View Full Version : After the gun fight - your psyche

Glenn E. Meyer
March 14, 2006, 11:30 AM
So many threads focus on ammo, guns, and when to draw. However, some folks think beyond the mechanics of the gun fight to the legal consequences.

I wonder how many folks have bothered to think about the psychological /social consequences also. What will happen to affect your psychological well being and that of your family? What will change in your social relationships?

Sometimes, I think in our naive world view, some of us think we will be praised as heroes. Our family will look at us as gods and our neighbors and co-workers will praise us. Are we not the mighty sheepdog!

Anyway, through various professional threads and tactical training, the psychological consequences have been of interest to me.

Various classes have stressed that after a shooting and taking a life you could have serious psychological problems. The military and police are aware of this to some degree. Stress disorders occur and substance abuse occurs. You have problems at work and coworkers may not think you are a hero. If one thinks this is wussy, the trainers such as the Insights crowd, certainly are not.

Can you deal with it? Is being able to dance around a shoot a tight group sufficient?

Anyway, stop preaching - Dr. Meyer.

I found that reading some books accessible to the layperson to be very useful.

Deadly Force Encounters : What Cops Need To Know To Mentally And Physically Prepare For And Survive A Gunfight -- by Loren W. Christensen;

Copshock, Surviving Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Surviving Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (Ptsd) (Paperback)
by Allen R. Kates

Into the Kill Zone - David Klinger

These are written towards police, as to my knowledge and that of stress expert friends, a specific book for civilian aftershoot consequences has not been done. But the info is very relevant.

Just a thought, when I read all the righteous sheepdog posting. There's more to it and knowledge is power.

Hard Ball
March 14, 2006, 11:41 AM
As they say in Texas "It is better to be tried by 12 than carried by 6!"

Glenn E. Meyer
March 14, 2006, 11:53 AM
I live in Texas and the point was not that one shouldn't defend oneself but that one should be aware of what to do after.

Being nuts in Texas may not be as easy as being nuts in California. :D

March 14, 2006, 11:54 AM
Glenn, The only thought I have given it is to understand that I could have problems and being willing to seek help if problems arise. I won't try to be a tough guy on brain ailments. I got a mild understanding of brain problems when my with got postpartum depression.....look out lord that was terrible. I won't hesitate to get help.

Can you give an example of how the books helped before the episode? How does it prepare you for trouble in advance? Thanks nice post.

March 14, 2006, 12:01 PM
For the sake of discussion, what happens when you are being tried by twelve, and you are suffering from ptsd and can't recall the events that took place before your shot and you have no witnesses to back you up. Or you just become "crazy" due to the knowledge that you just took a human life and you are deemed incompetent and they just throw you in the loonie bin. I think Meyer was refering more toward the psychological after-effects than the legal ramifications.

I too have thought about how I would handle taking a life. I believe that the "hard a$$" in all of us think it wouldn't be that big of a deal. I mean come on, it was self preservation. But if you really do some soul searching, I think that when you realize that you just watched a person die, sputtering, maybe coughing up blood, screaming do to pain, all because of your actions, you may not take it as well as you think. I hope I never have to go through that situation of taking another life.

March 14, 2006, 12:03 PM
I mentioned it a few times when the subject of taking a life comes up. It will change you mentally, and perhaps like you mentioned even socially. I had a good friend that was a LEO who was involved in a shooting of a gang member. This guy he shot was a very bad guy and he was justified in the shooting, he seen the guy dealing crack in a fast food parking lot and when he approached he pointed a gun at him so he had to shoot him. He was a mess for about a week. He got death threat from other gang members. He is still on anti-depressants. He felt his family, friends, co-workers all treated him different post shooting. He basically ran away, one day he quit the force and moved his family 3 states over and started a new life in the civilian sector. And with all that, he still, to this day, feels SORRY for the guy he shot.

Granted you got to defend yourself and you may need to take a life, but to think your going to be like Rambo and assuming your going to shrug it off taking a life your in for a rude awakening. Most LEO and Military go thru counseling post shooting. I think if a civilian is involved in a shooting they should consider sitting down and talking to a doctor about it.

March 14, 2006, 12:21 PM
In support of Mikeyboy's post look at some of the guys comming home from Iraq. My best friend from high school is serving as a Marine and once he came home from his second tour I noticed he had changed. Also, look the some of the Vietnam Vets. My uncle fought in vietnam and he will NOT talk about it. I made a refence to the movie Full Metal Jacket while sitting around a 4th of July family reunion camp fire and he turned pale as a ghost. It really does change you.

March 14, 2006, 12:25 PM
My mindset right now pre shooting is that if I have to shoot somebody, they forced me to do it. I believe them to be scumbags not only for their actions but for forcing me to shoot them as well. Not careing about me having to deal with it. If they make me do it, then I hate them. I don't feel emotion towards a scumbag that A. I hate. B. tried to kill me C. forced me to become a killer of man D. gave no thought to my well being. If this changes after a shooting, then I have to deal with it. I'm not going to stop carrying so all I can do is be prepared to seek help if my shields don't hold.

March 14, 2006, 12:32 PM
Talk to a friend or someone else you respect. Men are notorious for not discussing emotional stuff even with themselves. If that doesn't work for you? Go to a professional. The longer you wait the worse it gets. Sometimes it's years or decades before negative symptoms emerge.

There are PTSD forums all over the internet. Sometimes it's easier to post your feelings than talk about them.

Everyone is different but I don't think anybody can kill a fellow human and not be affected psychologicaly. A lot of people don't even noticed they've changed. So listen to those who know and love you.

March 14, 2006, 12:42 PM
Everyone reacts to this differently. I still attend a group every month or so that is comprised of those who have taken a life to save their own. It's kind of like AA, but worse. We have members who are civilians who refused to be victims, and peace officers doing their jobs. We have a member who killed his daughter shooting through a door at noise in the night. We just accepted our first member back from Iraq.

Every experience is different. Every person is unique and finds their own way of coping and accepting the reality of what they had to do. There is one common denominator however. Nobody can understand what the path is like until they have walked it. Nobody knows how they will react afterwards, or even the next time, if they should ever need to save their lives again.

