Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by MidwestMom, Jan 3, 2015.

  1. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I think this is one of the wisest pieces of wisdom for me that I have ever read. As one who has thoughts of revenge, but never seriously acted on it, made me feel validated that I never went that far. I wonder how many of our difficult children (or us) are hardwired for revenge.

    Is Revenge Hardwired?

    Dan Ariely discusses revenge experiments in which the participants' brains were scanned by positron emission tomography (PET) while they were making decisions about revenge. The results showed increased activity in the reward center of the brain (striatum). The greater the activation, the more the participants punished the offenders. Ariely suggests that this punishing betrayal or perceived betrayal has a biological basis and feels pleasurable. At least the decision to get revenge does.

    Reestablishing Trust

    Ariely states that revenge and trust are opposite sides of the same coin. Perhaps the idea that people believe revenge restores justice is really about reestablishing trust.

    Ariely's experiments on revenge showed that the tendency to seek revenge did not depend on whether the actual person responsible for the offense suffered, but only that someone associated with the offense pay. Time passing helped lower the urge for revenge for small annoyances. In addition, apologies completely counteracted the effect of small annoyances. When an apology was given, the participants did not extract revenge. Please note this was a one time annoyance, not a series of repeated offenses.

    What to Do When You Have Thoughts of Revenge

    As with all internal experiences, being mindful of what you are experiencing is the first step. Thoughts of revenge apparently feel good and may be a basic human instinct, perhaps to help us survive. Accept your urges and thoughts of revenge as a basic human response related to trust.

    Trust is important in any relationship and critical for cooperative societies. When you are thinking about revenge, it usually means you believe trust has been broken. Remember, while the anticipation of revenge may feel pleasurable, the actual carrying out of revenge brings little satisfaction and may create more problems and suffering. Acts of revenge do not repair trust or restablish a sense of justice for both parties.

    Wait until you are calm emotionally and can think rationally before making any decisions. This is the cold part of "revenge is a dish best served cold." If you act impulsively on such urges you are likely to create more suffering for yourself and others and regret your actions.

    Consider whether the loss of trust is justified. Do you have all the facts? If not, get clarity about what truly happened before taking any action or making any decisions. If someone has acted in ways that truly are untrustworthy and hurtful, then task suggested by your thoughts and urges is to find ways to repair the trust or to move forward in a different direction. Maybe there has been a misunderstanding, a miscommunication, or maybe there is a problem that could be solved.

    Would a dialogue with the offending person to explain your position be helpful for you, even if nothing changed? Would the offending person be willing to listen? Sometimes expressing your views and feelings is helpful. An apology could be quite healing and having a dialogue could give the offending person the opportunity to do that.

    Learn from the experience. Were there signs of problems that you ignored? Were you careful about who you trusted? What positive changes can you make based on what you have learned? How do you see yourself as a result of this experience? Did you make decisions that show self-respect and reflect your values, regardless of how the other person behaved?

    Focus on what is in your control and take the next right step. Sometimes it may be that standing up for yourself is the right step, but doing so in a positive way rather than for revenge.

    Practice radical acceptance that some people will break your trust. That is a statement about them, not about you. Your response is about you. When you are emotionally sensitive, you may experience many situations in which you feel hurt by others and those urges for revenge can be managed.
  2. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    We do have to be wise about that.

    Interesting topic, MWM.

    There are so many different kinds of betrayal.

    I think we suspect from the beginning how the relationships we enter into may play out. The potential, the little warning signs are there.

    Perhaps the question to ask would be whether the cost was worth the things you learned or the joy you took or even, the hope you were able to believe in during the course of the relationship. Betrayal and rejection leave us vulnerable to our inner critic. We negate our own power when we feel badly that someone has judged and found us wanting, or after our trust in the social contract we made with someone has been broken.

    And is that where the lust of vengeance comes from? Is it a way to pretend we could hurt them too, if we wanted to?

    So vengeance would be about shame, about re-establishing some sort of psychologic equilibrium.

    I like to pretend the betrayal was unmerited and unexpected, or that the relationship was flawed from the beginning, or that the other person, poor thing, is and has always been terminally socially disadvantaged.


    But none of that is really true. What is true is that there were wonderful things exchanged during the course of the relationship, or there would not have been a relationship. husband has excellent boundaries and does this sort of thing very well. He isn't hurt by disagreeable exchanges. He seems to relish them.

