Percussive Therapy

Let it out, buddy.
Jane: Does he ever like to have a temper tantrum now and again? I mean, he's the CEO of a large company and that comes with a lot of pressure, so... maybe he likes to let off some steam, throw a vase around or something?
Grace: Are you suggesting that Mr. Rochester, your employer? — makes sport of throwing decorative glassware? — in the middle of the night? — in his OWN HOUSE? — where his DAUGHTER sleeps? — because he needs to let off little STEAM — every once in a while?

Sometimes you are just angry. Angry enough that you decide to take it out on something or someone. Physically. This violent behavior may target a simple inanimate object, an opponent in a boxing match, or other similar situation, or maybe some convenient villain who happens to be in the area. Anyway, the point is that you are resolving your anger in a violent, but still somewhat socially acceptable way.

The psychiatric term for doing this in a therapeutic context is "catharsis". At one time this was all the rage, but it has fallen into disfavor among psychotherapists in the last few decades, as evidence has emerged that all it does is reward violent outbursts.

Contrast Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!, where the violence is meant to help calm the victim, and Percussive Maintenance, when the violence is motivated (at least partially) by attempting to make something work. As a general rule of thumb, slapping your printer = Percussive Maintenance, while throwing it out of the window = Percussive Therapy.

Subtropes of violence against inanimate objects to relieve stress include Agitated Item Stomping, when the character is hopping mad, Dartboard of Hate, where the character takes their frustrations out on an enemy's image, and Punch a Wall, specifically attacking vertical surfaces.

Examples:

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    Advertisements 
  • One Get Rid Of Cable commercial had a father smack the armrest of his chair in frustration over his cable problems. This left an impression on his young daughter, who grew up to be a rebellious hellion who marries a bad boy. The commercial concludes that if this series of events happen when your cable's on the fritz, "you will get a grandson with a dog collar".

    Anime and Manga 
  • Crayon Shin-chan: "The Happiness Bunny"—a Japanese woman and daughter who release anger over their abusive husband/father by beating up their stuffed rabbits.
  • In Legend of Galactic Heroes, Reinhard exhibited a tendency to smash wineglasses whenever some particularly bad news was delivered to him. Justified in that drinks (and thus glasses) are readily available in meetings where such news is often delivered.
  • At the conclusion of Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ, Bright Noa allows Judau Ashta to punch him to relieve a bit of the frustration Judau felt toward the Earth Federation leadership, thus inverting the famous Bright Slap.
  • Ranma ½: Akane is often seen breaking cinder blocks to blow off stress. She also does the wall-punching variation once... which injures her hand and leaves her with a handicap against a challenger to the dojo.

    Comics 
  • One Dilbert T-shirt had a picture of Dogbert walking away from a smashed computer with a baseball bat over his shoulder. It was captioned "The network is down, but I feel a lot better!"

    Film 
  • Along Came Polly: There is a scene involving the malicious stabbing of the ex-girlfriend's throw pillows. Ben Stiller's character notes how good it feels.
  • Analyze This: Following a phone call that get Paul Vitti all riled up, his therapist suggests "hitting a pillow"—cue the emptying of a full clip into a pillow. He felt better.
  • Citizen Kane: After Susan leaves him, Kane tears her room apart.
  • The Crow: Eric Draven plays an emotive guitar solo on the rooftop of his apartment building until the memories of his murdered fiancée become too much and he smashes the guitar in grief and anger.
  • Fight Club: The premise of the film is a bunch of guys coming together to do this to each other. Of particular note is the main character beating up the attractive blond guy so badly that his face is ruined. Why'd he do this? Because he "felt like destroying something beautiful".
  • The Whole Nine Yards: Matthew Perry hates his life. While driving to work, he stops every nine yards or so to flail around madly and headbutt his horn three times.
  • Happy Gilmore: What did those golf clubs ever do to him? Was he just testing their durability? And then just placed 'em in the woods because that's what they were made of!
  • Office Space has a rewarding example with baseball bats and the malfunctioning printer.
  • The movie Zombieland show us how it's done in twice, first when Tallahassee trashes out a family van and then when the protagonists break every single little thing of a store with music in the background.
  • In the "One of My Turns" scene in The Wall, Pink goes nuts and breaks everything in his hotel room, his aggression focused seemingly more at objects around him like his TV and his guitars than against the groupie who just happens to be in the way.
  • At the beginning of The X-Files: Fight the Future, Mulder can't get his drink out of a vending machine. At first he whacks it as if he might fix it, but then he just shakes it angrily, Percussive Therapy-style, mad that he lost his money. Moments later, he actually finds explosives inside the unplugged machine.
  • In He's Just Not That Into You, when the cool and calculating woman finds out her husband had slept with another, she tries to act rationally about it by suggesting that before they do anything hasty they should go into counselling. It's not until she finds cigarettes in her husband's things (something she had suspected him of having and that he denied to the point of making her feel guilty about asking) that she realizes she wants him out of her house. She smashes some porcelain in anger, and one would expect Defenestrate and Berate trope, but she neatly packs up all his belongings and leaves them on the stairs with a note telling him she wants a divorce and that he better get lost.
  • In the beginning of The Avengers, Steve Rogers is using said therapy to deal with the loss of his familiar world after waking 70 years later. He gets so into it he literally knocks a heavy punching bag off its stand. (No worries, he had six or seven lined up to replace it.) He even takes one home.

