Warrior Ethos versus Well-Being: Correcting a Cultural Dichotomy





Well-Being, Warrior Ethos, Army, Mindfullness, Emotional Regulation


The Army’s warrior mindset, while crucial for being successful in battle, can also lead to chronic suppression of emotions, and hamper help-seeking behavior. Messages to prioritize well-being are often presented in a confusing juxtaposition to the warrior mindset. In spite of the Army’s emphasis on a “People First Strategy,” accompanied by calls to reduce the stigma associated with help-seeking behaviors, the culture of toughness created by the Warrior Ethos continues to be an imposing obstacle for those in need of help. We integrate the Healthy Minds framework with the Army ethos, to focus on the development of foundational skills: mindfulness, connection, insight, and purpose. Our hope is this framework will contribute to a culture that views the Warrior Ethos and well-being as complementary, rather than conflicting, ideas.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Yasmine L. Konheim-Kalkstein, United States Military Academy

Lead Integrator, Character Integration Advisory Group. Associate Professor, Dept. of Behavioral Sciences & Leadership.

Orin Strauchler, United States Military Academy

Holistic Health Integrator, Character Integration Advisory Group. Assistant Professor, Department of Behavioral Sciences & Leadership.

Ryan G. Erbe, United States Military Academy

Emotional Wellness Advisor, Character Integration Advisory Group. Assistant Professor, Dept. of Behavioral Sciences & Leadership.

Brian C. Gerardi, United States Military Academy

US Army Captain. Instructor, Simon Center for Professional Military Ethic.

Jeffrey D. Peterson, United States Military Academy

US Army Retired Colonel. Senior Advisor for Character and Director, Character Integration Advisory Group.


Austin, L. J. (2021). Secretary of defense statement on DoD annual suicide report (CY2020). https://www.defense.gov/News/Releases/Release/Article/2794170/secretary-of-defense-statement-on-dod-annual-suicide-report-cy2020/#:~:text=As%20I%20have%20said%2C%20mental,sign%20of%20strength%20and%20resilience

Baminiwatta, A., & Solangaarachchi, I. (2021). Trends and developments in mindfulness research over 55 years: A bibliometric analysis of publications indexed in web of science. Mindfulness, 12(9), 1–18. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-021-01681-x

Bishop, S. R., Lau, M., Shapiro, S., Carlson, L., Anderson, N. D., Carmody, J., Segal, Z. V., Abbey, S., Speca, M., Velting, D., & Devins, G. (2004). Mindfulness: A proposed operational definition. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 11(3), 230–241. https://doi.org/10.1093/clipsy.bph077

Blanck, P., Perleth, S., Heidenreich, T., Kröger, P., Ditzen, B., Bents, H., & Mander, J. (2018). Effects of mindfulness exercises as stand-alone intervention on symptoms of anxiety and depression: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 102, 25–35. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2017.12.002

Bramwell, K., & Richardson, T. (2018). Improvements in depression and mental health after acceptance and commitment therapy are related to changes in defusion and values-based action. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 48, 9–14. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10879-017-9367-6

Brooks, S. K., & Greenberg, N. (2018). Non-deployment factors affecting psychological wellbeing in military personnel: Literature review. Journal of Mental Health, 27(1), 80–90. https://doi.org/10.1080/09638237.2016.1276536

Brown, R. P., Imura, M., & Mayeux, L. (2014). Honor and the stigma of mental healthcare. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40(9), 1119–1131. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167214536741

Bryan, C. J., Elder, W. B., McNaughton-Cassill, M., Osman, A., Hernandez, A. M., & Allison, S. (2013). Meaning in life, emotional distress, suicidal ideation, and life functioning in an active duty military sample. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 8(5), 444–452. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2013.823557

Bryan, C. J., Jennings, K. W., Jobes, D. A., & Bradley, J. C. (2012). Understanding and preventing military suicide. Archives of Suicide Research, 16(2), 95–110. https://doi.org/10.1080/13811118.2012.667321