    I am hurt by disagreeable exchanges. Then I get all stiff necked and judgmental, which is really lonely and not very bright. But there you have it.

    However we define our relationships and their endings, if we could see how crazy brave we are to wish for and believe in love, or in the possibility of friendship or family or loyalty, we would be so proud of ourselves.

    But maybe I am wrong about that. As I continue to heal, there will be no vulnerability and so, there will be no risk.

    No vulnerability. No shame. No lust of vengeance.

    So...really healthy people must not have vengeance issues.

    That is how I will know I am better, then.


    While there is risk, we will heal well I think, if we can remember the love we felt for the person, rather than the shame we feel at ourselves for having been rejected and the hatred we feel at having been betrayed and made to feel small.

    Or maybe that isn't true and this is all a way to cover the wish for vengeance. Who, after all, does the other guy think he is?!?


    That is probably why superheroes generally wear disguises. It is all very well to take vengeance when no one knows its you.


    Here is a thing about vengeance.

    The lust of vengeance, all consuming
    pressed of the lust of life from whence it sprang, full bodied and full blown
    Curdling the love within it
    ere the weakened Child be grown

    A vintage rare and bitter
    acid etched and acid borne
    Tasting of gelded rage and rusted glitter
    of candles, etched in ambergris
    and of white linen, soiled and torn.

    Tasting then of sage, blessed on a cold and darkling plain
    and of the holy, star struck depths of Winter
    Tasting of grief and hope and unrelenting pain...

    of the Mercy....


    "The quality of Mercy is not strain'd
    it falleth as the gentle rain from Heav'n
    upon the place beneath.

    It is twice blest;
    it blesseth him that gives and him
    that takes.

    "Tis mightiest in the Mighty."

    The last verses are Shakespeare, of course. From the Merchant of Venice. They always go with the recitation, wherever it happens, of those verses on vengeance. They cool the heat of the emotion, for me.

    I love this.

    I wrote it down to put it on my fridge.

    It is a hard thing to acknowledge that whatever the connection was between ourselves and another person, it has run its course. Change is awkward. When change happens, it is our self talk that establishes, not only whether the relationship meant enough to us for a betrayal to have occurred, but what it means that a betrayal did occur. So the sentences quoted above are good self talk when KFCD begins to play in our heads. But the question of why they did that...that is why the writer tells us to practice radical acceptance. Why does not matter.

    It could be that it is only me, or it could be that for all of us, the battle is to see ourselves as better than the me who was rejected by someone who knows us well enough to make that judgment call. Had we not let them in in the first place, the betrayal could not have occurred.

    But, given that I was brought up in an environment where betrayal so deep it went wordless, went indescribable, was the norm...who am I really trying to forgive when I choose, when I fight to forgive, instead of taking what vengeance I can, even if it is only to think bad thoughts about my sister?

    I have just gone through a crisis of faith around these very issues.

    Is it possible for people to change? Or are some of us (or are all of us) playing some version of the game of predator and prey?

    I feel so differently about the betrayal of an acquaintance that I do about the betrayal that occurred when difficult child daughter was hurt. That was a very hard thing to forgive. Though forgiveness was my intention, I could not forgive. I would catch myself thinking bad things about the man who did it, thinking how I would like to shame him and...destroy him, really.

    Hatred, for sure.

    And then, one day, those feelings that had so horrified and fascinated and sickened and thrilled me went away. Just like that.

    I was so grateful.

    So, there are different levels of vengeance, for sure. Part of that is figuring out who was wrong, and who was wronged. I don't have so much interest in that. We all tend to justify our positions.

    This is what I think is true, for all of us:

    "Once, my fancy was soothed with dreams of virtue, of fame and of enjoyment. Once I falsely hoped to meet with beings who, pardoning my outward form, would love me for the excellent qualities I was capable of unfolding."

    Frankenstein's Monster Speaks
    Mary Shelly

    That is every one of us I think, in our secret hearts.


    I am into ferreting out the places where I choose the victim role. This has opened my eyes to the ways others explore either these roles, or the roles where they get to victimize.

    "But...I thought you loved me." This has seemed to be the ultimate condemnation, the glittery peak of blameless victimhood for me. Lately though, I am beginning to see it like this: "I did/do love you. But I love myself a thousand times more. You are important, but I am paramount."

    As I continue to heal, I am seeing that response as the appropriate response.

