This is a fairly common stock motivation, in which a character who has been abused, persecuted, or otherwise mistreated in the past is acting to make sure that this sort of thing never happens to them again. This can encompass anything from taking a few levels in badass
to ensure they'll be able to defend themselves against future threats, to attempting to Take Over the World
and overthrow the oppressive institutions that made them miserable. The character may also wish to spare others from suffering like they did, but there needs to be at least some element of preemptive self-protection involved to fit the trope.
It's a common motivation for the behavior of the Broken Bird
. See also Freudian Excuse
and My Greatest Failure
. If the hurt is romantic in nature and new relationships are avoided for this reason, it's The First Cut Is the Deepest
. See also Hope Is Scary
, where recovering from despair is feared because it doesn't allow this.
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Anime and Manga
- The backstory for Crest of the Stars has the Abh overthrowing their human creators and masters, then going on to conquer most of the known universe, while in the process of conquering the rest.
- In all adaptations of Astro Boy, Dr. Tenma's son is killed. In grief, Tenma builds a robotic replica of his son, Astro Boy, and because he has plenty of Mad Scientist in him, augments the android with ridiculous amounts of weaponry so that his new son can defend himself when threatened. In a more direct version of this trope, Astro constantly sees robots getting mistreated or destroyed, often himself included, and spends much of his time defending robots without harming humans.
- This is the reason Minatsuki acts the way she does in Deadman Wonderland. To keep anyone from abandoning her the way her mother did, she deliberately acts as crass and cruel as she can so that no one will ever get close to her.
- The manga tie in for Devil May Cry 3 suggests that this is Dante's main motivation. After losing his mother to demons, he didn't get stronger to protect other people, it was so nothing like that could happen to him again.
- This is the reason why Haruka of Kotoura-san would decide to be alone before the start of the story; several Despair Event Horizons on, she cynically thinks she would doom every living being that she cares about, so she decided to be with nobody so that they would not be hurt—and by extension, herself being hurt by abandonment from someone she cares about again. The downward spiral was only broken by Manabe.
- A central theme of Neon Genesis Evangelion. That is to say, all of the characters have some aspect of this...One could even say that SEELE's plan to bring about Instrumentality is the trope taken to its logical — and then some — conclusion.
- Revy of Black Lagoon became what she is due to the horrible treatment she received at the hands of those in authority, from her drunken asshole of a father at home to the police on the streets. Revy's obsession with power is a direct response to her feeling of powerlessness during those years as a kid, and she never wants to go back to that again.
- Magneto, when he's given sympathetic motivations. He's a Holocaust survivor who doesn't want mutants to face the kind of genocidal bigotry he endured in his youth. Though it does kind of go against him when he has no qualms about doing that to humans.
- Some portrayals of Poison Ivy in Batman - she got mutated when she fell for a guy Playing with Syringes - now she is obsessed with controlling men.
- In the Cacophony storyline, this is Batman's justification for saving Joker's life at the end, in spite of Gordon's protests. He tells Joker that he became Batman so he could save people from dying, no matter what.
- In the ElfQuest: Siege at Blue Mountain arc, this seems to be Winnowill's motivation for wanting to take all of the pure-blooded elves somewhere they can never be hurt again. For many of them, it doesn't end well.
- Doomsday's motive for killing everything he sees is that he was created via a horrific experiment that involved dying multiple times. He thinks everything in the universe is a threat to his life and he's terrified of dying again.
- Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind: "As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again!"
- This has been used as Spartacus' motivation in several adaptations.
- Part of Hitch's backstory - in his younger days he loved and was very devoted to a woman who broke his heart by cheating on him with a cooler guy, with the reason that he was too average. In explaining it, he blatantly says he set out to ensure the same thing never happens to anyone else or himself - he reinvents himself to become the very pinnacle of charm, and then becomes the "Date Doctor" to give average guys real romantic chances that would otherwise never come their way.
