Does Getting Revenge Provide Relief?

“Revenge is beautiful” is the tagline for Colombiana, a new action-adventure flick starring Zoe Saldana as a young woman out to get even after witnessing the murder of her parents at a young age. Trained as a master assassin, she will not rest until she annihilates the drug dealers that killed her folks. And while all real-life revenge scenarios aren’t always this severe (or gruesome), it did get us thinking if following the principle of “an eye for an eye” is the best way to go when we’ve been wronged. We quizzed Dr. Carmela Pérez, PhD, a psychoanalyst in private practice in New York City, on the subject and here’s what she had to say:

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What compels people to seek revenge?

When angered or hurt by another person, some people may take revenge with the underlying assumption that retaliation will somehow restore some equilibrium in the relationship. The idea is that if the revenge-seeker—also referred to as the avenger—does to the other what was done to them, they will feel better.  

Can it be a satisfying emotion?

Acting out of anger can be a satisfying emotion for those that feel that “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” is the fairest resolution to an interpersonal conflict.

What if revenge doesn’t bring relief?

Studies have found that avengers often times go overboard with the revenge event. In other words, the retaliation is excessive as compared to the initial transgression, and the aftermath then is very complicated and painful.  

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What’s a better option than revenge?

A better option is to let the person who has wronged you know that you feel wronged. Often times people say things or even act without being aware of the impact those words or actions can have on the other person.  

See for yourself if revenge is best. Colombiana opens today.