You’ve probably heard the saying “revenge is sweet,” and the tales of revenge that receive the most media attention typically do have an element of victory in the narrative (Lorena Bobbitt, the woman who chopped off her ex-husband’s penis after he sexually assaulted her, easily comes to mind.)
Less commonly discussed are the smaller, everyday acts of revenge that people commit, and how they feel about it. This sort of revenge still affects people, but it seems as if the universal “sweetness” of revenge is probably, at least to some extent, a product of popular mythology.
About 20 years ago, we started conducting research on revenge after noticing that people often struggle with forgiveness – even forgiving the people they love. In most relationships, people usually want to feel like they’re getting a fair deal, and revenge is one recourse they have if they feel they’ve been slighted.
Some forms of revenge do make the perpetrator feel better, though it’s usually not as “sweet” as imagined. A number of other factors influence how people feel about committing revenge, from how it’s crafted to the target’s reaction.