Vindictiveness by Personality Type
The need for revenge often feels instinctual, even mathematical; after we’re harmed, we wish to get even. This desire can linger long past the original injury, and turn into fantasies of revenge.
To investigate the phenomenon of vindictiveness by personality type, we asked our readers whether they agreed or disagreed with the following statement: “You often fantasize about getting even with people who hurt you in the past.” There was a noticeable gap in the responses between each personality trait pairing, with the largest found between Turbulent and Assertive types (57.37% vs. 33.05% agreeing). Here is a chart with all personality types:
The trends become even clearer if we look at the two layers that make up our model – Roles and Strategies. Let’s see how each group deals with the urge for revenge below.
Analysts were the only role to have a clear majority of respondents who agreed that revenge fantasies often occupied their thoughts (63.55% agreeing). Although generally cool-headed and objective when considering problems of a scientific or technological nature, Analysts may struggle to deal effectively with difficulties of a more interpersonal nature, where equations are not so readily balanced. Often strong-willed to the point of stubbornness, Analysts may find themselves trapped in a mental loop of sorts: unwilling to let a slight be, yet incapable of finding a satisfactory resolution.
Diplomats were evenly divided on the question (50.84% agreeing). While they often find that forgiveness is the surest path to harmony, Diplomats may just as frequently harbor the temptation to balance the scales for reasons of morality or justice, even while pretending that they’ve long since forgotten the actions that inspired their need for vengeance. It’s likely that rather than direct revenge, Diplomats fantasize about a due balance of karma. This is a revenge of the heart and soul, where those who hurt them must face their cruelty through self-reflection, and live with that knowledge.
Least likely to dwell on thoughts of revenge were the Explorers (39.62% agreeing) and Sentinels (35.03% agreeing). Explorers tend to live practically, in the moment – for them, revenge is an act taken either imminently, or not at all. As for Sentinels, they may view personal revenge as a threat to their sense of order and hierarchy, preferring to wait on courts and peers – on the sound judgment of society – to carry out justice.
A majority of Constant Improvement and Social Engagement respondents agreed with the statement “You often fantasize about getting even with people who hurt you in the past”, with 58.29% and 56.15% agreeing respectively. Both Turbulent strategies, these types tend to feel more vividly the harms visited on them by others, particularly when they feel diminished in status as a result. They may feel pressure to “get back” at those who have taken something from them, whether this goal is achievable or not.
A minority of Confident Individualism and People Mastery respondents agreed with the question (34.57% and 32.21%). As Assertive strategies, these types may have an inner self-confidence that allows them to feel less slighted than Turbulent types, and thus less likely to become preoccupied by fantasies of revenge. They may simply feel the best revenge is living well.
Setting aside the issue of acting on revenge – after all, the question dealt only with fantasies, not realization – it’s worth considering the impact of even thoughts of revenge. These fantasies might seem like a harmless means of dealing with our feelings, a mental burning-in-effigy in place of real life revenge. But the more we concern ourselves with the harm done to us by others, the less we’re taking steps to remedy it, which can lead to a permanent rift.
Aside from the loss of a potential friend or ally, an obsession with unconsummated revenge is a stressor with no release. This unmanaged anxiety can have a corrosive effect on the psyche and on our relationships. Ultimately, revenge does the most harm to its host. We would be better off forgiving.