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Better than Revenge: Strategies to Free Yourself from Anger

Releasing the connection to anger is a powerful choice.

Key points

  • Thoughts of revenge may seem like a path to justice and freedom but actually prolong pain and suffering.
  • An alternative strategy is twofold: embrace a higher form of justice and disengage from the anger.
  • Releasing thoughts of revenge and anger is a choice to be powerful in your life.

When you’ve been wronged and hurt, it is normal to imagine seeking revenge on the person who hurt you. Maybe you think about a revenge fantasy, or want to get back at that person, or you feel strongly about pursuing legal action. The idea of revenge seems like it would be satisfying and help bring resolution to the wrong from the past. This may seem reasonable for a while and can give you a sense of vindication. But sometimes people get stuck in these thoughts, hoping revenge will be the answer to help them feel better. However, in reality, seeking revenge is not as great as you might think.

For one, thinking about revenge keeps you preoccupied with anger. It narrows your perceptions and compromises your judgement. Thoughts of revenge fills your head with toxic thoughts displacing other thoughts robbing you of your happiness. Revenge may seem to be a pathway to freedom but it is actually a trap.

Secondly, if you decided to act on your thoughts of revenge, likely more bad outcomes will come your way. This could be in the form of retaliation or legal actions taken against you. This is not only dangerous but grips you further into a negativity bond with a past perpetrator.

Finally, if you pursue legal action against the perpetrator, be prepared for a lengthy and costly process that will include going through detailed recollections of the past to numerous people. You will be questioned and it will be challenging.

All of these pathways of revenge may or may not lead to justice, but will certainly prolong your pain and suffering.

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freedom is better than revenge
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How do you get past revenge when there is no apparent justice?

I do believe you have every right to be angry. You absolutely deserve justice for something that was very wrong and unjust. At the same time, I also believe you have every right to be happy and free of the past that has caused you so much hurt. Every time you think about it, relive memories, and think about revenge you continue to immerse yourself in the horrors of the past.

So then, how can you get resolution when there is no accountability or punishment without negating or minimizing the wrong? The answer is twofold: 1) embrace a higher form of justice, and 2) when you are ready disengage from the entire drama of pain.

For a higher form of justice, I offer “poetic justice.” This is the concept that somehow, somewhere, someway natural consequences will come to those who act in awful ways. The perpetrators will create their own consequences all by themselves. You can wipe your hands and say it is not yours to hold on to anymore. What happens to the perpetrator is the perpetrator’s problem. Not yours.

If the one(s) who wronged you feel guilty, because they know what they did was wrong, then their own guilt will take its toll and wreak havoc on themselves. If they don’t feel guilty and continue to act in awful ways, then eventually there will be consequences. Ultimately, we pass from this world, and maybe there will be spiritual justice, or karma, where people’s behaviors find a way to come back on them.

Somehow, someway justice finds a way. The beauty of this is that you don’t have to do anything at all and justice will be served.

How do you release yourself from thoughts of revenge and anger?

The next step is to get angry at being angry. This occurs when you realize that you are sick and tired of being angry, that it is taking up too much space in your head, and in your precious life. The goal is to disengage.

We can’t undo the past. As awful as it might be, wishing it was not, cannot change it. There is a grieving process of coming to terms with what is, that lands you into the present. It may take many tears of grief but ultimately it comes to what is known as “radical acceptance” or accepting what is. It happened. It helps to acknowledge and validate that it happened. But it need not mean more.

The past does not have the power to control you, or define you or your future. You can shift your attention away from reliving the past and start to look forward.

Here’s a way to understand this. Imagine driving your car and you are focused on the rearview mirror. Your attention is looking behind you. How well are you going to be able to drive forward? Probably not very well. That’s what it is like when you are thinking about the injustice. You are focusing on the past. In order to be able to drive forward, you have to shift your attention to what lies ahead.

This is not about being passive. If you feel safe to report, then you can report it. If you want to engage in advocacy or want to help others, these are great ways to channel your passion to make a difference. The main hurdle is to disengage from the intense connection to the injustice. This is about acknowledging that what happened was very wrong, and then if and when it serves you, you can choose to allow yourself to let go of the thoughts about the past and release the desire for revenge.

Imagine your mind is fueling electric cords to power up memories from the past. Think about how much of your energy is being used to keep these thoughts active and alive. Revenge is deceptive. At first it may feel satisfying and give you a sense of power. But in reality, it is an incredibly high-voltage drain on your system. If you feel exhausted, drained, or maybe depressed, it could be partly because keeping those thoughts and memories active takes a lot of energy.

Releasing your connection to anger is a powerful choice.

It is something you choose, and continue to choose. It is choice not to entertain negative thoughts, or to get caught into replaying the memories. Resist. Set up a positive focal point to keep you focused. Releasing your connection to anger is also a choice to be powerful in your life.

Imagine unplugging from negative thoughts about the past. All that energy is now available to you. You have the power to make choices from this day forward, to forge ahead in a desired way. Imagine the peace of mind of not thinking about the past. When the anger is no longer in the forefront of your mind, you have space to think about what you would like to create in your life. What would be fulfilling, satisfying, and bring you joy? If you don’t know, then maybe that’s where to start focusing your mind.

More from Lori S. Katz Ph.D.
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