Revenge Fantasies: How Common? Unhealthy?

I recently heard a radio talk show in which the guest stated that revenge fantasies are much more common in our culture than popularly believed.

He said that there are considerable numbers of individuals who experience/nurture these fantasies, to include victims of robbery, sexual assault, mugging, or the homicide of a loved one; but also those who have been fired from jobs, cheated out of money or expected earnings by investment counselors/brokers, victims of unfaithful partners, school bullies or patently unfair hiring/promotion practices at work; those who were raised by abusive or alcoholic parents; and those who feel themselves the victim of racism, sexism, injustice, ageism, etc. He added that revenge fantasies can sometimes serve as a healthy outlet for dealing with enormous personal stress, disappointment, and shock.

How prevalent do you think revenge fantasies are in our culture? Do you think they are a relatively healthy coping mechanism for dealing with disappointment, or potentially dangerous and self-injurious?

Frankly, I am not sure what I think, but from the news reports I’ve heard, it would seem that their are a lot of aggrieved people in our society. I also cannot understand how nurturing these fantasies could be productive.

I know people who just wish bad karma on the types of people you mentioned. I don’t know anyone who fantasizes revenge. Or maybe they don’t express it. Maybe if a person obsesses over some action, they will eventually do it. Don’t know.

To the contrary, I think revenge fantasies are almost as common as sex fantasies. Almost every time I witness someone being supid, rude, or otherwise boorish, I think (briefly) of giving them their comeuppance, or about what would be an appropriately just punishment.

Maybe you would call that “considering a response”, but I would call it fantasizing.

I don’t have any stats or anything factual handy, but I would think revenge fantasies are quite common. I’m sure there are plenty of aggrieved people in our society, as I’m sure there are a lot of aggrieved people in every society. The weather, the government, society, friends, family, work, religion, strangers in the street, business-the sources of anger are infinite.

I’m not a psychologist, but I wouldn’t make a blanket statement about whether revenge fantasies are a healthy coping mechanism or are potentially dangerous. It would be a matter of degree, and it would depend on the person. If a revenge fantasy caused a person distress or interfered with basic ability to function, then it clearly wouldn’t be acting as a healthy mechanism. Fantasies that lead to actions that seriously harm or endanger other people clearly wouldn’t be healthy.

Let me give an example. Last year, someone stole my bike while I had it locked up outside my apartment. It wasn’t an expensive bike at all, but I liked it and I was most annoyed that some %*&^ had decided to take my property. What I really wanted was for the thief to heartily and sincerely regret ever taking it, and I had some entertaining fantasies about how this could be accomplished. In the end, I reported it to the police and bought another cheap bike. No lasting harm done.

Let’s say the same thing happened to another person, “Jane.” Instead of calling the cops and chalking it up to life in the city, Jane starts interrogating the neighbors about whether or not they saw anything, plastering the neighborhood with fliers and cruising around looking for any sign of her bike and its thief. She spends money she can’t afford and misses work so she can go out bike-hunting. When she goes looking, she carries around a baseball bat in case she finds the thief. She accuses her next-door neighbor of masterminding the whole thing and plots to do her harm in return. Clearly, Jane has gone around the bend. Not healthy, either for Jane or the unfortunate people around her.

I think they’re very common, and I think they’re totally healthy, within boundaries people have already discussed. I’m the least violent person in the world, and even I have the occasional violent revenge fantasy. Most revenge fantasies aren’t very violent though, I would guess. Most of my revenge fantasies just involve justice being done, which, as we all know, doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should. Like in Ballybay’s example, we just had our car hit-and-ran on the street, and I had fantasies of going to the neighbours and grilling each and every one of them till someone confessed. I did no such thing, of course, and just put up a couple of flyers asking the guilty party to come forth. And now I’m basically over it and have moved on. I think the revenge fantasies play an important part of stabilizing us when we feel helpless and frustrated.