Saying how you will react before the fact is like saying how you will swim before you ever jump in the water. Having a psychologist trying to analyze a person who has saved their own life by taking another's life is like having a person who walks analyze a quadriplegic, or a virgin analyzing a prostitute. They do not even have a clue, much less a base for analysis. That is why the group I belong to was formed.

March 14, 2006, 12:45 PM
I agree with you threegun. Their actions did preciptate yours and you acted in accordance with what you've trained for. No matter how confident you are that you will take appropriate action, there WILL always be that x on the other side of the equal sign.

March 14, 2006, 12:58 PM
XB, Makes sense on paper.

March 14, 2006, 01:27 PM
I won't loose any sleep over it. I'll wait to the absolute possible second trying to get them to back off before I launch an all out assualt on a person/s. I give them the chance to leave by telling them that if they don't I will kill them if they proceed to attack me. A person only commits suicide by assualting me.

March 14, 2006, 01:52 PM
If you own a big sidearm with hollowpoints then you've already made your decision that you're willing to kill if necessary. The only trauma would be from seeing real life blood and corpse on your living room floor and if that were to ever happen to me, I would relocate about 50 miles away.
That would be reason #1,... #2, I'd move for fear of retaliation from the @sshole's buddies, homeboys, connections, pissed off brother, etc. :eek:

March 14, 2006, 02:08 PM
I'm pretty concerned about how my family would view me after the incident. Especially if they were there to witness said incident. It probably wouldn't be as bad as how I'd view myself if I hesitated and one of my loved ones died because of it. Either way, life as I know it would be over so I'll continue to strive to not ever shoot anyone. I just hope n pray that I'm never forced to do it.

March 14, 2006, 02:54 PM
If you own a big sidearm with hollowpoints then you've already made your decision that you're willing to kill if necessary. The only trauma would be from seeing real life blood and corpse on your living room floor and if that were to ever happen to me, I would relocate about 50 miles away.
That would be reason #1,... #2, I'd move for fear of retaliation from the @sshole's buddies, homeboys, connections, pissed off brother, etc.

I had made my mind up to jump out of an airplane with a parachute. Afterwards, I was scared -CENSORED--CENSORED--CENSORED--CENSORED--CENSORED-less and it changed my whole perspective. Somethings you can't just move awayfrom. But I do agree that you are willing to *risk* having to shoot someone when you buy the gun and get a carry permit so you would *hope* that you can handle the psycological effects. Like Xavier said, we won't know until it happens.

March 14, 2006, 03:05 PM
the last 7 or 8 gunfights I was in left me feeling just fine, but thanks.

March 14, 2006, 03:10 PM
I have drilled my kids and wife on what to do if the poop hits the fan. Stay low, find cover, get the heck out if possible. I have also told them that daddy would never hurt anyone unless they made me. "If anyone every tried to hurt you" I told them, I would stop them. Daddy might have to get real nasty and ugly and mean but I won't let anyone hurt you guys. They understand (for the most part) that I might have to shoot a badguy to protect our family. I am the nicest guy in the world until someone trys to hurt my family. Under that circumstance I will hold nothing back. I'de kill myself to save my boys so shooting a badguy to save them would be...........easier.

March 14, 2006, 03:38 PM
Well put.

March 14, 2006, 03:53 PM
I agree with threegun in his post #8.

It's true that one never knows beforehand how he will react in the actual event.

That said, I hope I'd be able to take the attitude described in Post #8.

I'm not looking to hurt anyone. But the world can be a dangerous place. If someone threatened me or my family -- they have placed themselves beyond the pale. Any negative consequences they suffer they have brought upon themselves.

I think part of this problem is the moral confusion we suffer with the decline of religious values. Shrinks have replaced clergy.

I spent a few years in private practise before I grew tired of and disillusioned with the field and moved on to something with less BS. Whether "true" or not, Judaism and Christianity teach morals that work, without which it is impossible to have a decent society.

Mental health "science" isn't. The theories and techniques I learned in school are now mostly and deservedly outmoded. Many were complete nonsense. Many were destructive. And current practises depend largely on current fad.

Religious values codify rules for living that have worked for thousands of years. We are not speaking of perfection or utopia but of what is workable for the kind of irascible beings we are.

I had to work my way through from a left-wing, liberal, very much anti-gun position. I think that gives me an advantage in dealing with such issues. I've struggled with this, thought through various positions, literally imagined myself in the scenarios until I got where I am.

My family and I (and my country) have the right to live free of threat. I threaten no one. Threaten us with death or great bodily harm and if I can, I will stop you. If you die in the process, a rational and moral society would call that justice.

It's a good idea to think this through at length, in depth and very seriously. The better job you do at that, the less likely you are to experience post traumatic stress syndrome.

I like G. Gordon Liddy's answer when asked, "But wouldn't you feel terrible if you had to kill someone?"

"Yes", he'd reply, "I would -- the paper work is unending."


March 14, 2006, 03:59 PM
Here's my guess as to why I won't have that much trouble (other than with the way others might change their treatment of me post-event).

I have watched somebody die painfully right in front of my eyes. At point-blank range, so to speak. Not of a gunshot, but in a fairly grisly fashion. So I have some vague concept about managing around that sort of event.

There is a difference. I did nothing to cause the event.

On the other hand, I'm never ever going to shoot somebody for dealing drugs. Or for prostitution. Or for gambling. I'll never have to sit and ponder the idea that the real seed of why I killed somebody was something as victimless as one of those "crimes".

I'm only going to shoot somebody if I have to in order to defend myself from death or serious bodily injury or a credible threat thereof. Frankly, though I'd think twice because of the law, I do not think I'd have a lot of remorse for shooting somebody who slapped me and showed signs they were going to keep coming. I am NOT YOURS TO TOUCH.

If I'm sadly mistaken, I'll go visit my psychiatrist and get adequate pillage to manage the problem.

March 14, 2006, 04:20 PM
Being nuts in Texas may not be as easy as being nuts in California.

