Existential Psychology

When People Feel They Have Been Seriously Wronged

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When people feel they’ve been seriously wronged they don’t always know what to do with those hurt feelings. One of the most common responses is a form of reaction formation where they repress the discomfiting sense of being vulnerable and alternatively present a strong, even aggressive facade to the world.

And they usually feel an almost irresistible pull to get even, to punish the wrongdoer. They’ll rationalize their own destructive thoughts and behaviors under the rubric of justice. From their perspective the offending party is a monster, the face of evil, and therefore hurting this person is not only acceptable but righteous.

To effect positive movement people who have been seriously wronged and are now focused on revenge need to bring the inherent contradiction of their life strategy into conscious awareness. Often their own current behaviors or planned future behaviors are every bit as reprehensible as the original wrongs being used as justification for their actions.

The path to healing is not an eye for an eye, it’s choosing loving speech and loving action. It’s remembering that we all have light and darkness within us. We tend to categorize people as one or the other, we see all light and ignore or minimize the darkness or we see all darkness and ignore or minimize the light. What people who have been seriously wronged need to ask themselves is how comfortable they feel with becoming monsters themselves in their efforts to exact what they call justice. They might not be able to love those who have wronged them but they can choose loving speech and loving action towards those who have wronged them, and it’s this choice that offers liberation. Exacting revenge only chains them more tightly to their past, it creates even more suffering in the world, and it turns them into that which they say and believe they despise.