Why is vengeance not justice?

Psychology: When revenge can be a real satisfaction

There are many reasons for revenge: a colleague makes fun of you in front of the other employees, the boss ignores you for promotion or you are lied to by a good friend. “Revenge is sweet,” they often say. In fact, one shouldn't always immediately suppress one's thoughts of revenge in shame. Because it can do you well.

"Revenge is a phenomenon that often occurs in everyday life," reports Prof. Mario Gollwitzer from the Philipps University of Marburg from his many years of research experience on the subject. Several types can be distinguished. “There are fantasies of revenge and revenge turned into reality. And of course there is vengeance, which is unacceptable and only makes things worse. But there is also revenge that can make a difference. ”But if you only dream about it, it can never be satisfactory, says graduate psychologist Gollwitzer.

Studies confirm this, for example by scientists working with Arlene Stillwell from the State University of New York. The researchers found, among other things, that those who did not seek revenge felt more anger than those who lived it out.

In fact, many people associate revenge with more than just hope. “It can be really satisfying under certain circumstances,” says Gollwitzer. Why? “Revenge is very functional. You can use it to show the other: 'You can't treat me like that.' ”Make it clear:“ I'm not a person to trample on. Revenge is only satisfactory when this message reaches the other. "

In addition, such a perceived injustice can be compensated for. "Revenge almost always refers to the feeling of injustice," said Gollwitzer. "Anyone who feels they have been treated unfairly by another person wants to avenge it." This is confirmed by a study by scientists from the University of Calgary in Canada: In a survey of Susan Boon and her colleagues, almost 47 percent said they were "fair" as one of the motives for revenge.

Those who seek vengeance often achieve something else as well. It is used to restore balance in a particular relationship. This is what Stillwell and her colleagues point out. If you previously had the feeling of being inferior to the other, with revenge you can possibly align both positions with each other.

Even so, revenge is not always the right response

"Often it only creates brief satisfaction, but does not bring much in the long term," says Maria El-Safti-Jütte, marriage, life and family counselor at the Caritas parenting and family counseling center in Berlin. “After all, revenge is in itself something very divisive.” It is true that the other person receives a signal: 'I am defending myself'. "Secretly, however, many people hope that the other will stop their hurtful behavior."

Problems can rarely be resolved with revenge, especially in partnerships. "For example, if your partner cheats and you say, 'I'll do that too,' you may be able to improve your self-esteem, but you can't get the real problem out of the way." An injury cannot be cured by touching someone hurt others.

“It's a very bad cycle that ends up in war and struggle with each other, in which both sides lose and in which love falls by the wayside,” says El-Safti-Jütte. “The more you hurt each other, the harder it is to approach the other person again and find an agreement.” This is why the expert advises: “Instead of seeking revenge, it is better in the long run to talk to the other person or seek other options to solve the underlying problem. "