People in CA have had more practice at it; with the help of Teahcer Feinstein and Assistant Principle Boxer (I can say that, I live here, atleast for now:rolleyes: )

March 14, 2006, 05:22 PM
We normal law abiding people have problems with the idea of hurting another much less killing them. That said it is my duty as a father and husband to protect my young and spouse. A mother bear doesn't actively look to kill you however threaten her cubs and you will get hurt. Once I realized my place my role in our family, as the provider and protector, I must do what is necessary. If that means letting the lion eat me to allow them to get away safely so be it. If that means shooting a 10year old who is killing people and about to kill us it really doesn't matter as I have a job to do. Failure is the same as suicide as I wouldn't want to live knowing that I failed and Chuckie or Ryan died. Like others have said, I will do everything possible to avoid trouble. When it can't be avoided, its time to get ugly.

Glenn E. Meyer
March 14, 2006, 06:23 PM
Not be too critical but it is as I expected from some. No offense but we know that there are large effects for some. It is also the case that you saying (with bravado) that you will do XYZ and not be affected has little predictive validity.

My point is that the prudent student of the art might be well served to know something about the issue before the fact beyond internet opinions. I write on this forum for those with common sense. My tactical instructors stressed this and I know professionals well trained in therapy. They see strong folks who have problems. The books recommended are written after seeing 'tough' guys have difficulties and by folks familar with police work. You might also want to know the effects on your family and social network. Saying you've told them XYZ is nice but may not be sufficient.

Take it or leave it. When you teach, you usually only reach 20% anyway.

March 14, 2006, 06:34 PM
I just don't agree that preparing in advance for the possible mental side effects is even possible much less necessary beyond understanding that side effects are possible and being willing to seek professional help in time. I understand that I could have problems even though I feel prepared. I also understand that my family might have problems. I read about those long ago and vowed to never put machismo over asking for help. My question for you (being trained and having read the books) is how does one prepare for the mental side effects in advanced? How do the books prepare me? I am eager to learn Glenn so please don't take this as being argumentative or lacking common sense.

March 14, 2006, 06:51 PM
Glenn, I appriciate the subject. It has been something we have been struggling with recently as a family. We are all military in my family, as far back as there has been a military, as far as I have been told. Also several immediate family members in LEO work. We are all "used" to the lifestyle, so to speak, and have thoroughly accepted the possible violence involved in that life.

That said, my little brother, who has been raised in this type of family, and has eat, slept, and breathed soldering since he could walk, AND is one of the strongest young men I have ever known, is experiencing some issues after comming back from Iraq.....

To those that say it woudn't bother you one whit to take a life, are completely ignorant of the subject. Not hesitating TO DO IT if your kids are in danger is one thing. But dealing with it after the fact can be a very tough experience. For all you gung-ho tough guy types, I pray you never have to find out.

Thanks Glenn.......common sense is in short supply these days it seems. :(

March 14, 2006, 07:14 PM
I don't want to ever have to take someone's life. What truly worries me is that I might take a liking to killing. That's why I would absolutely wait until the last moment. That's the main reason that I refuse to be in the military, I really don't want anything to with killing. I fully support our armed forces but that lifestyle isn't for me.

March 14, 2006, 08:49 PM
I just finished "On Combat" by Grossman. I highly recommend it for helping to come to terms with what happens before, during, and after a stressful situation such as taking a life or simply being confronted by a bad guy. The lessons on 'tactical breathing' even helped me with the stress of public speaking.

Will read Grossman's book titled "On Killing" next.

March 14, 2006, 10:47 PM
JakeMate, I've looked at Grossman's ON KILLING on Amazon and decided not to buy it.

In the 8 pages I read he referred to killing as a "destructive act", but never even suggested that killing could be a constructive act.

The point I tried to make in my post (#20) is that there are circumstances when killing is not only justified but necessary, constructive and moral.

As I mentioned there is no predicting how one will react in the event.

But that holds true as well for practising one's draw, presentation, aiming and shooting. After years of practise, one may still freeze and die as a result. But practise makes this outcome much less likely.

I believe that training that omits the morality of killing is deficient and that such training is also neccessary, although it may be more the responsibility of the individual.

The mention of "strong" or "tough" individuals doesn't convey what is meant by those terms. Could not a person be strong or tough, but yet undeveloped in the morality involved in his carrying a CCW or a weapon in war?

Wouldn't such a person actually be "weak" in that area, suffering from a form of confusion and confusion is never strength.

Why is killing a predator in self-defence wrong or immoral? And if such a killing is moral, why must one suffer torment over taking the life of another human being? Is that the mindset of a warrior?

Some level of upset may be understandable. But allowing such an experience to torment and even incapacitate one suggests that the person had not thought through the project he had undertaken.

Killing in war is, for me, a separate topic because the reason for that killing is, in a sense, impersonal. In war, too, I believe that one can work out one's morality in this area and if one cannot, then he should seek a way out of the situation.

I'm not trying to make light of killing or in any way to glorify it.

But characterising all killing as destructive is like calling all violence bad and equating the violence of the attacker with the violence of the defender. Killing, like violence is always unfortunate and sometimes very necessary.

I think that Ecclesiastes is correct that there is a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace. And if there is a time to hate and a time for war, then there is also a time to kill. I see nothing in Ecclesiastes about pathological remorse.


March 15, 2006, 05:59 AM
I can't imagine ANY book or ANY specific psychological approach could be 100% effective in dealing with this type of situation. This isn't a "one size fits all" type of thing. LOTS of people come out of combat or gunfights and suffer very little emotional stress, while others are never able to get over it. Everyone reacts differently to situations like this and I believe the only thing one can do to prepare for such an event is to try and take an objective look at your typical reactions when confronted with the loss of life.

I had a friend once who was a complete emotional wreck for a month at the loss of his mother-in-law. I think that's a good indication that were he to have to take someone's life he might not fair well in the aftermath. Those of us that have been around for a while (okay..us OLD [email protected]) probably have the advantage in this situation as we have more experiences with the loss of friends and loved ones to help us guage where we might stand on that emotional continuum.

I'm not sure this is something we can really change. I think it's just a part of our nature. It's easy to say "I wouldn't feel any grief over taking the life of someone that threatened my family", but it may not be realistic if your personal history indicates that you're the type that tends to have significant emotional reactions to life and death events you've encountered.