Cogan, A. M., Haines, C. E., & Devore, M. D. (2021). Intersections of U.S. military culture, hegemonic masculinity, and health care among injured male service members. Men and Masculinities, 24(3), 468–482. https://doi-org.usmalibrary.idm.oclc.org/10.1177/1097184X19872793

Cohen, G. L., & Sherman, D. K. (2014). The psychology of change: Self-affirmation and social psychological intervention. Annual Review of Psychology, 65, 333–371. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-010213-115137

Cox, M. (2020). The Army is pivoting to a kinder, gentler start to basic training. Task & Purpose. https://taskandpurpose.com/news/army-basic-training-changes/

Curry, O. S., Rowland, L. A., Van Lissa, C. J., Zlotowitz, S., McAlaney, J., & Whitehouse, H. (2018). Happy to help? A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of performing acts of kindness on the well-being of the actor. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 76, 320–329. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2018.02.014

Dahl, C. J., Lutz, A., & Davidson, R. J. (2015). Reconstructing and deconstructing the self: Cognitive mechanisms in meditation practice. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 19(9), 515–523. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2015.07.001

Dahl, C. J., Wilson-Mendenhall, C. D., & Davidson, R. J. (2020). The plasticity of well-being: A training-based framework for the cultivation of human flourishing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 117(51), 32197–32206. https://www.pnas.org/doi/pdf/10.1073/pnas.2014859117

Davies, R. L., Prince, M. A., Bravo, A. J., Kelley, M. L., & Crain, T. L. (2019). Moral injury, substance use, and posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms among military personnel: An examination of trait mindfulness as a moderator. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 32(3), 414–423. https://doi.org/10.1002/jts.22403

DeBate, R. D., Gatto, A., & Rafal, G. (2018). The effects of stigma on determinants of mental health help-seeking behaviors among male college students: An application of the information-motivation-behavioral skills model. American Journal of Men’s Health, 12(5), 1286–1296. https://doi.org/10.1177/1557988318773656

Defense Health Agency. (2020). Department of Defense Health of the Force 2019. https://www.health.mil/Military-Health-Topics/Combat-Support/Armed-Forces-Health-Surveillance-Branch/Reports-and-Publications

Department of Defense (DoD). (2020). 2020 demographics profile. https://www.militaryonesource.mil/data-research-and-statistics/military-community-demographics/2020-demographics-profile/

Department of Defense (DoD). (2021). Annual suicide report: Calendar year 2020. https://www.dspo.mil/Portals/113/Documents/CY20%20Suicide%20Report/CY%202020%20Annual%20Suicide%20Report.pdf?ver=0OwlvDd-PJuA-igow5fBFA%3D%3D

Department of the Army. (2014). Comprehensive soldier and family fitness (Army Regulation 350–53). https://www.armyresilience.army.mil/ard/images/pdf/Policy/AR%20350-53%20Comprehensive20Soldier%20and%20Family%20Fitness.pdf

Department of the Army. (2019). Army Leadership and the Profession, Army Doctrine. https://armypubs.army.mil/epubs/DR_pubs/DR_a/ARN20039-ADP_6-22-001-WEB-0.pdf

Department of the Army. (2020). FM 7-22: Holistic health and fitness. Department of the Army, United States of America.

Do, J. J., & Samuels, S. M. (2020). I am a warrior: An analysis of the military masculine-warrior narrative among U.S. Air Force officer candidates. Armed Forces & Society, 47(1), 25–47. https://doi.org/10.1177/0095327X20931561

Duckworth, A. (2020). Know thyself: Your values are your compass. Character Lab. https://characterlab.org/tips-of-the-week/know-thyself/?fbclid=IwAR0s0WRmFNppg4rusHokmDho93X3_imH8pFbIkRMDNDsAJFaLG4N7x9XP_Q

Eğeci, İ., & Gençöz, T. (2006). Factors associated with relationship satisfaction: Importance of communication skills. Contemporary Family Therapy, 28(3), 383–39. https//doi.org/10.1007/s10591-006-9010-2

