Distribution Automatique

Friday, May 2

Karen Horney on the arrogant-vindictive personality:

"The need to save face is urgent, and there is more than one way of effecting it. As a matter of fact, there are so many different ways, gross and subtle, that I must restrict my presentation to the more frequent and important ones.The most effective, and, it seems, most ubiquitous one is interlinked with the impulse to take revenge for what is felt as humiliation. We discussed it as a reaction of hostility to the pain and the danger involved with hurt pride. But vindictiveness may in addition be a means towards self-vindication. It involves the belief that by getting back at the offender one's own pride will be restored. This belief is based on the fact that the offender, by his very power to hurt our pride, has put himself above us and has defeated us. By our taking revenge and hurting him more than he did us, the situation will be reversed. We will be triumphant and will have defeated him.The aim of the neurotic vindictive revenge is not "getting even" but triumphing by hitting back harder. Nothing short of triumph *can* restore the imaginary grandeur in which pride is invested. It is this very capacity to restore pride that gives neurotic vindictiveness its incredible tenecity and accounts for its compulsive character....Because the power to retaliate is so valuable for the restoration of pride, this power can itself be invested with pride. In the minds of certain neurotic types it is equal to strength and often it is the only strength they know. Conversely, the incapacity to hit back usually registers as weakness, no matter whether external or internal factors prohibited a vindictive move. Thus when such a person feels humiliated, and either the situation or something within him does not allow him to retaliate, he suffers a double injury: the original "insult" and the "defeat" as opposed to a vindictive triumph....The need for a vindictive triumph,as stated before, is a regular ingredient in a search for glory. If it is the dominant motivating force in life, it sets going a vicious circle that is most difficult to disentangle. The determination then to rise above others in every possible way is so gigantic that it reinforces the whole need for glory, and with that the neurotic pride. The inflated pride in turn enhances the vindictiveness, and thereby makes for a still greater need for triumph."....

"...But he never allows himself to *feel* any hurt because his pride prohibits it. Thus the hardening process, which originally was necessary to protect real feelings, now must gather momentum for the sake of protecting his pride. His pride then lies in being above hurts and suffering. Nothing and nobody, from mosquitoes to accidents to people, can hurt him. This measure, however, is double edged.His not consciously feeling the hurts allows him to live without constant sharp pain. Besides, it is questionable whether the diminshed awareness of hurts does not actually dampen the vindictive impulses too; whether, in other words, he would not be more violent, more destructive without this lessened awareness. Certainly there is a diminished awareness of vindictiveness as such. In his mind it turns to warrented wrath at a wrong done and into the right to punish the wrong-doer. If, however, a hurt does not penetrate through the protective layer of invulnerability, then the pain becomes intolerable. In addition to his pride being hurt- for instance, by a lack of recognition- he also suffers the humilitating blow of having "allowed" something or somebody to hurt him....Closely akin to his belief and pride in his inviolability or invulnerability, and indeed complementing it, is that in immunity and impunity. This belief, entirely unconscious, results from a claim which entitles him to the freedom to do to others whatever he pleases, and to having nobody mind or try to get back at him. In other words, nobody can hurt me with impunity but I can hurt everybody with impunity. In order to undersand the necessity for this claim we must reeconsider his attitudes toward people. We have seen that he offends people easily through his militant rightness, arrogant punitiveness, and his rather openly using them as a means to his ends...He must indeed keep an even balance between letting others feel his righteous anger and between holding it back. What drives his to express it is not only the magnitude of his vindictive urges but even more his need to intimidate others and to keep them in awe of an armed fist. This in turn is so necessary because he sees no possibility of coming to friendly terms with others, because it is a means to assert his claims, and- more generally- because in a warfare of all against all taking the offensive is the best defense....In arguments that may arise he seems to be unconcerned about the truth of any statement he interprets as a hostile attack, but automatically responds with counterattacks- like a porcupine when it is touched. He simply cannot afford to consider even remotely anything that might engender a doubt in his rightness....Or he may realize that he is infuriated at somebody for no other reason than that the latter is always cheerful or intensely interested in something....It hurts his pride that anybody could have something which, whether he wants it or not, is out of his reach....Most people respond to this type by either being intimidated into submissiveness or by rejecting him altogether. Neither attitude will do for the analyst"

from "Neurosis and Human Growth" (Norton, 1950)