The combat transaction

I have been working for sometime with a man who served in the US military as a marine. He served time in Iraq where he was in a tank. There were times when he shot people and in some cases they were close enough that he could see them. So he saw some of the people whom he shot and some of them would have died. He was in his mid 20s, quite social and goes to parties as people of that age do. When people at these parties find out he has been in Iraq they often ask him questions as it is interesting thing he has done. He reports that sometimes he is asked if he has shot and killed anyone. Not an unexpected question one could say.

He reports he finds that question highly offensive. He states it’s like being asked if you have fucked your sister. That is an interesting metaphor he has spontaneously produced – “fucked your sister”. In terms of communication one can see two parts. It communicates a sense of intimacy – sex – and at the same time communicates repugnance, the incest taboo.


Maybe he has successfully defined the nature of that relationship. In a war when two people are attempting to kill each other. What are the qualities of that relationship. You could say it is an intimate one. It certainly is not a normal everyday relationship but a very intense one. Both parties have strong feelings about the other and you know you are attempting to influence this person’s life in a very significant way either by killing him or wounding him. You probably hate him and you knows the other guy probably hates you back . Hate as we know is an intimate emotion, just like love but the other side of the coin. And you also know that person you are trying to kill has a mother, father, siblings and maybe even a wife and children. And your actions are also going to significantly effect all those people as well. And you know he feels and thinks the same way about you. Is that the basis for an intimate relationship or at least an intimate set of transactions?. One could diagram it as a duplex transaction.

Combat transaction Jpeg

If one accepts that the communication between them has a quality of intimacy then clearly it is a negative kind of intimacy. The combatant knows that killing another person is a repugnant thing to do. Because you end his life and effect all his family probably for many years. Maybe my young ex marine client has unconsciously understood the finer aspects of the relationship he has with those individuals who are the enemy and communicated that to me metaphorically. I must remember to thank him for that insight.

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