March 15, 2006, 06:30 AM
Why is killing a predator in self-defence wrong or immoral? And if such a killing is moral, why must one suffer torment over taking the life of another human being? Is that the mindset of a warrior?

Its not immoral or wrong. Do unto other as you would have them do unto you. An eye for an eye. Either you or me. Why people get torn over protecting themselves I don't know. It does happen though. I will leave the door open for that possibility.

If we can't prepare in advance for how we are going to react to a shooting then "common sense" tells me that there is no preparation possible for it. So aside from understanding that one could have problems, what can be done in advance?

March 15, 2006, 08:05 AM
Why is killing a predator in self-defence wrong or immoral? And if such a killing is moral, why must one suffer torment over taking the life of another human being? Is that the mindset of a warrior?"

[b)"Its not immoral or wrong. Do unto other as you would have them do unto you. An eye for an eye. Either you or me. Why people get torn over protecting themselves I don't know. It does happen though. I will leave the door open for that possibility."[/b}

Threegun, absolutely it does happen and there is no way for me to be sure it wouldn't happen to me in such a situation. What I'm saying is that I perceive a lack of preparation for such an outcome and I'm trying to relate this lack to a general confusion about right and wrong and the decline of morals in society.

[B]"If we can't prepare in advance for how we are going to react to a shooting then "common sense" tells me that there is no preparation possible for it. So aside from understanding that one could have problems, what can be done in advance?[/b}

I believe that this is part of a much larger problem of moral confusion spreading in our society. Although there can certainly be no guarantees in dealing with complex creatures like humans, I think it behooves us to examine our own values and to press through in clarifying them.

I do not intend to condemn or denigrate anyone who might suffer pathological remorse after killing in self-defence. What I am saying is that there would be a lot less of this if we were clear about our own values.

There seems to be almost an expectation that a "decent person" would suffer this way and if he did not then his humanity can be called into question.

Imagine this scenario: Someone breaks in and threatens your 17 year old daughter with rape and worse. You manage to get to your gun and you kill him. You have saved your precious child from a horrible experience that might mark her for life. And you've saved her life.

The perp has a mother, siblings, etc. who now make excuses for him and try to indict your action. Is it really a mark of decency to give a damn about the perp or his family? Or does it indicate how far we have fallen in our understanding of life and values?

I can not even really be called a religious person, not in the sense that I am an observant Jew. But the more I look into this the more I respect Biblical values and the less I respect the seeming consensus that emerges from our current education/media/government/courts -- a consensus of experts whose expertise I find empty and transient.

Preparation for this goes a lot deeper than self-defense training. It requires making basic choices about values at the deepest level. Doing that plants one's feet on rock instead of the miasma of moral confusion I see all around me.

I'm attracted to what I learn about the warrior mindset. A warrior is someone who doesn't need to posture or act tough. He can be gentle, even tender. But when faced with the necessity, he is able to do whatever it takes to resolve the situation. And he doesn't second guess himself after the action is over.

This is an ideal to aim for. I'm certainly not saying that I am there. But how can you hit your target if you don't even aim? Or if you don't even know this is a worthwhile target?

It strikes me as odd that we would defend the 2nd amendment, go to the trouble and expense of arming ourselves and staying in practise. But with all that we slight the underlying philosophy that justifies all this effort.

Just doesn't make sense to me.


March 15, 2006, 11:10 AM

There seems to be almost an expectation that a "decent person" would suffer this way and if he did not then his humanity can be called into question.

Wow, that was well said. In one of my posts I wrote that I don't have feelings for a badguy intent on hurting me. I don't care what others think about my humanity on this issue. In my heart, I know that unless left no other option, I would never knowingly harm another.
I don't feel emotion towards a scumbag that A. I hate. B. tried to kill me C. forced me to become a killer of man D. gave no thought to my well being.

If one forces another to kill them, how can we expect the family that raised such a heathen to be any different mentally.
The perp has a mother, siblings, etc. who now make excuses for him and try to indict your action.

March 15, 2006, 01:25 PM

I'm sorry if I may have given the impression that I was criticizing your posts. Not at all; I agree with your reasonng and with what you wrote.

I simply wanted to get underneath what I perceive as the "right" attitude toward killing and you gave me an opening to do that.

I surely hope that all of this remains academic for you, for me and for all the rest of us.


March 15, 2006, 02:13 PM
As far as a non-police or non-military person shooting and/or killing an attacker, it is my belief that the majority of "post shooting trauma" is a result of the stark, raving fear of being prosecuted and sent to prison by the state and sued by the thug you shot or his survivors.

A man or woman should be able to defend themselves and their family - and exert deadly force, if they have no other option - and not be put through months or years of legal, financial and emotional hell as a result, IMO. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

If an investigation were conducted and the shooting was found to be justifiable and the legal complications ended there, I believe most of the trauma the shooter goes through would also stop.

As far as military personnel killing in a war, my wife has a cousin whose son is a Marine and has served in Iraq. He was in a combat engineer batallion, and was their designated sniper (he is now an instructor, still in the Marines). In a non-bragging way, he told his parents about some of the events he experienced. It is obvious from his stories that he has killed alot of the enemy.

His parents seem more unsettled by this than he is. He seems well adjusted and at ease with his actions, and is not traumatized by what he has experienced at war.

Killing affects different people in different ways - perhaps some have coping mechanisms in place that others do not and therefore experience less negative ramifications as a result, whether they are military, police or just everyday citizens.

March 15, 2006, 03:30 PM
Matis, I didn't think you critizied it. I just agree with what you said about morals and how society trys to push guilt when there is nothing to be guilty about. 100 percent dead on.

The British Soldier
March 15, 2006, 03:58 PM
Prior to Bosnia, where we saw some quite awful scenes of ethnic cleansing on an unparalleled scale and engaged a wide variety of quasi-enemy from criminal gangs to organised military forces, the British Army didn't have any form of post-tour counselling advice. It was a matter of 'tough it out'. Unfortunately the people who received the job of post-tour counselling were the Army Padre corps; I say unfortunately because many of them could not separate their religeon from the job at hand. Soldiers who had seen terrible things and had opened fire in desperate circumstances against organised opposing forces, wanted some simple practical help or simply to be left alone with their mates to sort it out over a large liquid volume of beer!

