By Michelle Malia
When somebody betrays you, resist the urge to retaliate: Getting revenge probably won’t make you feel better in the end, new research from Washington University suggests.
That’s because it seems to spark a whole host of contradictory emotions—and not all of them good, the researchers found.
In the study, the participants read a story in which someone sought revenge. Afterwards, they reported feeling positive emotions like satisfied, pleased, and calm.
That’s likely because people believe that an important goal has been accomplished—someone had been punished for doing something wrong, says study author Fade Eadeh, Ph.D.(c).
But the story also triggered some negative feelings just as strongly as it did positive ones.
The participants also reported feeling emotions like anger, sadness, and anxiety after reading the story, too.
“People often don’t anticipate having negative reactions to getting revenge,” Eadeh says. “They think it will lead strictly to satisfaction, but it doesn’t.”
These negative feelings likely arise because the act of revenge serves as a reminder of the harm the person caused in the first place—which makes you feel lousy all over again, he says.
So say your buddy hooks up with your girlfriend. What should your move be?
We get it: The urge to deck the guy can be overwhelming. And we’re pretty sure it’ll feel more than a little sweet at the time, too.
The problem is, that awesome feeling may fade quickly, leaving you potentially feeling even worse than before.
So fight the urge to punch your ex-buddy in the face. And it doesn’t have to be because you’re trying to take the moral high ground, or by telling yourself to take what happened as a learning experience.
Sure, those are solid reasons not to seek revenge.
But maybe an even better one? You’ve already been put through hell by that betrayal: Why do something that’ll keep serving as a reminder of it—and may even end up making you feel even worse down the line?