The anxious state and tense situation at the front make us feel guilty if some significant events or everyday things make us happy. It is a normal reaction to enjoy life. Even in difficult times. 

Sometimes people can deliberately block joy in themselves. What to do if this happens? How do you get over your apathy and how do you overcome anxiety if experiencing joy makes you feel guilty? Natalia Zaretska, a military psychologist, gave advice as part of the project at the Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security.

  • Do the military enjoy life? How can they do so in difficult combat conditions?

    A soldier is a human being like any other person. Does he enjoy life?

    Of course, he does, if he wants to and if he can. With the outbreak of war, life didn’t actually stop, it just continues in a new reality. A person on military service continues to fully live. There are two things that can complicate this situation. First, if the person is traumatised, that is, if the soldier has been injured and has become unable to experience joy as such due to certain circumstances or does not allow himself to do so. And this is a situation where they definitely need professional psychological help.

    Or there may be another situation: if, for example, a unit suffered losses, if there was some kind of critical situation, and these are sad events, tragic events, when a person’s key emotions are sadness, grief, despair, rage and hatred for the enemies who caused this. It’s not a happy situation, but it’s also a normal situation.

    But there may be a third situation, when society has the idea that while the war is ongoing, we can’t allow ourselves to be happy. From a psychological point of view, this is very destructive. When you live during a war, you have to live to the fullest. You can’t postpone life until after the war, and you can’t postpone joy either. If you feel it, then give yourself permission to feel it.

  • From the military’s point of view, is it appropriate for civilians to enjoy life during a war?

    Not only is it acceptable, but it is necessary. The main task is that you have the right to express what you feel. Moreover, from the point of view of preventing mental disorders and maintaining mental health, you need to show all the emotions you feel. 

    It is not normal to block emotions, no matter what they are.

  • If a soldier is irritated by joys, how to help him cope with resentment?

    If he understands that his irritation affects other people, then this is a reason to talk to a specialist, to talk to a psychologist and understand what the real reaction is. Perhaps the cause is within him. Perhaps there are signs of trauma. But there is another side. This sadness or despair may be a reaction to the fact that the society these people are defending doesn’t accept war as its reality. When the military realise that they are really in very difficult conditions, facing a difficult and dangerous enemy, and when they see in the media that people ignore the war, emphasise that this war doesn’t concern them, or express the position “I didn’t go to the front, so I’m not a loser” on social media, then it hurts, and it’s natural. 

    And if people are just happy, believe me, a soldier will take it normally, because it’s just joy, it’s the meaning of his stay at the front, what he is fighting for.

  • How to share your joys on social media without offending the military?

    The recipe is very simple. 2 points. The first is to feel respect and gratitude for these people inside. The second is to be natural and sincere. People read respect and gratitude not only in words. Most of our respect for a person is not demonstrated in words. Therefore, if we sincerely respect our defender, if we are sincerely grateful for the work he does, all our actions, manifestations and posts will be saturated with gratitude. Or they will be based on this, even if we write about a different topic.

    The military will see it, they will feel it, and it will greatly stimulate them and support them in their military duty.

  • You don’t enjoy life at all. Is this a normal state?

    If a person is in the stage of grief, if they have just experienced some extremely difficult tragic events, then it may be that they are so dominated by other emotions that they naturally don’t feel joy. Because the event was very difficult. But such a period can’t last forever, for months. Gradually, a person comes out of it. If a person doesn’t come out of this state, this is a reason to consult a specialist – a psychologist or a psychotherapist. And it should be done immediately or as soon as possible. 

    And when, for example, a person has not experienced any tragic event, an obvious one, when this event happened a long time ago, and the person can’t get out of it, this is definitely a reason to see a specialist.

    There may also be a situation where a person has put a block on the feeling of joy. When a person faces the atrocities of the occupier, the atrocities of the aggressor, thank God, not personally, but they understand that this is happening in their country. Then such an event can traumatise a person, even if he or she didn’t directly become a victim or witness of war crimes.

    And so I appeal to everyone who has this kind of mindset: life goes on, we have to live on in order to defeat the aggressor. The aggressor’s goal was to frighten us, to make us afraid, to make us doubt our abilities and stop being happy. Life goes on. Look at the army we have, the “memes forces of Ukraine”, they respond to any event, any new challenge with a crazy amount of very witty memes that support us morally. This is our true reaction.

    Therefore, allowing ourselves to be happy is not only appropriate, not only healthy, but also very effective in terms of the morale of the country and the nation, and, accordingly, the Armed Forces of Ukraine. This is a contribution to the defence capability of our country.