The Value of Vindictiveness, by Karen Horney

The desire for revenge: an essay on the nature of vindictiveness

Written in 1948, Karen Horney’s paper on vindictiveness takes a psychoanalytic perspective on the need for revenge. She considers the aims of vindictive behaviour and outlines three forms of vindictiveness which she describes as openly aggressive vindictiveness, self-effacing vindictiveness and detached vindictiveness. She considers a person’s need to strike out at others, where these feelings might originate and how vindictiveness might serve as a defence.

Horney’s paper is short and to the point. Her writing reflects her strong feeling for the topics about which she felt most passionate. After more than 60 years, The Value of Vindictiveness still stands as an important essay on this rarely-discussed human trait.

The full text of Horney’s essay can be ordered online. The first two pages of The Value of Vindictiveness are available to read here.

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