Guilt in the aftermath of killing in close combat, guilt as an endorsement of one‟s essential goodness?

  • M. Hulsman

Student thesis: Master's Thesis: Humanistic Studies


This thesis fills in gaps within research into the psychological and emotional consequences of combat by addressing the question ‘What is the role of guilt in coping with killing a military opponent at close range?’. The focus is on killing and guilt: psychological and psychosocial processes, communication and reflections on killing. The data is based on in-depth interviews with veterans in London who have killed in combat. Guilt has the function of guiding moral behaviour. The exercise of personal conscience, or feeling guilty about killing, could undermine the drive to kill and seriously threaten an entire military enterprise. However, by having some feelings of guilt, a modern soldier feels he is a responsible and conscientious person. This thesis is also a moral appeal to politicians, mental health workers and ordinary citizens alike to think about how we look at soldiers who fight and kill in wars that politicians - on our behalf - chose to start or to participate in. Society has a responsibility to help soldiers with the after effects of killing on our behalf. This thesis offers an insight into how soldiers construct their experience of killing an opponent and offers recommendations on how to help soldiers in coping with and managing these experiences, suggesting improvements to after care are needed.
Date of Award1 Jan 2011
Original languageAmerican English
SupervisorJ. H. M. Mooren (Supervisor) & W. van der Vaart (Supervisor)

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