Risk assessing whether my rage will turn to violence
November 23, 2021 8:51 AM   Subscribe

my stalker popped up again a couple of weeks ago and since then I’ve been actually, well, watching myself slide into insanity. If anyone crosses me I’m getting very very concerning intrusive images ! Someone was cruel verbally today and, like, I have VIVID thoughts of hurting him in front of his kids to somehow teach them a lesson. (Obviously I won’t do this!) It is not in my nature to lash out at anyone but these are STRONG thoughts! This is new, and I want to risk assess it.

Any thoughts on how to find a PERSON or a STRATEGY to assess my risk of acting out physically / verbally are welcome. Like, I don’t know when I’ll snap and do something like kick someone’s shin or unleash a stream of vitriol or whatever. You can go to jail for that, and traumatise people! That’s not what I want to do.

I’ve become a near hermit, but as a certain date where likelihood of stalker attack and harassment increases gets closer, and the risk of stalker doing something gets higher, I am concerned that my self control will fail. I want to knowledgeably risk assess this, like I risk assess shit for work.

Advices on other matters (like offering me rest and air and self care) are unwelcome in this thread. They will be responded to graciously, but that graciousness would need to be allocated from a scarce resource. Don’t steal my scarce grace, please.

I know this is a difficult one, thanks for your time and your respect.
posted by The Last Sockpuppet to Human Relations (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, and I very much know that hurting someone in front of their kids would do no good to anyone, especially those kids. Sorry, I’m really tired of hearing some stuff so I guess I’m preempting it so I don’t either screech or have to hide a screech when I do hear it.
posted by The Last Sockpuppet at 9:01 AM on November 23

First of all: I am sorry you are experiencing this. I think a first step might be acknowledging that your rage is a justified reaction by your brain trying to protect you from danger. You are not insane, you are just trying to regain control over a threatening situation that feels out of control. Use the little grace you have left on yourself.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy would probably be the way to go here. They can help you accept your feeling and prepare for situations during which you might otherwise spiral out of control.

Four strategies you could try until you find a spot with a therapist:

1) Practice calming techniques, e.g. "box breathing" or counting slowly form 1 to 10 (I like to press my thumb nail into my finger tips one after another as I do this)

2) Practice affirmations, e.g. "I can feel my anger and still stay in control." Find you top 5 on this list, write them on a sticky note and say them out lout in front of the mirror every morning.

3) Funneling your rage into physical exercise, maybe even in a way that makes you feel more protected e.g. kickboxing

4) Practice loving kindness meditation: all you need to do is systematically send compassion, forgiveness, and loving-kindness to four categories of people for a few minutes each day:

- Friends, family, and loved ones.
- Strangers around the world, locally, and nationally who are suffering.
- Someone you know who has hurt, betrayed, or violated you.
- Forgive yourself for any negativity or harm you’ve caused yourself or others.
posted by Fallbala at 9:53 AM on November 23 [6 favorites]

There are violence assessment tools online - here are a couple - but they are mostly observational from outside yourself.

This is classic PTSD - it's the 'fight' in 'fight or flight.'

I used to have this response as a young adult (rage response to certain things), before I grasped the PTSD part, and it scared me too. I had a chance to do anger management counselling and I did it. It was really helpful, although in hindsight also triggering due to the makeup of the class.

So you could look at anger management techniques as a very quick stop gap. One nice thing about that class was that it was available very quickly. It was basically focused CBT. One real downside is a lot of the class was spent on trying to essentially get people to take their anger seriously, whereas I was there because I was scared of myself. In hindsight getting help for the PTSD was what I needed, but the class provided tools to apply on my road there.

I hope this is helpful, I don't want to have stolen any grace.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:56 AM on November 23 [9 favorites]

Re finding a person: does your workplace have an employee-assistance office? (Make sure it's confidential; it should be.)
posted by humbug at 10:01 AM on November 23 [1 favorite]

This is much more of a psychological assessment than an amortization chart you can refer to, all the more so because you're not experiencing idiopathic or neurologically-impaired impulse control or emotional dysregulation - you are traumatized and experiencing exhaustive hypervigilance, so a short temper or thoughts of harming others aren't inappropriate responses exactly.

