Why do people murder out of revenge
Feelings of revenge are commonplace, but nothing harmless. It doesn't help much, howeverdemonize. - Helga Hirsch was talking to Léon Wurmser. Born in Zurich, since fourDecades in the USA - in Baltimore - active psychotherapist and psychoanalyst is an authorseveral standard works on the subject of shame, guilt, revenge, resentment.
Vengeance rarely turns shame into oursSociety talked, although the feeling is known to everyone. How does the need for retaliation arise?
Even the very young child develops - probably towards the end of the second year of life - a basic need for justice, a feeling that people can only live together if there is some kind of primitive, compensatory justice. Retribution thus arises from the archaic desire to restore a subjectively disturbed balance. The need to make amends is just as old as the need for revenge.
As a rule, however, revenge does not create justice, but creates new injustice because itis immoderate.
That's right. All archaic feelings are total, global. When such an archaic feeling grips an adult, he degrades his fellow human being to a reified object, a mere object of restoring emotional balance. This effect of vengeance and the resentment closely related to it - resentment as the feeling of disturbed justice - dehumanizes anyone affected by it. Also the perpetrator.
Why does the feeling of revenge lead one person to physically deliver the object of his revengeinjure, possibly kill while oneother person dealing with verbal abuse oronly contented with a vengeance in thoughts?
I think this has a lot to do with people's ability to symbolize. People vary enormously in their differentiation, i.e. in their possibilities to experience something concretely emotionally or to filter it, to raise it to a higher, abstract level and to replace it with symbolic processes. So someone avenges himself with words instead of deeds, with thoughts instead of words or even with a Jewish joke, that is, with a fine self-irony and self-directed but sublimated aggression.
Revenge and resentment
However, revenge often hits not only the other, but often hits back on the perpetrator.Medea, for example, wants to punish her husbandbecause he left her. But by killing the children they share in order to give him the dearesttake what he owns, she also kills a partof itself.
Medea fluctuates very manifestly back and forth between the desire for revenge on her husband and love and attachment to the children. She totally dehumanizes her children to get revenge on Jason by murdering them. But after dehumanization, i.e. murder, the human side of the relationship with the child, i.e. love, breaks through again and inflicts pain. And love naturally evokes conscience. You feel responsibility, you feel conscience from an inner bond with others. That is why every aggression that goes against the outside is immediately criticized by the conscience, questioned and then partly turned against oneself - as a punishment.
With Medea, the vengeance is actually directedagainst the person who inflicted the offense on herHas. But why do KosovoAlbanians houses from Serbs who they don'thave known or of whom you do not know whetherdo these Serbs have personal guilt?
When it comes to archaic, all-encompassing feelings, we have a strong tendency to generalize. This doesn't just apply to negative feelings like revenge. In Schiller's ´Ode to Joy´, joy and love are also generalized: ´Be embraced, millions! There are certainly people among these millions who do not want or should not be embraced. But the force of the affect extinguishes the individuality of the other.
This is especially true with resentment, which includes revenge, but is more than revenge: namely the feeling of a permanent resentment due to an injustice from the past, which could not be repaired at the time and then acts like a bacillus and like a poison on and on gnaws in people. As soon as an opportunity later arises, the person charged with resentment strikes back in order to overcome the helplessness with which the injustice was originally experienced. Another feature of the resentment is that it does not ask who did the injustice, but discharges itself according to the principle: 'I was wronged, the whole world, the whole ethnic group should pay for it: all Serbs, all Albanians, all Jews, all Germans! ª The resentment works like an avalanche. It spreads, destroys and of course creates new injustice, from which resentment grows again. So it goes on and on. The whole history of the world is determined by it.
Acting out in words often ends inthe propagation of ideologies. You cansay that particularly vengeful people are particularly susceptible to ideology and fanaticism?
Absolutely. Ideologies are actually philosophically disguised resentments. And people who are full of resentment resort to an ideology that puts a philosophical cloak around their feelings.
But why is it that a bacillus yearsSleeps for decades or even centuries, thenbut suddenly caused a collective frenzy?Why does a Serb suddenly let go of hisdivorced non-Serbian woman if he was in with herlived on good terms, or why killshe maybe even his Muslim neighbors,with whom he has had good contacts so far?
Myths like the defeat of the Serbs in 1389 on the Amselfeld are passed down from generation to generation as a central narrative of the people. But it is only when such myths are linked with new injustices and new economic difficulties that they become extremely explosive. Seducers and demagogues like Hitler and Milosevic interweave current feelings of injustice and disadvantage with old myths, clothe them in timeless forms and give themselves the cloak of historical dignity in order to achieve their own goals of power. I believe that it is only from this combination of old myths with new feelings of injustice and the desire for power of demagogic leaders that a devastating explosive force arises. Myth alone is not enough.
Revenge and relief
Why is it more attractive to a people to have aDefeat his group identityinstead of historical successes?
When you don't have much else, you resort to suffering. Because the mythical meaning of suffering is central to Christian self-confidence. Suffering is power. Suffering is dignity. Suffering is redemption. The battle at Amselfeld did not justify a national, but a Christian defeat - and created the foundation for Christian martyrdom towards the Muslim Turks. Anyone who has sharpened their eyes will discover the crucifix everywhere as a bloody symbol of sacrifice. It is this mystical increase in suffering that turns defeat into a popular and value-giving myth. Take Dostoyevsky, for example, where he is exaggerated into Pan-Slavic.
What good is vengeance to people? Get itRelief? And how should a society withhandle the feeling?
I believe that vengeance is the expression of a very fundamental human need to transform passively suffered into active action. I can describe it with a small personal experience. A few weeks ago I witnessed a robbery myself in Madrid. I was surrounded by four men and robbed of my wallet. And in a very primitive way, I ran after whoever had attacked me head-on - I knew that there was definitely a risk that he might have a knife or a gun, I didn't care. While in the first days after the attack the feeling of helplessness, passivity, even shame predominated in me, the inner balance in the memory changed almost to a kind of pride that I did not let the attack sit on me, so irrational, Unreasonable as dangerous as the persecution might have been. That was a very primitive reaction from passive to active. And revenge is a form of turning from passive to active.
Described in this way, revenge even takes on something liberating. Revenge society discreditsSo too strong because of their damaging effect?
We have to distinguish between thoughts and feelings on the one hand and actions on the other. As every civilization has recognized in one way or another, revenge is something enormously harmful to the community and, rightly, extremely frowned upon. Whoever strikes in revenge destroys every structure of society because it depersonalizes, dehumanizes and usually strikes back a hundredfold, like the Serbs and Albanians again now. That is why the aim of every piece of legislation is to ritualize vengeance and limit it as much as possible. - But when it comes to feelings and thoughts, it is extremely important that we do not judge our thoughts of revenge as if they were actions. The great boundary in human ethics does not exist between the existence and non-existence of revenge and anger or even envy and sexual desires and incest, but between thoughts, feelings and fantasies on the one hand and the action on the other. There is a very nice word in the Talmud: God does not count evil thoughts like evil deeds, while - if I am not mistaken - there are passages in Paul where evil thought is equated with evil deed. This equation is the guarantee for the neurosis, because if we have to suppress the thoughts and fantasies completely, we are in a constant inner struggle that paralyzes us. The great boundary in ethics runs between thought and action.
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