One might argue that getting incredibly drunk at the post-tour party, celebrating the lives of those men who were killed rather than mourning their demise, talking about what happened and getting some perspective on it, is much better than having a Padre talking to you - an event most guys despise with a passion!

Often, I think, it is the older soldiers, who have been through this numerous times in their careers that received practical assistance from their peers, are the most useful. Their methods have been handed down through generations of soldiers and are effective, though sometimes not 'warm and fluffy'.

On one patrol in Northern Ireland our multiple was caught in the blast radius of a culvert bomb (a home made device buried under the road in a drainage ditch); a couple of the guys were really badly hurt and the whole multiple shaken up by it. Inside the base the Company Sergeant Major took everyone to one side and turned us around - "we're going back out right now!" he ordered.

Not one of us at that moment wanted to go back out. Our confidence was shaken and our nerves torn apart. He led us back out to the operational area and we stayed out for several hours, doing a variety of operational tasks and regaining our confidence within the hour. He knew that if we stayed inside the base we would have been hopelessly torn apart by fears, thoughts and 'what ifs'.

In the post-combat moments, it is the sound leadership of these experienced men that is more useful than a brigade of PTSD counsellors.

March 15, 2006, 06:34 PM
First - a hearty Thank You to Glenn for bringing this subject to our attention.

I had never thought about the possibility of preparing for the mental aftermath of a shooting - but why not? If contemplating dealing with Law Enforcement after a shooting is beneficial, then why would we not want to prepare for our own mental state [post shooting]?

As for me...? I know that I hesitate far too long before engaging. In "Live Fire Judgement Training" I was chastised more than once for waiting until (just after) the last moment to fire. But I would rather know in my own mind that shooting was the ONLY option left, than have any doubts about my actions afterwards. May or may not be the best "tactical" decision, and that is something that I will continue to work on.

Glenn E. Meyer
March 15, 2006, 06:50 PM

BTW - I first started to hear about this from combat veterans teaching tactical classes. I already knew of PTSD from the typical civilian trauma victim. Then I started to research the aftermath of shooting incidents. The effects may not appear moments after but later.

That's why the knowledge is useful, IMHO. Not to argue with anyone's combat experience but we know problems occur - that's an empirical fact and knowing about such is not a statement of being PC, weak, etc.

Deadly Force Encounters or In the Kill Zone were not written by folks who were weak or PC.

In fact, said combat veteran specifically mentioned that males tend to decompress using group bonding and alcohol. This led to continued alcohol abuse later. Pretty standard conditioning theory. Some folks don't want to admit to a stress vulnerability and that's a problem that leads to later problems.

Like I said, I'm just giving putting out what I thought was a useful topic and some good books.

March 15, 2006, 07:08 PM
Well, here I go, a newbie to this list. Done Nam, before that, Done Guatamala, cqb and successful use of issued ammunition both places. Too old for Desert Storm, anyone in the free fire zone that even looks like they have the ability to move agressively with or without visible means of attack dies. End of story. Remorse? Yeah, I choked once and a buddy paid for it. Never again!

March 15, 2006, 11:12 PM
I think the majority of combat veterans suffer from PTSD in one form or another. During WW II and Korea it was called "shell shock". No one really knows how one will react from taking another's life. Pilots took many lives without seeing them "up close" as did artillerymen and mortarmen. Snipers took many lives "long distance" if you will, without putting a "face" on their targets. But when it becomes "up close and personal", when you see the dead person, search his body and find his personal belongings, photos of his family and realize you just killed someone's husband, father or son then it becomes "personal". Perhaps not at that moment but sometime when you're alone, maybe at night on guard or even sleeping but there will come a time, maybe years later but you're going to see that person's face again.

I knew men who truly enjoyed killing the enemy. I know it was a necessity of war and a means of survival but I did not enjoy it. When we arrived in Vietnam we were gung ho and ready to kill anything, vowing to never take any prisoners but my attitude quickly changed regardless of how much I hated the enemy. That was 40 years ago and it still bothers me that I personally took the lives of six people, one at the distance of only eight feet away and I can still see the expression on his face.

For what it's worth, I wish LBJ would have turned our AirForce loose and let them bomb Hanoi like our B-52's bombed Iraq in Desert Storm back in 91'. I think the outcome of the war would have been much different.

March 16, 2006, 01:04 PM
Some people here have said some things that are not only completely ignorant, but just plain stupid as well. No need to mention names though. It is very easy to SAY killing another human would not affect you, especially if you were protecting yourself, or in war, but its another thing to have actually DONE IT, and have to live with it. I have seen some very strong dedicated soldiers weep like babies after having done their duty. There is no shame in it, and it doesn't make one weak. Anyone who thinks so is a moron.

My father once told me a story about vietnam. I may not get all the facts right, but I will give you the story as best I can.

He was sitting with some buddies in one of the small towns or cities. They were quite used to the local children milling around them, and often gave them little gifts, a little bit of food, money, ect. They felt really sorry for these hungry, dirty little kids. It seems as if the enemy saw how quickly the american soldiers accepted the kids, and in one instance, planted explosives on one of the children, sent the kid into a group of american soldiers. Several soldiers were killed or wounded right in front of my dad and his friends. A short time later, he was with the group again, and a kid came running up to them like the other one had. One of the young soldiers completely freaked out and shot the little kid. They found 2 american grenades on his body. They still all cried. It hurt every single one of the to the heart when they looked at this kid.

So they had no doubt saved lives, in war, but still could not escape the emotional problems that followed. Anyone out there who says they wouldn't be bothered is a complete idiot....

I didn't tell this story to bring up any terrible memories for our veterans on this board. If I did, I am truely and sincerely sorry. I just wanted to illustrate a point to these "kill 'em and care less types".....

