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Premise

Imagine a world in which magical healing exists. A healer may heal wounds very quickly until his energy is exhausted (at peek performance they can heal someone severely wounded back full fighting force on the field). In this world front line soldiers may get rapidly healed from severe injuries and expected to immediately return to battle, occasionally even multiple times in one battle (although due to limited healing resources solders can't expect infinite healing, and could still die from the wounds, or at least need to be taken back to a hospital for slower/regular medical treatment)

How It Works

Healing requires a mage to make physical contact, and takes anywhere from half a minute to 4-5 minutes depending on how serious your injuries, and how experienced the mage. Super experienced mages are limited in number.

Due to the flow of battle a soldier has no way of being certain that a healer will reach him, or be 100% certain that he will survive. If a mage does reach him, they may not be able to heal the soldier completely on the spot - maybe just enough to save his life. Alternatively, the mage may be completely exhausted, and only apply regular bandages and healing salves.

My Question(s)

I want to focus on the psychology of front-line soldiers in this situation.

  1. What might the impact on a soldier be from seeing himself brought back to full ability from the very brink of death? Will that encourage recklessness? being super careful in the future?

  2. What emotional impact might the uncertainty of whether you will survive or not have on soldiers in these situations? What about the uncertainty of whether you will suffer for months while recovering, or be healed on the spot?

  3. Will soldier's fighting styles/tactics/bravery remain the same after such an experience? Will fear of getting wounded again affect their ability to continue fighting, or will they be hardened?

To tie it all into one:

What psychological effects might a soldier in this situation experience?

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  • $\begingroup$ You're asking a lot of questions through-out your wall-of-text question. Try putting some headers in, and highlighting the actual question. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Dec 14 '15 at 18:21
  • $\begingroup$ @AndreiROM I agree, but frankly I'm not sure how to fix it. I asked a number of mostly rhetorical questions, to try to express my point better; but i'm not sure how to better define my question without them. I made a partial change to try to address it. if you can suggest better way of posing the question I'm happy to change it further. I'm simply not good at posing concise questions. $\endgroup$ – dsollen Dec 14 '15 at 18:46
  • $\begingroup$ @AndreiROM well..that does fix it. I want to upvote this question now, just to upvote how much better it is phrased now thanks to the edit ;) $\endgroup$ – dsollen Dec 30 '15 at 20:43
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    $\begingroup$ I mis-read the title as "rapid magical heating". As in, what would be the psychological effects of watching your fellow soldiers spontaneously combust? $\endgroup$ – immibis Feb 26 '16 at 12:37
  • $\begingroup$ @immibis really want a scary thought? Ask the effect of both at once. AHH I'm on fire but my body keeps healing as fast as the fire burns me! $\endgroup$ – dsollen Feb 26 '16 at 21:49
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This would cause similar but more extreme versions of psychological trauma currently seen in combat today. Militaries would take precautions to prevent psychological damage when possible.

Most modern militaries would not expect or promote soldiers returning to the front lines immediately after being healed. The pain and trauma induced will be serious, and they would still be pulled back whenever possible to get out of harms way. The big benefit here is that soldiers who would otherwise be dead, maimed, or simply put out of action would now be able to get back with their unit within days (depending on the level of rest deemed necessary to ensure the soldier’s mental well-being). The potential to be severely wounded several times within a short timespan will still present psychological risks, but military doctors will go to great lengths to do what’s best for the soldiers.

Now, there will definitely be some other psychological effects. It is likely that some soldiers, after being healed back to full health, will not be willing to leave their unit in the thick of the battle. Commanding officers would probably be compelled to order them back behind the lines, but this won’t always happen. Similarly, if a unit is surrounded or otherwise unable to get to safety, having the ability to heal someone back to proper health is extremely valuable — they would most likely stay put, take a minute or two to collect themselves, and then continue their mission for better or worse.

Triage will still happen. With such limited resources to heal, the presence of these healers has a single critical goal: to save soldiers who would otherwise die on the battlefield. There would be a major effort to manage the available resources to heal, which means some gunshot wounds or maiming injuries would be ignored in favor of saving lives. This will create a very challenging psychological scenario for soldiers and healers alike — when your friend is begging you for help, do you continue to follow orders and intervene only in the event of a life-threatening injury? This has a lot of implications, possibly resulting in healers being shuffled through different units to avoid bonding too closely with their compatriots.

