Mindset Discussion - Coping with Killing

Last week I asked a question in the hub Facebook group (formerly known as Novice) about how one would psychologically cope with killing an assailant in self-defense. I thought the thread was important enough that it should be backed up onto the forum; I also thought it would fit in the Mind & Body subform since there are some mindset discussions here, and this question is essentially a mindset question. I always appreciate further discussion on this topic.

Scott Phillips
August 11 at 8:38pm
How does one psychologically cope with killing* an attacker in a civilian self-defense shooting**, in the days after that shooting? I've been thinking about this question in recent days, partially because of all the chest-thumping I see online. You know the type; guys say in comments of articles about defensive shootings, "Yeah, if some guy breaks in I'm going to blow him away and sleep like a baby!" I doubt that would happen in an actual shooting; I think there would be at least some self-doubt, even if the shooting was completely justified. But being that this is a group filled with experts on this sort of thing, what are your thoughts?

*Yes, I am aware that the goal of any civilian self-defense shooting is to stop the threat, not necessarily kill it. However, we must realize that if we shoot a threat, we are using lethal force and that the threat could be killed.
**For the purposes of this discussion, I am assuming that this shooting is completely 100% justified. Obviously, there is going to be serious guilt if the target was not ID'd as a threat and turned out to be an innocent; that scenario isn't what I'm talking about.


Lee Gullett Drew Yersin what modcast did Roland talk about this in?
Like · Reply · August 11 at 8:39pm

Scott Phillips There's a modcast about it? Sweet.
Like · Reply · August 11 at 8:39pm

Lee Gullett not fully dedicated to this but Roland talked about it.
Unlike · Reply · 3 · August 11 at 8:39pm

Chris Reed We might want to dedicate a modcast to this topic.
Unlike · Reply · 8 · August 11 at 8:41pm

Drew Yersin Are you looking for something beyond the Dark Truth?
Like · Reply · 2 · August 11 at 8:56pm

Scott Phillips Drew Yersin Yeah. Dark Truth talked about coping during the fight. My question was more about coping in the days after the shooting.
Like · Reply · 1 · August 11 at 8:57pm

Drew Yersin Let me get to a computer in a bit
Like · Reply · 1 · August 11 at 8:59pm

Jonathan Halek .
Like · Reply · August 11 at 9:51pm

Scott Phillips I've been watching a few of the modcasts to try to find what Roland said about it. I've found plenty of good info about mindset, but not necessarily the answer to my question.
Like · Reply · August 11 at 9:55pm

Drew Yersin I can't recall which one specifically and I don't have it in my lists. Sorry.
Like · Reply · 1 · August 11 at 9:56pm

Scott Phillips That's fine. I'm sure I'll find it, or a new modcast talking about the subject will come up.
Like · Reply · 1 · August 11 at 10:02pm

Stephen Whitfield Well there was a guy local to me who dropped someone after a break in. He was surprisingly candid and honest. From losing sleep and friends all the way down to feeling guilty and second guessing and this was after he was cleared. I don't concern myself with what the "chest thumpers" say. You can't really know unless you've been through it (I haven't) so.
Unlike · Reply · 19 · August 11 at 8:45pm

Jay Becraft I hope I never have to find out, but I'd think some therapy would be in order.
Unlike · Reply · 5 · August 11 at 8:45pm

MattandAshley Hughes I think really depends on the person and what their life experience has been up to that point.
Like · Reply · 12 · August 11 at 8:47pm

Justin Waalkes There would most assuredly be some semblance of a grieving process for all but a sociopath...whether it would be a full-blown "DABDA" type process or an abbreviated version I believe would depend upon the individual. You, as the shooter, justified or not, have taken everything someone was, is or ever will be and snuffed it out completely...I believe that most anyone with a moral compass, compassion or even human "type" feelings would feel some sort of remorse over such a personal event..
Unlike · Reply · 6 · August 11 at 8:55pm · Edited

Chuck Vlasek Honestly everyone handles it differently and the situation can compound your reaction. I have seen individuals that completely broke down both physically and mentally and I have seen individuals that have pushed through it as if they were eating a sandwich. With time and quantity it seems to get much easier. These instances were all in the military but taking someones life in self defense for the first time doesn't differ to me between military, civilian, or LE. All self defense shootings that involve taking someones life because of self preservation or saving the life of a loved one have the same end goal. Your life over someone elses.
Unlike · Reply · 8 · August 11 at 8:57pm

(Dave Grossman sidetrack incoming. I used the spoiler tag here as it didn't contribute to the conversation much, but if you care to read it you can click the spoiler tag to reveal the side thread.)
Josh Johns On killing and on combat by Dave grossman are great reads if your really interested
Like · Reply · 11 · August 11 at 8:58pm

Scott Phillips Those books interested me, but I hear P&S doesn't really endorse Grossman; I don't know why.
Like · Reply · 1 · August 11 at 8:59pm

Josh Sigmon Scott, I just tagged you in a post regarding Grossman
Unlike · Reply · 1 · August 11 at 9:04pm · Edited

Scott Phillips Josh Sigmon Thanks; it was a good read.
Like · Reply · August 11 at 9:10pm

