Revenge – The Sweet Complexity

Techniques To Squelch Retribution 

I’ll get you back for this“! - over 1 million results found online.

Revenge is sweet” - Lord Byron, 1819 (and other versions before and since).  

From your sense of self, your identity, you have boundaries.  And when you believe those boundaries are crossed by someone else, or something else, you may feel the need to take action.  Taking action to counteract is a form of balance.  In its negative form, it is vengeance, or revenge.  We are all familiar with this reaction in life.

To help you through the complexity of revenge in your own life is the strategy to use alternatives.  Even those who conclude that revenge is acceptable, and perhaps necessary, can use these alternative techniques in personal and professional situations.

Revenge Is Everywhere

Revenge is probably part of our human structure.  It is part of the laws and judicial systems of countries, even though it is not supposed to be.  That’s because law should be logical, and vengeance is emotional.

It’s also a trait of other animals, such as monkeys and birds.  Some theories about revenge include the concept that because a society has members who may sometimes take revenge, the society benefits because of “rules” that get followed by those who don’t want revenge.  Humans, and animals, survive better together when sometimes they are reminded – with a vengeance – that they have not acted according to the rules.

Taking Revenge – Or Not

So while we may enjoy seeing a hero in a movie take revenge on the bad guys, its not always so clear in real life.  We may be challenged by conflict of whether to allow our emotions to “take over”, or to follow our principles and not give in.

Three areas to consider when thinking about revenge:

  • Illogical: Revenge is not always logical, rational, or likely to reward us in the way that other activities do.  It takes time and energy to do, and this time and energy should be used for our goals, not for some other activity.  Studies have indicated that after completing vengeance, we feel worse than if we had not taken that action.  But it is too late to change the act, and our self-image can be negatively impacted.
  • Pleasurable: Studies also have shown that when we complete a small revenging act, the area of our brain that is involved is a pleasure center.  So, we are apparently wired to enjoy revenge, even when it is not the best choice.  Thinking about revenge starts a pattern that we enjoy, as we look forward to the pleasurable, but sometimes illogical, payoff.
  • Higher Pleasure Payoff: Focus on what you want in your life, not on the revenge, and reach a level of higher pleasure.  The ability to create a non-revenge response is inside of you, and taking this road can be worthy of you.  It requires self-control, creativity, and it rewards us with an increased ability to focus on what matters, to focus on what we really want from life.  And that can happen once we decide to change our response pattern.

Tools To Control Your Retaliation

So… how can we re-wire our primitive vengeance-seeking brains?  With knowledge of techniques, used over time.  And with desire to succeed.

Technique 1: Wait. We are not wired to want revenge forever.  Urges pass.  Time softens our feelings.  If we didn’t change, then after days or weeks or months… we would spend 110% of our time thinking and acting on our revenge feelings.  Adding up every act we didn’t take action on every day, we would quickly run out of time to think about anything else.  Of course, this doesn’t happen.  Instead, over time, the biology of our bodies and minds that caused the feelings will change.

Technique 2: Pursue your purpose.  Think … are you trying to bring the world down, or up?  Are you trying to show that you are hurt? (yes? then just say so).  And most importantly, did you already plan to do this revenging act?  Or did you just decide because of the situation?

Yes, your physiology wants to take action.  The passion of revenge is better used positively as fuel for your higher purpose.  Build up this habit of redirecting to the positive, and soon you will do it almost automatically.

    • But what if the purpose requires the same action as revenge?  Then, once you are sure this is the situation, you would focus on your purpose as you take the best action.  If you focus on revenge, with the same action, you are “feeding the monster” and keeping that habit more powerful inside you.  (You have to decide if honking the horn at a bad driver is (a) to show how angry you are, or (b) to help the driver recognize their error, and to be inspired to avoid doing it in the future!)

Technique 3: Forgive.  Forgiveness implies you have control of your response.  It does NOT mean:

  • forgetting
  • trusting
  • lowering your defenses
  • automatically forgiving next time

It takes courage to forgive.  Forgiving a big problem means looking at your soul and saying “I am stronger than this, I am more important than this.”

Your brain is wired to want some retaliation “satisfaction”.  But you can get ultimate satisfaction if you try, and think about what satisfaction really is for you.

[This subject will be re-visited in future posts, as not all of the ideas could fit into this post.] 

Rolling Stones: Satisfaction

About Paul Worsham