I'm not Charles Bronson. Or am I?
April 29, 2011 12:04 PM   Subscribe

How do I silence the vengeful voice inside myself?

Two days ago, I came home from work to see that my door had been kicked in and I had been relieved of most of my valuables. They took my computers (laptop and desktop), my tv, apple tv, external hard drive, 6 guns, some antique jewelry items, some clothes, and assorted other things. On the computers and drive I had the last 4 years of written work...thousands of pages, plus financial info and other personal data. In a particularly Lebowskian twist, it seems that they also urinated on my laundry hamper.

In addition to the general sense of violation being no-fun, I am a poor student in the midst of exams. I also have figured out that my home owners insurance does not seem to cover theft.ugh.

In a mood dictated by fear and anger, I immediately purchased a new shotgun, and have taken to cradling it when at home. I'm honestly finding myself wanting to kill someone. This has happened before; 4 years ago, while a renter in a different home, I was the victim of a home invasion. Even then, I just brushed it off and got on with life, but this time I'm finding myself unable to do that. I feel like this won't be right until someone pays physically.

I DID just watch Death Wish last weekend, so that *might* be to blame for my murderous feelings of rage.

Aside from a rampage, does anyone have any ideas for helping me calm down?
posted by broadway bill to Human Relations (40 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Well... would better insurance have cost more or less than that shotgun?

Keep your personal documents in a safe-deposit box (or scanned, stored encrypted and backed up offsite, with paper copies destroyed). And get better insurance.

That way you lose only replaceable stuff, without such a lost-privacy component.

My home has been robbed... four times in my life. It sucks, yes. And it takes six months or so before you relax again. So use the time to be practical in ways like the above: prepare yourself to cope with an inevitable future robbery instead of stewing about the last one or obsessing about preventing another.
posted by rokusan at 12:09 PM on April 29, 2011

Best answer: Number one priority: recognize that it's not safe for you to own a firearm until you know with 100% certainty that you're not a threat to other people. Return/get rid of that shotgun.
posted by hermitosis at 12:09 PM on April 29, 2011 [17 favorites]

I empathize with your loss and current feelings of anger, but Bill, you're a poor student cradling a brand new shotgun and if you keep that up, some innocent is going to pay for what just appear to be some temporary physical possessions.

Find something simple, time-consuming and exhausting on which to spend your time. Like long walks listening to soothing music.
posted by jsavimbi at 12:10 PM on April 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Rokusan: of course, those are excellent suggestions for minimizing the losses of future incidents. They do not, however, address the question.

Hermitosis: I'm only a threat to anyone who tries to enter my home uninvited. I'm not actually going to hunt the most challenging game of all. I appreciate the thought though!
posted by broadway bill at 12:14 PM on April 29, 2011

Best answer: I'm only a threat to anyone who tries to enter my home uninvited.

My dad almost blew my head off once because I showed up at his house and walked in through the front door without knocking. Things happen, especially when you're jittery or suffering from PTSD.
posted by hermitosis at 12:19 PM on April 29, 2011 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Put down the gun and try some "fall-on-the-ground-in-exhaustion" physical exertion. That should work out some of your rage.
posted by murrey at 12:19 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: ACN09: excellent point. I've been trying to hold onto that thought. I also know quite a bit about crime, and it's causes, and am doing my best to keep it from feeling personal. It just isn't working yet.
posted by broadway bill at 12:20 PM on April 29, 2011

Best answer: Sitting at home cradling a shotgun is no way for a healthy person to go through life. I think this has crossed the line to needing some professional assistance, just to talk through the perfectly justifiable post-traumatic feelings you're having. Doing that now is much more productive than waiting six months or a year with feelings you can't control and continue to intensify.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:22 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

You might want to check out laws in your area. I've heard of homeowners injuring burglars and then being sued for damages.
posted by TooFewShoes at 12:22 PM on April 29, 2011

Response by poster: *sorry, its, not "it's"
posted by broadway bill at 12:22 PM on April 29, 2011

would it be worthwhile to involve the authorities? DNA testing on the urine sample might provide a suspect, which might lead to recovery of your stuff.
posted by indigo4963 at 12:22 PM on April 29, 2011

Figure out if you can convince yourself that vigilante justice does not equal justice (because it doesn't). For example, watch the movie Mystic River. Until then, I'd suggest not owning a firearm when you are tagging AskMeFi posts with "rage", "anger", and "violence", and saying that you feel like killing "someone". I mean, jebus.
posted by mcstayinskool at 12:24 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

as for calming down, doing something physical tolling might be worthwhile. Going out for an exhausting run or hike or something. Maybe a punching bag at the gym. Just to get some of that adrenaline out of you.
posted by indigo4963 at 12:25 PM on April 29, 2011

Best answer: From my experience, the best way to address the feeling of raging vengeance is to embrace it in a way that gives me reassurance (whether true or false) that the perpetrator will be caught without putting anyone in actual danger.