    So much of the pain we all experience has to do with wounds that happened so long ago.

    I am thinking now of the betrayal involved in what our children have done.
    And deep love and regret and missing them in the present and missing who I was so sure they were going to be.

    And missing who I was so sure I was going to be, through them.



    When trust has been repeatedly breached to the point that we are no longer able to hold faith with ourselves, or when we are powerless to stop the repeated breaches of trust, we begin to believe the shortcomings in our relationships is intrinsic to us. In our efforts to try to unravel the mess things become, we take on the roles of both villain and perpetual victim.

    What a crazy thing.

    "When someone tells you who they are, believe them the first time."

    Maya Angelou


    I don't think the lust of vengeance is a wrongness. The intensity of those feelings of vengeance plumb the depth of the hurt we have been done. It is the belief that harm was not intended that makes it possible to forgive the other guy and ourselves and try again. We are named, and we name ourselves, in every interaction. Victim or villain or willful blindness to downright creation of a favorite and most often created and recreated, illusion. The thing dearest to our hearts; the who we need to be.

    These then, are the belief systems that keep us hooked into relationships that are harmful to us.

    Radical acceptance that some people will break your trust....

    Isn't it true though that in relationship over time, trust is broken, again and again. The difference between ending a relationship over a breach of trust, and forgiveness and growth after a breach of trust then, is the question of intent.

    So that is the sting of it.

    The other person's intent.

    The name they named us.

    Once again, vengeance turns out to be about shame.

    So, what is the opposite of radical acceptance.


    Whether we blame ourselves or the other guy, blame is a useless exercise.

    So radical acceptance is about not judging.

    Some people are going to break your trust.... In other words, some people are going to abuse us.

    Nothing personal.

    That is who they are.

    Confusion over these issues is one of the damages of an abusive childhood where we have been taught we are responsible for what the abuser did.

    Thank you for posting.

  3. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I will read it again later. I loved this post. I need to mull it over and give it more thought.
  4. 1905

    1905 Well-Known Member

    My little mantra on revenge is "The best revenge is success" This is the fuel that had given me strength throughout my childhood. I had a really rough childhood and I always tell my own children this bit of advice. Just rise above everything and you're not mad. My difficult child I hope doesn't feel I ever took "revenge" on him. I always told him this when he threatened to do something to us. I also tell them that what people think of us is none of our business and who cares. Also, they know, "you don't like everyone and everyone doesn't like you" Be true to yourself. My own parents were so awful, said the worst thongs to me, I never even believed them.
  5. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I'm watching football so I'm not really concentrating here to my best (I'm sorry). I am reading bits and pieces.

    About revenge...I h ave felt it and it makes me into somebody I loathe. It literally takes over me. I sit and think of all the horrible things I can do to others. It leaves me feeling disgusted with myself.

    I tell my kids and try to do this myself now: "The best revenge is to move on without the person and overcome what he/she did. Show the person that he did not defeat you."

    "What if the person doesn't ever find out?"

    "It doesn't matter. YOU know."

    Ok, back to football.
  6. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Interesting article MWM. I like that he said "your response is about you."

    The last time I had revenge thoughts was during my divorce from my daughter's Dad 40 years ago. It certainly was a breech of trust in my estimation and my fantasy life was RICH with revenge thoughts! Fortunately I never acted on any of them.

    I tend to look at a lot from a metaphysical standpoint and during that time in my life I read a book which stated that "our greatest adversaries are our greatest teachers." Well, that was a new thought! That struck a chord for me because as a result of that divorce, I changed so much, I learned many life lessons during that time which were extremely valuable for me. I went on a very different life path which was a result of what I learned during that time and of how I responded to my ex's behavior.

    From that point I started looking at those kinds of incidents in life, where you feel betrayed or hurt, or blamed, or whatever, as opportunities for me to learn something about myself, that it wasn't about the other, it's about me. They have their own opportunities to grow or whatever they choose to do. I can choose to see it as a lesson. That helped me so much with my bio-family and continued to be very helpful throughout my life. I can't always get there right away, but I work at it as I move through my feelings always looking for what the opportunity is for me to learn. Once I can learn the lesson, it all evaporates for me, it has no more power over me.

