A friend recently asked me if I would support her in court, which I agreed to. A person hurt a loved one of hers and I am soon to attend the sentencing with her. She reports that she wants to be there, to see “him go down”.
Revenge is an interesting emotion, so primal and so basic to human nature. All our Child ego states know about the feeling of revenge as we have all felt it from time to time.
The Child ego state in us all knows what this feels like. “I got hurt and I want to hurt somebody back”.
Firstly this is an issue that does come up for therapists from time to time. When you have a client who has been harmed by another person in some way or they harmed a close loved one and that person is currently going through the legal process. If asked, what should the therapist advise about this issue so as not to suffer psychologically from it. To end up worse off.
My view is usually that the courts and the legal process simply exist to answer a legal question. That’s all. They have no therapeutic goal. They don’t pretend to, they don’t claim to and they don’t try to have a therapeutic aim. A court is simply a court, it is not a therapy room.
The problem is people sometimes attribute a therapeutic goal to the court. If that happens then the person can end up psychologically worse off at the end of it.
“I will get my day in court”, with the underlying meaning being that this will be therapeutic for me.
“I will finally get justice”, with the underlying meaning being that this will be therapeutic for me.
Often these things do not happen in the legal process
So my advice is do not connect your psychological well being to what might happen in the court process. Do not connect your psychological well being to what you hope might happen in the court process. The court does not exist for your psychological well being, it is simply there to answer a legal question.
“With the outcome of the trial I will finally get resolution”. No you won’t. It certainly wont give you emotional resolution even if the result is something that you like.
Even if the sentence is a long one that will not make the feelings of anger at the person and feelings of revenge go away. That is a separate psychological process. That is achieved by what the Gouldings called dropping a feeling. This is a very good skill to possess and a skill which therapists are well advised to encourage clients to have and to help their clients master. Even if a sense of justice is felt by the client after the court finishes that will not get them to drop the feelings they have, usually of anger and revenge. That is achieved by going through the dropping feeling process that the Goulding’s devised.
Of course, many, if not most never do this after a trial finishes and the feelings of anger and revenge simply erode away at the person’s psychological health and often negatively impact their close relationships with friends and family. The person ends up worse off.