Related Spouse Articles

Most Popular Spouse Articles

Military Life 101

  • job fair
    Military Spouse Employment 101
    Military.com
    While the military will always throw a monkey wrench in any best-laid plans, your career doesn't have to be one of them.
  • (Photo: U.S. Department of Education)
    Military Spouse Education Help 101
    Military.com
    Good news for you: Being a military spouse can actually make some parts of going back to school easier.
  • (Photo: U.S. Navy)
    Military Life 101
    Military.com
    Military life has a lot of nuts and bolts. You know, the little things that make up just an ordinary day.
  • stack of one dollar bills
    Military Spouse and Family Benefits 101
    Military.com
    Don't know exactly how to get your military spouse and family benefits or want to know more about what they are? Read on.
  • Movers at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, load up a truck with household goods. Jose Ramirez/Air Force
    Military Spouse and Family Moves 101
    Military.com
    Whether you're an old pro or new to the military moving game, there's stuff to learn about PCSing. Here's our easy PCS 101 guide.
  • (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Sullivan Laramie)
    Military Family Deployment 101
    Military.com
    Preparing for deployment can seem like an uphill battle. But we've been there. Here's what you need to know.
  • Military family
    Military Family Life 101
    Military.com
    Military life is not easy, but we've got your back. From marriage to kids and parenting, we have the resources you need.

Deployment: Are You A Fool To Hope?

Kiss

Stay positive! Stay busy! Take care of yourself! Sometimes, those most common bits of military spouse advice sound wicked helpful. Sometimes, they sound like the instructions for turning into a Stepford Wife.

When Her War Her Voice blogger Jill Crider and her family were going through their third combat deployment, Jill struggled with the whole staying positive bit.

This week at the AUSA conference in Washington, D.C., Crider told the audience that their brigade had more than 100 soldiers killed during its 15 months in Iraq. At home, Jill’s second-grade son started crying and begging not to go to school every morning. Her own health suffered when she broke her ankle and was hospitalized due to a brown-recluse spider bite.

“I kept telling people, ‘I’m good. I’m good.’ It was a recipe for disaster,” Crider said.

Staying positive during deployment is not an emotion that people easily switch on and off under these circumstances. Barbara Fredrickson, social psychologist at the University of North Carolina and author of Positivity, notes that most positive feelings actually happen when we feel safe and all our needs are met.

Warm. Fed. Dry. Bills paid. Homework done. Everyone healthy. Tucked under a quilt with a bowl of popcorn and the people who love us best, it is pretty easy to feel joy, pride, amusement, happiness and every other positive emotion. Staying positive is a lot harder when things aren’t going so well.

Instead of telling themselves to stay positive, military spouses might be better off cultivating hope. Hope is the only positive emotion that springs to life when things aren’t going so well. The presence of hope has been correlated with positive outcomes in medicine, athletics and academia. Recently, the presence of hope was shown to improve the efficacy of PTSD treatment.

“Hope is the exception,” wrote Frederickson. “It comes into play when our circumstances are dire -- things are not going well or at least there’s considerable uncertainty about how things will turn out.”

Yet telling someone to “stay hopeful” sounds unrealistic. It sounds like hope is the last thing left to cling to when everything else is gone. That isn’t quite the way hope works.

Instead, social scientists suggest that hope is based on a concrete foundation. Hope involves the perception that one's goals can be met. For deployment, the goal of a military family may be just to make it through the deployment -- to end up on the other side with everyone in the family under the quilt with the popcorn again.

Which ought to mean that military families should just “hope” for the quilt and the popcorn and poof! it happens. It takes a little more than that. In his work in the psychology of hope, Charles Snyder showed that hope is not just a feeling. Hope is the sum of the mental willpower and waypower that you have for your goals.

That is key to the difference between staying positive and cultivating hope for military families. In Snyder’s model, willpower is the emotional drive you put toward your goal. Waypower is your plan for how you are going to meet that goal.

For military families going through deployment, willpower -- the degree to which you want to get through deployment -- is not often the problem. Waypower -- the skills required to lead a family through a deployment -- can be lacking. When it comes to the demands of a combat deployment, this is especially true.

Crider found that taking the Army’s Master Resilience Training (part of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program) was the most important thing she did for her military life. “It was like tumblers in lock,” said Crider. All of the sudden, all the anger she had carried for years slipped away. She had waypower to go with her willpower.

For other military families, the development of other skills can help reach the goal of getting through deployment. Military spouses learn relaxation techniques, take exercise classes, read parenting books, or reach out to professionals. Hope makes all the difference in a military life -- as long as we develop the willpower and waypower to go with it.

Related Topics

Family and Spouse Deployment

Military News App by Military.com

Download the new Military.com News App for Android on Google Play or for Apple devices on iTunes!

Contributor

Jacey Eckhart is the former Director of Spouse and Family Programs at Military.com and a military sociologist.  Since 1996, Eckhart’s take on military families has been featured in her syndicated column, her book The Homefront Club, and her award winning CDs These Boots and I Married a Spartan??

Most recently she has been featured as a military family subject matter expert on NBC Dateline, CBS morning news, CNN, NPR and the New York Times.  Eckhart is an Air Force brat, a Navy wife and an Army mom.  

Featured VA Loan Articles

  • VA Loan Closing Costs: An Added Benefit
    Besides the advantage of requiring no down payment for qualified VA borrowers, there's also a distinct advantage for the borrow...
  • White suburban home.
    IRRRL Facts for Veterans
    Military.com
    IRRRL stands for Interest Rate Reduction Refinancing Loan,also known as a "Streamline" or a "VA to VA" loan.
  • US Map Showing High Cost Counties
    VA Loan Limits for High-Cost Counties 2017
    Military.com
    The VA loan limit for 2017 is $424,100. But it could actually be substantially more if you buy a home in a high-cost county. Se...
  • Get the FAQs on VA Home Loans
    We've answered 16 of the most frequently asked VA Loan Benefit questions. View them now to get a quick understanding of your be...
  • Top 3 VA Home Loan Tips
    There are numerous advantages to having a VA mortgage. A VA mortgage loan can be guaranteed with no money down, in some cases u...
© 2016 Military Advantage