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"Adrenaline is a hell of a drug"
Berserker, Hysterical Strength & Rage Testimonials
Presented here are the anecdotes and personal stories sent to me by my twitter followers and mutuals. I’m incredibly grateful that people chose to share these intense moments of their lives and the patterns by and large match what I described in my article. All the stories have been anonymised.
“When I was a child, I experienced "seeing red". Nerdy child, physically weak, stereotypical bully bait. Not much self-regulation so I was easy to taunt. From age 10-12/13 I was continually in trouble for fighting. Normal pattern - I would get taunted or deniably pushed, shoved etc., "see red" and fly into a rage where I would attach my tormentor. Not literally "seeing red" as there was no red haze effect. But I experienced it as a state that would come over me, not under my voluntary control.
Which frustrated the hell out of me when my parents and school authorities wanted me to stop! I would have if I could have!
It was only after a religious experience around age 13/14 and a season of prayer that I found my "curse" lifted. It just... stopped.
Fast forward 30 years. One morning I am up before dawn with my son, waiting for our carpool to his basketball tournament. I realize that our car in the driveway, just 15 feet away from me is being rummaged by a thief.
Had previously been robbed this way and seen that the police were useless in solving this type of crime. I experienced a flash of knowing that a) if he got away, no one would catch him b) he'd repeat his stealing over and over and c) everyone else in our neighborhood was old or unheathy; I was the only one capable of defending our tiny community.
I immediately ran out the door with a berserker yell "HEY!!!!"
I must have scared him, he took off running *fast*
Had never experienced so much adrenaline energy in my life. I sprinted after him, still yelling, with some vague notion of raising the alarm.
Caught him before he got more than a block away, tackled the thief and put him into a chokehold.
Had previous training in taekwondo and aikido, plus some weapons training via modern fencing and historical swordsmanship but was never a wrestler
Rage starts to subside once I have him submitted, enough to think "now what do I do?" That was when the police showed up so I didn't have to problem-solve. Got cuffed and stuffed into the cruiser while they figured out who was the perp and who was the crime victim. :)
Unlike the berserker rages as a child, I didn't "go away" mentally and "find myself" in the middle of a fight. It was hyper-lucid and focused. While I stayed in a physically elevated state for a while (maybe another 20-30 minutes to come down?) with high heart rate and breathing hard, was able to mentally calm & speak to the police calmly, give them my story, then carry on with letting my wife know the (resolved) situation. Made it on time to the basketball tournament, too.
Wondering now if in another age and place, my childhood rages would have been seen as indication of a warrior/lycanthropic spirit rather than just "anger bad; please suppress""
“This story has been relayed in my family for more than 200 years now .
My great great great grandfather, fought against the failed Napoleonic invasion of upper Egypt . During this invasion , the Ashraf tribes asked for help from their tribe branches in other countries . Many came , but the most peculiar ones were those from the port city of Yanbu , now part of Saudi Arabia . They were incredibly mystic Sufis , very fervent . Before any battle or ambush (due to the technological inferiority we had to rely on guerrilla tactics) you could find them in their tents , chanting their battle poems together in an almost trance like state . During battle , these men were unstoppable killing machines , not to be stopped by sword or gun .
The story that is recounted is that my ancestor was part of a group meant to ambush a group of french soldiers and rush them so they do not get a chance to employ their guns. With my ancestors group was a bunch of these Sufis . During the charge , they were normal , but once they engaged with the french , they became complete different people . One of them would get shot , Fall down, and immediately get up to continue fighting , all this whole chanting their poems glorifying the prophet and the sahaba , likening their battles to the early Islamic conquests. They absolutely crushed their opponents , to the point even their allies were very scared of them . After the battle , all of them died to their injuries . On one man , they counted almost 60 stab and gun wounds , and his dress was almost fully red .
There's probably some exaggeration in the story , but i do not doubt the base at all . The Sufis were very much known for their ferocious battle trances”
“Whenever I hear about berserker rage I think about Captain Chontosh. I met him a week or so before his actions that earned him the Navy Cross. He seemed expressive for an officer and the Marines under him loved him. He was in charge of my company before he moved on to India co.
I never served under him and I wasn’t in the trench where this event happened but that situation always made me wonder what state of mind he had to enter to accomplish that. Not very often a situation like that presents itself and someone ends it with such violence.
Saw your post and thought this might be a modern equivalent of berserker rage.”
“I have experience of this from relatively young age onward.
Emerges in situations generalisable to “threat” but can also be induced through process of “psyching up”. Comes in two types: “hot” and “cold” - you could say red vs blue mist. Hot kind similar to stereotypical rage and usually for acute/panic situations (eg one off threat of physical violence, cold kind can go on for longer and is more calm. Inner subjective experience of both is one of focus and stillness, and a grim sense of purpose - although outside observers describe as “rage” or “anger” or “buttmad”.
Once passes, usually extremely tired or fragile, and with limited memory of events “within” the state.
I suspect is extension of normal emotional responses to stimuli experienced by those who “feel intensely” and is likely ignored by a modern world that has no use for emotion or intensity of any kind. My guess is that main chemical component is actually vasopressin - hormone of intense concentration - which also closely associated with male sexual energy.”
