I’m struggling with really upsetting and sometimes sickening and violent thoughts.
Reader Caution: This post contains an in-depth discussion of psychological addictions to torturing others. Discretion is advised.
In a situation like this, your soul is the part of you that is horrified by your desire–however brief–to harm another living being. Now while it’s very good that your soul views this kind of thing as being morally wrong, the problem is that your soul is passing its moral judgment without taking the time to consider context.
It is your subconscious which is producing the suggestion of hurting your pet. Demons can also provide prompts like this, but I’m going to assume your own mind was the origin here so I can explain some important psychological principles that will help you put this in proper perspective. For starters, your mind isn’t “evil”, it’s logical. Whenever your mind pushes you to do something, no matter how disturbing, it has logical reasons for doing so. To respond beneficially, you need to put effort into trying to understand what your mind’s logic is.
Now when it comes to a situation like this, there are different kinds of impulses that occur. To understand why your mind is acting this way, let’s get more specific. There is a difference between wanting to kill your cat and wanting to hurt your cat. There is also a difference between wanting to hurt the cat briefly and wanting to prolong its suffering.
All pet owners experience moments when their pets utterly exasperate them, and in those moments, the cat might get a rather hard shove off the counter, or the dog might get a kick in the side. Momentary frustration like this can result in a very mild, non-injurious attack on the animal which occurs very briefly. Typically the animal flees the scene and waits for their owner to calm down.
Now I suspect by your reaction that you’re dealing with something quite different than momentary pet owner frustration. Due to your reaction and the focus on tools, it sounds like you are experiencing a desire to torture, which is a very different issue than getting fed up with your cat parking its rear on your keyboard yet again. While it’s certainly understandable that this kind of impulse makes your soul go into a panic, you need to take a deep breath and try to calm down enough to focus on what I’m going to explain. A psychological attraction to torture forms for logical reasons and it’s something that can be corrected if you use the right approach. We don’t need to leap to wild conclusions that you’re some evil, twisted monster, because you’re not. But this is something that you need to take seriously, because if you don’t step up your efforts to manage your psychological stress more effectively, then these kinds of impulses can surface more frequently, and they can evolve into a full on addiction. Now let’s learn about mechanics.
A torturer’s approach to attacking his victim provides important insights into his own psychological goals. A key detail to note here is that the power dynamic between a torturer and his victim is extremely imbalanced. If your mind is producing detailed fantasies about this kind of thing, you will probably see yourself making an effort to immobilize your victim first, or they will show up in your fantasies already bound in some way. This is a vital element for the torturer. Whether he uses restraints, drugs, or both, he feels an urgent need to get and hold as much power over his victim as he can, and that means ensuring that the victim can’t fight back. Here we need to ask why the torturer is so panicked about the power issue. Why does he work so hard to try to secure 100% of the power instead of settling for a ratio of 70/30? The answer is that the torturer himself is terrified of being dominated.
Torturers usually have a personal history of feeling brutally stripped of power and utterly humiliated. In some cases, they were physically tortured in some hideous way. In other cases, they were sexually assaulted, and the extreme degradation of that experience caused their minds to process it as a form torture. It’s useful to understand that being psychologically tortured can also lead to an addiction to physical torturing later on. In cases of psychological torture, extreme mental anguish is inflicted primarily through the use of words and/or visuals. Physical injury doesn’t have to come into it, although the victim is often being threatened with physical harm and feeling physically trapped during the verbal assault.
Realize that any kind of assault trauma (including routine medical/dental procedures, molestation, and bullying) in which any kind of physical object is used to harm or distress the body is very likely to be psychologically processed as a form of torture. Once your subconscious forms a belief that you have been tortured, it will usually become obsessed with the subject in general. If some kind of equipment (knives, needles, probes, etc.) was used to inflict injury on your body in the past, it is very common for your mind to latch onto those specific objects and create fantasies about you using those same kinds of objects on someone else. In other words, the kinds of tools a torturer is attracted to, as well as his personal style of torturing is often closely related to what happened to him in the past. A torturer’s anatomical focus–meaning which parts of his victim’s body he wants to hurt the most–is also heavily influenced by his own trauma background.
Now because the human body is so easy to injure, the concept of torture is universally frightening, and most people automatically view torturers as utterly monstrous. But when you are the one wanting to do the torturing, you mustn’t just write yourself off like this. If you’re going to calm these impulses before they grow out of control, you need to realize that any serious attraction to torture indicates the presence of extreme psychological fear and a desperate need to try to regain a sense of personal power. Torturers do what they do in a desperate attempt to ease their own internal agony. Does it work? No, it actually makes things worse. While there can be very real mental relief experienced in the moment, the fallout afterwards causes your psychological and spiritual stress levels to climb even higher, which then makes you feel desperate to secure another victim so you can experience those few precious moments of relief…but then when you do, you end up feeling even worse than ever afterwards, and round and round you go as if you’re trapped inside some hellish hamster wheel. Torturing living beings as a means of managing psychological stress is as useless as raping, child molesting, and beating the tar out of your girlfriend. A lot of the methods our minds come up with sound helpful in theory, but when we go to actually do them in real life, they backfire on us and we end up feeling much worse off than we were before.