    Literature 
  • Life The Universe And Everything: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has this to say on the Silastic Armorfiends of Striterax:
    "The Silastic Armorfiends were an insanely aggressive race who lived on the planet Striterax approximately twenty billion years ago 'when the universe was young'. They were extremely keen on fighting—one of the best ways to deal with a Silastic Armorfiend was to lock him in a room by himself, since he would beat himself up sooner or later. They wrecked the surface of their planet in constant wars, and the whole population lived within bunkers deep below the surface. ''In an attempt to deal with the problems their violent nature created, the Silastic Armorfiends passed a law that anybody who had to carry a weapon as part of their normal work (including policemen, security guards and primary school teachers) must spend a minimum of 45 minutes each day punching a sack of potatoes. It was hoped that this would allow them to work off their surplus aggression. This plan worked only until someone had the idea to simply shoot the potatoes, and the Silastic Armorfiends were excited about their 'first war for weeks'."
  • In the book Man on Fire by A. J. Quinell, one character named Benny gets in trouble with the law after trashing the office of an mayor who promised him a job and later acted like every politician will. Benny tried to pay off his frustration with him, but he escaped, so...
    • They sent two dogs after him. The dogs reappeared 30 seconds later...through the windows...with their necks broken.
  • In Polgara the Sorceress, one scene has Polgara's first romantic interest, Ontrose, suggests in a heated moment that they take a moment to calm down and pick up the sexual tension again after an oncoming battle. Her reaction, once he's left, is to break some plates.
  • Spider Robinson's characters often resort to Percussive Therapy. The central character in the short story "Antinomy" is seen punching a window, "shattering the shatterproof glass and two knuckles". One hero of Mindkiller deals with a stressful moment similarly:
    "I went to the kitchen, mixed a pitcher of five-to-one martinis, frowned at it, dumped it down the sink, mixed a pitcher of six-to-one martinis, took it to the living room, and threw it through the television."
  • In Foxglove Summer, the fifth Rivers of London book, Peter is goaded into attacking a tree to let out some of his frustrations that has piled up since the last book, frustrations that are only hinted at to the reader because of the style of the narration. Even during the actual event, the narrative remains just as calmly objective as the rest of the series, meaning that the actual catharsis happens entirely between the lines.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Glee:
    • Finn, still seething after the betrayal of his best friend's affair with and impregnation of his girlfriend, gets to Sectionals with enough time to teach the group a few songs he printed off with the Cheerios printer. After he "trashed the thing."
    • Mercedes had developed a crush on Kurt (unaware that he was gay). After he turned her down, but failed to mention he was gay, she smashed his windshield, then sang a song about it. Possibly the window smashing may not have been to make herself feel better, but to make Kurt feel worse.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • "When She Was Bad": Buffy grinds The Master's bones "into talcum powder with a sledgehammer" to help her deal with the trauma from being killed by him and then killing him.
    • Spike spends much season 7 with an intense case of Badass Decay, presumably due to the after-effects of him being given a soul and then tormented by the First Evil. After retrieving his Badass Longcoat, he tracks down the Monster of the Week and engages in a brutal brawl with the guy (this being the first time we see Spike enjoy himself all season) before snapping its neck. Afterwards, he tells the corpse that a good fight is "good for the soul".
    • "A New Man": Giles, after a Humiliation Conga of events make him feel outdated and useless, comes across his old enemy Ethan Rayne and says, "You have no idea how much thrashing you is gonna improve my day."
    • In "Ted", Buffy claims she's not angry over her mother getting a boyfriend. Gilligan Cut to Buffy whaling the crap out of a vampire with a dustbin lid while a nervous Giles stammers that she really should move on to the staking...
    • After being dumped by Scott Hope, Buffy is shown making Faith of all people wince by pounding on the training pads she's holding, leading her to suggest that Buffy would make a better Slayer if she got dumped more often.
    • Played for drama in "Dead Things" when Spike encourages Buffy to work off her issues by beating him to a pulp. Buffy is shocked at the damage she inflicts on him.
    • In "Shadow", Buffy is freaked at Glory and Dawn. She auditions for the UFC by ground 'n' pounding the snake demon to death.