And there's a difficult-to-ascertain (without professional guidance) difference between an intrusive thought/retributive fantasy versus intent to actually harm others. Intrusive thoughts can be alarmingly vivid and often incredibly disturbing but (at least as a support person to people who suffer them) the focus for resolution is not on the actual content of the thought* but on finding a way to generally defuse the underlying tension - it's not about stopping you from kicking someone right then, it's about how to get you feeling safer and less afraid and the kicking thoughts will subside on their own.

You deserve support from a qualified professional with trauma-informed training, to help you find ways to defuse the tension and cope with the immense psychological stress of your situation. I acknowledge that it is incredibly hard to actually engage that assistance, especially right now, but that is the right person to help you with this.

*Obviously it's a little different if the thought is about self-harm, in part because most humans have an incredibly high bar for assault because of the social contract, but those protections do not often apply to ourselves.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:14 AM on November 23 [10 favorites]

I do think you very much need a therapist to whom you can confess/describe your intrusive images and who can work out a tailored coping strategy for you. You need someone to listen, validate and help you redirect so that you can feel more in control. Your reactions to this traumatic experience are going to be very rooted in your core beliefs about the world and how you learned to feel safe in childhood. I don't think there is a paint by numbers strategy for you, although you absolutely should follow the good and standard advice to find a way to stabilize.

I am so sorry. PTSD is absolutely no fun when the stressors re-emerge. You deserve a professional partner who can help you through this.
posted by pazazygeek at 10:16 AM on November 23

Months back I got a comment deleted from a thread about the Trumpist insurrection where I outlined my sheep-counting strategy, which featured spectacularly bloody and murderous Peter Greenaway revenge fantasies about certain insurrection heroes I couldn't stomach. This kind of thing is not normal for me at all. From a child if I had trouble falling asleep, I always thought about my crushes or dreamed up fun vacations or planned big dinners--you know, nice stuff. But the times turned my thoughts bloody. I needed lulling that met the challenge because kissing Valentino was not doing it for me anymore. And I was only dealing with the same common baseline stressors everybody's dealing with. I can't imagine what I'd've come up with if severely taxed as you have been. Anyway, from where I'm standing, that you're concerned about the thoughts seems like a great sign. I just bleated them out on Metafilter like I was sharing a recipe for oatmeal raisin cookies and thought nothing of it until the comment got deleted, which makes me... well, worried about a possible slide into insanity.

I agree with everyone who says you need and deserve a therapist, not because you're going to lash out at somebody but because you deserve people in your court, even if it's just someone to whom you can safely say, "Coworker said X and I thought Y."

'Til you find your person, I concur that box breathing is helpful. My four sides of the box go like this:
1. Inhale slowly while naming the first most troubling stressor. ("Mortgage is coming due!")
2. Hold breath while worst-casing the stressor ("I'm gonna forget to pay it and the cops are going to show up at my door to evict me and the neighbors will film it and it will end up on Tik Tok!")
3. Exhale gustily, like you're blowing the thing away, while thinking some comforting mantra. ("Fuck all that bullshit.")
4. Wait at the bottom of the breath before inhaling for a slow count of three. Try to keep your mind empty; there's no rush; there's the next breath for the next most troubling stressor, and there are still more breaths for all the other bullshit.
posted by Don Pepino at 10:33 AM on November 23 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: here’s my comments again, with additional emotional labour

To the folks saying I deserve a therapist, I’ve had and have therapists, they’ve not been up for offering risk assessment strategies. I think my stalking situation is well outside the bell curve at 8+ years. recommendations of therapists who specialise in long term stalking are useful- i would be willing to travel anywhere and establish temporary residency, even, to be able to be treated under such a person’s license.
posted by The Last Sockpuppet at 11:18 AM on November 23 [2 favorites]