Joshua Bump Tag me in that as well please.
Like · Reply · August 11 at 9:12pm · Edited

Josh Johns http://taskandpurpose.com/this-is-your-brain-on-war/...
Like · Reply · 1 · August 11 at 9:21pm

Josh Johns Not sure if that's the one ur talking about but it's also a goodnine
Like · Reply · 1 · August 11 at 9:22pm

Ty Young Link to the controversy re: Grossman? I'm in the middle of reading On Killing currently.
Like · Reply · August 11 at 10:02pm

Scott Phillips https://www.facebook.com/groups/PSPrimarySecondary/permalink/1109086095804556/
Like · Reply · Remove Preview · 3 · August 11 at 10:03pm

Bran Turner Must be a new thread. Lol. Last P&S one I remember reading about him was from like a year/1.5yrs ago
Like · Reply · August 11 at 10:58pm

Scott Phillips Bran Turner Yeah, that was in the Professional/Duty group, but it got deleted. I don't know why, I wasn't around for that discussion.
Like · Reply · August 11 at 11:04pm

Craig Malzacher Having a background in spiritual direction, and having provided it over the past eight years, I am very familiar with the gestalt method of psycho-therapy as an effective method of fostering healing. So when, in spiritual direction, the person with whom I am working reveals what I think may be a core-wound causing traumatic event, I refer them to a psychotherapist that I know uses this method. So many people forget that when it comes to healing, they don't have to go it alone. There are very good therapists and very good methods out there for real healing rather than merely "coping".
Like · Reply · 2 · August 11 at 9:36pm

Jon Cross How someone deals with it depends too much on the individual to really speak about intelligently, but there are a few things worth considering that may or may not be important depending on what happened, how, and to whom.

You did the right thing. You did the only right thing, the thing you've trained for, the thing you probably didn't want to do. You made a choice that saved your life and probably others.

This wasn't your choice. You're not the asshole here, and this didn't happen because of you. This dude dealt you a shit hand and you played your cards and won- that it didn't work for the other guy is his fault and not your damn problem.

You won. Whatever you've been doing is working, you recognized a problem, identified a threat, applied the needed force to end the threat and you won the fight. There are always things you can do better or differently, but there's no need to what if the thing to death. Drive on, amend training as needed, learn and live your life.

Those 3 issues (self doubt, guilt over circumstances, and second guessing/what if' G) are three common responses worth preparing yourself for. You know you better than we do, you've probably got a good idea if any of that applies. Start working through some of the mental side of things now if you need to. It's a hell of a lot easier to square things away psychologically beforehand vs trying to wrap your head around everything all at once in the aftermath.
Unlike · Reply · 13 · August 11 at 11:22pm

Jas Lyons Grossman is solid reading for someone outside looking in and in preparation of taking on the role.
Like any high stress high adrenaline task visualization and contemplation before hand will help.
Learn to focus yourself and drive towards a purpose don't wallow after.
If the motor is running and the rudder works the ship is not lost.
Most of the serious shit is only glamorous to people that don't have to do it. The smells, the textures, the sounds, the environmental discomforts, post event fatigue are things people don't see coming.

Afterwards others that have been there will be the biggest comfort. For me initially just being around my team is important. I find myself reluctant to leave. Isolation bugs me. That first sleep cycle is a bitch.

I'm nobody important but this is my take.

PS. Don't read the news article about it. Stay away from social media till it blows over. You do not want to get caught up in what the general pop or interwebs thinks about your event while you are still sifting through your own internal shit.
Unlike · Reply · 5 · August 12 at 12:00am · Edited

Chase McClure Like others have said in this thread, how someone reacts really does differ between people.

On the military side I saw few guys break down after gunfights. On the flip side I saw plenty of guys riding that adrenaline high and were laughing. Even yearslater they don't really sulk about it. This is probably because from day 1 in Infantry basic at Benning the Drill Sergeants are beating into your head that you need to kill the enemy. I think the "mental training" really does work.

On the LE side I've seen people shoot people in self defense and be perfectly fine afterwards. I've also seen people that completely broke down. I could find no common factors to link the various people to their reactions.
Unlike · Reply · 3 · August 12 at 4:30am

Nigel Benson I lost quite a bit of sleep after the only time I had to fight for my life, but I was 20 years old and didn't know my ass from a hole in the ground, but I still think about it at random times, occasionally have dreams when I get really stressed. But I never felt like I really broke down, but I did have situational anxiety of parking lots for several years.
Like · Reply · 3 · August 12 at 8:39pm

William Larson I'll throw my Dos Centavos out from a different POV. In 1997 while working as a bail bondsman, I was shot by a former Marine who was a violent alcoholic. After I was able to escape the residence, I called 911 which ultimately resulted in him firing at a deputy and then being killed seconds later by LE. I never sought counseling and I know that there are probably some residual issues from the trauma aspect. Two weeks later I was involved in another scenario in which the person I was after blew his head off with a Glock 23.

Though, I didn't pull the trigger per se, the PTSD effects are there. Everyone copes in a different way. I had little sympathy for idiot #1.

The other shooting I was involved in later in 2007 didn't really affect me at all. It was what it was and I don't think about it at all.
Like · Reply · 3 · August 13 at 12:08am