“It was time to teach them a lesson. Time to show them a thing or two.” ~ Stephen King (Carrie)

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Image from list25.com

So, I was watching “Gypsy’s Revenge” the other day, and if you aren’t familiar with this case, it’s about a girl (Gypsy Rose Blanchard) who grew up with her mom who had Munchausens by Proxy syndrome and convinced everyone in their lives that Gypsy had cancer, muscular dystrophy (requiring a wheelchair), epilepsy, eating problems (a feeding tube had to be used), eye and ear problems, asthma, a limited mental capacity, etc.  The list is LONG and the mom, DeeDee, was provided with tons of stuff:  money, a house, services, vacations (Disney land for one), and experiences because of her ‘sick’ daughter and the weight on her shoulders because of the care she required.  Now, here’s the thing:  Gypsy was fine.  Her mom made up these ailments for the attention and perks, and forced Gypsy, from a very young age, to go along with them.  There were threats, isolation (no friends, school, limited contact with neighbors, no unsupervised computer use), and tons of manipulation that made this ‘scheme’ work for a couple of decades.  Anyhoot, Gypsy had her boyfriend (a real winner 🙄) stab DeeDee so she could be away from her mom’s abuse, and to make a long story short, she was sentenced to 10 years because of the role she played in planning and then being present for the murder.

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OK.  I understand why Gypsy did what she did, and I don’t think she should have been sentenced to prison.  She was robbed of 20 years of her life and this abuse was physically horrible with surgeries not needed, meds that could have effects on her later in life, etc.  Yes, I understand that having her boyfriend kill her mom was wrong…but I can also sympathize with her situation.  Because of how sheltered she was, the amount of supervision DeeDee provided, and a lack of resources, she didn’t see any other way to escape.

But, I also believe that revenge figured into this as well.  See, she could have called social services and shown them how she could walk and was actually quite smart despite her lack of schooling.  Or, she could have told doctors when she was alone with them (which was rarely but did happen) or spoken to her bestie (an older neighbor girl who was permitted to talk to her).

So, here’s my question:  is it  OK to exact revenge on those who wronged you?  And if so, how much and in what circumstances?   Hmmmmm.

As I’ve written about before, I was sexually abused by a psychologist for 2 years.  I wanted revenge so badly after getting out of that situation and had fantasies about what I would do!  After all, an eye for an eye, right?  I wanted him to feel as demeaned as I did…as broken…as ashamed.  But how would I have done that?  I couldn’t give him a dose of his own medicine (or arsenic per se 😲) so him ever feeling close what I did became a moot point.  I guess I could have destroyed some of his property, and I’m sure that would have felt pretty good at the time; however, with my luck (and lack of any criminal know how, except underage drinking a few decades ago…sorry ma) I would have been caught and may not have been able to get a position as an educator.  OK…despite all of that though, would it have helped me to do something to pay him back for what was done to me?  Would it have lessened all of the pain I was feeling?  Make up for what I went through with him?  No.  It wouldn’t have.  Period.

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Take ma’s ex who was physically abusive so long.  I think I speak for my sissy as well when I say I wanted someone to beat the shit out of him so he could get a taste of what he did to ma so many times.  I wanted him to cry.  Beg.  Suffer.  Understand what it’s like to be the victim for once, and not the perpetrator.  Part of me thinks it would feel so fucking good to see this happen, and then part of me wonders if I’d be able to stand watching something so violent.  Wouldn’t me having that done (Lord knows, I couldn’t do it with my scrawny muscles and being a shorty) put me on the same level as him?  Or, is it justified?

When J cheated on me, I wanted to ‘cheat back’ just to show him how horrible it feels to have a partner do that.  However, I came to understand that his ‘love’ for me wasn’t really there or he wouldn’t have felt a need to emotionally/sexually bond with another.  I’m a big believer you can only truly love one person at a time, and if there’s another person in the mix, you might just be an infatuation, need, or outlet for narcissism, etc.  He obviously truly loved this other woman, so I had to have been something else to him.  Why didn’t I revenge cheat despite the fact it wouldn’t have hurt him?  Because I would have felt degraded…humiliated…ashamed.  Look, I’m one of these old-fashioned gals (yes, I’m old, and I will never ever say something like “I’m 53 years young”…that bugs me to no end 🙄) who will not ever be with someone I’m not in love with.  Period.  To revenge cheat destroys that ‘value’ if you will, and the consequences to myself would have been just as horrible as J’s cheating in the first place.

