Punching Walls: Have you?

BoxerFxI remember one of my early days of Emergency Medicine when one of my fellow providers picked up the chart of yet another male patient who had slammed his fist into a wall during a verbal fight with his girlfriend or wife.

“What an idiot!” my colleague said in disgust.

To which I incredulously replied, “Haven’t you ever hit something out of anger”? Wondering how he could have so easily forgotten the stupidity of his youth.

“Hell no! Why would I hit a wall?” he said with righteous surprise.

Well, with that clear signal that sharing my stupidity would not be good, I kept quiet. But I have slammed walls several times and broken my hand twice. And with that conversation, I realized that apparently not all men shared my stupidity, my explosive anger, my reflex to strike. I was actually surprised.

Years later, in a similar discussion with another colleague, I decided to share that I too had hit walls before. He then asked me “Why did you hit the wall?”

To which I unhesitantly replied, “Because my father raised me correctly. He taught me never to hit a woman.” To which my colleague responded with shocked eyes.

We are all different from each other. Sometimes we mistakenly assume that our situations are uncommon, but sometimes we are right. It is always good to find out, but only when it feels safe.

On a positive note, after my second fracture, I learned to go outside to sprint or to pick up tree sticks and therapeutically smash them — I had to dump my testosterone somehow. And it has been greater than 15 years since I even needed to do that. Further, I am proud to say, I have never hit a woman — its almost shameful that such a statement should ever have to be made, eh?

Is my new found freedom from rage due to a fall in my testosterones levels or due to maturity and insight? Unfortunately, I’d bet on the former.

Questions for readers: How about you, have you ever hit a wall? What do you feel about wall-hitters?

Note: I have treated women who have done the same, of course, but they have been far and few between.


Filed under Cognitive Science

27 responses to “Punching Walls: Have you?

  1. Hmm…I guess it depends on the situation, but typically I’d say that smashing things and hitting walls is somewhat abusive, still. Even if you didn’t intend it that way, doing this when you’re clearly angry and in the presence of the person you’re angry with could be construed as intimidation. If you were the other person might you wonder if this behavior could escalate into something more serious?

    Having said that, I have out of sheer frustration and anger hit myself over the head with one of those ballet slipper type shoes. It didn’t hurt – at all. 😀

    Take anything I say on the matter with a grain of salt because I’ve had a past history of domestic abuse.

  2. @ Ruth,
    Well, it is certainly intimidating and violent. It is/was unquestionably not a good act. But it was far better of an act than the other parts of my brain were screaming for.

    This was not written as a justification post by any means, but a sharing of stupidity.

    As far as hitting yourself in your head. Some, when hurt or angry, strike outward, some strike inward. Neither are healthy.

    But I have been with women how hurt themselves when upset. My mother also made several suicide attempts. Hurting yourself also does not guarantee that you aren’t hurting others, eh?

    This post was meant to be a combination and sad and funny. Sometimes it is better to laugh than cry, eh?

  3. As far as hitting yourself in your head. Some, when hurt or angry, strike outward, some strike inward. Neither are healthy.

    But I have been with women how hurt themselves when upset. My mother also made several suicide attempts. Hurting yourself also does not guarantee that you aren’t hurting others, eh?

    Oh, absolutely and equally intimidating. Definitely not healthy. Like you, I haven’t done anything like that in a long, long time. I have a feeling it’s because I’m now out of that abusive relationship and much healthier than I was.

    Certainly I didn’t mean for what I said to be critical and it is much better to laugh than cry about it. I’ve shed far too many tears already.

  4. I agree totally with your evaluation Ruth. Well said.
    At the risk of sounding sexist (anti-male), I also wrote this post to add evidence to my opinion that males are by far the most dangerous sex in our species. I was just confessing my role in that pathology!

  5. There are those who wouldn’t agree with you about males being the most dangerous sex in our species. They might say something along the lines that women usually “start it”.

    I also meant to say that I’m sorry to hear that your mother had attempted suicide. I’m sorry that for – whatever the reason – she felt that much pain. I never attempted suicide but I did have suicidal thoughts. I also had thoughts of making myself as big or bigger than my abuser in order to defend myself. Fleeting as those thoughts were, that was when I woke up and realized the situation I was in. I decided that I could make my situation better and no one had to die or be mamed to accomplish it.

  6. Oh, don’t get me wrong, women got their whole list of short-comings, and I really don’t care who is the worse. I think we agree — faults abound!

