Revenge doesn’t get nearly enough appreciation.
There are few motivations as deep and pure as the desire to get back at someone, to prove a point, to feel like you’ve come out on top. This energy can be harnessed for a lot of amazing things. In fact, for some of us, it’s the main reason we’ve ever accomplished anything.
This I’LL SHOW YOU energy can help propel us to better jobs and better relationships. It can make us walk taller, and certainly walk faster. It can also turn into one hell of a good workout.
Anger is not much good on its own. Stewing over something without doing anything is just punishing yourself. Like the original problem wasn’t bad enough! Taking action and focusing on a solution is much better, and in that case, anger can be like rocket fuel. For instance, we used our anger at our dishonest property managers to organize a rapid relocation. They quit being our problem at that moment. As much as we love our new apartment, we have an added dimension of satisfaction because our rent is no longer going to the old place.
Moving is one kind of strenuous workout. If we’d had to move away unexpectedly, we might have felt sad and mopey. Our reluctance would have made the job of packing and hauling boxes feel endlessly exhausting. Instead, I had us half unpacked on the first day.
HA! TAKE THAT!
In the gym, I call this type of workout “tantrum yoga.”
There’s an exercise I learned in kundalini class in college. It is extremely effective to do with little kids. Lie on the floor, legs together, arms at your sides. Set a timer for two minutes. Think of something that seriously makes you mad, like social injustice, your worst boss of all time, a traffic incident, or the random person who stole your lunch out of the office fridge. Physically tense up and tighten every muscle. Holding that angry memory in mind, pound your fists and your heels over and over as hard as you can, as fast as you can. Go ahead and vocalize if you’re in a place where you can do that. AAAARRGGHHHH!!! RAWWWRRRRR! Pound pound pound thud thud thud.
The trick is that you have to keep going for the entire two minutes.
Really get in deep into the memory. That wasn’t fair! I hate that guy! Hey loser, you suck! You just don’t DO that! Work yourself up as much as you can.
Inevitably, and I’ve seen this in class several times, everyone starts to wind down after only a few seconds. We have to keep being reminded and encouraged to sustain the tantrum energy.
Afterward, it’s possible to lie on the floor feeling totally washed out, rung out like a dirty rag. It feels impossible to carry that amount of raw anger. On a somatic level it starts to make sense that our anger only hurts us, that the person who inspired it walks away clean every time.
Many of us have such a storehouse of swallowed pain that we can generate dozens or hundreds of specific incidents like this, enough to sustain us through months of revenge workouts.
This is part of what I love about intense exercise, even though I used to hate it. I hated it when it was mandatory, when I felt like the indentured servant of rude mean gym teachers and school bullies. Anyone would want to avoid getting slammed with a dodgeball. It wasn’t until I discovered that I could choose my own workout and leave my bad feelings somewhere out on the trail that I got into it.
Forgiveness feels terrible when the concept is misunderstood. You mean they’re just going to get away with it?? It’s easy to buy into the idea that forgiving someone means letting them off the hook, making excuses for inexcusable behavior, turning into a doormat. Really all it means is freeing yourself from living in that moment forever.
It was bad enough when it happened. But then to live it over and over again hundreds of times? How unfair is that?
Forgiveness just means making sense out of it. It means turning to a new chapter and saying, That was then, this is now. It means, this would never happen to me again because now I can see it coming and I have a few... shall we say... nice little backup plans.
This is what I discovered in martial arts. I tapped into this well of hidden rage that had built up in me, from feeling bullied and victimized. I was always on the small side, one of the littlest kids in my grade, and I never knew what to do when some young punk decided to mess with me.
Oho, but I do now.
There are other things that ignite that desire for revenge inside me, but they aren’t personalized. I have a lasting vendetta against chronic pain, for example. I see my night terrors as an almost tangible force that I can punch. I used to ride my bike around town actually yelling at my thyroid nodule, YOU CAN’T DO THIS TO ME! GET OUT OF MY BODY! (Which it did).
The feeling that I’ve found through revenge workouts is total bodily autonomy. This body is MINE, not the plaything of some external force. It is my birthright to live in this mortal vessel. Any kind of diagnosis or health condition is an invader and interloper. It does not belong in me. Or at least I can get myself good and worked up thinking about it.
I had a client, when I was doing fitness coaching, who asked for my help. She was going to a New Year’s party and she knew her ex would be there with his new girlfriend. She had a clear vision of herself walking in, looking like a million bucks and strutting her stuff. I don’t need you, I can do better, good luck with him honey. That burning desire for revenge got her straight to her goal in only a couple of months. She sent me a picture of her party dress, and she looked like she felt: a winner doing her victory lap. I bet she thought of some little way he disappointed her during every workout, until you know what? She was done and ready to move on.
That’s how I feel about my cancer scare, and my fibromyalgia diagnosis, and my ankle injury, and all my various other physical setbacks over the past twenty years. The same way, in fact, that I have felt about my ex-husband and a few political figures. Get out of my life! Begone! Eventually, those emotions are no longer as fresh or vivid. What’s left is physical power, a higher energy level, and the inner knowledge that whatever it was can never catch us again.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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