In this regard, how about setting up a cheap security camera system at your place or some sort of tracker on some of your most valuable belongings? The purpose of this is not to necessarily catch whoever burgled your home but rather to give yourself the mindset that if anyone tries that shit again, they'll definitely be caught red-handed, at which point you can imagine all the things you'll do to them. Then you can relish in the fantasy of catching anyone who dares rob you, and after a period of time, the extreme feelings of vengeance will diminish.

This is one circumstance in which I feel fantasy can help cope with your real world issues.
posted by qxrt at 12:25 PM on April 29, 2011

I'm honestly finding myself wanting to kill someone.

Do you really mean "someone" or just "the specific person who broke in"?

The former strikes me as pretty dangerous. The latter, while I'm against capital punishment, seems like an understandable reasonable reaction after something like this. Be clear to yourself which one you mean.

Also, seconding murrey's suggestion to channel your energy into something more worthwhile; maybe a long run or something.
posted by losvedir at 12:26 PM on April 29, 2011

Best answer: This may be a long shot but can you get out of the place for a while and take a walk? Sometimes when I feel like everyone is the enemy I walk around a crowded place and observe how non-threatening the situation is. It helps me to see that most people are normal, not trying to get me and generally disinterested in my life. I try to hold eye-contact for a beat and smile, and I usually get a smile in return which gives me a small but immediate lift in mood. I'm so sorry this happened to you. You're dealing with it better than I would be.
posted by Cheminatrix at 12:28 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: oh, no, I don't harbor any anger towards anyone other than the person who did this. Sorry that that was unclear!

QXRT: GREAT idea! I can feel that approach helping already. I'm also fond of the idea of physical exhaustion to mollify my anger.
posted by broadway bill at 12:32 PM on April 29, 2011

I believe you should take the necessary precautions to prevent something like this happening in the future. These positive actions will help you to think positively. Then get out of your house for awhile and study. My condo was robbed three years ago and all I wanted is revenge. Anger and negative feeling only feed the fire of rage. Make the decision to move on and don;t look back, keep busy. Sounds like there are some things to be done besides sitting around your house with a shot gun. You don't have anything to look after. I mean, they took all your shit man. While you are in your right to shoot someone (in most states) if they enter your home... is it worth ending someone's life or seriously injuring someone?
posted by bravowhiskey at 12:36 PM on April 29, 2011

To calm down, try watching Death Wish III and IV to see that the logical consequence of the Paul Kersey character is to become a Cannon Films joke.
posted by Victorvacendak at 12:52 PM on April 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

That super seriously sucks, and I'm sorry about what happened to you. Please listen to the folks above who say bring the shotgun back. What if you actually killed the person(s) who did this? You'd go to jail for a long time and they'd own more of your life than they do right now. TONS more.

As for what to do, I have never personally been as violated as you were, but for all manner of slights, whether large or small, I do try to imagine what would drive someone to do such a horrible thing. Sorry to bring out the hackneyed Plato, but "everyone is fighting a hard battle."

Maybe this guy's been on unemployment for five years and his thirteen-year-old daughter is pregnant. Maybe he was raised in abusive foster homes, never had the opportunity to train for a skill or get a decent education, never had the ability to buy a computer or nice clothes or other "things" that you will be able to replace. (No clue about the urinating, maybe the guy was just mentally ill, living on the fringes with no health care and no hope). This doesn't excuse what this person did, but it may help you re-evaluate things and be thankful you or your family or friends weren't there to be injured or even killed.

Or maybe this kind of thing isn't helpful at all and you think I'm a big jerk! But it may be helpful a few weeks down the road when you realize that despite this violation you will be able to get on with your life. Talk to your teachers, and you may be surprised at the ways they will try to help you, at least with the school stuff.

Your writing is probably the most painful thing to lose, and I am terribly sorry about that. But write more. Write about how you feel. Write a story about the robber where he ends up being mauled by bears. Then have something nice for dinner. With friends. Friends are good.
posted by Glinn at 12:54 PM on April 29, 2011

Best answer: I actually find that channelling that rage and pissed-off-ness into legal roads is helpful. You can't beat up the fuckers who robbed you -- but you can work with the police to investigate this so the asshole gets put in jail, god damn him. Or channel it into more productive things -- like "damn those assholes, lemme get this lock and see if they can bust that down, huh?" Or "Hah, lemme get this security system, let's see those assholes try to bust this down, huh?"