March 16, 2006, 01:48 PM
Unfortunately in Vietnam children with bombs or grenades were commonplace and many American soldiers were forced to neutralize them just to protect themselves and their comrades. That without a doubt is one of the worst memories a warrior can be forced to live with. Just think of what our forces are dealing with everyday in Iraq with these car bombs and suicide bombers. It's enough dealing with the enemy but to have to worry about some idiot blowing himself up or driving a car full of explosives into a group of troops must really take it's toll. My hat is off to all our fighting men and women over there. I wish them all a safe and speedy return.

March 16, 2006, 09:04 PM
I guess, Glenn, . . . I can only approach your post with some mixed emotions.

Yes, . . . PTSD is a real, existant, horrible problem at times, . . . and for that point alone, . . . your post is very much relevant.

But, . . . there is a little ditty that I have used to make peace with my military service, . . . and I will use it if I am ever forced to deal with taking another's life as a civilian.

"God grant to me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, . . . and the wisdom to know the difference."

What I did, . . . what I stood for, . . . what I accomplished as a sailor and as a soldier, . . . I cannot change, . . . at the time it was a good decision, . . . therefore it is a good decision today, . . . regardless of the opinions of anyone else.

Martyp's experience would be my worst nightmare: "Yeah, I choked once and a buddy paid for it."

Anyway, . . . thanks for raising the bar on awareness, . . . truly anyone carrying a concealed weapon or contemplating defending their domicile should give some thought to whether or not they are emotionally prepared for the consequences of doing such.

May God bless,

March 16, 2006, 10:24 PM
This is a very interesting topic to me. I wish I could have gotten some of this
kind of feedback 35 years ago when I came home from Viet Nam.

I didn't do anything special in Viet Nam. I was a rifle Marine in a Marine
rifle company. A "grunt". We did the infantry thing. Daily recon patrols,
nightly ambushes, occasional long-range patrols. Basically, looking for the
enemy to engage in a firefight. Sometimes we found them, sometimes we didn't.

When I came home I was never treated harshly because I was a Viet Nam vet. I was never spit at, or yelled at or cursed. I spent a lot of time in the hospital, and when I got out, I went back to Viet Nam. I had to, my friends were over there, and I felt like I had deserted them when I left.

When I returned to CONUS the second time, I only had a few weeks until I was separated from active duty. I watched the news, I saw the protests, and I never wore my uniform off base. I didn't want to deal with it.

It was when I actually got "home" that I understood how it was going to
be. "Home" was my parents' house. That was the only place I had ever lived before I went into the Marine Corps. And that was where I learned the
bitter truth about the "war". Nobody gave a damn. Nobody. Not my
parents, not my friends, not my other relatives, NO DAMN BODY!!!!!

The fact that I had seen my good friends shot dead, or blown into pieces,
or that I had been wounded , just didn't matter to them. The war was a
distant thing to them, and they really didn't want to be bothered by the
gory details.

I hope to God that the troops coming back from Iraq get better support than we did. They deserve it. I think a little positive support from friends and
family might prevent some of the PTSD problems that are so prevalent in
veterans from previous wars.

If I've gotten too far off the topic of this post, administrators, just
delete it. But this is a subject that I have an intense interest in, and I
just wanted to put my two cents in.


March 16, 2006, 11:01 PM
Welcome home buddy. You're right, no one cared except those of us who were there. I know what you mean about leaving you're friends over there and for that reason I stayed for my second tour without coming home at all and that decision nearly cost me my life.

You were a "grunt" and that in itself was something special and you should be proud of that.

I was called a "baby killer" once in a bar after I mentioned that I was in Vietnam and it was many many years before I ever mentioned it again in public.

Our troops coming back from Iraq are indeed being treated much better then we were. At least by the general public but I'm not so sure about the treatment they're getting from the government that sent them there.

Hang in there pal. I've finally made peace with myself and the demons that have haunted me for the last 40 years since I left that Godforsaken place.


Dan M.
March 17, 2006, 01:15 AM
Walter and riverrat (and any other vets out there),

You guys deserve and are owed as much honor as any American vet who served in either Gulf conflict, in Korea, WWII, or any wars fought by Americans on foreign soil or our own land, and that's a fact. It's a damn shame that ignorant people can't/couldn't understand what it means to serve our country the way that you and millions like you have done throughout our history. God bless both of you for your sacrifices, small or large, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

March 17, 2006, 07:00 AM
Amen DAN.

Para Bellum
March 19, 2006, 05:10 AM
thanks for the excellent readin tips, Glenn!
My way is not to talk about it at all and keep a low profile. If you were justified the actual consequences can be hidden from you social contacts quite well. Keep it for yourself.

March 19, 2006, 10:42 AM
and went on with my life. I was young with most of my life ahead of me. I had some problems with anger but then doesn't everybody! Nam came up frequently but I ignored the news, politics, and kept my feelings to myself. Other than some dreams and intrusive thoughts from my Nam experience I didn't think there was a problem.

Then my health went down hill. I couldn't work, couldn't do much anything but sit and think. That's when PTSD hit me. I didn't even know what was happening but there I was dealing with memories of Nam that I had put behind me a long, long time ago.

Moral to my story: Don't count your chickens till they hatch!

March 19, 2006, 12:29 PM
There seems to be almost an expectation that a "decent person" would suffer this way and if he did not then his humanity can be called into question.

And that is a correct expectation. After my shooting incident I was sent to the navy "shrink". I told him everything was cool and he told me to come back in a week. I told him I didn't think I needed to and he said, "That’s not a request, It's a direct order." He did that four times.

I started to be consumed by the thoughts of the incident and started drinking some, I never really drank before that. The thing is, when I would drink I tended to fight. After one such fight I was taken to the emergency room by the JAFP, who I was assigned to at the time, for an injured hand.
It just so happened that the Doc was on duty that night, as duty officer, and saw me in the EM room. He spoke to the marine SGT. and then ordered him to escort me to his office. In his office I went to sit down when he jumped up my A## and said he didn't tell me to sit and to stand at attention. At attention I took a 20 min A## chewing, which in the end broke the shell. (As it turned out I found that prior to medical school the Commander Dr. had been a combat Marine.)