Fischer, I. C., Shanahan, M. L., Hirsh, A. T., Stewart, J. C., & Rand, K. L. (2020). The relationship between meaning in life and post-traumatic stress symptoms in US military personnel: A meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders, 277, 658–670. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2020.08.063

Forkus, S. R., Breines, J. G., & Weiss, N. H. (2019). Morally injurious experiences and mental health: The moderating role of self-compassion. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice & Policy, 11(6), 630–638. https://psycnet.apa.org/doi.org/10.1037/tra0000446

Forkus, S. R., Breines, J. G., & Weiss, N. H. (2020). PTSD and alcohol misuse: Examining the mediating role of fear of self-compassion among military veterans. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice and Policy, 12(4), 364–372. https://doi.org/10.1037/tra0000481

Foster, S., Carvallo, M., Lee, J., & Bernier, I. (2020). Honor and seeking mental health services: The roles of stigma and reputation concerns. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 52(2), 1–6. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022022120982070

Gerras, S. J., Wong, L., & Allen, C. D. (2008, November). Organizational culture: Applying a hybrid model to the U.S. Army. US Army War College. https://ssl.armywarcollege.edu/dclm/pubs/Organizational%20Culture%20Applying%20a%20Hybrid%20Model%20to%20the%20U.S.%20Army%20Nov%2008.pdf

Gibbons, S. W., Migliore, L., Convoy, S. P., Greiner, S., & DeLeon, P. H. (2014). Military mental health stigma challenges: Policy and practice considerations. The Journal for Nurse Practitioners, 10(6), 365–372. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nurpra.2014.03.021

Griffin, B. A., Grimm, G. E., Smart, R., Ramchand, R. Jaycox, L. H., Ayer, L., Leidy, E. N., Davenport, S., Schell, T. L., & Morral, A. R. (2021). Comparing the Army’s suicide rate to the general U.S. population: Identifying suitable characteristics, data sources, and analytic approaches (RR-3025-A). RAND Corporation. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR3025.html

Griffiths, M., Shonin, E., & Van Gordon, W. (2016). Mindfulness as a treatment for gambling disorder: Current directions and issues. Journal of Gambling and Commercial Gaming Research, 1, 1–6. https://doi.org/10.17536/jgcgr.2016.004

Gross, J. J. (2002). Emotion regulation: Affective, cognitive, and social consequences. Psychophysiology, 39, 281–291. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0048577201393198

Gross, J. J., & Levenson, R. W. (1997). Hiding feelings: The acute effects of inhibiting negative and positive emotion. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 106(1), 95–103. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-843X.106.1.95

Gul, P., Cross, S. E., & Uskul, A. K. (2021). Implications of culture of honor theory and research for practitioners and prevention researchers. American Psychologist, 76(3), 502–515. https://doi.org/10.1037/amp0000653

Harrington, R., & Loffredo, D. A. (2010). Insight, rumination, and self-reflection as predictors of well-being. The Journal of Psychology, 145(1), 39–57. https://doi.org/10.1080/00223980.2010.528072

Hedegaard, H., Curtin, S. C., & Warner, M. (2021). Suicide mortality in the United States, 1999–2019 (Report no. 398). Center for Disease Control. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db398-H.pdf

Hepner, K. A., Bloom, E. L., Newberry, S., Sousa, J. L., Osilla, K. C., Booth, M., Bialas, A., & Rutter, C. M. (2022). The impact of mindfulness meditation programs on performance-related outcomes: Implications for the U.S. Army. RAND Corporation. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RRA1522-1.html

Hofmann, S. G., Asnaani, A., Vonk, I. J. J., Sawyer, A. T., & Fang, A. (2012). The efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy: A review of meta-analyses. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 36, 427–440. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-012-9476-1

Hoge, C. W., Castro, C. A., Messer, S. C., McGurk, D., Cotting, D. I., & Koffman, R. L. (2004). Combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, mental health problems, and barriers to care. New England Journal of Medicine, 351(1), 13–22. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMoa040603

Hom, M. A., Stanley, I. H., Schneider, M. E., & Joiner, Jr, T. E. (2017). A systematic review of help-seeking and mental health service utilization among military service members. Clinical Psychology Review, 53, 59–78. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2017.01.008