The anger is okay -- and hell, it seems justifiable -- but it is how you channel that anger that perhaps could be adjusted. Try to think of a legal way to a) catch the perpetrators (like, working closely with the detective assigned to your case -- you've got one, right?) or b) protect yourself (like getting your landlord to boost your security in your house, or if you own your house, trying to do it yourself), and use your anger to give you the energy to pursue those things. Make calling the detective or installing the baddest-ass double-bolted door lock the "take THAT, you fuckers" gesture you want to give them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:54 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

First of all, give yourself permission to acknowledge that your feelings of vengeance are a perfectly normal emotional reaction to what's happened to you. Righteous anger can be productive, but only if you use it in a healthy way.

Don't act on your feelings in a way that puts you or others in danger. Instead, channel your mental energy into something that can make you feel empowered without being emotionally or physically destructive. Are there wrongs that you can right, even if they're more abstract and unrelated to your situation?

Write an angry letter to the editor about an issue that concerns you, or to a company that makes a shitty product (aim for "assertive anger" rather than "crazy anger"). Or, in a different direction, if you're able, donate your time or money to an organzation that helps other people who have been victimized, or marginalized.

Or simply counteract the bad thing that's happened by putting lots of good karma out in the world. Give random compliments to service workers, stick up for someone who's being insulted or mistreated. Spend your day giving a metaphorically slap in the face to the people who hurt you.
posted by amyms at 1:00 PM on April 29, 2011

Do you have anything like Victim Support in your area? After you make a police report where I live, you get contact details for that kind of thing.

May I also respectfully suggest that you not watch any violent or vengeful movies until you feel better? They're not really helping you.
posted by tel3path at 1:02 PM on April 29, 2011

Oh, and man, I sympathize. I also suffered a breakin back in December, and like you, they also took my laptop -- and like you, I also lost a shit-ton of writing I'd done (ten years' worth).

But that's also actually another place you can channel the anger - into tracking down friends and family you may have emailed old drafts of stuff to and asking, "do you still have that thing I sent you to read and tell me what you thought a few months back? Can you send me back a copy?"

I know that's where I put a lot of my anger -- every time another friend said, "oh, hey, yeah, I found it, here it is," it felt like a "nyeah, you didn't take it away from me after all, sucka!" burn on the thieves.

(Although - another thing I did was sign up for a cheap online file backup service, so I don't have to go through THAT again. Memail me if you want a recommendation.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:03 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Empress: no detective yet. And, in all likelihood, there will not be a serious effort made to investigate this incident. Sucks, but that's the reality. Great suggestions though!
posted by broadway bill at 1:04 PM on April 29, 2011

no detective yet. And, in all likelihood, there will not be a serious effort made to investigate this incident.

Then that is where you can channel that energy -- into getting a detective and riding his ass and making sure there is a serious effort into investigating this. Mind you, this is not to say that they will be able to find much anyway. But I have a feeling that this will help your vengeant spirit burn itself out safely, at the very least.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:06 PM on April 29, 2011

First, unload the weapon and store it somewhere away from everything.

Most likely, your issues surrounding the examinations are something you wish to avoid. The anger at this incident and the prior one are such that they are providing an easy distraction.

Study at a coffee shop so that these distractions do not stop you from working on your examination. Avoid distracting things like the TV and the internet until exams are over.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:21 PM on April 29, 2011

I also have figured out that my home owners insurance does not seem to cover theft.ugh.

Figured out or been told that you are not covered? Home policies can be complicated. Some agents can be quite helpful in helping you get full coverage or in reading what's hidden between the lines.

I think one of the aggravating circumstances is that in many cases the police don't care and will not investigate unless pushed. I had all my stuff stolen from my car while moving and could not get any help from the police. Call your local elected official, alderman, selectperson, or whatever and demand some help from the police. As a homeowner you pay taxes for this.

Lastly, whenever the anger or feelings of victimhood build, see if you can recognize its presence. take 3 breaths and let it go on the third breath. Sounds hokey but this works for me. Try it.
posted by Xurando at 1:23 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Maybe it would help if you think about what would have happened if you had already owned the shotgun, and been at home, when this person broke in. Here's one possibility: you might have killed that person. Now, I know that sounds satisfying to you in the abstract right now. But really think about what that would be like. Think about how a shotgun works, and what it would do to a person. Now, which do you think would be worse, having your stuff stolen or having to go through the rest of your life knowing you killed someone? Your murderous rage is understandable, but I have a feeling that, if you really think about it, you'll pick the sequence of events that actually happened over a sequence events in which you get to fulfill that rage.
posted by Ragged Richard at 1:38 PM on April 29, 2011

no detective yet. And, in all likelihood, there will not be a serious effort made to investigate this incident.

