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Eliminating Revenge

Chapter 10: Eliminating Revenge

Tools for Anger Work-Out

By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.


How does my revenge manifest itself?

When I am seeking revenge I:

  • find it hard to forgive and forget past hurts/offenses.
  • try to get back at those who have mistreated me.
  • set up situations where those with whom I am angry get what I believe they have coming to them.
  • am reacting to real or imagined hurts/offenses I have received at the hands of others.
  • am acting vindictively seeking just retribution for the wrongs I have suffered.
  • am unmerciful and insensitive.
  • act in a cool, distant, and unfriendly manner toward those I believe have mistreated me.
  • act sadistically to ensure that the offending parties feel hurt, pain, and misery similar to mine.
  • am spiteful toward my transgressors.
  • deliberately irritate or perturbed my enemies.
  • have decided that I am a victim; those who have offended me are antagonists or enemies.
  • am prejudiced against my enemies.
  • give my enemies no chance to redeem themselves.
  • see life as a win or lose proposition and having lost to my enemies, I make sure that they lose.
  • want to see others suffer like I have.
  • get bloodthirsty. I get pleasure seeing my enemies in pain.
  • feel vindicated by my enemies suffering.
  • say biting and sarcastic things about my enemies.
  • lack tolerance, compassion, or forgiveness.
  • resent what my enemies have done to me and seek to get even with them.
  • enjoy hearing that one of my enemies has suffered a personal disaster or defeat.
  • might spend excessive time in trying to get even.
  • may never achieve a full sense of retribution or vindication.
  • might displace my anger on people who are innocent.
  • end up hurting innocent bystanders, destroying any chance for a relationship.
  • concentrate on my suffering, building it up in my mind.
  • hold on to old scripts and jump to the negative assumption that others are out to hurt me. I treat them in such a way that they regret their involvement with me since they are not the legitimate objects for my anger.

What are my feelings when seeking or achieving revenge?

1. Seeking revenge, I might feel:
Bitter, intolerant, vicious, hard hearted, resentful, irate, vindictive, hateful, belligerent, mad, aggressive, spiteful, callous, malicious, antagonistic, cold, critical, mean, cruel, rebellious, furious, murderous, inconsiderate, ruthless


2. Achieving revenge, I might feel:
Negative: guilty, disappointment, regret, remorse, unscrupulous, ill at ease, unfulfilled, embarrassed, unsatisfied, nervous, discontented                      
Positive: honest, irreproachable, satisfaction, gratification, self-satisfaction, reliable, sound, at peace, content, exhilarated, relieved, thrilled, excited


What are the pitfalls in seeking revenge?

When I try to seek revenge or to get even there is the chance that:

  • I will never feel vindicated.
  • I might become so bitter that I become unappealing, a person no one wants around.
  • I might forget my original complaint, escalating my hate for years, creating a monster.
  • I might be filled with unresolved anger, never feeling content or completely at rest.
  • I end up hurting myself more than anyone else.
  • I may get confused about my negative, hostile behavior.
  • people might see me as having a chip on my shoulder
  • my plan might backfire on me and I end up getting hurt all over again with my antagonists getting off the hook.
  • there is the chance that I could develop a warped sense of justice.
  • I could become convinced that no matter how hard I try, I will always be a loser and my enemies will always get the best of me.
  • I might become obsessed with winning at any cost
  • I might lose all notion of what my goals and priorities are.
  • I might put more energy into getting revenge than getting on with my life.
  • I could generalize my anger and stereotype my enemies.
  • innocent others could suffer and be confused by my tactics.
  • I could become cold, distant, nonfeeling.
  • I could seek revenge to the exclusion of my personal growth.

Why would I seek revenge?

My seeking revenge is based on:

  • seeing my parents function as role models of this behavior.
  • unresolved anger.
  • an inability to deal with the reality of life.
  • poor communication skills.
  • poor interrelational skills.
  • feeling ignored or discounted by others.
  • my inability to admit that I've been wronged and get on with my life.
  • a lack of healthy options available to me in dealing with offensive behavior from others.
  • my sense of competition in relationships.
  • my need to be the winner in a relationship.
  • my inability to accept the fact that I will lose at times.
  • my inability to accept that relationships require compromise to be healthy.
  • my embarrassment at feeling foolish at the hands of another.
  • my inability to communicate with another person.
  • the fact that this was the only way I learned to handle conflict.
  • my need for control in relationships.
  • a lifetime of neglect, feeling ignored, misunderstood, unappreciated, unrecognized, or invisible.
  • my need to show others how wrong they were when they predicted I would never be good enough or amount to anything.
  • my inner sense that if I don't look out for myself no one else will.
  • my need to be first or on top in everything I do, so that no one can take it away from me.
  • my need to get in the last word in any argument or disagreement I have with others.
  • my unwillingness to bury the hatchet with an old enemy
  • my stubborn determination to be the winner no matter what.
  • our society's belief that just retribution is expected when a crime is committed.
  • my feeling that those who commit crimes against me deserve to be punished.
  • my feeling that if it is OK with society, then it must be OK for me to wish death on my enemies.
  • my confusion about the possibility of gaining retribution, vindication, reparation, and restitution in life.


