Vengeance: Getting Even

When Chicago gets hit with a snow storm, they have their own etiquette for how one parks on the streets. Chicagoans have a tradition of holding their spot with chairs after they’ve cleared a space for their car. There is no law pertaining to one’s right to hold a spot for themselves, but it is a way of calling “dibs.” In fairness, they did the work of shoveling the spot, therefore they should rest assured that their spot is reserved for them.

On Monday, February 9th a woman disregarded the lawn chair etiquette and was the target of revenge by someone who cut her brake line. A mechanic informed her that her car had been vandalized. This was a potentially lethal form of revenge. Not only was she in danger from a broken brake line but she fears further revenge because she lives in the neighborhood.

A reasonable person would be upset by someone poaching their spot, but would not resort to violence. This act of revenge was grossly out of proportion to the wrong originally done.

Leon F. Seltzer wrote an article published in Psychology Today, “Don’t Confuse Revenge with Justice: Five Key Differences.” In that article, he states that revenge is about acting out one’s anger. There is pleasure in causing others to suffer for the hurt they’ve caused. The motive of revenge is expressing rage, hatred or spite. The goal of revenge is to get even and when they do so, they feel empowered and satisfied that they have balanced the scales of justice. But rather than balance the scales, it is often an exaggerated response to an offense.

On the other hand, another study by Kevin Carlsmith, demonstrated that although people think that revenge is sweet, they found that it actually made them less happy. When people get revenge, they ruminate on it, replaying it over and over in their mind and feel worse.

Is revenge ever a healthy response? No. Revenge is best characterized as poor anger management. Howard Kassinove, PhD states that 25% of anger incidents involve thoughts of revenge. There are better ways to manage emotions.

Karyn Hall wrote an article “Revenge: Will You Feel Better?” in Psychology Today. She says that thoughts of revenge are a human instinct, but acting on it brings little satisfaction and may create more problems and suffering. Wait until you are calm emotionally and can think rationally before making any decisions. If you act impulsively on such urges you are likely to create more suffering for yourself and others and regret your actions.


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