OH my GOD, I just realized that you are the sockpuppet who said "yeeted into the sun," which means that you are my favorite sockpuppet in the history of the world. I'm so sorry I said the dumb thing.
posted by Don Pepino at 11:20 AM on November 23 [2 favorites]

Karen M. Abrams in Toronto Canada. Dr Abrams is a professor at Univ of Toronto who also does clinical consultation and treatment, and her research interests as listed on that site are: "the emotional consequences to and treatment of domestic violence and stalking victims, stalking of Healthcare Professionals, stalking of Mental Healthcare Professionals and stalking in the workplace." Searching for Dr. Karen Abrams on Google Scholar will bring up papers she has authored/co-authored that might indicate whether this person would be an appropriate source to contact for treatment or for a solid referral to someone else in the field who has the knowledge and experience you require.
posted by lizard music at 11:51 AM on November 23 [4 favorites]

This sounds like it has shades of OCD, specifically harm OCD. In my experience with this type of thinking, it involved a lot of unpacking around violence in general and my own capacity for violence in particular. I.E. Do I think violence is bad? Do I think violent people are bad? If I gave in to those urges would it make me a 'violent person'? Are violent people redeemable? (And 'redeemable' according to who, exactly? )

Asking these questions and rolling around answers in my head helped take some of the charge out of those thoughts. Which made them easier to dismiss, or at least live with.

And like other people are saying: your anger is trying to keep you alive. It's doing its job.
posted by coffeeand at 2:51 PM on November 23 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry you're going through this. Your post resonated with me, and I can relate to "watching myself slide into insanity." (I was stalked many years ago and he also stalked members of my family.)

While there are a lot of domestic violence resources, there are very few resources for victims of stalking. Julie Lalonde is one of the few advocates I know of in this area. She has a book and she was in this recent interview.

I lived like a hermit and I lived in fear for a couple years. Then I was angry all the time (which I learned was also from the PTSD.) EMDR made a real difference for me and after I went through a number of sessions, the anger had lifted and hasn't come back.
posted by Pademelon at 7:33 PM on November 23 [1 favorite]

First of all, violent behavior is rare, and therefore very difficult to accurately predict.

Second of all, previous behavior, intent, and means (and some demographic factors, like being male) are the factors risk assessors use to predict violence, not thoughts.

Terrible graphic violent thoughts and fantasies are common, even normal. *Constant* such thoughts suggest a need for assessment and treatment, not because they suggest violence is in your future (they mostly don't) but because they make *you* miserable.

So, have you *behaved* violently in the past?
Do you seriously *intend* to do something violent to someone?
If you do intend or want to do something violent, could you? How easily? (Are there loaded guns in your home in easy reach, and you know how to use them, for example?) Have you done anything to prepare to be violent?
Are you a drinker or do you abuse substances?
If the answer to all these questions are "no," that suggests lower risk. (Bearing in mind that violence is hard to predict.)

You do deserve professional assistance with the terror of your stalking situation, though.
posted by shadygrove at 9:04 PM on November 23 [2 favorites]

Your thoughts sound like totally rational ptsd coping mechanisms. From experience, being targeted is unbearable. Emdr has helped a few friends with their trauma responses although I don’t know if their trauma responses were the same as yours. But I’ll say it again: having these kinds of thoughts sound like totally rational ptsd coping mechanisms. Your brain is trying to protect you. It’s not really aggression - it’s defence.

You mentioned that there is an impending date that you’re feeling concerned about. Can you plan something to take yourself out of your usual location for that date? Don’t tell anyone and go to an airbnb or drive to a nearby town for a couple days, or have a friend stay over? Having a plan in place that makes you feel more safe might help.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 11:42 PM on November 23

I realise this is probably an annoying question but is there any way you can work with law enforcement to stop or punish the stalker? You're quite understandably turning fear and a desire for vengeance on other people, but maybe if you could actually get some the thoughts would dial down?

I'm sorry this is happening to you - sounds terrifying and unfair.
posted by starstarstar at 1:56 AM on November 26 [1 favorite]

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