The primary psychological goal of torturing is to prove to yourself that you’re not as defenceless, weak, and vulnerable as you secretly believe you are. You crave living victims because your mind needs to see them reacting fearfully to you, therefore providing what feels like strong evidence that they view you as dominating them. The usual desire here is for your victims to provide very dramatic fear/pain reactions (screaming, writhing, pleading, etc.). But here again, your own trauma history will strongly influence your idea of the most helpful reactions. Some torturers want dramatic reactions right away. Others want “strong” victims who hold out a long time before finally “breaking.” Usually in these cases, other humans are the ideal victims because your mind is often viewing your victim as a symbolic stand in for the person who assaulted you in the past. Since your original attacker scared the life out of you (and probably still does), you don’t dare go after him or her directly. Instead, you find weaker, safer targets who can function as their representatives. You then do to the targets what you’d like to do to your attacker, and that usually means doing everything they did to you and a dollop more.
Now because securing human targets is extremely difficult and greatly increases the risk of getting caught and punished, many torturers will resort to using animals instead. But even when animals are used, the mind will often try to view the animal as a stand in for your original abuser(s). Because the animals aren’t humans, they can feel like much less satisfying targets unless there is a strong anatomical obsession involved. For example, if your mind is obsessing over genital torture due to what was done to your own genitals in the past, your mind can lock onto animal genitals as being “good enough” because in this case the anatomy is the primary obsession. Any painful assault on your own privates in the past can easily result in this kind of anatomical obsession.
Now obviously this is really grim and disturbing stuff, but there are always logical mechanics at work in any situation, and understanding that torture addictions are fuelled by unprocessed trauma can help you make sense out of the alarming details of your own fantasies. It’s pretty tough to come up with a topic that is sicker than genital torture, so when your mind starts going there all on its own, naturally your soul is going to leap to some pretty devastating conclusions. Yet given how many torturers have been sexually assaulted, it’s really not surprising or unreasonable for their minds to be obsessing over a link between genitals and pain. Due to your mind being extremely protective over your private areas, and due to the fact that these areas are hyper-sensitive to pain, any kind of invasive or painful genital assault is guaranteed to result in immense psychological stress. It’s not fair to treat this fact as irrelevant just because a man’s surface behaviours are so horrific. Suffering always deserves some degree of compassion, even when the suffering person is trying to cope by inflicting pain on others. While torturing any living being is absolutely wrong under any circumstances, we can understand something without condoning it. We can also acknowledge the fact that the torturer’s victim is not the only one in pain. The torturer’s actions clearly demonstrate that he is also in immense psychological anguish and we must take this fact into consideration before we can hope to behave as good judges. To simply condemn a man without bothering to consider why he is doing what he is doing is neither right nor fair. Far too often we pride ourselves on being “better than those creeps” while we stand around condemning those who struggle in ways that we refuse to even try to understand. Happily, our Creator, Who is the ultimate moral Judge, never passes judgments without first considering the entire context.
No one is incapable of torture. Given the right circumstances, any human can begin to view torturing others as a potential means of relieving psychological stress. But minds with aggressive temperaments will typically go there a lot faster than minds with passive temperaments.
Due to the fundamentally different ways that passives and aggressives respond to intense stress, passives who become obsessed with torture will likely act on that obsession by seeking out opportunities to receive torture while aggressives with the same kind of psychological stress are more likely to want to do the torturing. Here we enter the very grim world of BDSM, in which a vast array of torture methods are lumped under the utterly non-sensical label of “sexual play.” (BDSM is an acronym that tries to squish three different phrases together, all of which refer to forms of abuse: bondage/discipline; domination/submission; and sado-masochism.) The common argument here is that as long as both partners “want it” and they both agree to stop if a certain “safe word” is said, then it’s no longer torture, it’s just harmless play.
Anytime you are intentionally mistreating another human’s mind, body, or soul, you are abusing them, you’re not just “playing.” The fact that someone is so psychologically crippled that they actually want you to hurt them only makes your abuse of them that much worse. After all, which is the crueller action: trying to shove your friend onto the ground, or running up to some stranger who is hobbling on crutches and shoving him onto the ground? The crippled man is obviously far more vulnerable than your spry friend, and vulnerability should be responded to with an extra degree of protection and aid, not a gleeful smile while you haul out the whips and chains.
