The Vietnamese tried to make PTSD go away by systematically forgetting the past, while this is a good short term strategy its a terrible long term solution.
In 1994 a group of American psychologists and psychiatrists visited Vietnam to see how they dealt with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many people had flashbacks and nightmares of the war. Yet while the patients were given medication and encouraged to talk about their current difficulties no one talked about the war. When the Americans asked the Vietnamese doctors why no one discussed the war they replied that in their culture people did not talk about the past, they simply put the past behind them. Everyone in the culture tolerated people who had flashbacks, much like people in New York city tolerate bag ladies and muggings. If you look at Vietnam’s history it is easy to understand why the culture would learn not to talk about the past. They were in a continuous war for decades including bombings, napalm, massacres. If one person started to talk about the war there might be a whole room full of flashbacks.
Communities here in the states and even families that have been through a lot often do the same thing, they train themselves, their kids and even their grandkids to put the past out of their minds. The problem is that while you can push things out of your mind you can’t push things out of your brain, so it just moves from your conscious thinking brain into your subconscious emotional brain. Then it stays there – like an unexploded land mine in your back yard – waiting to be triggered by some sound, smell or facial expression to explode into your life.
Meyers, L. (2007). “Remembrance and renewal in Southeast Asia: A group of psychologists travels to Vietnam and Cambodia to learn more about each country’s response to trauma.” Monitor on Psychology 38(4): 40.