You don't have to wait around for the police to contact you. Especially since guns were stolen (you didn't have them locked in a gun safe?). Call the detective, and then call again. Call your local city/county rep's office. Be the squeaky wheel. I'm really sorry this happened to you. It's shitty.
posted by rtha at 1:43 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also -- sorry if that came off as flip above -- one thing that has helped me is a scientific study of revenge that I read about. Some psychology researcher showed that humans suffer from a distorted expectation that revenge will make them feel good. But when it happens, they just feel worse.
posted by Victorvacendak at 2:12 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, here it is.
In the feelings survey, the punishers reported feeling worse than the non-punishers, but predicted they would have felt even worse had they not been given the opportunity to punish. The non-punishers said they thought they would feel better if they'd had that opportunity for revenge—even though the survey identified them as the happier group. In other words, both groups thought revenge would be sweet, but their own reported feelings agreed more with MLK Jr. than with Exodus.

The results suggest that, despite conventional wisdom, people—at least those with Westernized notions of revenge—are bad at predicting their emotional states following revenge, Carlsmith says. The reason revenge may stoke anger's flames may lie in our ruminations, he says. When we don't get revenge, we're able to trivialize the event, he says. We tell ourselves that because we didn't act on our vengeful feelings, it wasn't a big deal, so it's easier to forget it and move on. But when we do get revenge, we can no longer trivialize the situation. Instead, we think about it. A lot.
posted by Victorvacendak at 2:49 PM on April 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'm not so sure that, after having 6 guns stolen from your home, buying another gun is a great idea. Get rid of the shotgun and try something else.
posted by Splunge at 3:42 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

As others said before, the shotgun wouldn't have helped in this situation, but be stolen along with the other guns. Even in home invasion scenarios, they are more dangerous than useful if you are untrained.

To reduce your privacy loss you could try encrypting your harddrives. To prevent loss of data you definitely should make online backups. They are not infallible, but a cloud crash and a home invasion are unlikely to happen at the same time. MeMail me if you want to have advice about these.
posted by Triton at 3:52 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sometimes going to the ocean or to a place with a wide sweeping view of nature lifts stress or anger away from me when nothing else will. I can't explain it, but my guess is that it's because deep down, we're animals, and sometimes when we're really worked up, it takes natural cues to communicate messages like "you're not under threat right now." This box of four walls I sit in: am I trapped or protected? It's unclear. But sitting on a high promontory watching the sunset, every part of my brain receives the "all clear."
posted by salvia at 5:37 PM on April 29, 2011

A good hard run helps too.
posted by salvia at 5:38 PM on April 29, 2011

Only suggesting this if you actually love dogs and want to love and care for one for the next couple of decades but a big dog can make you feel a whole lot more secure. But again, please only take this suggestion if you know you can properly care for a dog.
posted by bananafish at 9:33 PM on April 29, 2011

I am a poor student in the midst of exams.

Please contact your professors and your dean and tell them what has happened. This is a perfectly good reason to get your exams postponed*, and your school probably has counseling and possibly legal services available to you of which you should be availing yourself!

*in my opinion as an instructor. If you were my student, I'd be willing to give you an incomplete if allowed by the dean. YMMV.
posted by endless_forms at 9:25 AM on April 30, 2011

Nthing what bananafish said. Big barky dog. Ours is a Great Pyrenees/Golden Retriever mix from a shelter. Great Pyrenees are guard dogs. Barks a EVERYTHING, imagined or not...which is a whole other can of worms, but should be a great deterrence from thieves. But don't get one unless you REALLY love dogs, they are a big commitment/expense.

And, please, make multiple backups of your important computer documents/pictures, etc. and distribute them in multiple places. Personally I like burning copies to CD/DVD and storing them at trustworthy relatives who are far away.
posted by davismbagpiper at 9:31 AM on April 30, 2011

I have found only one useful solution to rage. In the past I have tried to respond with violence and this temporarily made me feel powerful. Usually I felt much worse after acting indignant. What I have found to be helpful is to visualise my enemy living a long and happy life. I know it sounds stupid but when I can get to a point when I truely forgive someone, I free myself of the bonds of anger.

I think Yoda had it right. Anger leads to suffering.
posted by vegascharlie777 at 3:51 AM on July 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

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