BDSM is a horrific torture fest in which two humans with serious psychological wounds pair up and wound each other even more. Today a lot of functional couples are doing serious damage to their relationships by experimenting with BDSM because someone told them that swapping friendly foreplay out for a little torture session is a great way to “spice things up in the bedroom.” If you’re tired of feeling safe with your intimate partner and if you find it entirely dull that the two of you can actually trust each other, or if you’re just fed up with how much mutual respect there is between you, then by all means, start spanking, blindfolding, whipping, and slapping each other. Put on the dog collars and the penis cages and the nipple clamps because there’s a sure-fire way to panic your subconscious, horrify your soul, and make your body hurt for hours afterwards. All of my non-traumatised readers need to realize that most sex advice is rubbish. For starters, couples with healthy sex lives understand that sex is a very private subject which is not appropriate to discuss with friends, co-workers, or on your personal internet blog. By the time people feel a need to go on and on about who is doing what in the bedroom, the very fact that they are publicizing such details indicates they have a very dysfunctional view of sex and are likely dealing with some negative, stress-induced obsessions. Realize that folks who are addicted to BDSM rarely understand why they crave it so much; they just know that unless some kind of pain or violence occurs, it is impossible for them to experience sexual climax. When such people try to tell you how to “keep things interesting,” they are often telling you what honestly works for them because they are incapable of enjoying healthy sex right now.
When folks who are suffering from terrible migraines get together and discuss their problems, they will naturally discuss remedies that they have found helpful. “I tried medicine A, but it didn’t do anything to me. So I finally tried medicine B and wow, what a difference! You’ve got to try it!” The genuine enthusiasm of such reviews can be very convincing until you stop to remember that you don’t have chronic migraines, therefore you don’t need to start taking a bunch of migraine drugs. Since you don’t have the initial problem, you will actually be harmed by trying the remedies this group is recommending because you’ll be shoving a bunch of drugs into your body that will hamper its ability to function normally. A similar dynamic occurs in the world of sex advice. When functional people start sifting through this kind of material, they fail to realize that they are in a very different psychological state than the people who are raving about how much fun they’re having now that they finished converting their bedroom into a medieval torture chamber. If your subconscious is grappling with certain kinds of trauma, you can reach a point where receiving or giving torture feels as necessary to your survival as drinking water: you must have these experiences as often as you possibly can, so you become utterly consumed with planning your next session the moment your current one ends and you feel agitated and miserable until you get all of the details lined up. This is a hellish way to live, and while you should certainly have sympathy for how much pain BDSM addicts are in, you do not want to become one of them, nor should you view them as trustworthy guides on how to enhance your sex life. BDSM “play” does immediate core damage to the bond you have with your intimate partner, and it’s the kind of damage that has very long-lasting effects. Why go there if you don’t have to? If you’re so fortunate as to be mentally and spiritually capable of enjoying sex the way God designed it to work–which means there is never any element of coercion or abuse involved–you need to realize what a rare thing that is becoming and hang onto it. Don’t trade your diamond in for pain. It’s such a rip off.
Now different groups need different kinds of advice. Those of you who currently view torture as the horrible thing that it is are seeing things correctly and you need to remain where you are. The only adjustments you need to make are separating the horrific actions from the person who is doing them so that you can learn to have compassion for the human while you still view his actions as wrong.
Now for all of my torture addicts, you need different instruction. You already know that what you want to do is wrong, so you don’t need any more moral lectures than own your soul is already providing. For you, the focus now needs to turn to stress management. The desire to torture is fuelled by psychological stress. Because the primary concern here is feeling stripped of power, your torture fantasies are likely to become more frequent and more detailed whenever you start feeling powerless in any area of your life. A particular area of concern here is your relationships with other people, including family members. Family members are very powerful figures to your mind, so if you have a family member who seems to enjoy pushing you around or dominating you, interacting with that person can trigger panic for you, and that in turn can cause the torture cravings to flare up. To step up your efforts to help your mind feel less stressed, you need to not only put more effort into doing stress-relieving activities every day, but you also need to look closer at any relationships in your life right now that are causing you stress. For in-depth help here, I recommend that you read my book What’s Wrong With My Relationships?. The book will help you understand what makes relationships feel happy or yuck. It will also teach you how to pinpoint what’s going wrong in relationships that are making you feel stressed, and what you can realistically do to reduce that negative tension. By the time your mind is producing torture fantasies and giving you a strong impulse to act on them, you can no longer afford to keep coasting as you are. Something needs to change about the way you’re doing your life, and urgently.
