Why Do I Want Revenge? The Science Behind Why You Want To Get Even When Someone Screws You Over
All of us have experienced betrayal at one point or another. Even a lifetime of earned trust can be shattered in a matter of moments. Betrayal is one of those things that can leave you feeling so slighted, it seems as if the only way to serve justice is, admittedly, to turn to spite.
Interestingly enough, according to science, your response is, in a way, unavoidable.
In fact, there's a chemical in the brain that actually wants you to seek revenge on someone who has hurt you.
First of all, the feeling of trust initially comes from a hormone called oxytocin.
Oxytocin is often referred to as the “love hormone” or the “cuddle hormone,” because it is typically released during moments of intimacy, such as sex, or even when a mother breastfeeds her baby.
But oxytocin is also partially responsible for the development of trust. You can think of it as a sort of "bonding hormone," as it enhances negative memories of bonds broken, and can make you less accepting of people who lie outside of your trusted circle.
And, if trust is broken, oxytocin will actually leave you feeling more vengeful than anything else.
Elite Daily spoke with a couple of experts on the matter, who provide some insight on how the brain actually processes these sharp feelings of betrayal.
According to psychotherapist Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, because oxytocin initially makes you feel happy and safe, a sense of betrayal “floods out these good feelings and places us in a state of hyper-arousal and hyper-vigilance, where all of our psychic and physical resources are being used to guard against physical and emotional annihilation.”
So, essentially, when a bond is broken, your lack of forgiveness is basically oxytocin's way of protecting you from the negative emotions you're about to experience.
But what if you're really working hard at forgiveness, because you don't want to be someone who hoards negative emotions?
Dr. Hokemeyer says operating off of oxytocin is sort of like reacting primitively to a situation, rather than taking time to digest and respond intentionally. Thankfully, as evolved human beings, we don't have to be at the whim of oxytocin's influence.
In order to be more intentional, you can access a part of your brain called the prefrontal cortex:
This is the part of our brain that is in charge of our responsible and reasoned behaviors. Developing this part of our brain takes practice. It demands that we create space between our reactions and our behaviors, to pause before acting out.
If you're wondering how in the hell you're going to work to access that part of the brain, Dr. Eric Braverman suggests something as simple as a full night's sleep:
The way to prevent this vengeance and betrayal cycle is to have a healthy brain with adequate hormone levels and regular sleep cycles.
So, the next time someone tramples all over your trust, yes, you have every right to be mad about it.
But allow yourself to take a moment, and allow that flood of oxytocin to come and pass like a cloud floating through the sky.
Reel your emotions back, digest them for a moment -- or even a whole evening -- and use that awesome prefrontal cortex of yours to reflect on what it is you really want out of the situation now.
Thank the lord for evolution, amirite?