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Revenge: we most often want it when we are hurt by other people. Research shows that whenever we have an opportunity to take revenge, we use it, because most of us are vengeful - we do not let our harms pass. We believe "revenge will bring relief." And that's not true! Check why we want to take revenge on someone and how often we implement our revenge plan!


  1. Revenge: how often do we take revenge?
  2. Revenge: what are its consequences?
  3. Revenge: is this a fair system?

Revenge- according to scientific research, the vast majority of people believe that it brings relief, allows people to forget about harm, which ultimately improves mood and restores a sense of happiness. We also commonly believe that revenge maintains the feeling that the world is just and good because evil finds its punishment. The desire for revenge is primarily caused by situations in which someone will treat us badly or unfairly.

A husband who leaves his wife destitute, but with his children on his head, and then avoids paying alimony, although he himself is full of abundance; a partner drawn into the business by a partner who begins to cheat and deceit to get rid of his former benefactor; the teacher maliciously evaluates the student; theft, humiliation, lies, etc.

There are many injustices, and each one is a huge stress. If we knew how to deal with the accumulated negative emotions, it would be easier. In such a situation, does revenge really bring relief? Many experiments have been carried out to check this.

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Revenge: how often do we take revenge?

In one study, groups of four people who were strangers to each other participated. Each participant was initially given PLN 100 and could go home with them, but he also knew that if they put them in the pool, the experimenter would double it and divide it equally among all participants.

So if everyone put their 100 zlotys into the "common cash register", the experimenter would add 400 zlotys, and the sum (800 zlotys) would be divided between everyone and everyone would leave the room with 200 zlotys in their wallet.

The experiment was designed so thatpeople could argue with each other, agree on what to do, but no one knew how much was put in the pot by the others. In addition, one person was an actor substituted by the experimenter, and his task was to persuade the other three to invest as much as possible ("If each of us puts in 100 zlotys, each of us will gain an additional hundred!").

The same person was supposed to cheat, however, and did not throw anything into the pool. In this way, the "cheater" gained the most, because when the other three put all their money into the pool, it was PLN 300, the experimenter doubled this amount (PLN 600) and divided it into four people. Ultimately, after the division, everyone got PLN 150, but the scammer still had PLN 100, which he did not give.

It is worth emphasizing that as a result of the impostor's actions, no one actually lost, only gained less. The fraudster received the most (PLN 250). The experiment was planned in such a way that the fraud was revealed "by accident". Everyone was outraged by him. Half of the participants were then given a chance to take revenge and punish the cheater - for a fee they could deprive the fraudster of his "victory". The other half did not have a chance to take revenge, they took their 150 zlotys and the experiment was over for them. The mood of all participants was measured throughout the study.

The test result was surprising. It turned out that out of 10 people as many as 9 take the opportunity to take revenge, if they are given the opportunity. This is a thought-provoking result! Rather, we will not turn the other cheek … It can even be said that most of us are vindictive - we do not let the harm go away and when we have an opportunity to retaliate, we will use it.

It is also puzzling that we decide to take revenge despite incurring real, personal costs (here in the form of losing money). After all, the respondents could keep the win and go home, but they preferred to lose part of it, as long as the cheater learned a lesson.

Something else is most interesting. Those interviewees who had not been given a chance to retaliate claimed that if they had the opportunity, they would have taken advantage of it and would have felt better.

Revenge: what are its consequences?

They were completely different than people thought! Those who were not given the opportunity to take revenge were in a much better mood than those who did take revenge! The conclusions are clear: revenge not only does not bring relief, but also makes your mood worse! It seems that we live in an illusion - we think that we should take revenge for the wrongs, but if we take revenge, it will be even worse! No retaliation allowed me to feel better! Revenge isn't sweet, it's bitter.

Why are so many people wrong in their predictions about the effects of revenge? And whyrevenge instead of cheering up, makes it worse? We know the answer to these questions. Well, people want revenge, most likely because they believe that "the matter will be settled, it will go into the past and stop crushing me; I get the bills settled, so you can forget it."

Revenge is therefore motivated, among others, by the desire to "restore the balance" in order to "close the case" and forget about the harm. Meanwhile, the effect of retaliation is different: when we engage in revenge, we also devote ourselves to contemplating harm.

Bad feelings swell inside us when we plan our revenge, want it, move it away, and then recall it. Revenge doesn't help with forgiveness either. On the contrary, it fixes us in the position of a victim, then a persecutor, and in a way rules out forgiveness. If we took revenge - by definition: we have not forgiven. It seems that instead of taking revenge, it is better to part with the offender and forgive him. Forgiveness frees us from feeling hurt and makes us see ourselves as noble, generous people.

Revenge: is this a fair system?

When it comes to revenge, one more thing is worth noting: people often feel that "something is wrong" when it comes to the administration of justice by the state.

Today, most civilized societies create legal systems whose primary task is crime prevention and deterrence. Rather, the human sense of justice demands the repayment of an evil deed. Human intuition also tells us that this retribution should be proportional to the moral outrage that the wrong act has spawned.

For example A man who steals PLN 100 from a cripple and spends it on a game of poker arouses a stronger moral indignation than a woman who takes the PLN 100 protruding from an ATM, does not return it, and buys bread for her hungry children.

On theoretical level, everyone agrees: punishment should prevent repeat offenses. On the level of specific decisions, people are completely not guided by this premise and impose a pen alty directly proportional to their moral indignation.

And because our motives are different from the legal systems, there is relatively often a mismatch between what most people intuitively think is fair and the punishment imposed by the law. This applies, for example, to the death pen alty.

This will be useful to you

Forgiveness training instead of revenge

Forgiveness is possible if the harm is a thing of the past. And it can be learned. Various techniques and even therapies (e.g. Radical Forgiveness Therapy) serve this purpose, which are guided by the saying of Marcus Aurelius:the harm will also disappear. "If we decide that we are" above this harm ", it leaves us.

Therapy participants learn to think about themselves in terms other than "I became a victim". They reformulate the event to be aware that failure, suffering, even harm can be a hidden blessing in the long run.

They try to see the persecutor of a human ("Everyone does mean things sometimes, also me") and discover their own participation in their harm (eg "I did not draw conclusions from the harbingers of misfortune, so it came a little with my consent") .

They also learn to look at the event from the perspective of life, not just a "here and now" situation, and refer to "higher justice". Sometimes they need training to repress thoughts that resemble bad events.

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