Conditioned Emotional Response

Date01 May 2022
Published date01 May 2022
AuthorShon Pernice
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2022, Vol. 38(2) 176 –178
© The Author(s) 2022
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/10439862221096720
Conditioned Emotional
By Shon Pernice
Have you ever done something foolish and asked yourself, “Why did I do that?” It is
usually something small or just a minor lapse in character. But how about something
so repulsive, that you are too ashamed to admit it? You say to yourself, “What the heck
is wrong with me?” It makes you so disgusted with yourself and it gets buried deep
down as you try to hide it. That event silently re-emerges; it affects your life adversely
until you play the role of detective, psychologist, and social worker until you can
attempt to identify your error in thinking. I am that person. I did something horrible.
January 2, 2009
When I went back down the stairs, to see what I had done, my wife’s body lay motion-
less on the floor. I had previously pushed, hit, or shoved her in an explosive rage. As a
combat medic, I check for signs of life: absent. The common reaction would be to call
911. That is what our society is conditioned to do. I did not. My next course of action
has haunted me for the past ten years. Not because I write this from a prison cell, but
because my response to the situation repulses me. I hurt a lot of people.
After confirming my wife’s death, a light goes out. I am detached without any feel-
ings. She is no longer my wife of ten years, mother of our three children, but an object.
I place her body into a big, black duffle bag. Later that night, I placed her body into a
garbage dumpster and drive away. No emotions. How could a person, a father, or a
husband do this to someone they are supposed to love?
Operation Iraqi Freedom 2007-2008
[ed: Mr. Pernice served as a medic in the US Army
As a combat medic, emotional detachment is paramount to your sanity, and the sur-
vival of others. With traumatic injuries, you have to maintain your composure in the
worst situations. If a severely injured casualty sees you scared, alarmed, or grossed out
by their wounds, they will lose hope and die. Sometimes you need their will to fight in
order to get them to the next level of care alive. You adapt to being emotionally numb
all of the time. That same tourniquet that I placed on the soldiers leg to stop the blood
1096720CCJXXX10.1177/10439862221096720Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticePernice

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