The worst psychological risk will be to the healers. Unlike traditional medics today, they have the ability to not only save lives that may otherwise be lost, but could also potentially save soldiers from having life-altering wounds (particularly missing limbs). The temptation to help a soldier with such an injury would be strong, but it risks the future death of one of your other comrades. Some of this same difficulty is present in modern-day combat, but this would be a more extreme version.

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When you train as a soldier, there's a lot of focus on not getting hurt. You hone your reflexes so as to automatically avoid risks that can be avoided. Train enough and these techniques become ingrained, you apply them without even thinking about them. That's the deal about training: you learn both how not to die and how to become an efficient cog in the military machine. There's comfort and pride in this.

Now imagine you've been gravely wounded and healed. Then you have a problem.

All your training is put in question. You now know in your bones that you can take more risks than you've trained for if the outcome warrants it. But the problem is that the decision is now yours. You have to weigh the risks you can take every single moments, and you're constantly pushed to take more risks by your experience (after all, you're a good soldier who wants to succeed). The psychological pressure would break the exact type of soldiers who were comforted by the lack of responsibility that the army provided them. And for those it won't break, it will be worse.

The veterans willing to risk more will infect young recruits with a sense of heroic recklessness that could totally derail their esprit de corps. Those recruits who would be hurt and healed would see this attitude reinforced, while deaths due to recklessness would be deemed worth it, so that they can distance themselves from the survivor's guilt (and from their own responsibility).

The army would rot from the inside until it changed how it trained its soldiers. But this would require redefining its values and culture. After all, how much sacrifice for you comrades is worth if you can be revived?

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    $\begingroup$ While I see your point, I can also imagine the exact opposite, where having been hurt once, people become ever more careful in order to avoid that pain/experience. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Dec 14 '15 at 18:52
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe because we only have our pain avoidance experience to rely on. In a world with magical healing, pain is no longer a measure of how injured or damaged you are and may become less of an issue (at least on the battlefield, as I can see how it could easily be an even better torture technique). $\endgroup$ – Stephane Dec 14 '15 at 19:27
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I expect it would have much the same impact as the near-misses soldiers have in the real world. Imagine getting shot, but the bullet hits your bulletproof vest and you're merely bruised. Imagine a bullet whizzes right past your head. Now imagine you take a sword to the chest, but it doesn't hit anything immediately fatal, so the mage heals you back up. The last outcome is a bit more painful but otherwise these experiences are very similar.

Obviously different people react differently, but I think for the majority of people, when this happens it is a wake-up call: "I nearly died; I could have actually died. I should be more careful." If the soldier can identify a way that they were acting sloppy, and fix it so they won't die that way again, the outcome is a better soldier. If the soldier can't identify a way to prevent getting nearly killed again, the outcome is mental stress.


I'm confused about the notion of "slower standard treatment". If the world has magic healer mages in it, why would anyone need standard treatment? They'd just wait a few days until a mage was available to fully heal them.

(And I expect that, in an actual battle, the front line mage would focus on keeping everyone alive. Healing one soldier back to fighting condition now is worse than healing two soldiers just enough to be in fighting condition in a week.)

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  • $\begingroup$ there isn't enough magical healing to go around. Many have to wait for natural healing because the aren't deemed to need the limited magical healing as much as some other cases. $\endgroup$ – dsollen Dec 14 '15 at 20:52
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One idea to reduce the amount of mental trauma would be to use short term amnesiacs/hypnotics to remove or reduce the mental impact of the injury.

It's one thing to head back into battle with the memory of being shot still fresh, vs. having the memory missing or really weak.
It wouldn't remove the need to keep a solder out of combat, but it might shorten it, especially if the use of healing removes all the outward signs of injury.

"I kind of remember getting hit, but it's real fuzzy and I don't hurt anywhere. Not even any scars."

Propofol is one drug that could work to remove memory of being injured, though a dose of morphene might work just as well.

In your scenario the biggest emotional impact might be survivors guilt, if my buddy died because I got healed and tired the healer out.

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