    Thanx again for sharing.

  7. Never broke my hand on a wall, on a guy’s head once, but never on a wall. Training I suppose, ’cause I have hit walls. More to the point, I’ve never gotten that frustrated in an argument with anybody – male or female. When the pager goes off right when that first twitch of REM begins, or the car battery is dead at 0300 on the day I have to leave on an ice climbing trip, yeah, then I’ll snap a little.
    What is it, may I ask, about arguments with women that is so frustrating? Is it the style – I mean, lots of women argue to win, not to get their point across, back somebody off or reach an accommodation. For example: “Don’t put the bowl on top of the refrigerator, the vibration of the motor will eventually shake it off,” says he. “Well, don’t leave your dirty socks on the floor,” says she. Am I close?

  8. @ Keith,

    I to have broken my thumb on a guys jaw, but we agreed to the fight — for mutual “pleasure”. And like you, I trained my fists on pounding iron poles at my Kempo (KungFu) temple in Japan, but that was after those previous fractures. No breaks since! 🙂

    Good question about arguments with women — very good. I’m not really sure. But I am sure the answer, whatever it is, is not politically correct.

    Thanx for jumpin’ in Keith!

  9. Not quite the same thing, but when I used to work retail I’d sometimes go in the back and punch boxes. I’m usually a fairly calm, quiet person, but dealing with the utter stupidity and unreasonable entitlement of some people while you “grin and bear it” was so horribly frustrating, it was the only way I could “let it go”. One night I was so infuriated by the tirade of abuse I got from a customer, I punched a hole in the dividing wall in the back office. No damage to my hand, but it did make me feel better… (I now work in a nice office in a cubicle where I don’t have to deal with people much, and I love it).

  10. @banzaibobafb,
    There we go — see, I knew I was not alone! 🙂
    Thanx for sharing, Bob. Sounds familiar.

  11. I punched a few walls in my youth, but never to avoid hitting another person. I’ve always had an aversion to hurting people, and neighborhood fights would really upset me, and I would do the bare minimum to defend myself.

    As a young adult I broke a number of video game controllers, but now that they can cost anywhere from 30 to 60 dollars I don’t do that anymore, 😉

  12. @ Mike: Yeah, I was shocked when I learned that by 25 years old, most of my friends had never struck a wall or person out of rage. Now breaking things, that seems the ultimate in stupidity. 😉

  13. Indeed! I don’t get angry, at least not in that way, very much anymore. Then again, all it will take is me failing a section of a video game 347 times in a row, and I might just lose it. 😉

  14. Earnest

    Have hit objects to maka a loud sound to make a point about how much something upset me. Oldest son has broken plaster in my house, but in fairness when I get really mad at him I either break or steal his toys.

  15. @ Earnest,
    Fascinating. Though my wife will slam doors and stomp for show attitude (as do some women at work), I’ve never made noise with objects to express myself. I wonder how many people do that and what the male-female divide is? And I have never broken my child’s toy out of anger at them, them both my children have done it to each other. Now, I have turned off the internet which both steals toys AND makes the whole house noiser! 🙂

  16. rautakyy

    I have never hit an object out of anger, nor have I ever hit a woman. I have a couple of female friends who could kick the shite out of most guys, or at least make it an even fight with some of the toughest dudes, though.

    I have done plenty of stupid stuff, like get into a fight I might have awoided, if testosterones (and alcohol) had not influenced my judgement.

    I have hit a number of dudes (though always in self defence), and though I can remember some sore wrists and knuckless as a result, I have never broken my hand by hitting anything. Exept once – ice. And I guess, that incident falls under the same sort of idiocy you describe in the post. It was kind of drunken mock fight with a friend on an icy parking lot, that ended up me falling and going fist first to the ground. I broke my wrist, but was too drunk to even notice and continued by carrying a girl from my class around the town all evening… The next morning I walked home over dozen of kilometres away, from her place, but I could not close my jacket though it was 17 degrees celcius below. My dad asked me, if I needed to see a doctor because I could not cut the stake he had made for our supper.

  17. R Vogel

    I did some boxing in the military and college and I have always had a heavy bag wherever I have live, so no need to hit walls. I highly recommend it.

  18. Earnest

    @ Sabio there are issues in some places I work with chart-slamming, either onto a desk or into the chart rack. The chart rack is a ring of aluminum slots with openings like horns or cowbells. This really irritates the sonically sensitive. I have seen staff “rescheduled” for that. So that staffer should have punched some ice instead & despite a broken hand kept their job!

