Sep. 22, 2011 at 1:52 PM ET
In Wednesday night's premiere of ABC's new show "Revenge," viewers met the seductive, sophisticated Emily Thorne, who returns to Southampton, N.Y., 17 years later to wreak havoc on her father's enemies. It seems she'll pick them off one at a time.
But in real life, is revenge really as sweet as it seems?
Actually, it is -- at least, it is at first. “When (people) exact revenge, there is genuinely a feeling of relief and even a release of serotonin and oxytocin into the brain that will make someone feel better,” says Mia Bloom, PhD, professor of international studies and women studies at Penn State University.
Even if the act of revenge is as simple as approaching the person who slighted you for a conversation, ignoring an email or sabatoging a co-worker's project, getting back at the person who's wronged you can be simply satisfying.
“This is everything from the person who cuts you off in traffic and you show them a certain finger on your hand or you beep at them can be a way of making you feel better," Bloom explains. "It doesn’t have to be taking an AK-47 and going in and shooting up people who have done you wrong.”
Bloom examined female participation in the world’s most recognized terrorist groups in her book, “Bombshell: Women and Terrorism”, slated for an Oct. 1 release, says women typically resort to acts of terrorism and suicide bombings for five reasons: revenge, redemption, relationship, respect and rape. Like the character in the ABC drama series, the violent acts often aren’t for personal gratification. Most often, they are altruistic or a way of avenging wrongs done to their relatives, communities or religion.
Although executing a revenge plot makes us feel better because of the chemical reaction in our brains, Blooms says it also has a dark downside.
“It creates a cycle of violence,” she explains. “The moment a person exacts revenge, there is a response and another response. Violence is never a solution because it becomes never-ending.”
Bloom, who interviewed dozens of women who committed or attempted to commit violent acts include Catholic women in Ireland, Hindu women in Sri Lanka and American women recruited to go to Iraq and Afghanistan, say after the seeking revenge people often experience high levels of guilt, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and other forms of trauma.
“They express regret,” she says. “A failed bombers will say I went to the market, but I saw kids, and they couldn’t cross that line. It’s very difficult to take another life, no matter who that person is and what that person did.”
When's the last time you got back at someone? Tell us about it, and how you felt afterward. Did it make you feel better? Or did it end up making you feel worse?