“Two times I can remember myself 'going berserk.' Once in middle school where I got into a fight with a kid because he spit on me after kneeing the back of my head during a football game. He was taller and stronger than I was, but I took three hits and a kick to the chest from him and didn’t feel a thing. I had the singular thought of 'GO' in my head, and I just screamed and ran at him, tackled him, and started wailing on him. Took two male teachers to pull me off. Afterwards I felt incredibly tired and sore. Was afraid too that I'd get in trouble at home for fighting at school.
Second time is more of an adrenaline rush than going berserk, but I think similar bodily functions are involved.
Worked in some greenhouses that were sorta poor. There was a rail going down the center of the house carrying an engine, hose, and the arms that sprayed water on the plants. This contraption weighed close to 150lbs and I was told multiple times to watch my hands when working with or around the rails.
So one day Im trying to scoot the hose that runs water to the arms around so it doesn’t bunch up on the rail and stop the machine from moving. In doing so, my hand moved slightly forward and I thought I felt the wheels starting to come down on my fingers. I screamed 'SHIT' and my spare hand shot up and actually lifted the front of the contraption up enough to pull my hand free”
“I fought 3 men on New years 2010, I know for a fact someone was punching me I the back of my head, and someone else was trying to choke me, but I had tucked my chin, I was strangling their friend and slamming his head into a set of steps that I was walking up, while doing this, I do not remember clearing the steps, or opening the door, but when I came to, his friends were trying to get me to let go and they tore my shirt off, I came to when I was turning around to deal with the other two”
“I was driving way too tired one day heading halfway across the state. Fell asleep and went into the grassy median. Woke up with sight panic overcorrected, that's when the adrenaline hit. Everything was just as clear and comprehensible as possible. I was able to assess exactly what was happening and knew that I was going to wreck. As I came across the road I knew my car wasn't really touching the ground as I went into the ditch, so I waited until I felt the car make contact and knew that I needed to turn as hard I could to avoid hitting the treeline head on, I knew I was going slow enough that I wouldn't flip but the head on impact probably would have still killed us, I say us because I had my dog with me strapped in the passenger seat next to me, after I had gotten it turned I thought of her, and unbuckled my seat belt and laid over her to shield her from the impending glass. That's when we hit the treeline with the left (drivers) side of the car and settled. I got out of the car as a group of guys in a work truck came over the median to check on me. I had no major injuries, only minor cuts from the glass.
Adrenaline is a hell of a drug. I remember everything clearly and this happened like 14 years ago. Car was totaled.”
"During rugby game. I play second row, so typically kickoff comes to me. Fly half for opposite side drop kicked and excellent, floating stratospheric kick, allowing his team to bear down on me like a pack of ravenous hyenas. I jumped clumsily in the air, knowing that fate had a royal shellacking lined up for my sorry personage. About halfway down, a small spaniard half back and an enormous second rower bore down on me and mid air, essentially snapped me in half. This extracted all wind and life from my body, as I collapsed clumsily on the ground like a discarded ragdoll. My team rushed to my aid, stupidity asking if "I was alright". It goes without saying that I was not. I lifted myself up by my own bootstraps and grabbed my knees in recovery position, contemplating the crime that had just occurred. This is out of character for me, but all of a sudden I became utterly enraged. To this day I had never felt any charge of energy like this. The other team laughed heartily at me, and this only served to utterly enrage me. My rage was building to extreme levels of sadism at this point. It felt good; there was a clarity in this hatred. There was a scrum where I got blasted, their feed. I recall this scrum, I was so enraged I felt as if I basically pushed them off, it was their scrum to lose of course, and with steam literally coming out of my ears and one eye bulging out of it's socket in a psychotic trance we pushed them back. The ref decided to give us a kick for touch. We took it. Again, the rage I felt was like nothing else. There was total clarity, it was almost as if the anger we normally get was like putty in my hands. Line-out time. Well as luck would have it, they grabbed it, and bounded it back to the Spaniard. Unfortunately for him, I had already pounced upon his position as if loaded up to the gills with angel dust, head high, my forearm aimed square toward his neck. He grabbed the ball, however it was too late for him. I grabbed him in such a rage that the boots he was wearing, implanted in the ground, did not move. I placed my arms around his shoulder and in one sickening move, thrust him 180 degrees east. Here's the catch, his boot was stuck - that the top half of his body moved with me, in my spastic emotional state, and the bottom leg stood fixed in the grass, not moving. Needless to say, one part of his body one, the other stayed put. I remember well my physiology, my eyes were bulging out my sockets, yet my violent aim against him was clear. He fell to the ground screaming. Everyone stopped. I felt a heat emanate from my head and I stared at him. Not laughing now are we? What struck me was the clarity of it, and utter aggression that I struck him with."
"Rightly or wrongly, I always envisioned my fighting style as that of a berserker - I'd start by shaking with adrenaline, then once worked into a fury I'd basically attempt to demolish my opponent without regard to any incoming blows, I'd just shrug off any attacks on my own person, while attempting to dismantle my enemy by any means necessary, I don't know for sure but I even felt prepared to kill if it meant winning. I felt out of control.
After the fight I'd be horrified by what I'd become during the conflict and become very morose. Maybe all that's normal, but I don't remember reading a personal testimony of similar experiences.
Maybe it's relevant, maybe not, but I'm a quarter Norwegian."