My Relationship With Violence
I am at once, a very peaceful person, and a very violent person. The life I live is a peaceful one. I’ve perhaps been involved in 2-4 fights in my lifetime, all when I was a child under the age of 12 and none of them more than a scuffle. My personal sense of ethics and morality abhors violence except to defend oneself from violence. I’d much prefer to live in a world where no one lifts a hand or uses a weapon against any other person. That said, my fantasy life is inundated with violence and my imagination drenched in it. Violence and conflict give me a visceral thrill and make me feel vibrant and alive.
Most of my hobbies are rich in violence. I play video games about war and combat. I play role playing games that nearly always center on some kind of violent conflict. I especially like films about combat, war, and crime. As a kid, much of my play was about war and combat. This is not to say that everything I enjoy is violent. I like some games and stories that have none, but it is the exception rather than the rule. I love a good comedy and even a nice romance. So long as it has some drama or a good laugh, I’m on board. But like iron to a magnet, I’m drawn to violence.
Working through any source of anger generally involves one or more violent fantasies in which I’m given some ethical justification for crushing my enemies and making them suffer for their perceived wrongdoing. I almost always have to have some riches cause in these imaginings but is clearly a means to an end, which is a violent victory over whomever raises my ire. When I hear about soldiers or generals feeling guild for the enemies they have killed, I honestly reflect that I don’t think I would have those feelings. I think I could feel guilty for the cause of violence, but not the result.
All that seems pretty grim but I take solace that in my life, I’ve never attacked anyone out of anger, only in self-defense. The few times I have been in situations as an adult with people threatening me with violence, my instinct was to stand my ground but keep my cool, to try and defuse the situation rather than escalate it. That may be a desire to protect my wife from violence or it could just be that my ethics are sufficient to temper my fight instinct even when my adrenalin is kicking in. I’ll give an example…
A few years back, Anne and I were out for our anniversary on Haloween. We went to a costume party/dance in downtown Seattle. We were feeling pretty good as we were headed out to our car. I was heady from dancing (something I love) and we were both in our wedding costumes. We were dashing across the street (at the intersection) to the parking lot where our car was and someone honked at us. Against good judgment, I gave them a kind of “kiss my ass” gesture, annoyed at the honking when I felt I had right of way as a pedestrian. As we neared our car, the honker had pulled into the lot and gotten out to confront us. A big guy and a small woman came around to the side of their car, blocking the way out. The guy started cursing me out and threatening me. He and his companion were both clearly drunk. She wasn’t as confrontational but threw in a few “you better be scared” type comments.
I felt my adrenaline skyrocket and a flush come over me. I didn’t have a plan, I just reacted, and honestly I wasn’t sure what I’d do. I came forward about 8 feet from him to keep Anne behind me and face the threat. I put on my deep commanding authority voice and told him calmly that I was sorry for the offending gesture but that I was not looking for a fight. He put out some more threats and demanded I give him money. I told him that was not going to happen and that he should leave. At this point, he opened his car door and started rummaging around under the seat and in the glove compartment. My instinct told me he wanted me to think he had a gun, but he didn’t say he did and for whatever reason, I felt he was bluffing. I flashed to my very limited martial arts training as a kid. I recalled that a person half out of a car is in a very vulnerable position. If I rushed forward and slammed the door closed I could break his legs and have him at a serious disadvantage gun or no.
But ultimately, I didn’t really want to hurt this guy and I calmly waited for him to finish his pretend search for the imaginary gun. He blustered a bit more while I gave him the cold eye of indifference and he and his lady friend packed up and left with some parting shots about how I wasn’t all that tough and not worth their time. While I was proud of standing my ground and avoiding violence, it didn’t stop me from fantasizing about all the ways I could have attacked him and made him suffer for challenging me and threatening my wife. I’m glad that in a moment of reacting I practiced what I preach and didn’t give in to fear or anger despite feeling a good bit of both.
I hope that when I die, I’ll have lived my life without doing serious harm to anyone by my own hand. For me at least, my passion for violence is securely confined to the world of fantasy where I can enjoy the thrill without anyone suffering more than a bruised ego. I feel that for most of my life, I’ve had a good grasp of fantasy vs reality. I know not everyone does. It is one of the reasons I’ve always avoided mind-altering recreational drugs. The thought of losing a firm grasp on real vs fantasy is a scary one for me. I don’t ever want to be a person other than who I normally choose to be, especially not one how hurts others without a very good reason.