- Education and Science
Revenge - Lip Smackin' Good?
Don't get mad - get even?
Revenge Fantasy? Or Reality?
If someone purposely hurt you - would you act on feelings of revenge?
Taylor Swift Revenge Song
"No more tears now, I will think about revenge."
Mary, Queen of Scots
Best served cold - or eaten sweet?
"Revenge is a dish best served cold" has been attributed to the 18th Century, "Les Liasons Dangereuses" although, reportedly, it never even appears in the book. The origination is unknown. In the French novel, 'Mathilde' the translation was "revenge is a dish very good eaten cold." (English translation 1846). It has even been linked to the Sicilian Mafia. Either way - served or eaten - agreement lies in the meaning that the longer one waits to exact their revenge the sweeter it will taste.
The phrase became popularized when it was said in "The Godfather" by Mario Puzo.
But where does the emotion come from?
Revenge is a most interesting primitive emotion. It is destructive, can be violent and it is a negative response to anger. Exacting revenge usually has the element of intent to do injurious harm to another. It can begin with a perceived slight, an insult perhaps. The offended person feels the need to strike back in some way in order to right the wrong.
According to Psychologist and Author Michael McCullough, revenge dates back to tribal times. It was an instinct that worked to protect the tribe. It was a method of survival. It is his belief that along the way this instinct got all tangled up in the pleasure network. People just like to punish other people.
Jail is a form of revenge. Those who have committed wrong doing, may be sentenced to time in jail to repay socieity for example.
Revenge is seen as a way to restore pride or dignity - honor. To be sure an offender has suffered and learned a lesson. It can make one feel as if they have been transformed from the powerless to the powerful or prey to predator.
Another fascinating part of revenge is that no matter what the crime, insult, injury the punishment must be exact or equal to the offense. It seems to be a collective response across the nation and an unspoken agreement that the act of retribution must be fair and not excessive. It should, in some way, restore equity.
The Bible quotes in Exodus 21:24 "An Eye for an Eye". The law says "let the sentence fit the crime". The word in the street is, "don't get mad - get even."
Robert Bies, behavior expert at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. studied revenge on the job for 15 years. He observed indiscretions such as employees that got better jobs, or the people who were favored over others. He studied the effects of the bosses taking credit for a job done by another employee. From what I understand, everyone who was asked said they did yearn to get even though only about 1/3 of them did retaliate. Approximately 2/3 used passive agressive responses such as gossiping about the offender at the water cooler. On the bright side - they reported they felt better.
In Science Magazine, 2004, a Professor at the University of Zurich named Ernst Fehr published his extensive research on revenge. Professor Fehr conducted a reseach study using volunteers who earned money to participate. Each participant was hooked up to a PET Scan while the test was in progress.
In summary, Professor Fehr used volunteers to play a game. A double crosser was a plant and was given the opportunity to cheat. When the other participants were informed the "betrayer" was cheating they could retalitate by imposing a fine on the person who cheated. Sometimes they had to spend their own money to conclude the punishment and they did because they wanted revenge that badly.
The PET Scan revealed that even when the "victims" were just thinking about revenge a part of the brain called the dorsal striatum lit up like a light bulb. More interesting, the dorsal striatum is hard wired in the pleasure center of the brain. This would lead one to believe that merely fantasizing about vengence is pleasurable and rewarding.
Further, they found there was a correlation between the people who wanted to inflict the most punishment. The dorsial striatum lit up more brightly than those who cared less. Those participants with the lowest amount of activity in that part of the brain punished the offender less.
Is Revenge Moral?
Exacting revenge can be seen as something deserved. Hypothetically speaking, if a man punched my sister repeatedly in the face - and maybe threw my daughter, who was trying to protect her aunt, down the stairs - I would probably thirst for revenge. I would probably lie in bed at night, killing the monster over and over in my mind with a smile on my face. Why, I bet my old dorsal striatum would be lit up like a Christmas Tree! My mouth would be watering....craving sweet tasty revenge.
Who could blame me?
Is Revenge Rational - Justified?
Sadly, no. Revenge is not a good emotion - although negative emotions can be healthy this is not one of them. Revenge is a violent emotion. Most of the research concluded without a doubt that the people from the research studies who did decide to punish the person who they felt had wronged them, felt worse for having followed through with the punishment. It did not improve their mood. Turns out - Revenge is just REAL fun to think about! You can't actually follow through with the fantasies of, oh I don't know, retribution, like punching someone repeatedly back in the face.
Reciprocity isn't always a good thing.
Hypothetically, I am certain everyone would understand that I would love to impose a penality on the person who so viciously beat my sister and daughter. However, I would not take the responsibilty to punish a person in my own hands - I would hope the law would see that justice prevails.
In conclusion all the research proves that thinking, or even fantasizing about revenge is pleasurable and maybe even healthy but acting on it is where one should draw the line.
The desire to impose any form of revenge is maladaptive behavior. It isn't one of those good negative emotions. It is rage that should be controlled or "restrained" and "retrained" or focused in a more positive direction. Truly - I believe most of us are conflicted when we feel as if we have been slighted.
Acting on revenge often spirals out of control and escalates. Nothing positive results - it just makes a person feel better for a short time, then regret sets in. Unless you are a sociopath. Sociopaths do not care about how other people feel - I called my doctor to check in.
I am thinking there could be a bright side to being sociopatic - if I am a sociopath - then I wouldn't feel bad at all if I acted on my vengeful feelings. I wouldn't care at all about tearing someone apart, limb by limb. If I am not a socipath and I act on revenge - well, I don't want to have to feel bad or regret anything. Too bad she's out today, the nurse said to take two aspirins and she'll get back to me tommorrow.
I have hope though.....I am very patient and I do have a sweet tooth!
More on revenge...!
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- How to Get Revenge
The list of reasons why you might want to get revenge are endless, but if you are reading this I am guessing that either you are simply curious as to the content of this article, or you already have a person, people or company in mind that you feel h