Civil war is often conceived as a sequence of stages: onset, course, termination, and aftermath. Countless studies have examined correlations among numerous independent variables and variation in the nature of these stages. For instance, how does the level of GDP align with onset? How does length of the war relate to termination?

These variables fail to capture one of the essential aspects of civil war: is intrinsic violence. Human beings are programmed to respond to violence with emotions. Killing creates fear, desecration produces anger, destruction may generate despair. On the positive side, resistance to invasion or victory on the battlefield may generate hope and pride. These emotions can be treated as mechanisms within the process of civil war. They are mechanisms that shape belief-formation, distort information gathering, structure preference formation, and affect identity formation within the course of civil war. Once experienced, these emotions remain as a residue of the experience of violence that affects chances for termination and post-war reconciliation.