    Sort of like that adage about when you point at another, to notice that four fingers are always pointing back at you........that what we judge, (especially vehemently), can be something about ourselves that we haven't identified yet. That's been helpful to me as well.......and it stops the judgement, or blame, or whatever it is and turns it back on me. It gives me the power to change it and opens the door for me to grow, heal and learn. And, there are those too who once trust is broken, I simply stay away from. That's an important choice to make, not everyone has our best interests in mind or is someone we can trust. Some folks aren't willfully harming others, it's just all they know, but their lack of awareness can be hurtful to me. It doesn't feel good to me to be blaming or revengeful or judgmental, it has a negative impact on me, so for me to look at it the way I do has worked well for me.
  7. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Wow, RE. I love that, all of it, and will implement it into my own life. I was probably older than you are when I started using toxic people as teachers, but I did that as well. I just didn't think about it as an opportunity to learn, which would have wiped the anger away and made me think that perhaps it was supposed to happen in order for me to grow. I do believe that everything that happens is meant to happen and that it's up to us to figure out why.

    These days, and for many years, I read a lot, like you do, and do meditation to teach me how to feel thoughts with detachment. Not so easy for me, but I try. Radical acceptance is sometimes very hard, but it also works! I am always saying "It is what it is" lol. My daughter even said, "What does that mean anyway? You're always saying it."

    Those who hurt me used to be such a huge part of my life, even if I hadn't seen them for a long time. Now they have sort of melded into a rather insignificant part of my mind and I find I can detach from my memories of them. To me, the best revenge is the life I'm living now...probably my abusers did not want my life to turn out this serene. On the other hand, it is possible they have let go of ME too and don't care anymore. I hope so. I don't like anyone to be in pain.
  8. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I believe that too. I don't believe in coincidences, or randomness. Believing that way has ultimately offered so much peacefulness, which I hear in your posts as well MWM. It takes so much of the blame, right and wrong, he done me wrong kind of thinking and replaces it, for me, with that opportunity to learn a lesson.

    It can be really hard MWM, I agree. It does take a commitment to change that's for sure. And, it keeps us out of being a victim of life or of others........

    "Now they have sort of melded into a sort of insignificant part of my mind."

    I feel that way's all slipped in to the past which then makes the present so rich and filled with a serenity I didn't know when so much of me was connected to the past. It does take work and a daily vigil for me, I do A LOT for the peacefulness in my life.......but for me, it's so worth it. Like you, there was a lot of chaos and drama in my "former" life and now that I know I have the power to respond to life differently, to perceive it differently and to focus on the present rather then the past or the future, I am very, very protective of it.......I have a pretty quiet life now, by choice, I've learned to detect certain energies before they become a big problem and I simply stop engaging.......boy it would have been so nice to know that when I was younger.........but those were my lessons!

    I do believe that the relationships in our lives are fertile ground for growth.......certainly my parents and my daughter have given me a few PHD's in life!! Folks show up and some stay and some don't, but they all offer me a gift of some kind......sometimes it takes me awhile to find it!! But, I usually do and then I can bless them and move on.

    Like you I am always adding new methods of "staying awake" to my daily routine. I do it continuously. husband and I participated in a global peace meditation and he felt so peaceful and good during and after it, he suggested we get more guided meditations to listen to on a regular basis.........which made me really happy since he doesn't always participate in my sort of 'out there' ways. It's now becoming a huge part of my life......and boy, when I look back to where I've come from, it is a pretty dramatic shift! I am endlessly grateful's all good. :)
  9. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I just saw this on FB and it reminded me of this much is about letting go........

  10. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    RE, I hear you. I mean, I REALLY, REALLY hear you.

    The joke is, it's really so easy to have a peaceful, sane, nice, mindful life, yet it eludes most of us for so long and many never get there. When I was younger I thought that life WAS chaos. I never dreamed I'd be where I was.

    On top of not caring so much about what other people do (when I slip, I can easily let go of that), I have become a minimalist. Not extreme, but material things mean very little to me. Toys. I enjoy the simple things in life which can never leave you, no matter what your financial situation. Worrying about "having the best toy" is so distracting and really implodes one's peace of mind because, of course, somebody always has more "stuff." I see 37 struggling with this A LOT. He judges those who don't have enough and envies those who have more. He teaches my GS lessons I don't think will help him in life, such as when he goes to Dad's house, it will be Christmas every day. Of course, I let him be. It is what it is.

    Every layer of controlling others or competing in any way, I feel holds us back in our journey to have a good life.

    Isn't it a bummer that we don't learn this when we are young??? I think it is a reward we get for working hard, maybe...