What irrational thinking underlies my need to get revenge?

  • No one is going to take advantage of me again.
  • I would rather fight than admit I was wrong.
  • They hurt me too badly; I can't forgive and forget.
  • I don't get mad, I just get even.
  • Don't cross me if you don't want your head in your hands before it's over.
  • There are two kinds of people in this world: those that lose and those that get even.
  • They are all alike, so what do you expect.
  • It is better to attack before you are attacked.
  • No one cares about me; I need to protect myself so that no one can take advantage of me again.
  • They are all out to get me.
  • There's no place where I can feel safe, secure, and content.
  • Kill or be killed.
  • The world is a hard, cruel place to live; everyone is out for themselves.
  • The only way to achieve my goal is to be sure that my enemies suffer dearly for their crimes.
  • They owe it to me; I'm going to take it.
  • They deserve everything they get; the worse it is the better.
  • They'll wish they had never done that to me before I get finished.
  • It gives me great pleasure to see them in so much pain.
  • Don't cross me or you'll be sorry.
  • I have a right to full restitution for the emotional harm I suffered.
  • I'll teach them a lesson or two before I'm finished.
  • They will have to pay and pay dearly for the pain and suffering they caused me.
  • I expect full and unconditional reparation and vindication before I'll forgive them.
  • I might forgive, but I'll never forget.
  • I won't turn the other cheek again.
  • Vengeance is mine, says the Lord. This idea is out of touch with the reality of today's dog eat dog world.
  • The only satisfaction I'll get is when they are six feet under.
  • Harboring resentment against people is a waste of time unless you are able to bring about their fall.
  • I must achieve as much as I can to make them sorry they ever mistreated me.
  • It couldn't have happened to a nicer, more deserving person.
  • I must be perfect to show their mistake in rejecting me.
  • I must be the best so they will finally recognize my worth and regret their put downs of me.
  • I'll neither show my anger or how badly I'm hurt; they'll never know where the pay back came from.

How can I rid myself of the need to seek revenge?

To rid myself of spiteful, revengeful behavior I need to:

  • identify each negative behavior in which I am currently involved with revenge as the prime motivation.
  • identify every person against whom I harbor ill feelings.
  • identify each incident for which I am seeking revenge.
  • do anger work-out on each person and event for which I feel revenge and/or unresolved anger.
  • exhaust my anger, then work at forgiveness and forgetting.
  • put past hurts, injuries, and pain behind me; reset my goals and priorities; concentrate on personal growth.
  • rid myself of the remnants of irrational thinking and replace them with self-enhancing, self-promoting thinking.
  • develop a new way of handling hurts and pain by increasing my ability to be assertive and confront my anger in a timely fashion.
  • achieve a win-win philosophy in my relationships.


Steps to eliminating revenge in my life


Step 1: The first step is to identify current behavior that has revenge as the prime motivation. I will write down in my journal each of the behavior traits in the first section of this chapter that are true for me. I will next write down each of the pitfalls of seeking revenge in the second section of this chapter that bother me. Then I need to read the following list of revenge-oriented behaviors and write down those that impact my life most of the time:


Revenge Seeking Behavior Inventory

  1. I am rarely happy with the people in my life.
  2. I am rarely content with my life.
  3. I am rarely content with my material success.
  4. I am driven to work harder and longer hours to get ahead.
  5. I seem to work harder and enjoy it less.
  6. I am unable to find a job that I thoroughly enjoy.
  7. I tend to jump from job to job with no long-term planning involved.
  8. My relationship with my spouse (or significant other) is clouded by my unresolved anger against person(s) of the same sex as my spouse.
  9. I find that I am often at odds with my spouse (or significant other) over anger issues from the past.
  10. No matter how my spouse (or significant other) tries to change, it is never satisfying to me and I let this fact be known.
  11. I overreact to little things my spouse (or significant) other does because it taps into old hurts.
  12. I avoid intimate relationships for fear of rejection, non-acceptance, hurt, or pain.
  13. I shy away from romantic relationships; I really don't trust the opposite sex.
  14. I am filled with excuses for why I'm not ready for a committed relationship.
  15. I am guarded and defensive in a group of new people.
  16. I find people shy away from me once they have met me because they sense my bitterness.
  17. I am rarely able to relax, kick up my heels, and just have fun.
  18. I am obsessed with the idea of getting even with others.
  19. I am bothered by paranoid thinking; I feel that others are out to get me.
  20. I find it difficult to accept the idea of forgiving my enemies and forgetting their offenses against me.
  21. I find it difficult to believe that I need to make amends to those I may have hurt, offended, or treated unfairly.
  22. I find it difficult to believe in turning the other cheek.
  23. I would rather wage war against those who have hurt me, not make peace.
  24. It is difficult for me to accept that my parents and family did the best they could knowing what they did at the time.
  25. It is difficult for me to let go of my anger against those who have scarred my psyche for life.
  26. I find those who are all forgiving too good to be true.
  27. Getting even is a prime motivator for success in life; I am hesitant to let go of this rationale for my behavior.
  28. Having been the object of prejudice and bigotry, I find it hard to believe that it is better to forgive and forget than to seek revenge.
  29. If it is good enough for society, why isn't it all right for me to get my just retribution for offenses committed against me?
  30. I find it difficult to come to a compromise in which each person comes out feeling like a winner.