Hui, B. P. (2022). Prosocial behavior and well-being: Shifting from the “chicken and egg” to positive feedback loop. Current Opinion in Psychology, 44, 231–236. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2021.09.017

Hülsheger, U. R., Alberts, H. J., Feinholdt, A., & Lang, J. W. (2013). Benefits of mindfulness at work: The role of mindfulness in emotion regulation, emotional exhaustion, and job satisfaction. Journal of Applied Psychology, 98(2), 310–325. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0031313

Jayewardene, W. P., Lohrmann, D. K., Erbe, R. G., & Torabi, M. R. (2017). Effects of preventive online mindfulness interventions on stress and mindfulness: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Preventive Medicine Reports, 5, 150–159. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pmedr.2016.11.013

Jha, A. P., Morrison, A. B., Dainer-Best, J., Parker, S., Rostrup, N., & Stanley, E. A. (2015). Minds “at attention”: Mindfulness training curbs attentional lapses in military cohorts. PLoS One, 10(2), e0116889. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0116889

Jha, A. P., Stanley, E. A., Kiyonaga, A., Wong, L., & Gelfand, L. (2010). Examining the protective effects of mindfulness training on working memory capacity and affective experience. Emotion, 10(1), 54–64. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0018438

Kime, P. (2021). Mental health issues accounted for one-third of military medevacs from middle east in 2020. https://www.military.com/daily-news/2021/06/22/mental-health-issues-accounted-one-third-of-military-medevacs-middle-east-2020.html

Kreplin, U., Farias, M., & Brazil, I. A. (2018). The limited prosocial effects of meditation: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Scientific Reports, 8(1), 2403. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-20299-z

Maddox, M. (2018, February 21). Cadets learn leadership, emotional intelligence from top brass. https://www.army.mil/article/200870/cadets_learn_leadership_emotional_intelligence_from_top_brass

Mahmood, L., Hopthrow, T., & Randsley de Moura, G. (2016). A moment of mindfulness: Computer-mediated mindfulness practice increases state mindfulness. PLoS One, 11(4), e0153923). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0153923

Mantzios, M. (2014). Exploring the relationship between worry and impulsivity in military recruits: The role of mindfulness and self-compassion as potential mediators. Stress and Health: Journal of the International Society for the Investigation of Stress, 30(5), 397–404. https://doi.org/10.1002/smi.2617

Martela, F., & Ryan, R. M. (2016). Prosocial behavior increases well-being and vitality even without contact with the beneficiary: Causal and behavioral evidence. Motivation & Emotion, 40(3), 351–357. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-016-9552-z

Neff, K. D. (2003). The Development and validation of a scale to measure self-compassion. Self and Identity, 2(3), 223–250. https://doi.org/10.1080/15298860309027

O’Neal, C. W., Richardson, E. W., & Mancini, J. A. (2020). Community, context, and coping: How social connections influence coping and well-being for military members and their spouses. Family Process, 59(1), 158–172. https://doi.org/10.1111/famp.12395

Orosa-Duarte, Á., Mediavilla, R., Muñoz-Sanjose, A., Palao, Á., Garde, J., López-Herrero, V., Bravo-Ortiz, M. F., Bayón, C., & Rodríguez-Vega, B. (2021). Mindfulness-based mobile app reduces anxiety and increases self-compassion in healthcare students: A randomized controlled trial. Medical Teacher, 43(6), 686–693. https://doi.org/10.1080/0142159x.2021.1914324

Petrovici, A., & Dobrescu, T. (2014). The role of emotional intelligence in building interpersonal communication skills. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 116, 1405–1410. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.01.406

Piellusch, M. (2017, August 25). Toxic leadership or tough love: Does the US Military know the difference? The War Room. US Army War College. https://warroom.armywarcollege.edu/articles/toxic-leadership-tough-love-u-s-military-know-difference/

Rowland, L., & Curry, O. S. (2019). A range of kindness activities boost happiness. The Journal of Social Psychology, 159(3), 340–343. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224545.2018.1469461

