What’s My Motivation Part Two: The Revenge!

In the previous part of this article, we covered how motivation needs to always be a factor in both ritual and in daily life and practice, and that’s important because sometimes, our motivations can be coming from a darker place.  Let’s look at darker emotions and how they can have a dangerous effect on our health as well as our practice.

Revenge Is Not That Sweet

Seeking vengeance on someone for a real or perceived slight is an unfortunate part of being human.  Someone wrongs us, we seek retribution.  Look at conflicts all over the world.  A religious or ethnic group commits an atrocity or transgression and it is remembered and passed on for generations.  On a more personal level, look at our daily lives.

Someone cuts us off in traffic.  So we lay on the horn.  Maybe get into some road rage, and yell something about their parentage and learning how to drive.  And why?  Because they cut us off of course.
However, getting angry and seeking revenge have a toxic effect on our emotional well being as well as physical health.  According to Vanessa Van Edwards on her site The Science of People:

“A group of Swiss researchers wanted to know what happens in the brain when someone reaps revenge.

They scanned the brains of people who had just been wronged during a game in the lab.
The researchers then gave the wronged participant a chance to punish the other person, and for a full minute as the victim’s contemplated revenge, the activity in their brain was recorded.
Immediately, researchers noticed a rush of neural activity in the caudate nucleus. This is the part of the brain known to process rewards.
Big Idea: This study found that revenge, in the moment, is quite rewarding.

However, they wanted to know one more thing: Does revenge keep rewarding?

The Long-Term Effects of Revenge:
We often believe that exacting revenge is a form of emotional release and that getting retribution will help us feel better. Movies often portray the act of revenge as a way of gaining closure after a wrong. But in fact, revenge has the opposite effect.

Even though the first few moments feel rewarding in the brain, psychological scientists have found that instead of quenching hostility, revenge prolongs the unpleasantness of the original offense.

Instead of delivering justice, revenge often creates only a cycle of retaliation.

“A man that studieth revenge, keeps his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal.” –Francis Bacon”  [VIEW SOURCE]

But what does that have to do with magick and ritual?

Revenge is a Dangerous Thing to Bring Into Ritual

There are many different entry rituals that say that you should enter into a circle with perfect love and perfect trust.  Nowhere is revenge mentioned.

What’s your motivation for doing a love spell?  Are you trying to get that person to be with you, or are you trying to avenge yourself because they turned you down?  A friend of my late partner Mike, we’ll call him Idjit for convenience, was seeing a guy who abruptly broke it off.  Idjit wasn’t very good at magick, so he asked Mike for a spell to help him win back the heart of his estranged boyfriend.  Mike helped out of concern for his friend, so he cast a spell to draw them back together.     What he didn’t know is that Idjit had ulterior motives.

The guy he was interested in couldn’t figure out why he kept coming back.  Idjit treated this guy horribly, keeping him around to constantly remind him of how he had hurt him.  Reconciliation was never part of the agenda it was all about revenge.  Both Mike and I had to intervene.  We undid the spell together, and the estranged boyfriend went his way and found someone better.  As for Idjit, Mike and him parted ways.

Someone breaks your heart.  After you go through the ice cream and talk ad nauseum about it to your friends, family, and anyone who listen, the best thing you can do is rebuild your life and go on.  However, a lot of us don’t do that.  Some people want to make their former love suffer as they have.  Look at some popular music for inspiration.

I Wanna Be Around
Tony Bennett

“I want to be around to pick up the pieces
When somebody breaks your heart
Some somebody twice as smart as I
A somebody who will swear to be true
As you used to do with me
Who’ll leave you to learn
That misery loves company, wait and see”

Cry Me A River
Diana Krall, Julie London, others

“Now you say you’re lonely
You cry the whole night through
Well, you can cry me a river, cry me a river
I cried a river over you
Now you say you’re sorry
For being so untrue
Well, you can cry me a river, cry me a river
I cried a river over you.”

Revenge and retaliation aren’t just confined to romantic endeavors.  They’re part of office politics, international affairs, and even among groups of people who you think would be above such things, revenge often rears it’s ugly head.  Should you seek revenge?  Absolutely, but here is how you do it.

You get up every day, and get out of your rut as soon and as often as you can.
You assess your life and consider ways to make it happier, healthier, and at the same time, you strive to improve yourself.

You give yourself the best life you can.  Don’t give your detractor or attacker any more power.  Soon a miraculous thing will happen.  Not only will retaliation be the furthest thing from your mind, and they will be irrelevant.  That’s the best revenge you can take.  Try to be happy. That’s the best revenge to take.

But what about justice?  What if you need to sue someone for damages to your home or property?  You have a right to seek damages when justified.  But this is the trick with justice.  You have to know when to stop.  Because somewhere in the middle of your quest for justice you could find yourself on a path to revenge.

So as we said before, look at your situation with the perspective of the ultimate observer.  Ask why you’re doing something.  That way you will know what it is that motivates you: seeking justice or invoking your right to vengeance.  What’s your motivation?

