Rage, Torture, Remorse, Repeat

Postby guiltyhilty » Sun Mar 17, 2019 6:24 am

Let me start with the present: I am a SWM in my mid twenties. I live alone. I am a student and I also work part-time. For obvious reasons, I will be scant with the amount of identifiable information I include in this post.

I got a dog about six months ago. The dog was a little bit timid due to having had 3 previous owners. For the first few weeks, everything was fine, but eventually, I started torturing this dog. Specifically, I would do things like choke or constrict the dog. Strangling, either with my hands or with the collar, is usually what I do, for several seconds at a time. I have not done this until the dog is limp or unconscious, but in the moment, I have the desire to choke the dog much longer. I have hit the dog infrequently but not hard during these ‘sessions’ (I cringe at using this word but essentially that is what these are). However, I have the desire to hit the dog much harder, and even to very seriously maim and kill the dog. I am able to stop myself from crossing the line into serious or permanent injury, but I feel intense guilt about this.

I use the word sessions very specifically, because I get worked into a rage - teeth gritting, muscles tended, neck tensed, eyes bulging, and will be torturous to the dog for several muinutes. I feel immense remorse for this behavior, usually immediately afterwards. Over the past six months, this has become more common. Obviously I am now looking for a new home for the dog. I do not think I will lose control and permanently injure or kill the dog, but I know that I am causing psychological damage to a sweet, sweet animal that has shown me lots of forgiveness.

To go a little deeper into these ‘fits’, they usually start with some small thing causing me frustration, such as the dog ignoring my calls. Obviously the dog ignores me more often than not now, which I am rationally on the dog’s side about - I would ignore me too given that I’m being a complete dick. In any case, some small act of aggression - such as grabbing the dog by its collar - trips me into full rage. It’s like opening the flood gates.

Here’s the thing: this is not the first time I’ve expressed this sort of behavior. When I was younger - probably around 6-8 - some extended family got a small dog. When I visited them, I tortured this animal. I wanted to scare it deeply (not sure why), and I did things like throwing it and catching it (I once let it fall from head height), putting it inside sheets and wrapping it up so it could not move, and I probably strangled it (although I do not remember). I also would lift it by its collar. This dog hated me, of course. I do not remember feeling remorseful about this. If anything, I actually looked forward to causing more suffering to this dog.

Other similar behavior: age 12ish, I had a pet snake that I lost in the house. To find it, my dad helped me set up a trap consisting of a ramp into a box with a feed mouse in it. I tortured the mouse by wrapping and squeezing it with cloth. It sustained an injury to its back legs - I think I may have injured its spine - and drowned overnight in its water dish. In this particular instance, I felt intense remorse once I realized I had injured it, and more intense remorse when I found it dead.

I have had other pets that I did not torture, and did not have the urge to torture, such as birds, snakes, and cats. It seems this interest is reserved for mammals, primarily. Also, I feel this urge primarily for animals that show fear or avoidance. I have actually ‘rescued’ a number of injured animals. My mom thinks I love animals, and I usually do. I would venture to say that I love my current dog and it is painful for me that I can’t keep the dog. I wish I had not ever treated my dog poorly, as the dog does not trust me but shows signs that it wants to love me and wants to be loved. I feel immensely guilty about it, and yet in the moment I do not feel like I am in control. The guilt afterwards can be crushing and it will distract me for hours or days. Unfortunately, this has not been enough to stop me from acting on these urges. Again, I feel out of control, and this is what scares me the most.

Does anyone have insight? I read a Reddit r/Advice post where someone had a very similar desire towards their pet rat. Very similar, in that there were two rats and this person only felt torturous towards one of them - the timid one. He also felt immense remorse, but would still act on his urges, and felt out of control. Unfortunately, instead of offering advice, most of the responses were basically ‘you’re a sociopath and I hope you get hit by a truck’ or something similar.

I get that this is sociopathic or ASPD behavior. I am willing to consider that I am a sociopath, but I do not think this is a helpful thing to tell someone. I am looking for advice, similar stories, or any insights you may have. I am willing to answer any questions you have.
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Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Mon Mar 18, 2019 5:54 am

Are you familiar with research on domestic violence?

There is a similar cycle to “Rage, torture, remorse repeat,” except it is described as “Honeymoon, tension building, abuse, remorse.”

Applied to what is going on with you, there is a phase of the cycle pre-rage. When you first bring an animal into your home the rage isn’t there. There is an amount of time when all is good. But then, the animal doesn’t behave or act how you wish, you lack control and so it builds tension. Eventually you abuse, then you feel remorseful and promising never to repeat the cycle it goes back to a sort of loving stage. This is when you pet and feed and buy the animal a new toy to make up for your abuse.

This happens not just with animals, but with children, and with spouses. It is a common cycle of abuse that does not qualify a person as being a sociopath or even of displaying sociopathic behavior. It is abusive behavior, but not sociopathic.

A sociopath has no remorse. You do. A sociopath would have been incapable of writing what you wrote, because a sociopath doesn’t connect their behavior as being anything wrong. That is not you. You recognize your behaviors as wrong.

Cycles of abuse are broken when the abuser, i.e. you, take steps to mitigate the tension building phase. Getting rid of the animal is one way to mitigate, but it doesn’t address the underlying issue. Eventually it will come a relationship, whether animal, child, or partner where this same tension building will occur.

The extent to which you take out that tension on another living being is based on your perceived power over them, relative to power you don’t have over others. For instance, if an authority or boss builds the tension, then your spouse gets beat as she is perceived as weaker and cowers. This is transferable to one dog vs another or a child vs adult in selecting from available targets. We could discuss more why one target vs. another, but it is not as relevant as the overall cycle.

Tension building is rooted in a perceived lack of control, a fear or anger of sorts that things are not as they should be. Tension building can be reduced in any number of ways. One way is to focus on building your self esteem. Another way is to work on developing strategies to release tension. I don’t want to boil the problem down to recognizing triggers and counting to 10, but I will say that a major point of leverage is in discovering healthy ways to deal with tension building.
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Postby guiltyhilty » Mon Mar 18, 2019 9:02 pm

I see you stayed at a holiday inn last night...

Thank you so much for this response. The biggest reason for posting this was my fear of treating a future spouse or child this way.

I agree that the abuse pattern you described matches my behavior. Do you have any more insight or resources regarding this ‘tension’ phase? Do you think ‘tension’ is an anger management issue, primarily?

Thank you again for the insight - there are a LOT of resources for stopping abuse patterns and this gives me a much clearer picture of ways I can change my behavior and mindset.
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