Now for any aggressives reading this post who have the occasional fantasy of doing bodily harm to someone who is irritating you, let’s not start creating problems where none exist. It is entirely normal for aggressive minds to produce the fleeting image of you punching your super annoying co-worker in the nose when the man makes you look stupid in front of the boss again. Such fantasies do not mean you are a danger to society, they simply mean your mind finds it calming to imagine trashing your enemies in hands on ways. To keep such fantasies fleeting and prevent them from developing into obsessions, you need to be intentional about relieving psychological stress in a way that works for you. Remember that for aggressives, the best activities for relieving psychological stress will meet all three of these guidelines:
- There is some form of physical violence (real or vicarious).
- You experience feeling victorious over something or someone.
- No harm is done to any living being (including yourself).
There are plenty of positive ways to meet these three goals. Some examples are playing sports, playing video games, signing up for cardio workouts at your gym (or doing your own), getting a punching pillar that you can have at whenever you want, and doing virtual reality boxing (this is a fantastic new option for aggressives thanks to the invention of VR headsets).
Now for my torture addicts, you need to see the attraction to torture for what it is: your mind expressing a desperate need to disprove its fear that you are powerless. Once you reach this point of angst, you not only need to be doing daily sessions of stress-relieving activities, you also need to make some adjustments to your current life circumstances. Typically in these situations, your mind is interpreting some aspect of your current situation as communicating a message of “I’m powerless and I have no way to stop others from walking all over me.” Once your mind is hearing that message thundering at you on a daily basis, simply engaging in standard stress-relieve activities won’t be enough. You also need to identify ways that you can adjust your situation so you don’t feel so vulnerable. I’ve already discussed the importance of looking at your current relationships to see if any of those are contributing a lot of stress. Another important issue here is thinking about your living arrangements. Do you have access to some kind of “safe space” or do you feel like there is nowhere you can go to feel safe from the intrusion of others? Since torture addictions often emerge from traumas in which we feel physically violated, it is critical to have some way of feeling physically shielded.
Aggressives rely heavily on denial as a form of defence. In an effort to protect themselves from feeling overwhelmed by the depth of their own woundedness, they will often lie to themselves by massively downplaying how stressed they are and even pretending not to care about something that is really bothering them. While I understand that bluffing to others is a critical aspect of your defence system, you do need to try to be a bit more honest with yourself. The reason is that we don’t want you taking on a lot of unnecessary stress just because you’re being sloppy. Realize that assault traumas cause the mind to feel extra protective over your physical body. To help yourself, you need to support your mind’s efforts to keep your body shielded, not work against it. This means making sure you keep yourself well covered with clothing, and avoiding situations in which others can view you naked. Close and lock doors when you need to change clothes, shower, or use the toilet. Don’t invite stress by exposing your privates in a situation where others could easily breeze in and catch a glimpse. Realize that shower curtains do not say “sufficient barrier” to your mind, so trying to shower while family members are trooping in and out of the bathroom is going to really stress your mind. For males, using public urinals is going to automatically spike your stress, so use private stalls for urination whenever you can to avoid making your mind panic over the fact that your privates are being put on public display. Your sleeping arrangements also need to scrutinized. If you are having a lot of trouble relaxing in your bed or if you’re constantly waking up and fidgeting, one thing that is really worth trying out is a pregnancy pillow. Don’t let the term throw you–it’s just called that because pregnant women are the main market. But in reality, this is just a massive pillow with multiple legs which comes in various letter shapes such as a U or C.
What makes these pillows such fantastic aids for people dealing with any kind of assault trauma is the way they surround the body at night, providing constant sensual feedback that you are safely tucked inside a very thick shield. For minds that feel extra stressed about your body being messed with, these pillows can make your bed feel like a much safer space, and that can help you get a better night’s sleep.
Remember that strong, recurring torture fantasies indicate that your psychological stress levels are becoming too difficult for your subconscious to manage, so anything you can do to help your mind feel safer and calmer is a plus. Because torture addictions usually result from physical traumas, becoming more aware of when your body is being physically exposed is an important step to identifying ways that you can help your mind feel less stressed. Letting it all hang out in a public locker room is putting yourself through unnecessary stress, and you really can’t afford to keep making these kinds of mistakes when your mind is cuing you that it’s getting desperate. This is the time to skip showering at the gym and wait until you get home to wash off. If you play sports, arrive and leave in uniform. Don’t put yourself through two locker room changes where you are going to over-expose your body in the midst of a crowd of people who your mind will automatically view as a threat to your safety due to the condition it is in. If you absolutely have to change out of your uniform before leaving the premises, change in a private bathroom stall. You need to work with your mind right now, not against it, and that means finding practical, reasonable steps you can take to help it feel like it is succeeding at keeping you physically safe.
For instruction on how to deal with the root causes of your trauma, see Practical Steps for Correcting Traumatic Beliefs.
This post was written in response to Pietro.