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Now, what about so-called little things?  Yes, I have sought revenge.  I have wanted to pay people back for hurt, embarrassment,  rejection, what have you.  So, in the case of J, I took my anger of his cheating out on him for a couple of years.  I know I was nasty at times…shrewish.  I know I said things that were completely inappropriate to the situation we were in at any given moment, and I’m ashamed of so many of them.  I also know that what I preach about forgiveness isn’t always what I practice.  He did apologize numerous times, but I had to have a release for my justified emotions…and that’s the way I chose to do it.  The thing was that every time I was horrible to him, I would say to myself:  “For fuck sakes, he deserves it!  He hurt you worse!”  And yes, he did.  But did that really justify my behavior continuing for so long…or even starting in the first place?  Hmmmmm.  And then the consequence?  We never moved forward in the healthy way we said we would since I simply couldn’t get all of my anger out despite his much better behavior.  Or to be more honest with myself, I didn’t choose to quit feeding my anger.

Sometimes, I take revenge out on myself, and I think so many of us do that, particularly those of us who are mentally ill and have skewed emotional reactions anyway.  After J broke up with me, I punished myself for a long while.  I blamed myself.  I put myself through a lot of personal torment since I knew what I had done was unnecessary.  I kept asking myself:  “If I wouldn’t have been so angry and revengeful, would we have stayed together and built something healthy?”  I don’t know the answer to that.  How about this one:  would he still have cheated?  Hmmm.  Maybe…maybe not.  After all, he cheated after I had treated him like gold the first time around.  So really, I was punishing myself for everything that happened, even the things that weren’t singularly my fault.

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I’m ruthless when it comes to my own behavior and words.  I ruminate over things I say and do, and punish myself much more harshly than I would punish another who did the same to me.  Why is that?  Why are our own expectations of behavior so much more stringent than what we expect from others?  Why do so many of us hold ourselves to higher standards?  Why do we settle for ‘less’ when we are telling ourselves to do ‘more’?

Having bipolar makes all of this even more difficult for me.  One of the effects of cycle changes, mixed mood episodes or being manic is irritability; it’s just one more of the wonderful symptoms I experience.  This irritability can quickly escalate into anger (or for some, even rage) and since those of us who are bipolar have issues with impulsivity and a greater lack of control over emotional expression, this escalation can be very difficult to contain.  There’s also side-effects from some mood stabilizers, like anger, anxiety and impulsiveness that can contribute even more to this.  😬

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The Anger Iceberg was developed by John and Julie Gottman of the Gottman Institute.

And here’s the thing with anger…often times when you express an emotion (anger is considered a secondary emotion since there’s usually another emotional catalyst beneath it such as frustration) it amplifies the emotion.  So, once anger is being ‘let out’, it can intensify quickly.  I think everyone has experienced that in their life at one time or another:  what starts out as a molehill quickly becomes a mountain.

You know, I’ve done really shitty things in my life and have hurt a lot of people.  Do I want those people to exact revenge on me?  Would that help me feel less guilty because I’d feel like I paid the price for my sins?  Or would it increase my feelings of remorse and shame and cause me to ruminate even more?  Would this revenge ensure I would take away lessons from the mistakes I’ve made…or have I already done that by changing my ‘bad’ behavior and moving forward the best I can?  Do those I hurt have a right to punish me?  Hmmmmm…

No matter what the answers are to these questions, I believe wanting revenge is a pretty natural part of being human.  None of us want to feel like we were used or betrayed, and matters like domestic violence can never be justified.  No wonder we want to take all the negatives that are a consequence of these things and put them on the one who caused them in the first place.  But really, who would it help in the long run?  Beating ma’s ex wouldn’t lessen the pain she endured for so long.  It would only keep R in the forefront of our lives (since no revenge against him could ever be enough) and that’s something ma doesn’t need.  I think that really, the best revenge comes in moving forward, being happy, learning a lesson, and letting go of the hurt.  That’s what helps us, grasshoppers…and it’s something we should all try to do more.

Kristi xoxo