Yeah, The incident affected me deeper than I wanted to acknowledge

March 19, 2006, 12:45 PM
" And that is a correct expectation."


If that is a correct expectation then it follows, doesn't it, that anyone who doesn't have such a reaction is not decent?

It is that what you want to say?

I am genuinely sorry that you suffered this way and I am not questioning your decency.

Some have that reaction, some don't. But if citizens and soldiers were better prepared for this by dealing with the philosophy and not just the psychology of killing, then such suffering may posssibly be reduced or, for some, eliminated.

That's the main point I'm trying to make.


March 19, 2006, 01:21 PM
You're going to do a whole lot better after the fight, if you're not dead. Survive the fight, deal with it on your own terms, get whatever help you need to get, and then get on with your life. That's the reality of this situation.

March 19, 2006, 01:24 PM
Yeah, The incident affected me deeper than I wanted to acknowledge
Bingo! No one wants to admit they might need help because they might be perceived as weak. You know, the "big tough guy image" would be shattered but there is nothing wrong with asking for a little help. The worst thing one can do is isolate themselves after such a horrific experience as taking another's life.

Like I said in my earlier post, some men actually seemed to enjoy killing the enemy while others simply saw it as a necessary job, a means of survival if you will. That does not mean that they had better morals then the others.

Now if you take these gang-bangers who do these drive-by shootings without any regard to innocent bystanders, not only are they immoral but they are evil also. I think they are the weak ones because they have to use their cars to shoot and run away like cowards. They're just like terrorists, they cover their faces and don't have the balls to stand and fight.

Sorry, I got a little carried away and way off topic.

March 19, 2006, 02:04 PM
You can be the toughest SOB in the place but that wont help you much when life changing events happen that are beyond your control. I dont have firearms because I want to hurt somebody. I own firearms because I know that in a hearbeats time I can be that statistic on the frontpage. I will know what I will do when that moment comes. The mind is a funny thing, and medical science doesnt have all the answers yet. Taking a life has to be a life changing event even if you are legally and morally justified. Part of the preperation should be to learn about PTSD and related illneses. After all we arm ourselves with our firearms to defend ourselves, shouldn't we also arm our mind with knowledge to deal with PTSD or other stress that might occur after taking a human life? Makes sense to me. Some will say it could never happen to me..... it can happen to anyone.

March 19, 2006, 11:08 PM
QUOTE} Bingo! No one wants to admit they might need help because they might be perceived as weak. You know, the "big tough guy image" would be shattered but there is nothing wrong with asking for a little help. The worst thing one can do is isolate themselves after such a horrific experience as taking another's life.{ QUOTE.

Actually it was in some ways my reaction to the situation, denial, freeze-up, pissing my pants. I was questioning my manhood in light of some pre-conception of toughness. I was only 20 at the time and we all know how 20 year old boys are. I was getting in fights I guess to prove my manhood, even though, like most boys, I didn't know what it really was. SO I'd say that was 50% of the problem.
The other 50% was the sight of someone dying by my hand. Even though he fired on me first, I still felt very bad and still saw the event over and over in my mind like a TV store video. The thing is, rationalizing your actions is only a step toward placing the incident into its proper perspective.

March 19, 2006, 11:57 PM

Join Date: 11-12-2005
Location: ohio
Posts: 75

QUOTE} Bingo! No one wants to admit they might need help because they might be perceived as weak. You know, the "big tough guy image" would be shattered but there is nothing wrong with asking for a little help. The worst thing one can do is isolate themselves after such a horrific experience as taking another's life.{ QUOTE.

Actually it was in some ways my reaction to the situation, denial, freeze-up, pissing my pants. I was questioning my manhood in light of some pre-conception of toughness. I was only 20 at the time and we all know how 20 year old boys are. I was getting in fights I guess to prove my manhood, even though, like most boys, I didn't know what it really was. SO I'd say that was 50% of the problem.
The other 50% was the sight of someone dying by my hand. Even though he fired on me first, I still felt very bad and still saw the event over and over in my mind like a TV store video. The thing is, rationalizing your actions is only a step toward placing the incident into its proper perspective.
garryc is offline Report Bad Post

When I first heard of "PTSD" I blew it off as some kind of "feel-good"
psycho-babble B.S. When I read about a lot of Viet Nam vets having
it, I wrote them off as a lot of REMF crybabies looking for a handout
from the V.A.
When I got on the 'net', maybe 10 years ago, I eventually got around to
looking into this "PTSD" I had been reading about. It amazed me how
doctors who don't know me could read my mind, look into my soul.
I had a drastic change of attitude about this "PTSD" thing.
I haven't been to the V.A. about this, and I don't intend to go.
They have enough problems right now. Besides, the V.A. is a big
pain in the A** to deal with. Just realizing that I have a problem in a certain area has helped me to deal with it.
I guess it's like AA. The first step is realizing that there is a problem.

Semper Fi


March 20, 2006, 04:42 AM
As far as having a problem with it today, I don't. Its a point of growth. I'd say its one of the factors that make me a good corrections officer, attention to detail and not giving into the habit of going through mindless repetitive motion without paying attention.

I didn't elect to kill someone, that was his choice. He might as well have shot himself because he put the course of events in motion, I was mearly the reaction to his action.

March 20, 2006, 09:52 AM
The biggest, toughest Trooper I ever knew once had to kill an armed man as they were locked at contact distance in a lethal dance around each other, wrestling with their free arms as all the while both tried to bring their handguns into play. I recall that the Trooper related afterward that he repeatedly begged the soon to be DOA, "Mister, please don't make me kill you"!

Justifiable as this shooting obviously was, my Trooper suffered post-traumatic stress for months, and probably for years, with the results of his having to take another human's life. For some time, it looked like it might cause him to leave law enforcement for another line of work but he persisted and recently retired as a Lieutenant.

This particular Trooper was so physically rugged that he used to fight in Tough-Man contests (and win) and in training single-handedly TOSSED other SWAT team members through open windows where ordinarily two other guys would have to give them a boost.

The point is, despite the present state of the art critical incident debriefing techniques and counseling, etc., even the physically toughest individual can, and probably will, be troubled emotionally by being involved in a lethal confrontation.

