Breaking Cyclical Violent Thoughts

The Problem

Twenty years ago, while sitting in junior-high & high school, I brain-murdered a lot of people. Recurring, violent daydreams were a big problem for me.

Ten years ago, I started rebuilding my brain through therapy.

Five years ago was the last time I saw a therapist. The two main reasons: I’ve learned much about coping skills, and, I’ve been lucky.

One year ago I started blogging about my experiences.

Last week, I had one of these daydreams.

I’m going to examine it with you today. It’s not a horror novel, but, skip this post today if you’re not comfortable with violence in any way.

The Daydream

The other day I was driving through a sad part of town. Vacant business spaces lining the streets were dotted by pawn shops, liquor stores, discount stores, and check cashing places in between.

At a red light, I gazed at a pharmacy and thought to myself, that place must get robbed for drugs often.

How I would rob such a place if I needed to? Could I do it simply by talking to the attendant, without a weapon?

I don’t own a gun, but I do have a hunting knife. I could walk in to the pharmacy and wait on line politely, keeping the knife tucked in the front pocket of my sweatshirt.

[ I’m a nice looking, young white guy. I’m clean shaven and I dress conservatively. I don’t normally arouse suspicion from other people, especially if throw a simple nod or smile in the appropriate way. Blending in was always a ‘tactical advantage’ for me. Back to the daydream … ]

I could walk in, get on line, wait my turn, and walk up to the prescription drop-off area. There is a small partition which you can lean into and speak quietly to the employee. I would greet them with a smile, lock eye contact, and say very plainly:

“You’ve got exactly one-hundred and twenty seconds to take a regular prescription bag and fill it up with as much Xanax as you have near this counter. Do it quietly, and nobody gets hurt. You can call the cops as soon as I leave.

If you are not back with my bag in two minutes, I will turn around, slash that innocent woman standing behind me in the neck, and run out of here before the police arrive. That won’t be your fault … but it is your choice to prevent it from happening. Do not underestimate the condition I am in. Do not take one second more than two minutes. Go. Now.”

I ran through a few ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ style endings. In one of them, the clerk did not do as they were told. That one did not end prettily.

The Significance

At this point, I broke from the fantasy, and wondered if a relapse had occurred. Could writing about depression be stirring up old thought patterns?

Violent scenarios like these preoccupied my mind for the better part of ten years. They were a big part of my inward spiral into depression. I haven’t had these types of daydreams since … I can’t really remember.

I have never taken Xanax before, and I have never hurt another human being. I’ve never even punched someone. Perhaps the Xanax popped in there because it’s in a book I’m reading.

I asked myself again; Have I had any violent daydreams over the last few years? I must have had a few, right? Perhaps I just dismissed them and moved on.

I certainly have not had them at any sort of recurring, problematic level. These scenarios are not occurring daily. If they do, I know to go and see a therapist right away.

A CBT Approach

The steps which led to the above daydream remind me of a cognitive progression my brain used to take repeatedly when I was depressed.

Small feeling of sadness > Image of violence > Immerse myself into violent scenario > Shit gets really bloody inside my head.

As of this writing, five days have passed since the above daydream, and no more have occurred. Twenty years ago, the progression looked like this:

Small feeling of sadness > Image of violence > Immerse myself into violent scenario > Shit gets really bloody inside my head > Start to feel isolated, anxious, & sad about violent daydreams > More sadness > More images of violence > Start to believe I am this way and never going to change > Repeat over & over again …

This is how one starts to feel helpless and hopeless. Things happen repeatedly, and rather than seek help or try to change them, we succumb to them.

In my case, it’s thoughts. But for someone else, it might be a real thing, such as domestic abuse. It’s easy for me to say, ‘Just leave him!’ … but it’s not so easy for the victim to do.

In this case, basically what I did was tell myself immediately that:

  • This was one, isolated daydream.
  • It is a part of me, perhaps, but it is not who I am.
  • Other people have thoughts like these; I am not alone in them.
  • It’s over.
  • If it happens again, I know what to do. I can get help.

At that point, the daydream was effectively dead. I waiting a few days to make sure no more popped up before I wrote about it for you.

My Answer

CBT techniques are excellent at stopping problems before they start. They are not meant to snap anyone out of an already full-blown depression. For that, medication and other forms of therapy must be combined.

But, CBT works for me the way a sword would against Medusa. Every time a dragon’s head rears itself, I can quickly chop it off.

I do spend time purposefully sending myself back to darker days, trying to remember things, to draw on those feelings, so that I can express them to you.

Writing about depression may carry some risk for a person like me with a history of depression. I am not anxious about it. I feel that, with ten years of recovery under my belt, I am strong enough to do this.

This daydream, I didn’t conjure up on purpose. It happened. I want to write about it for you. This is simply an example of how my brain works. That is the mission of this blog, after all.

6 thoughts

    1. It’s definitely not just you & I, although, I thought it was too.
      These really plagued me badly for a long time; about 10 years.
      There are many factors that go into depression, but, the thought that one cannot possibly share it with anyone else – for me, that was a nearly fatal error.
      I’ve been reading your blog every day. It’s one of my favorites. Thank you for stopping by.

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