Why Do I Want To Kill Someone
“It’s 4 in the morning. You’re lying awake, unable to sleep, reliving the details of an argument with your husband over money. He said something hurtful; he always does, but this time it was so demeaning — how could he? How could she? What did they think we were doing when we got married, anyway? Why do men have such high expectations? If only he’d listen to me…if only he didn’t drink all night…why is everything always about him? It’ll never happen again. Promise. This will never ever repeat itself. Never. But then, what if I say something and I regret it later? Maybe I should just go ahead and tell her I’m leaving. Just get it over with.
You know you need to do something about these thoughts. They’ve been running around in circles in your mind for days now, and no matter what you try, they won’t stop. After all, these aren’t stray thoughts that come and go. These thoughts have become very real, very personal, part of your identity. They feel like they’re happening right now, as you lie there alone in bed, wide awake. But why? Why do some people seem to experience life differently than others? Are their lives really worse off because theirs isn’t better? Or do other factors contribute to these experiences?
In “”The Observer Effect,”” Nobel Prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman explains that humans are notoriously bad at predicting our own behavior, and even worse at predicting the reactions of others. We tend to overestimate our abilities (or intelligence) and underestimate the difficulty of the task before us.
Take driving, for example. When asked whether we would honk at someone crossing the street without looking, most people answer yes. In reality, however, a study by James J. Wagner found that drivers rarely honked at pedestrians until forced to do so. The same phenomenon happens in many aspects of daily life. For instance, people often believe that they are better at math than average, yet studies show that people routinely underperform in mathematical tests [Source: Science Daily]. People also believe that they are more sensitive to pain than average, but studies indicate otherwise [Source: Psychology Today].
In one study, researchers divided participants into two groups. One group received electric shocks whenever a tone sounded. The second group received shocks after a predetermined amount of time had passed since the tone occurred. When the experimenters told the first group to shock themselves immediately when the tone appeared, they shocked themselves far more times than they normally would. However, those who waited experienced much fewer shocks than they expected. While the results may sound counterintuitive, scientists attribute it to human nature and the observer effect.
So why do we have these biases? Why do we hold ourselves up higher than we actually deserve? Perhaps the way we view things is partly due to external influences. Our culture has plenty of ways to influence our belief systems, including media reports on crime rates, political debates, and celebrity gossip. These influences affect how we see ourselves and each other. As a result, we can end up feeling inadequate, flawed, and unworthy. Other research suggests that we simply find it difficult to accept that we are capable of negative behaviors, especially when we don’t commit them ourselves.
Not everyone agrees with this explanation. Some argue that we engage in self-deception rather than believing that we are inherently good or evil. Others believe that our beliefs stem from evolutionary processes, which dictate that we believe in order to survive. Still others propose that we use cognitive distortions, like black-and-white reasoning, polarized thought patterns, and catastrophizing, to interpret events in a positive light.
Despite ongoing debate within academia, psychologists agree that thoughts play a large role in our lives. So what causes certain people to ruminate more than others? Read on to learn more about the link between violent fantasies and aggressive behavior.
Ruminators Anonymous is a 12-step program based on Alcoholics Anonymous principles designed specifically for individuals struggling with repetitive negative thoughts. Ruminators Anonymous teaches coping skills to deal with ruminative thoughts and replaces them with healthy activities, such as exercise and meditation.
Thoughts Influence Behavior
Some psychologists believe that cognitive distortions cause repetitive negative thoughts. Cognitive distortions include blaming yourself or others, making overly simplistic assumptions, jumping to conclusions, discounting evidence, emotional reasoning, oversimplifying problems, and catastrophizing. A cognitive distortion occurs when we distort the meaning of a situation, event, or interaction. For example, when faced with a problem, we might distort its importance by saying, “”This is trivial.””
These distorted thoughts encourage us to continue the cycle of rumination and lead to further negative emotions. According to Dr. Gail Matthews, professor of psychology at York University in Toronto, Canada, “”When we repeatedly evaluate and worry about past failures, we begin to doubt our ability to achieve future success””.
While cognitive distortions are common among ruminators, they aren’t entirely responsible for causing repetitive negative thoughts. Studies suggest that personality traits, learned behavior, cultural norms, and social interactions may also play a role.
For example, some people naturally struggle with anxiety. They may have grown up in an environment where criticism was rampant, or they may have been mistreated during childhood. Traits associated with anxiety disorders, like neuroticism and extroversion, may also increase vulnerability to rumination. Cultural pressures to succeed, conformist tendencies, and stressful relationships may also contribute to negative thoughts and behaviors.
People who suffer from depression may also ruminate excessively. Depression affects nearly 10 percent of Americans, according to Centers for Disease Control data. Those suffering from major depressive disorder experience constant sadness and low energy levels for longer periods of time than people without depression. Researchers believe that depression leads to increased ruminating because it increases stress, which in turn contributes to negative thoughts.
Read on to discover the psychological factors behind why some people ruminate.
Dr. David Eagleman, neuroscientist and author of “”Incognito Brain,”” believes that the brain creates consciousness out of electrochemical impulses. His theory argues that the brain is not conscious at birth but instead develops consciousness gradually throughout childhood and adolescence. Children start developing consciousness when neurons fire together in specific patterns, creating new connections in the brain. As children grow older, they develop more complex neural networks. Eventually, adult brains produce consciousness when enough neurons fire simultaneously.
Thoughts Influence Behavior
Many psychologists believe that repetitive negative thoughts lead to negative behaviors. Consider the following examples:
Depressed people often isolate themselves to avoid painful feelings.
Anxious people often anticipate negative outcomes, leading to panic attacks and phobias.
Obsessive compulsive people may obsessively check doors, locks, ovens, and drawers to ensure they haven’t left anything important behind.
A lot of psychotherapies center around changing a patient’s thought process. For example, patients diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder typically undergo exposure therapy, which involves confronting triggers and disturbing stimuli. Patients undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), and mindfulness-based CBT practice present situations and observe their responses. These therapies aim to change a person’s response to distressing stimuli rather than eliminate the stimuli altogether.
According to Dr. Richard Schwartz, clinical director of the Anxiety Research Center at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Medicine, “”We’re trying to change their reaction to a trigger””
Social support, family conflict, and stressful life circumstances often contribute to rumination. For example, depressed people may blame themselves for disappointing loved ones. Depressed people may also ruminate when they receive poor advice from friends or relatives. Obsessive compulsive people may ruminate when they encounter upsetting images online. Anxious people may ruminate when faced with public speaking.
Read on to learn about the biological factors underlying why some people ruminate.
Dr. Martin Seligman developed Learned Optimism Theory, which focuses on finding happiness through techniques like optimism training and goal setting. According to his model, optimistic people are able to form realistic goals and pursue them. Optimistic people enjoy long-term rewards like improved health and well-being. In contrast, pessimistic people set unrealistic goals and expect short-term rewards like temporary pleasure. Pessimistic people fail to acknowledge the benefits of hard work and persistently seek immediate gratification.
Several factors contribute to why some people ruminate more than others. Personality plays a significant role. Neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and openness to ideas appear in various scientific studies. For example, one study found that people scoring high on neuroticism tended to ruminate more than those scored lower on neuroticism. Another study revealed that anxious people reported greater rumination than nonanxious people.
Certain personality types may also predispose people toward rumination. Some people are more prone to ruminate based on their tendency to be either rigidly practical or impractically idealistic. Rigid thinkers prefer facts and detail, whereas impractical thinkers favor broad generalizations and ideals. Both groups commonly criticize others’ decisions and actions.”