    • In "Killed By Death", Buffy is suffering the flu, implied to be a psychosomatic illness due to the whole Angel-turning-evil thing.
    Angel: Not feeling well, lover?
    Buffy: [knocking him down] That helps.
    Angel: You know, you being off your game's kinda takin' the fun out of all this. [punches Buffy in the face] Nope, still fun.
  • When Angel sees his Love Interest Cordelia having sex with his son, he kicks down the door to the stairwell, then we hear the sound of him doing the same to every other door he comes upon.
  • Joe tends to do this a lot on NewsRadio.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "For the Uniform", Eddington is always one step ahead of Sisko, so Sisko pummels a punching bag. It works a little better than most since he also shares his feelings with Dax at the time.
    • Also invoked (and then averted) in the episode "Take Me Out to the Holosuite," when Sisko is frustrated at his officers' general lack of baseball skills. Kasidy sarcastically invites him to smash something if it will make him feel better, since he looks like he wants to. He doesn't, but he does explain to her why it's so important to him to win a holodeck baseball game against a Vulcan arch-rival from his academy days.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Chain of Command II": Cardassian Gul Madred has been torturing Picard since the end of the previous episode. Part of the torture involves a remote-activated pain implant. At one point, Madred leaves Picard alone with the remote, so Picard smashes it against the table. Madred walks in and tells him it won't help; he has more remotes. Picard's response:
    "Still...it felt good."
  • The Goodies. In "Lighthouse Loonies", Bill goes insane and ends up chasing Tim around the lighthouse wielding a pie. After eventually copping Tim in the face with it Bill calmly says, "I feel better now."
  • Subverted in Merlin:
    Arthur: After Sophia left, I wanted to take my mind off her. So, I went for a hunt.
    Morgana: And killing things mends a broken heart?
    Arthur: No, but it's good fun.
  • Something similar happens in Game of Thrones. War is likely to break out between House Lannister and House Stark, so King Robert leaves Ned Stark in charge and goes off hunting. When an incredulous Ned calls him on this, King Robert snaps back, "Killing things clears my head!"
  • The X-Files: It's definitely Agent Mulder's thing.
    • Mulder gets very frustrated in "Bad Blood" and he gives full vent to his anger in kicking the hell out of a trash can. Why? He killed a teen by jamming a wooden stake in his chest and the FBI faces a lawsuit for $446 million dollars. However, said teen was a murderer and a vampire, and Mulder had been drugged anyway.
    • In "Anasazi", Mulder thinks he received a fake tape with "gibberish" instead of top secret government files. He hits a pencil holder and smashes it against the wall. But the files are actually encrypted. Poor Mulder has been being drugged, which he doesn't know yet at that moment. He also ends up punching Assistant Director Skinner a moment later.
    • "Wetwired": Mulder is on his way to identify a body which might be Scully. The messenger of his jerk of an informant follows him and insists that he keeps investigating the case, yet gives him only super vague leads. Utterly frustrated, Mulder kicks the door of Plain-Clothed Man's car.
    • "Sein Und Zeit": Mulder attacks his desk when Scully tells him that his mother committed suicide.
  • Horatio Hornblower:
    • "The Examination for Lieutenant": Sailor Bunting has a hard time dealing with Finch's death. When Matthews tries to sell Finch's stuff to raise money for his widow, angry Bunting buys it all, puts it in a bag and throws it overboard. It doesn't help him much with his grief, though.
    • In "Duchess and the Devil", Midshipman Hunter, the surly seaman of the week, gets utterly furious when the Duchess brings them a basket of fruit. When Styles wants to take some, it pushes Hunter's Berserk Button and he starts trampling the fruit underfoot and then throws the battered fruit into an oubliette. Never mind that they're in Spanish prison and vitamins might come handy, because it is English beef he wants, and English beer! Scurvy or no scurvy...
  • In the episode "Little Girl Lost" of Castle, a woman whose daughter was kidnapped smashes a lamp against her husband's painting when she feels he's not concerned enough.
  • An episode of Blue Collar TV had a fictitious show called Fix It or Feel Better. If the host (played by Jeff Foxworthy) proved unable to fix an appliance, he would recommend the owner get a baseball bat or similar implement, and beat the crap out of the offending machine.
    "Hit it like it was your ex-husband!"
  • In the Supernatural episode "Everybody Loves A Clown" (S02, E02), Dean deals with his father's death by smashing a window on a nearby car and then taking a crowbar to the trunk of the Impala.

