Imagining Revenge: Positive or Negative Attitude?

Imagining Revenge: Positive or Negative Attitude?

Imagine you are sitting in a secluded corner of a bar drinking quietly. Suddenly a person approaches and throws a series of insults at you. Within seconds you feel overwhelmed, quickly search your memory where you met this individual and why he might offend you in this way. No matter how hard you try, you can't tell who he is and when you are about to answer him, the person turns and walks away, leaving you speechless.

What would you do?

  1. Resume drinking quietly, as if nothing had happened, and wipe the incident from your mind.
  1. Keep looking in your memories to understand who this person was and think of all the things you could have said to him to react to the offenses received.

If you have chosen the second possibility, don't worry, most people do, fantasizing about revenge is a completely natural mechanism because it allows us to relieve the tension created by a given situation. When we think about what we would have said or done, it is as if all of this actually happened, even if only on a mental level, but sometimes this is enough to relax and help us restore our balance.

In fact, numerous studies have shown that revenge fantasies can also have positive therapeutic effects, especially if one has been a victim of violence and abuse, restoring the feeling of control to the victims.

But there are people who think that imagining revenge is like playing with a double-edged sword and could also trigger negative feelings. How much of all this is true? Is there a dark side behind these kinds of fantasies?

Apply justice or protect, that's the dilemma


The researchers recruited several college students and showed them three video clips that were particularly disruptive or violent, thus simulating the effect of a minor trauma. As expected, people were shocked and angry at the violence they saw.

Then the participants were divided into three groups and subjected to different therapeutic exercises:

  1. The first group had to imagine the scene and violently punish the person who had committed the crimes.
  1. The second group had to intervene, but not aggressively.
  1. The third group simply had to transport the victim to a safe and quiet place.

All exercises proved effective, but not to the same extent. In fact, transferring the victim to a safe place was the exercise that allowed to further reduce anger and aggression in people, even promoting feelings of satisfaction and happiness.

The researchers did not limit themselves to this point, but summoned the students again the following day in order to evaluate the risks that the revenge fantasies may entail. In this regard, they showed them pictures of famous movie characters who committed violent acts. They then assessed each person's level of anger and aggression. So they saw that having entertained violent fantasies the previous day did not make them more aggressive. Therefore, they believed that imagining revenge does not generate more aggressive behavior or greater anger.

But it is worth remembering that while fantasizing about revenge can have a liberating effect, nevertheless one should not overdo it, because otherwise it is easy to sink into a spiral of negative thoughts towards the other person, thoughts that will not produce anything positive and which could also exacerbate our pain and anger.

So, if you have been the victim of an assault and it has left its mark on you, the best option is to consult a psychologist. This will determine the most appropriate strategy and, if he deems it appropriate, will allow you to imagine your revenge, but in a controlled environment so that this exercise can really help you release your anger and defeat your fear.

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