Sometimes when someone has experienced violence in their own lives (or even witnessed violence) there’s a possibility that he or she will exhibit violence later in life. That violence might be exhibited toward oneself, as in a desire to commit suicide, or it might be directed toward others, as in pushing, yelling, or punching others. Frequently, if violence was experienced in childhood, in one form or another, that person might later grow up to exhibit violence in their adulthood.
A study at Boston Medical Center found that one in ten children and teens had observed a shooting or knifing by the age of six. In the study, about half of the violence reported occurred on the streets and half in the home. In Los Angeles, children and teens witness 10-20% of homicides. And nationally, at least one third of American children and teens have witnessed domestic violence between their parents, and most have witnessed multiple occasions of violence.
Most children and teens that witness violence will experience symptoms of PTSD. These symptoms include flashbacks, anxiety, depression, fear, and night tremors. Another possible symptom is exhibiting violence toward oneself or others. And if someone also struggles with addiction, that tendency of exhibiting violence might easily be a part of one’s challenging psychological ill health.
Yet, what’s difficult is that even if someone were to get sober, those feelings of wanting to hurt yourself or others might continue to be there. Resisting these urges can be difficult, particularly if they have been ways to cope with challenging emotions. For instance, one common way for many people to deal with a heavy and intense emotion is to hurt themselves. Cutting oneself, for instance, can sometimes bring a relief of emotional tension. Although this sounds odd, this describes the experience for many people who cut themselves for emotional reasons. Anger, for instance, is an emotion that might lead one to want to hurt themselves or others.
Self harm is a behavior that occurs for people at any age. It’s commonly a symptom of a mental illness, including addiction. Self-harm is injurious behavior towards one’s own body, typically without the intention of committing suicide. It can include cutting, biting, scratching, burning, and bruising the skin. However, self-harm can also include excessive exercise, pinching oneself, increased drinking, sabotaging good relationships, staying with others who do not treat you well, pulling one’s hair, mixing medication with alcohol and other drugs. There are many variations of ways to harm oneself. Yet, often, behind the injurious behavior there is an intention to do harm.
Hurting others is another way of exhibiting violence. This too tends to stem from some sort of emotional pain. For instance, anger, not feeling heard or seen, hopelessness, frustration, and disappointment can lead to a desire to want to hurt others. Ways that people exhibit violence toward others include yelling, hitting, punching, insulting, ignoring, and many other forms of exhibiting aggression toward others.
One advantage of knowing that you have a tendency to hurt yourself or others is the possibility of preventing violence before it starts. For instance, if you struggle with the emotion of anger, you might find that you tend to exhibit anger outwardly. However, instead of acting out aggressively, you might call a mental health professional or a friend for help. With help from a therapist, for instance, you might be able to learn new coping skills to prevent yourself from hurting someone else. Instead of starting a fight with someone, you might go to the gym and use a punching bag or you might go for a run. Once all your anger is out, then you could also talk to whoever upset you in a calm and constructive way.
Frequently, learning to resist the urge to exhibit violence is simply learning new ways to cope with emotional pain. It’s possible to learn these new coping tools and eventually avoid all forms of violence altogether.