  19. How about you, have you ever hit a wall?
    I’ve never hit anyone, neither have I ever smashed anything because of anger. I somehow developed this idea, from early on, that I should never ever engage in fight. However, I can be angry and will definitely argue a lot–obviously. Strange how different we are, isn’t it?

    What do you feel about wall-hitters?
    I understand the naturallness of this reaction. I, simply, never do it because I immediately think of the consequences (broken hand, for instance). These thoughts occur to me earlier than the reflex of hitting the wall. Either my reflexes are too slow or my thoughts are too fast. I think it’s the former.

  20. Thanx Takis. Great analysis.
    But I must tell you, you don’t know what you are missing.
    If you ever find a wall that is about to be destroyed, take a punch.
    Then let us know how it felt?
    Start small — little punches.

  21. When I was young, a friend and I could tell how each others’ week had went from the state of the walls in our respective houses. Oh, sweet dry wall, so easy on the hands (and somewhat easy to patch).

    So I’ve always considered wall-punching a somewhat honorable act. Your soul is bare enough to feel strong emotions, but you morals are stronger (and your brain-wiring is up to the task because adults raised you decently).

    When I was teaching a criminology class I asked the students how many of them had punched walls in their youth. A single hand came up in a class of sixty. That student and I stared at each other like we had just outed ourselves as atavistic beasts. Until then I had assumed it was a natural part of being male.

    As a older brother re-routing my rage toward non-living objects was a deeply-felt responsibility from an early age. That no human or animal has physically suffered from my anger since my early teens is point of pride.

    Imagine in the immediate wake of 9-11 if America had fired a salvo of missiles into the moon instead of methodically leaving Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria littered with dead civilians over the next decade? I far more trust the wall-puncher who knows violence is absolutely wrong than the banal man who sees violence as an abstract tool.

    These days a brisk walk or gritted teeth buffer my frustrations and I agree with the first commenter that displays of aggression are themselves forms of violence – especially when done in front of children or pets. PAX

  22. frednotfaith2

    I’m pretty sure during my childhood I hit walls with my fists a few times but I more specifically recall kicking things that wound up making holes in walls when I was keenly angry or frustrated, and only when I was pretty sure no one else was around to see. Of course, once I saw the damage I’d done, the next step was to try to repair it as best I could before my dad saw it and would beat the hell out of me! Although I used to get in fights regularly with one of my brothers (10 months younger than me, but by the time we were about 12 and 13, he was actually a bit bigger than me and he was always the one to start the fights but I did my best to finish them), by the time I was about 12 I developed a strong aversion to hitting anyone. To me it wasn’t just wrong to hit women, it was wrong to hit anyone, except in defense of yourself or someone else. But hitting an object which couldn’t feel any pain? Yep, I had no aversion to that in the heat of the moment, until I realized I might get in trouble for property destruction. About a decade ago, as I was approaching middle-agedom as an eternal bachelor I got into the strange habit of hitting myself in the stomach when I felt sexually frustrated; fortunately I got over that phase, if not over the frustration.

  23. Ana

    I am 28 yr old female an my anger has recently shot threw the roof i have always had an anger issue but just get worse I have hit walls a dozen times just on my right hand just recently went to the er because of a boxer fracture I found yes it might be stupid to some people but for the person it’s better then hitting that person in the face I have chocked my sister an went to jail for it almost got attempted murder on me an 10 yrs but I was lucky I didn’t in court judge asked me u pled guilty I said yes I did I owned it never would I want to do that again so if there’s a wall I punch that instead but getting a punching bag in soon can’t wait no more messing up my hand.

  24. Yep better a bag than a wall and all those better than a person. Best of all to understand and control anger without punching. Harder for some of us.

  25. Two months ago I obliterated my dominate hand into a cement wall…least to say it felt great but was all through my emotions building up over the years and not talking about it. I regret it, my hand doesn’t move the way it used to and aches often. We live to learn, and I most definitely did so.

  26. Warren

    Three nights ago I punched a wall. Twice. I have never lost control of my emotions to such an extreme. It scared me to death and I am seeing a counselor tomorrow. The weirdest thing about it was that the only thought I had in my head before my fist went through the wall was that I’d always wanted to try those wall repair patches I’d seen advertised on tv because they looked cool. Then after the first one I guess I got even more frustrated because of what I’d done so I did it a second time. I felt so ashamed afterwards.

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