Thursday, June 6, 2013

Revenge: It's All Fun And Games Until You End Up In Jail

Revenge: There are few things more satisfying than a good fantasy about getting even with someone who has wronged you. A boss, a coworker, an ex...think of all the fiendish things you can do to a person who hurts you deeply.

Here is the problem: many of those satisfyingly devilish revenge fantasies cross over from clever to illegal very quickly. You may not even realize you are thinking of breaking the law when you devise how to best get your comeuppance.

Let's examine a real-world case. One major caveat: I have no idea if the following scenario is actually true. But, it has gone viral on the internet, so let's just pretend it really happened.

The funny break-up letter: A woman discovered after looking through her boyfriend's open Facebook account that he was having an affair. She then wrote him this letter:

This woman, who had every right to be angry, embarrassed, hurt, depressed, etc., discovered the existence of Kelsi, the other woman. She made a point of telling her boyfriend she did not break any of his things. But, she did take many of his possessions and put them in public places. She then gave her boyfriend "clues" about where his stuff was. She ends the letter by writing, "Oh, and while I didn't break or damage anything, I can't guarantee anybody else won't find it!"

On the surface, this seems like an epic revenge. I mean, she crushed this guy--his stuff is hidden in plain sight all over town! People will steal his stuff! It's awesome!

It is also illegal.

Taking someone else's possessions without the use of force and without breaking into a building is called theft. And, the dollar amount of the stuff she took (video games, a television, a laptop, and clothes) constitutes felony theft.

At the very least, she committed several acts of criminal mischief (knowingly damaging or injuring others' property).

And, depending on how vigorous a prosecutor would like to be, she might be charged with breaking into her boyfriend's Facebook account, which can be charged as stalking or computer hacking, depending on the jurisdiction.

This is the problem with revenge: it often leaves us worse off than when we started. And, it is typically masking deeper emotions such as depression, embarrassment, or shame. None of those emotions resolve themselves by acting out toward another person in anger.

It is much better to deal with your deep feelings of hurt directly than to act on thoughts of revenge. At the same time, it can be fun and cathartic to fantasize about getting even with someone. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as you don't act on those thoughts and you also work on healing your deeper emotions.

Remember the famous George Herbert quote: "Living well is the best revenge."
Thanks for reading-- Max Wachtel, Ph.D.


I think this guy is so wrong. the boyfriend left his face book open on the computer if you had read the letter. Therefore she did not break into his face book account as you so state. There you are 100% wrong. How can she break into something that was already open for her and everyone or anyone else to see? As for her hiding his stuff all around town though it sounds like a right good idea. I do agree it
is not. Too many ramifications for her. I would have just delivered them to the girls house and informed the now ex that they were there and that he was not welcome back to her home ever!

Oh, Prosecutors, depending on the county and state, CAN find ways to press charges for opening the computer and viewing his personal profile, email, or whatever may have been open that did not belong to her. It could also become a domestic violence/stalking situation if the right prosecutor becomes involved. The point they would be making is that she viewed a profile that was not hers and in so doing obtained information to injure and/or coerce another.

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