Why does revenge make us feel better?
Revenge as a way of externalizing
Revenge is never to be encouraged, but we must sometimes admit that it feels good to take revenge. Indeed, it’s a way for us to express our suffering and turn the page on the betrayal more quickly. It’s not necessarily a cold and meditated act, it can be a sudden impulse that lets the individual’s rage out. Revenge helps to release anger and frustration more quickly.
⚡Nevertheless, it all depends on the reason for taking revenge. It’s not the solution in all cases and for everyone.
The power of revenge
The relief of letting out our emotions isn’t the only reason we like to take revenge. Revenge gives us the power to find ourselves! Indeed, when we feel belittled, humiliated or denied, revenge makes us feel better. Doing something unpleasant to someone who has made us suffer gives us back our dignity which has been trampled on. Philosopher Michel Erman explains that justice sanctions by punishing the guilty, while revenge repairs and restores our integrity.
⚖️ When we take revenge, we show that we should be respected by going through the “short circuit of justice”.
Does revenge really do any good?
Getting bogged down in pain
Several American psychologists (Kevin Carlsmith, Timothy Wilson and Daniel Gilbert) have closely observed how we react to revenge when we carry it out. The emotional consequences are likely to be complicated. Indeed, taking revenge links us to the memory of our suffering. Revenge marks the past more strongly because of the traces of the punishment. Transforming the pain into satisfaction therefore becomes impossible.
➜ The philosopher Jean-François Bossy explains that revenge is an “irritability of the self”. As a result, we endlessly scratch our wound by wanting to make the other person suffer.
Revenge is not for everyone
In addition to strongly marking the past with the act of revenge, not everyone is cut out for it. Not everyone has the mental capacity to take revenge. If you are hypersensitive, empathetic or psychologically fragile, revenge is a very bad solution. Emotions such as sadness or anger can be complicated to manage, and these are the emotions that fuel revenge. The risk is that we internalize them and keep them inside us, so if we fit this personality type, forget it!
Happiness is the best revenge of all
Revenge is primal, it’s neither moral nor developed. Of course, it enables us to think about ourselves and put ourselves first to feel better by taking justice into our own hands, but it’s not the only solution.
To be happy, to feel happiness by feeling good in your own life is the best way to “take revenge”. It’s more difficult to transform our suffering by affirming the best in us in front of the other person. Nevertheless, it’s a great satisfaction to reach this state without being a toxic person who takes revenge. How do we get past the urge to take revenge? According to Jean-François Bossy, there are 3 stages to go through:
- Wait for the emotions to subside: indeed, you must calm down your anger and never react in the moment. Time is the remedy against the desire to take revenge.
- Observe objectively: by going over the facts to understand the other person’s motives.
- Realize your revenge: this is the opposite of revenge. You must set your desires to know what would make you fully happy without thinking about the pain the other person has caused us.
➜ Happiness endures whereas revenge is sweet at first, but soon becomes bitter, as the poet John Milton would say. So even though sometimes it can feel good, the best thing is to focus on yourself and mend yourself after experiencing a betrayal.
Editor’s note: Move on!
What if the best revenge was to turn the page, to leave without looking back at this person who betrayed us? Thinking about them and how you’ll get revenge is still giving them attention that they don’t deserve. The best revenge is to move on, rebuild yourself and show off your happiness to everyone.
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