Santini, Z. I., Koyanagi, A., Tyrovolas, S., Mason, C., & Haro, J. M. (2015). The association between social relationships and depression: A systematic review. Journal of Affective Disorders, 175, 53–65. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2014.12.049

Schaefer, H. S., Cotting, D. I., Proctor, E. S., Ryan, D. M., & Lerner, R. M. (2021). The military hypermasculine mystique: Sex, status, and emotional control at the United States Military Academy. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 22(4), 611–626. https://doi.org/10.1037/men0000365

Schein, E. H. (2004). Organizational culture and leadership. Jossey-Bass. http://www.untag-smd.ac.id/files/Perpustakaan_Digital_2/ORGANIZATIONAL%20CULTURE%20Organizational%20Culture%20and%20Leadership,%203rd%20Edition.pdf

Shenk, J. M. “What Makes Us Happy?” The Atlantic, 1 Jun, 2009, p. 48.

Silvestrini, M., & Chen, J. A. (2022). “It’s a sign of weakness”: Masculinity and help-seeking behaviors among male veterans accessing posttraumatic stress disorder care. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/tra0001382

Singer, T., & Engert, V. (2019). It matters what you practice: Differential training effects on subjective experience, behavior, brain and body in the ReSource Project. Current Opinion in Psychology, 28, 151–158. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2018.12.005

Stanley, E. A., & Larsen, K. L. (2021). Difficulties with emotion regulation in the contemporary U.S. armed forces: Structural contributors and potential solutions. Armed Forces & Society, 47(1), 77–105. https://doi.org/10.1177/0095327X19848018

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2020). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt29393/2019NSDUHFFRPDFWHTML/2019NSDUHFFR1PDFW090120.pdf

Sun, L. N., Gu, J. W., Huang, L. J., Shang, Z. L., Zhou, Y. G., Wu, L. L., Jia, Y. P., Liu, N. Q., & Liu, W. Z. (2021). Military-related posttraumatic stress disorder and mindfulness meditation: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Chinese Journal of Traumatology, 24(04), 221–230. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cjtee.2021.05.003

Teo, A. R., Choi, H., & Valenstein, M. (2013). Social relationships and depression: Ten-year follow-up from a nationally representative study. PLoS One, 8(4), e62396. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0062396

Teper, R., Segal, Z. V., & Inzlicht, M. (2013). Inside the mindful mind: How mindfulness enhances emotion regulation through improvements in executive control. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22(6), 449–454. https://doi.org/10.1177/0963721413495869

Trachik, B., Tucker, R. P., Ganulin, M. L., Merrill, J. C., LoPresti, M. L., Cabrera, O. A., & Dretsch, M. N. (2020). Leader provided purpose: Military leadership behavior and its association with suicidal ideation. Psychiatry Research, 285, 112722. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2019.112722

Vogel, D. L., Heimerdinger-Edwards, S. R., Hammer, J. H., & Hubbard, A. (2011). “Boys don’t cry”: Examination of the links between endorsement of masculine norms, self-stigma, and help-seeking attitudes for men from diverse backgrounds. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 58(3), 368–382. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0023688

Weiss, E., & Coll, J. E. (2011). The influence of military culture and veteran worldviews on mental health treatment: Practice implications for combat veteran and help-seeking and wellness. International Journal of Health, Wellness, & Society, 1(2), 75–86. https://doi.org/10.18848/2156-8960/CGP/v01i02/41168

Department of the Army (2014) Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness (Army Regulation 350-53) www.armyresilience.army.mil/ard/images/pdf/Policy/AR%20350-53%20Comprehensive20Soldier%20and%20Family%20Fitness.pdf



How to Cite

Konheim-Kalkstein, Y. L., Strauchler, O., Erbe, R. G., Gerardi, B. C., & Peterson, J. D. (2022). Warrior Ethos versus Well-Being: Correcting a Cultural Dichotomy. Journal of Character and Leadership Development, 10(1), 29–41. https://doi.org/10.58315/jcld.v10.249