How Sweet is Revenge

Deirdre Johnson, a local Jungian Psychotherapist, ran a workshop as part of the Exploring Forgiveness Programme, on the theme of revenge.  Deirdre’s approach was to explore the subject by engaging in a series of conversations with our personal stories, memories and fantasies.  We were taken in our inner thoughts back to those moments when revenge was part of our story, real or imagined.  What were the feelings aroused? What in us were the needs caught up in the desire for revenge?  Did the action of revenge, real or imagined resolve the issue?

Our evening began with an exercise of relaxation to enable us to put aside the distractions we had brought with us into the room.  Then we were asked to think of a time when we had felt vengeful, and to explore this putting our thoughts onto paper.  We were then asked to share this experience with a partner in a listening exercise. When we returned to the circle the conversations began.

Each person’s experience was different, but we recognized psychological truths in the sharing of them. We heard of feelings of powerlessness, of anger that should have been focused on a parent or authority figure, but were instead turned in on oneself or displaced towards other vulnerable persons.  We heard of the hurt and frustration of being ignored, and of the difficulty of being reconciled if the hurt has not been acknowledged.  That becomes even worse if the person in no longer living, so the issue may only be resolved through internal work; that is why our dreams and imagination are so important.  We also recognized that feelings of revenge are often linked with the need to stand up for oneself; as an infant anger towards the mother is about stating “I am here and need protecting.”  There is a distinction between rage and justified outrage.  We also recognized that sometimes actions did not bring resolution; compensations does not bring satisfaction; forgiveness can be premature; revenge fantasies do not ultimately bring inner peace.

Our evening ended with a focus on the story of one of Deirdre’s clients, now deceased, who allowed his story and art work to be shared as a teaching tool to demonstrate how it is possible to travel from the anger and rage of powerlessness in the face of abuse, to some kind of inner reconciliation with the figure of the abuser.  We were once again returning to the overall theme of the Forgiveness Project.