“The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury.”
-Marcus Aurelius



What’s My Motivation? Or Avoiding Bad Method Acting in Ritual and Daily Life

What’s my motivation?  That is the plaintive question of every method actor.  A method actor can figure out a role based on that question, but if they don’t empathize well with the character they’re portraying,  then it leads to what is called the “ham factor.”  Don’t know what a ham actor is?  Watch Charlton Heston in the 10 Commandments, Planet of the Apes, or well, just about anything that he’s in really.

Knowing what motivates you to do something is a good thing, with that said, however, sometimes, it’s not such a bad thing to question our true motivations, and to not let method acting seep into our lives.  Here’s an example:

“I hate going to work.”
“Then why go?”
“Because I have to.”

So you’ve answered the question “what’s my motivation?”  But perhaps the answer isn’t as simple as you might think.  You do not have to go to work.  You choose to go to work.  If you don’t work, it’s unlikely that you will be able to:

  • Pay your rent or your house payment
  • Pay your car payment and insurance
  • Buy food
  • Pay the electric bill
  • Pay the water bill
  • Pay all of your other expenses

You Always Have a Choice, Don’t Surrender Your Power Over Yourself

You can stop working at any time, but you want to be able to do all the things above, plus have a little money for yourself and those you love.  It’s important to remember that you are choosing to work and say that aloud.   “I choose to work, so that I can pay my expenses and have money to live.”  When we choose something we feel better about it then when we think we have to do something.  That’s the difference between empowerment and being a victim.  But why is victimhood so prevalent? First off, it’s encouraged by our society.  Take a look at consumerism.

Advertisers target an illusory need, and aim for our subconscious.  Don’t have the latest IPhone or Samsung Galaxy?  You need it! Go! Go now! Supplies are running out!  So you go to the mall, and sit down in line, maybe even camp out, so you can get the latest IPhone from the Apple store.   You’ll shell out a lot of money and buy the phone, and for a while it is great.  It’s way better than your last phone.  It’s faster, more stylish, and you think you’re the envy of all your friends and family.  And that’s why you really did it isn’t it?  What’s my motivation?  Why to impress others with how awesome you are.   If you don’t have the latest gadget, then why you’re nothing.  You’ll always have one friend who will smugly show off the fact that their phone does one thing that yours can’t, because it’s an IPhone, or a high level Android.

To add to your awesomeness, you spend time feeding the homeless down at a shelter, not because you want to truly help.  You’re doing it for a bit of esteem currency.  Later on you’ll get a lot of status by dropping an offhand remark, “I helped feed the homeless the other day.”  You’ll get the oohs and ahhs you crave and hunger for.    You can feel better about yourself.  See, you’re not selfish at all.  Yes, you spent a lot of money on yourself buying a new phone, but you fed the homeless.  The problem with this sort of thinking is that after awhile your spiritual balance starts to crumble.

The Four Primary Goals

Sun-Tzu wrote that everyone is guided by four primary goals that all other goals spring from, these are:

  • Power
  • Pleasure
  • Avoidance of Responsibility
  • Love (Respect)

You get into a fight with your significant other.  If your goal is power, then you don’t care about resolving the dispute.  You just want to win the fight.  This is purely a power goal.  To someone motivated by pleasure, they will pursue their pleasure at whatever cost.  Avoidance of responsibility is pure undiluted victimhood.  “It’s not my fault because of ______.”  However, going for a goal of love and respect starts with yourself.  Think about your actions.  Are you doing it for self-love?  Are you doing it because you love someone else, or out of respect for them?

Understanding why you do something always carries over into our ritual practice as well.  You cast a spell for money with a motivation of greed.  You might get what you want only to find that no matter what you never have enough money.   Or you could cast a money spell to get enough money to get out of debt as well as take care of your daily expenses.

You want to find the love of your life.  Again, what’s your motivation?  Do you want this someone to be nothing more than an accessory?  A bit of eye candy or arm candy to show off?  Or do you want to find someone because you are lonely and want a live a happier more fulfilling life?


You have to plan a ritual.  Why do you?  Are you doing it because you want to observe the passage of time in your own way, and give yourself a memory to carry forever, or are you doing it because you feel obligated to do it?

Sometimes, our motivations are based not on our open desires, but on habits.  That’s one reason why people sometimes get threatened by change.  Change disrupts our habits, and the patterns we build around them.

Don’t second guess yourself, however.  Sometimes your motivation is fairly simple, other times, you have to think about it.  When in doubt, a good way to examine your motivation  is to keep asking why you are doing something.  When you come up with an answer that you can’t argue, then you will know why you should take action, or choose another option.  If the answer to your question is “I don’t know,” then it is a good time to pause and think things over.

When you examine your motives and motivation,  and realize that you always have a choice,  it is then that you start to grow spiritually.  And, you’ll often stand amazed at how free you feel.

“So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we have the key.”

Already Gone-The Eagles, Written by Jack Tempchin, Robb Strandlund