Step 2: Once I've identified my revenge behavior, I need to identify against whom I am seeking revenge. I will answer the following questions in my journal:

  • Who do I feel a need to get even with? For each person I list, I will answer the each of these questions separately.
  • What did this person do to me?
  • With what specific events was this person involved?
  • How would I like to see this person paid back?
  • How has this person already been paid back?
  • How do I feel about the way life has treated this person?
  • How do I feel now about the events regarding this person that angered me in the past?
  • What is lacking in me that keeps me from forgiving this person and forgetting the events involved?
  • How angry am I today toward this person? The events?
  • What keeps me from letting go of my anger against this person and the events involved?
  • How does my revenge manifest itself?
  • How does my desire for revenge impact my current life?
  • How would my life change if I no longer sought revenge?
  • How reasonable is it for me to harbor so much anger against this person now that I realize what this anger is doing to me?


Step 3: The third step involves anger work-out, forgiving, and forgetting. I must exhaust my anger by doing anger work-out for each person listed in Step 2. Then I need to perform an act of forgiving and forgetting for each one. The following letter provides an outline to use in this attempt. I do not need to send the letter unless I feel it would act as a tool of healing for the hurting relationship I have with the person addressed.


Letter of Forgiving and Forgetting

Dear _________,

I have used anger work-out to forgive and forget the following:


I am committed to continue to let go of my anger over these past hurts and pains. I intend to speak up immediately when I feel hurt. My honest, assertive behavior will allow me to change my life and improve my relationships.


I accept that your actions were based on your own compulsive behavior and the scripts you learned in your family of origin.


I believe that you are a different person today from the one who hurt me. You have changed in the following ways:


I recognize that even though I have suffered, the following things brought equal pain to you:


I am ready to forgive you and work at blotting out the memory of the hurt. I'd like to emphasize the positive in our relationship and work on improving the negative.


Signed: Your Name


Step 4: The fourth step includes a change in my behavior so that I avoid getting into a revenge mode again. I need to implement the following win-win solution to problems each time a conflict or disagreement arises.


A win-win model of conflict resolution:

Recognize what the conflict with the other person is about. Identify:

  • who/what is involved
  • the content issues
  • the feelings involved, the level of anger
  • the risks if the conflict goes on unresolved

Create a mood of mutual concern:

  • never react out of anger
  • never cry
  • never yell
  • never call names
  • wait until we both feel calm
  • use an understanding tone and approach
  • be gentle, caring, but firmly assertive
  • be open and communicative
  • listen for feelings
  • be honest with my feelings and concerns

Create a problem-solving atmosphere:

  • explain the problem in an assertive way. Go into total detail for full understanding
  • list all of the issues involved
  • hear each other out with no interruptions
  • encourage each other to talk and express feelings and concerns
  • identify alternatives and brainstorm a full, exhaustive list of possible solutions
  • list the alternatives and solutions in a realistic order

Create a compromise to grow atmosphere:

  • be willing to look at the whole list of solutions
  • don't hold on to my point of view'only
  • be creative in searching for solutions
  • don't hold on to an I win, you lose position
  • don't hold onto you win, I lose position
  • don't hold on to a you lose and I lose position
  • hold on to a you win and I win'position

Bring a permanent closure to the fight:

  • once we have settled on a compromised solution, record it as a formal statement or agreement
  • each of us signs the statement
  • put it in a prominent place
  • refer to it if the issue resurfaces
  • be willing to alter or modify the agreement if it proves to be unsatisfactory after a fair trial


get out of the situation if the other person is unwilling to compromise; pull myself out totally

  • do not return to the relationship unless the other person is willing to be non-competitive or engage in a win-win relationship
  • give up any thoughts of seeking revenge if the person refuses to compromise; let go of my anger in healthy anger work-out sessions
  • move on to new relationships in which mutual respect and mutual concern are possible


Step 5: If I am still getting into a revenge taking mode then I need to return to Step 1 and begin again.