By Steve Wells
I download my email and find a notification for the 1st global conference on revenge! How about that, I think, an entire conference dedicated to the topic of revenge, vengeance, and retaliation. As the call for papers states: “Revenge, so we are told, is a dish best served cold: a 'sweet' wreaking of vengeance on those who have – either in reality or in our minds – slighted, wronged or in some way 'injured' us…” Hmmm.
As I read the conference description I think, “Isn’t that interesting, my wife and I were just watching a television program last night where revenge was the theme: Two guys who loved the same girl fought a duel, one of them won the duel but the other wouldn’t accept that he’d lost and spent the rest of his life sending people to kill the other guy… Ok, I admit it was Midsomer Murders, a rather sedate BBC show which my wife loves and which often sends me to sleep. This episode however, managed to hold my interest throughout… Hmmm.
As I muse on the “coincidence” of the revenge theme coming up twice in 24 hours my thoughts turn to a recent client who admitted over-reacting and seeking revenge for every slight or perceived slight in his life, if someone cut him off in traffic he would deliberately pursue them in order to “teach them a lesson”, even threatening his own safety to do so. I’m not that bad I think to myself. Hmmm.
Then I remember…
Two days prior to this while writing a workshop description for the website I ask my wife Louise for some feedback. She gives me the feedback but as usual she is very honest with me; my initial scratchings are less than perfect. And that’s where it starts. “You’re so negative” I respond to the perceived hurt, forgetting that I have asked for the feedback. I might add now as I reflect that at that point I did no tapping. After all it is “she” who has the attitude problem and a lack of tact and diplomacy… Hmmm.
So we continue our slightly heated “discussion” and it does work out ok, mainly because Louise persists with me, obviously realising that I really do need the help as I am “too close” to my own work. So she focuses on the task, not the attack, and we are able to come up with a way through my writing impasse…
But the story doesn’t end there unfortunately.
Later that evening at home I ask for help on another matter. Louise is busy however with the never-ending pile of household jobs, and refuses. So I react angrily and shout at her. (Again, I admit, no tapping here!). I don’t understand her refusal or the strength of her reaction to my expression of displeasure. Why couldn’t she do such a simple thing? Why is she reacting so?
Two hours later we are going to bed. Now I am being ignored and I don’t understand why. Sheesh! No chance to kiss and make up. As we say in Australia, I am in the dog house.
NOW, I am tapping because that rejection really hurts. And it isn’t fair. My cause as always was pure; I am just a poor misunderstood soul. So I sulk. And I hurt. And I tap. Just lightly on the finger points, and occasionally just touching and holding the face points, I don’t want to wake Louise up. And all the time I feel it is ME that has been wronged. Hmmm.
One thing I have learned is that the hurts we experience in relationships, especially in our primary relationships, are some of the most difficult feelings to treat. Sometimes it even feels like they are immune to the tapping they are so strong and persistent. This is because they are ancient feelings often with very deep and distant roots. I’ve learned when I have these feelings to start tapping and keep tapping, even if I have to do this for hours into the long night. Because the tapping, even when not working perfectly, tends to take the edge off those primitive feelings. And the thoughts which those feelings drive. Thoughts of…. yep … thoughts of vengeance!
So I tap for hours until I finally fall asleep. Then I wake up too early and I am still hurting. I start tapping lightly again as my mind torments me with thoughts of getting up versus staying in bed and the futility of all this damned tapping! But the focus is on MY hurt now, and all thoughts of vengeance have gone away. I know it is my problem and I know I have to persist. So I do.
I keep tapping until the alarm sounds. Louise wakes up and we start talking. I am awake enough and my emotions are subdued enough that I can try to listen and understand, without reacting. As always, there is another side, another perspective, another experience, another suffering, which I am blind to. I try to “get it” and I know I don’t totally but it doesn’t matter. I have made a valiant attempt. And we have weathered another storm. There’s mopping up to do but the energy has shifted. We live to love again…
So what do I have to say on the subject of revenge? I don’t like it. I reject it. I deny it. But if I’m truthful I have to admit I have it. Sure I didn’t go along with any of the thoughts of vengeance that entered my head in my “long dark night” and I can’t recall I time I ever did to any great extent. But what drove the severity of my negative reaction and brain-snap earlier that night? Sure as eggs it was the smouldering hurt from the perceived criticism earlier that day. And so once again I get to learn that whatever I teach the lesson is really for me.
I am reminded of a client who tended to react violently to his partner’s messiness. He would get so angry if his partner left her clothing and other effects lying around that he would swear and curse and smash something. I taught him the tapping and in his next session he told me it hadn’t worked. His partner had left her shoes lying around one day and he got so angry he smashed the shower screen door (then he had to repair it!). When I enquired if he’d done the tapping when he discovered her shoes spread around, he admitted he hadn’t. She had just done her thing and he reacted. In an instant I realised how futile it would be to advise him to tap at the time, as he was so driven by his angry feelings. So I advised him to do the tapping at a neutral time, before she did anything wrong and when he was not feeling upset. And that worked a treat. He didn’t have another violent aggressive incident after this, even though his partner still continued to be, in his words, “a bit messy”. Hmmm.
So here’s what I tell my clients (and myself) about anger and revenge: Don’t wait until someone cuts you off in traffic. Do the tapping when you first get in the car. Then you will be less reactive if something does happen. Don’t wait until your partner does that thing that “always” upsets you. Do the tapping at a neutral time when you are not being provoked. Anger and vengeance are such driving emotions it is very difficult (not impossible, but difficult) when you are “in” those feelings to stop yourself and tap. So do the tapping beforehand.
You can also do the tapping for first aid when you are upset, and you will still need to do this at times. But the work will then be much harder, as you’ll be working against the compelling drive of those strong emotional reactions. And you’ll need to persist.
If you want to, you can seek to identify the past experiences where you learnt these reactions and tap on those specific events and memories, but some of these things are quite unconscious to us. Persistence in tapping can work when you can’t even identify such events. So focus first on getting enough tapping into your life and when you do your overall reactivity will settle down. And you will start to see things clearly again. And you’ll be much easier to live with…
P.S: A day after I write this article I open my email inbox and download another conference alert… you aren’t going to believe this but you can check it out for yourself… at Oxford in July… the 3rd global conference on… wait for it… Forgiveness!!!
P.P.S.: Further enquiry will reveal both conferences are at the same place same dates. How appropriate...
P.P.P.S.: Come to a workshop and learn how to apply SET to relieve the hurt.
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