Emotional Fitness

Harness the power of emotion to deepen your love with your partner, become more successful at work, and more

Is Revenge Worth the Effort?

By trying to hurt another, we only hurt ourselves.

Why is it that, as a culture, we are fascinated by revenge? It has been the subplot of soap operas and the subject of endless hours of therapy. Some counselors consider it a good practice to help patients release their pain and anger by having them imagine about how they will get back at someone who has hurt them.

Although the therapy room is a safe place to talk about your feelings, fantasizing about revenge may not be the best counseling. In recent years much has been learned about how people process and heal their emotions. For example, in the 1970s, it was thought to be healthy to beat a pillow to release pent-up anger. Current research shows that this action may actually cause the anger to increase.

Revenge can cause people to abandon their goals and focus their attention on the pain of the past. I don’t believe that holding hurt, pain, and anger toward someone else helps us to move on. Those feelings can cause us to act in ways that can destroy our current lives, as we push away the people we love. Years ago, there was a case study of a couple that broke up because the man did everything he could to make his ex-wife’s life uncomfortable. His current fiancée realized that she couldn’t live with someone who was possessed with getting revenge, and she left the relationship.

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If you have strong feelings of vengeance toward anyone in your life, and you let those emotions rule you, my guess is that you’re not really living to your full potential. Leaving the desire for retribution behind you is not as difficult as it may seem.

First, understand that when you are able to let it go, you will free up tons of energy that you can use for much more creative and constructive activities. If you think of your brain as a hard drive that’s full of old applications, deleting them frees up the space you need to write a novel, build a business, or go online and find true love.

Letting go of childhood issues that have been with you for decades can be hard. Think of forgiveness as the key that can unlock the chains that have held you prisoner to your past. I know many people who came from terribly abusive backgrounds, who were able to rise above it and create successful and loving lives.

A good method of healing is to see that your experience helped to make you who you are today. This is much easier to do if you like yourself and your life, but it isn’t mandatory. All you have to do is find something that pleases you about yourself and make a connection. For example, the fact that you are a sensitive person may have come from having survived a difficult upbringing.

Getting even is emotionally expensive. As Confucius said, “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” By trying to hurt another, we only hurt ourselves.

 

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Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist, columnist, and radio host. His latest book is The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.

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