What Is the Connection Between Narcissism and Revenge?

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  • Written By: Daniel Liden
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 09 July 2014
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Narcissism is a broad term that is used to describe a range of different but related psychological phenomena and conditions relating to self-love and self-esteem or, more often, to self-obsession and exaggerated self-importance. According to some psychological theories, most notably Sigmund Freud's psychoanalysis, some degree of narcissism is necessary for healthy psychological development. An individual who possesses an exaggerated sense of self-worth, often referred to as a "narcissist," is often unable to handle criticism or perceived attacks on his self-worth. Such an individual may become angry because of such perceived attacks and may, therefore, act out in revenge. Narcissism and revenge are, therefore, often closely connected as a perceived attack on a narcissist's value may lead to an act of vengeance.

The relationship between revenge and narcissism is complex as the personalities of narcissistic individuals can vary drastically. One individual may be insulted and may seek revenge because of a gesture or word that was not even intended as criticism or as an attack, while another may only respond in a vengeful manner to direct criticism, constructive or otherwise. The relationship between narcissism and revenge can also vary in terms of the methods used for vengeance. Some may simply attempt to devalue the achievements of or to socially undermine the perceived attacker, while others may fly into a rage and attempt to physically harm the "attacker."

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A variety of different psychological theories give possible explanations for the connection between narcissism and revenge-seeking behaviors. Freud, for instance, posited that the various early traumas in childhood sexual development were responsible for narcissistic personalities that could lead one to feel a need for revenge for perceived wrongs. Other theories of narcissism and revenge are based on the narcissist's need to control his external environment as much as possible. Revenge is aimed at those who attempt to usurp that control and can be seen as an attempt to reassert control.

Narcissism and revenge-seeking behaviors based in narcissism tend to develop from various aspects of a child's upbringing. Children whose parents gave them excessive praise for even trivial accomplishments, for instance, tend to handle criticism poorly and may even respond poorly to a perceived lack of praise. Children who, on the other hand, receive constant harsh criticism may also find it difficult to handle criticism as adults and are likely to perceive attacks in casual comments or even in compliments. Such individuals may use revenge as a tool to re-establish self-worth and to re-assert their control over their environments.

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anon948266
Post 11

@Cloudel: There is no such thing as too much love. If your praise for, and your pride in, those 'little' things is real, then it is love, and can only do good. I think that what is being referred to is false or unnatural praise, where the parent sees the child as an extension of themselves. In that situation, damage is already present in the parent, and the damage is spread. Don't stop loving. That is precisely what children need.

anon332328
Post 8

My husband and I recently were almost physically attacked by someone we didn't know. The man said something to my husband like he knew someone who knew me and basically slandered me and told us not to mess with him. We are contemplating whether to file a police report or let it go. We are living in an area we're not from. Could this have been a instance of mistaken identity by him or could someone have put him up to this?

He blocked us at our apartment community with his car and banged on my window and swore and yelled obscenities. I called the police and he backed off, moved his car and then came back to my husband's window and said, "don't mess with me" and used a obscenity instead of "mess" and then slandered me.

Would someone go to these lengths if they would possibly hire someone to do this, if seeking revenge? We talked to the apartment community management, and may just let it go. We don't want him to come back to the community and start issues again.

stoneMason
Post 7

Will narcissists always seek revenge when they are hurt? Won't they forgive and forget?

literally45
Post 6

@burcinc-- I'm not a doctor but from what I know about narcissists and revenge, you don't sound like one.

A narcissist will usually do much more than simply push someone out of their life when they want revenge. A narcissist can obsess about revenge and it's usually carried out verbally or physically. It can be quite scary. I've been at the receiving end of it.

And trying to get revenge from a narcissist is out of the question because it makes things even worse. Narcissists can be very hurtful but trying to get revenge from them makes them even more revengeful. So it's best to move on.

burcinc
Post 5

I think I have some narcissistic tendencies, although I've never been diagnosed as so. I just cannot tolerate criticism at all. I've always been criticized by my parents while growing up and felt that I had to be perfect because of it.

When someone criticizes me, even if they're right, I feel so angered and I start hating that person. I don't do anything to harm them but I try to get revenge by distancing them from me or ending my relationship with them. And I'm capable of doing this with everyone, even family members.

The weird part is that I don't see anything wrong with any of this. I don't know why I get angry when I'm criticized. All I know is that it is not acceptable to me and I don't want to hear it.

healthy4life
Post 4

It makes sense that a narcissistic person would be vengeful. There is no one that they value and love more than themselves, so they defend their own honor the way that others might defend the honor of their country, their faith, or their spouse.

So, if something negative has been said about the most important person in the world, they have to rectify the situation. Since words can't be taken back, revenge must be taken.

giddion
Post 3

@seag47 – Sometimes, the revenge is just verbal. At other times, it gets physical.

It doesn't always have to be violent, though. I knew a lady who would do things like pour a glass of water on someone's head or set up a bucket of something on a door so that it would fall on the victim's head.

This was physically unpleasant, but it wasn't as bad as beating them. Everyone tried to avoid offending her, because they knew that they might end up wet or with a ruined outfit. I never knew her to let anything go, so it was pretty much a guarantee that if you insulted her in some way, there would be repercussions.

seag47
Post 2

I worked with a man who didn't seem to be narcissistic, but once I saw how he sought verbal revenge on anyone who said anything to him that he perceived as criticism, I began to believe otherwise. He could not take a joke about himself at all, though he was good at dishing them out.

He was what I would call “catty.” His insults were quick and sharp, cutting you to the bone for something you said that wasn't even meant to be offensive.

cloudel
Post 1

I thought that praising my children for little things they did right was a good thing! I am horrified to read that this may lead to narcissism.

I have always called it being positive, but now, I'm worried that I may have done damage. Maybe I should scale back the praise a little.

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