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Why Getting Even May Make You Feel Worse in the Long Run

Researchers staged the game so that players were double-crossed and some were given the chance to retaliate. When asked by researchers how they imagined they would feel after seeking revenge, the players predicted it would make them feel better. But when surveyed afterward, those who had retaliated reported feeling worse than players who didn’t get the opportunity to punish and so had “moved on.” Seeking revenge may remind us of the pain we experienced when we were wronged and can make an event appear even larger in our minds, Timothy Wilson theorizes. “By not retaliating, we’re able to find other ways of coping, like telling ourselves that it wasn’t such a big deal,” he says. Ruminating about getting even — stewing over what the person did to you and what you would like to do in return — can interfere with day-to-day well-being and happiness.

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