Mas Ayoob
March 21, 2006, 06:33 PM

Thanks for starting one of the most important and thought-provoking threads in some time.

Glenn E. Meyer
March 22, 2006, 10:30 AM
Why, thanks - do you remember me from LFI-1 in Dallas. I had a broken left arm when I took the course!

If not, that's fine.

March 22, 2006, 11:50 AM
I'm reading a some posts that present a kind of: "I would be justified, he would have had it coming, and that's that" attitude.

While "knowing" or acknowledging that you have the capacity to kill someone is a major factor in your ability to respond to a life-threatening situation, it is a far cry from understanding what the psychological responses would be from both you and the people close to you AFTER taking someone's life. And the beauty of it all is that it could hit you the next day or it could hit you 5 years later. But the fact of the matter is that at some point in time you're going to think about it in the lonely hours you have to yourself in the middle of the night, and it's going to change you.

And the truth is, only people who have experienced it know how it's going to change them....it's not something you can predict or even prepare for. Everyone else is completely clueless.

IMHO, there are two distinct topics involved in a discussion like this:

How we will react (or think we'll react) to a life-threatening situation
How we will react to our reaction.

First, we all romanticize it, we all want to believe in the back of our minds that when the **** hits the fan we're all Clint Eastwood, Doc Holliday, or Dan Daly. The truth of the matter is that nobody truly knows how they're going to react until they're put in that situation...and experience tells me that some of you are going to be surprised by the way you react. It's easy to sit here and confidently state: "if I needed to I wouldn't hesitate"... but you know what? Some people are going to hesitate, and you never know who it's going to be.

Secondly, you have a split-second to react to a situation, especially one where you must protect yourself or a loved one. However, you have a lifetime to analyze that split-second...and this is where your carefully constructed perception of yourself is picked apart and examined and questioned.
Could you have made decisions earlier in the day that would have precluded the situation, could you have said something, could you have reacted differently.
It is only after things have a chance to sink in that you realize exactly how much danger you were in...and how much danger those close to you were in. It is only after things have a chance to sink in that you begin to question your training choices and priorities, or lack thereof. It is only after the reality of having ended someone's life sinks in and you are thanking God for the chance to hug your wife and kids again that you realize that - whether or not he/she deserved it - the person you killed was someone's son, daughter, husband, wife, friend, lover, father, mother. Whether or not the killing was justified, you will realize that there is another incomplete family in the world now...and you contributed to that. Legal justification and self-defense theory pale and dissapate for a moment while you digest those facts. Then they go away for a while after you remind yourself that you did what you had to do. But they'll come back...many times. The feelings will come back at the oddest times...watching tv, listening to the radio, washing dishes.
Personally, after coming back from Iraq it took about 9 months for me to start going through some of this. I find myself getting emotional about the dumbest stuff... songs on the radio, commercials with little kids, whatever...just dumb stuff that would have never have had this effect on me before.

The people we killed had it coming. They put themselves in a situation where there could only be one of us that walked away alive. They brought our violence upon themselves by threatening our lives. Our killings were justified. I have no regrets, no questions, no reservations. And I would do it again. I reacted honorably under fire, which is a question all of us have of ourselves until it is answered in absolute terms. But that's not where it stops. The fight is reactionary...no time to think. The thinking comes later.

And you know what? At the end of the day, the people we killed were fathers, husbands, sons, daughters, mothers, and wives. The people we killed had hopes, desires, loves, and hates. Their blood was red. The look in their eyes as some lay dying was unmistakeably and hauntingly familiar. I would do it again, without hesitation...but you don't go through something like that and not carry it with you, not have it change you...the universe won't allow it.

Those who have killed and say they feel no remorse, or say that they do not question themselves as they lay silent in the dark, or say that they are not thankful as they hug their children... those people are either lying to themselves or they are much harder men than I am.

Me? I don't talk to my family about it because they wouldn't understand. I don't want my kids to have to share that knowledge yet. My wife definitely wouldn't understand...so unfortunately I can't speak to how loved ones would react. I can only say that it changes you... and it's inevitable that it also changes all who witness it..each in their own way.

Capt. Charlie
March 22, 2006, 06:52 PM
I am really impressed with a lot of the replies here. This subject was discussed here about a year ago, with the result being a lot of chest thumping and testosterone flowing, and little serious insight. I'm really glad to see that this thread is presenting some serious, soul-searching thoughts.

Let's face it; in our culture, we're bombarded from the day the doc spanks our behinds with the idea that killing people is wrong. It's reinforced almost daily in our churches, schools, literature, media, and even our daily conversations, and although a lot of that conditioning is subtle, it has its effect.

Not pretending to be a psychologist here, but I believe the problem is that sometimes nasty little gremlin we call our subconscious. We really are of two minds, that usually co-exist peacefully, until our conscious minds try to override what our subconscious has been programmed with over the years. That's when the problems start.

You're faced with a kill-or-be-killed situation, and your conscious mind is screaming "shoot!". But if you haven't previously convinced your subconscious of the need and justification, it's going to be screaming back "No no no no don't shoot! It's wrong!" Result? Hesitation, or even complete freeze up.

Now I believe we can train the subconscious to override this previous programming through education, serious training, and of course, a lot of serious meditation over the matter before it happens, so that we can react to save our lives. That, in essence, is what the military strives to do in boot camp, and in advanced training.

However, the subconscious mind is a powerful entity, and the dregs of that life long conditioning will remain, whether you're actually aware of it, or not. When you choose to override that conditioning during a critical incident, your subconscious will later protest, and that can take the form of nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia, depression, and a whole host of other symptoms.

There is absolutely nothing "unmanly" about it. Freezing up when action is called for is the natural reaction to our two minds arguing. That can be overcome, as I said, by training, which is also a form of conditioning. Afterward, however, you can no more predict what sort of protest your subconscious is going to lodge, than you can predict the thoughts of another person on the same subject.

Given that NO one has total mastery over their subconscious minds, I think it's safe to say that a. You WILL have reactions to a critical incident, and b. you CANNOT predict what those reactions will be.