    Music 
  • Yoshiki Hayashi playing drums. Just go look up his drum solos on YouTube, especially the ones from before he threw out his neck drumming. He's admitted in interviews and in his official autobiography that he actually took up drumming as a way of expressing his feelings.
  • Limp Bizkit's "Break Stuff" does a good job of describing this trope.
  • Nick Lowe's "I love The Sound of Breaking Glass".
    I need the noises of destruction
    Deep into the night

    Video Games 
  • In-universe: In Dead Space 2, keep hitting the stomp button for a while after killing a Necromorph, and eventually Isaac Clarke will start swearing a blue streak, apparently getting out all his frustrations on these horrible undead abominations that are making his life utter hell.
  • Mass Effect 3: Admiral Han'Gerrel, a bit of a General Ripper sort, fires on a geth warship the second you disable its kinetic barriers, even though you and up to three past or present members of your team are still aboard (counting Legion) and wasting his only chance to get the fleet safely out of the system. With a Renegade Interrupt, you get to explain to him how angry this makes you by punching him in the stomach.
  • Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures: There is a pail and oil drum in Pac-Man's yard that he plays like drums. If he is angry, he just slams his fists on them, making him feel a bit better. Subverted when tries this with a set of bass drums in the department store. He ends up breaking them and get chased out of the store by the angry clerk, without any changes to his own mood.
  • The WiiWare game Stop Stress is all about this trope, as you take control of a guy going around smacking things with a hand held object. However, playing the game is about as likely to induce stress as it will relieve it.

    Web Comics 
  • One Scandinavia and the World strip features Finland beating the life out of his computer in rage and frustration with many screams of "Perkele!" until his tech-savvy neighbor Sweden steps in and fixes it for him...

    Web Video 
  • The Autobiography of Jane Eyre: There was an accident in Mr Rochester's house—crashing of glass rather violently, and Mr. Rochester got injured. He blames it on having a nightmare, knocking a vase over, and injuring himself with the broken pieces. Jane doesn't buy it, and thinks there is more to it, because he also asked her whether she had seen something. She speculates that Mr Rochester is under lots of stress. She asks Grace, his personal assistant, who gets furious and thinks that Jane should shut it and stop with these insinuations.
  • Idiotsitter: Epsiode 5, "Fight Day", revolves around the titular Russel family tradition—beating each other with therapy bats. Billie is the only one to realize how messed up this is, but eventually gets bribed into participating by Mr. Russel for $1,000.
    Billie: We're gonna go in there and we're gonna tell them that this is over because it is a terrible and violent tradition.
    Mr. Russel: Yes, it is. It is terribly cleansing and violently healing.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • The day before the eclipse, Aang is having serious mental health issues on account of feeling unprepared for the upcoming invasion. His friends try to help him in various way. One way they try is to have him scream into a pillow. It doesn't work.
    • Throughout the same episode, he attacks inanimate objects for training purposes. It still doesn't help.
    • Zuko deals with his anger in this fashion a lot.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes: In one episode featuring Ultron, Thor flies headlong at Ultron and knock's the robots head clean off. When Hawkeye notes it was a "nice shot", Thor describes the experience as "satisfying, indeed."
  • Ren in The Ren & Stimpy Show does it sometimes. A particularly good example is the beginning of the Adult Party Cartoon episode "Altruists", where he beats Stimpy up as if it's some kind of routine.
  • When told she needs to stop working so excessively, Nicole of The Amazing World of Gumball decides to start breaking household objects to relieve stress.
  • Benson from Regular Show does this often, as he has anger management issues. It's lessened gradually, thanks to character development.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Fluttershy tries to do this once in the episode "Green Isn't Your Color", kicking a vase, but only managed to slightly rock it.
  • On Archer, sometimes Archer's elaborate voicemail pranks on Malory get her so mad she smashes her phone on her desk.