object-relations perspective. A qualitative approach with a phenomenological study design using semi-structured interviews and self- report questionnaires to gather data was employed. Prominent themes formed the content for interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) from an object-relations perspective on pathology in relation to untreated trauma of the psyche. The findings indicated that servicemen and women in the SANDF lived in a chronic state of psychic, occupational and relational disintegration. Recurrence of reactivated past unresolved traumas experienced in dreams, troubled sleep and internal conflict were characterised by annihilation anxiety, psychic numbing and repression. Further, there was a chronic sense of loss of the self through loss of good internal and external self-objects as well as in meaning of life and work as a soldier. The findings further revealed overall functional paralysis as evidenced in these SANDF members’continued psychological deterioration, which manifested in irreversible damage to character and cognitive deficits linked to chronic trauma in the form of undiagnosed PTSD.
Thesis (PhD (Psychology))--University of Pretoria, 2020.