Revenge: Is It Really Sweet?
I know you have had several times in your life where you have wanted to take revenge on someone who caused you pain. I certainly have. In fact, I can identify three times in my life where I have wanted to take revenge so profoundly that I would dream about it at night and fantasize about it during the day. The desire to take revenge inside me was very strong and it took a great deal of work, on my part, not to act on it.
The passion for revenge is powerful and can be overwhelming. It is a primitive, destructive, and sometimes violent response to injury, anger, or humiliation.
It is a misguided attempt to transform shame into pride, to become a victor instead of victim, to punish the perpetrator equally, if not more than you were pained, and to transform your sense of powerlessness into power.
All that being said, is revenge really sweet?
I remember as a 12-year-old girl having been bullied, ostracized and publicly humiliated by a group of girls for a period of six months. Compounding the daily humiliation I experienced from the girls, was the collusion of the boys in the class. Everyone turned their backs on me.
There was one girl, in particular, who was emotionally brutal to me; day in and day out. You see, she was in another circle of mine outside of school and was a heavy influence there too!
No one helped me. The teachers and the principal knew this was going on but they did little to nothing to intervene.
This all came about because I told someone something that I promised not to tell. Very typical of girls at that age. But the consequences for me were steep!
This was one of those times where I wanted to take revenge, desperately. But I didn't outwardly. Inwardly, was another story!
It took many years for me to reconcile how I felt about this experience and what it meant about me. Despite my many accomplishments, I had not found a way to let go of the pain until I was quite a bit older.
Interestingly enough, 27 years later, this queen bee, now a woman with two daughters of her own, finally apologized to me "for being so cruel." Pretty amazing.
I can only imagine what my life would have been like had I attempted to take revenge. I would have become her; a power seeker who sought significance at the expense of another.
I was raised better than that, though.
If revenge originates from the primal need for self-defense, then what benefit does it give us?
In the short run, you might feel as though you would accomplish some of the following: * Restored your dignity and increased your pride or stature * Taught a lesson to the aggressor * Made the aggressor suffer and feel some degree of pain you experienced at their hand * Make the aggressor feel remorse and apologize
But in the long run, here's what you would accomplish: * Guilt about having acted out * Regret for a wasted effort to assert your power over the aggressor; because you know that you can't make someone feel genuine remorse if they don't. * Regret for having behaved in a way that didn't exemplify your true self; you reacted and internalized this experience, rather than thinking before you acted and focusing on your strengths.
The ONLY time revenge is sweet is when you don't take it.
This is the "secret strategy."
The best way to resolve your need to take revenge is to do two things: 1. Take action to better yourself from having had that experience. Really look at what you need to learn about yourself and others so that you step into your higher self.
Filter out what is yours to own and what is not; then dump the rest out in the garbage.
Anytime we go through painful, humiliating, and punishing circumstances, there are always benefits; some of which we don't recognize until later on.
Here's what I learned from my 7th grade "experience": - I valued confidentiality - I developed a deep level of empathy for those who were downtrodden - I treated others with kindness - I could stand up for myself in ways that were constructive and that I could teach others how to do that as well - Cruel people don't forget how they treated others; they have to live with their demons and their insecurities - The Karma that they have created, by their mistreatment of others, will surface in some way, at some unexpected point in their lives. They will be equally transformed by pain, anguish and humiliation of their own, without an intervention from me.
2. Commit to living your life being the exact opposite of those who caused you pain. There can be no greater punishment that you issue to yourself than for you to carry around the anguish, pain and helplessness that you felt from an injurious experience.
And, no greater mistake for you to make then for you to choose to continue to closely identify with a painful experience; making it your life story.
One experience does not entirely define you.
"Resentment is like taking poison and hoping the other person dies." (St. Augustine)
Do yourself a favor, take stock in who you have become today. Give yourself credit for having remembered exactly what it felt like to have gone through such a tough time and notice how you have beautifully compensated for that in your daily living.
Revenge is never sweet. You can never create a circumstance where that person will ever experience the same level of pain, anger and humiliation that you felt from them. It just isn't possible.
But, what IS possible is that you hold yourself to higher standards and make choices that are rooted in kindness, compassion, and empathy for others, while doing everything you can to build on the foundation of greatness and strength that resides within you already. No one can take that away from you.
Look ahead to the path that lies in front of you, decorated with promise and goodness. Follow it onto higher ground. The view is really beautiful.
In love and light, Janis www.cohenfamilycounseling.com