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November 12, 2018 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Hard Knocks

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Urge to cause harm to others


I have a beautiful mother. My dad is very short-tempered and isn't to be messed with. At the age of five I bit a large gash out of another child's face over a disagreement in a game and ever since then I've had a rough time in school. I was always fighting or trying to be the big man.

My problem is that I keep having visions of me in jail because I smashed two people who I don't get along with in the head, sometimes with a hammer and sometimes a golf club. Other times I carve my name in his face with a knife. I also keep having visions of ambushing an associate of mine, even after putting the problem behind us. He was my friend but in a drunken argument he hit me with a bottle last year. I visualize killing his family and him in horrendous ways. The worst part is I am 99.9% sure that if I get the chance to carry out the first vision on the two brothers I mentioned I will do so. I feel like beating anyone who crosses me with a weapon, and I am getting closer to really doing it. I haven't had a proper fight in 10 months now but the last time I did I bite the guy's eyebrow off and I take great pleasure thinking about doing worse things. Please help

Reg, 15-year-old male


Hi Reg,

An important question is: Why are you asking for help?

If you were happy about hurting people, you'd just do it. Instead, you want to learn something that will stop you from acting violently.

Inside, you no doubt feel like a monster. If you were, you would not ask me what to do about these imaginings.

It's not just fear of going to jail, is it? I think there is more to it. You would like to be able to look in a mirror and like the person you are looking at.

This is possible. You can do it.

To achieve this, we need to understand where your violence comes from. You have described two sources:

1. Your dad "isn't to be messed with." This to me says that when he doesn't like something, he uses violence. Modeling on him, from an early age you learned to do the same. And it's true: violence can often get you what you want, but as you now know, there is a high cost. So, ask yourself: "Do I want to be like dad and be known for my violent behaviour, or do I want to be respected for being strong and gentle?"

2. By 5 years of age, you already followed dad's pattern. Some other little kid annoyed you, so you hurt him badly by biting him. Although you must have been punished for this, the event also had many rewards. You felt powerful, other kids were scared of you and so you could get your way, and so on.

This is why you became a rough kid who has bashed people, been in fights, got drunk with friends. But you haven't done anything bad to anyone for 10 months. I am sure there were opportunities, but at last you are gaining wisdom. You can see, feel in your gut, that you are on a bad path that may take you to jail, and worse, into constant feelings of being worthless and bad. Well done.

Your main distress is because of the imaginings of doing terrible things to people who you dislike. You are really afraid that you may do something like that if you get the opportunity, and you don't want to. Reg, you are not what you think or feel, but what you do. If from now on, you are determined to stay peaceful and not harm people, then you have stopped being violent, even if the imaginings continue. It is OK to imagine smashing someone's head in. It is not OK to do it.

The reason these imaginings have been getting worse and worse is that you have been trying to make them go away. Even though you enjoy them, they also horrify you. Wanting to have a thought go away gives it energy. Instead, when one of these imaginings come, say to yourself: "I am watching a horror movie." This movie is not on TV, it's inside, but it's only a movie: a story someone made up.

It is not a command for you to do something. It is only an inside movie. You don't have an off switch, so it plays out, but a movie cannot do anyone any harm, can it? As long as you do what you have done for 10 months and avoid harming people, you can have inside movies. Nothing wrong with that. And you know what? Once you stop fighting having those movies, they are likely to fade away over time. This is because you have stopped wanting them to go away.

Try this for a while and see what happens. And if you read this, please send me an email to bob@bobswriting.com


This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.

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