Revenge is definitely appealing. Someone hurts us and we’re convinced that revenge will make us feel whole again. Just thinking about it can trigger positive emotions. So going through with our fantasies should make us feel even better, right? This is what I call “the revenge myth.” Not only do our past experiences uncover the truth about the revenge myth, but science does, as well. So why do we continue to believe in it?
The assumption that revenge will make us feel better has been with us since we were born. When we discover our partner has cheated on us, instead of thinking how to mend our relationship, we imagine that cheating on them back will make us feel less hurt. In my 35-plus years as a marriage and family therapist, I have seen patient after patient buy into this myth. When we’re kids and another kid breaks one of our toys, our instinct is to break one of their toys in return. The result? Two broken toys — and a broken friendship.