- The Pigeon Lady in Home Alone 2 tells Kevin that she was hurt by a man who didn't love her back, so never let herself the possibility of having her heart broken again. That's why she was alone, that, and the pigeon poop.
- The main character of The Kingkiller Chronicle mentions this as one of several motivations for attending Wizarding School. (How truthful he was being is currently unknown—especially since the series isn't finished yet.)
- Alan Dean Foster's The Man Who Used The Universe. Kees vaan Loo-Macklin creates a criminal empire and a legitimate business empire and manipulates too many beings to name (both human and alien). He does this because he was abandoned as a child and grew up in a series of foster homes where he was mistreated because of his appearance, and was determined never to be helpless and mistreated again.
- This is what sparks Tiffany Aching's desire to become a witch in her Discworld books. Specifically, there was an incident in which an odd but otherwise harmless old woman was turned out of her home, mistreated by the locals, and eventually died out in the cold because they believed her to be a witch. Tiffany's response was to want to become a real witch so anyone who ever wanted to pull a stunt like that again would have to go through her first.
- Although she says "never be hungry again", a good deal of Scarlett O'Hara's ruthless behavior throughout the second half of Gone with the Wind can be attributed to this, as it's repeatedly stated that she's genuinely terrified of returning to the days of cold and poverty.
Live Action TV
- House in House seems to be like this at times. His relationship with Stacy sent him into one period of emotional disengagement. Then when after his relationship with Cuddy goes bad, he refuses the affections of his green-card wife, apparently out of fear that sex with anyone who actually likes him (rather than hookers) might lead to attachment which will hurt him again. Of course, if you showed him this page on TV Tropes and said that it applied to him, he'd probably give you a Hannibal Lecture about what a moron you are for thinking it.
- Doctor Who:
- John Lumic, who has some undisclosed and presumably painful terminal illness, decides to enforce Unwilling Roboticisation upon himself and humanity in order to eradicate death and emotion.
- Professor Lazarus from "The Lazarus Experiment" tried to create a device to avoid death due to his experiences during World War II. It didn't quite work out.
- The Gua in First Wave were once enslaved by another race but eventually drove their oppressors off their world. They even renamed their entire race based on their victory: "Gua" means "the power to overcome". They pre-emptively conquer other worlds to ensure no one else is ever able to threaten them again. One of their leaders, Joshua, eventually sides with humanity when he realizes that humans also possess "Gua".
- Once Upon a Time: Several characters, but special mention goes to Cora, who, after being forced to kneel and apologize to Eva, decides not to stop until everyone else is on their knees.
- The Narn from Babylon 5, in the early seasons. Their motivation, which prompts their bullying, their expansion, their desire to crush the Centauri, is largely about ensuring that they'll never again be at the mercy of the Centauri. Commander Sinclair even explicitly compares them to abused children who have learnt to hit back and now abuse others in turn.
- Ironically, the Centauri themselves: they used to be a peace-loving race before the Xon, the other sentient race from their homeworld, literally showed up from nowhere to enslave the Centauri and kill anyone who opposed. After, the Centauri killed every last Xon, took the stars as conquerors, and invented the mass drivers (whose use is considered a war crime).
- Also, the reason many Humans despise aliens and/or are obsessed with acquiring overwhelming military force: during the Earth-Minbari War, Mankind was brought to the verge of extinction by the Minbari, and Earth's allies deserted them out of fear of the Minbari, and no Human want that to repeat.
- It's also the reason Babylon 5 exists at all: the Earth-Minbari War started due a formidable case of Poor Communication Killsnote , and after the war the Humans built the Babylon Stations as a meeting point where all races would be able to meet in peace and learn about each other.
- In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the Founders (a race of changelings) use this as justification for running the Dominion. They tell Odo that millennia earlier, they were peaceful, but were met with brutal distrust and were hunted down. Thus, they founded the Dominion to ensure they would never be in a position of weakness ever again, breeding the remorseless Jem'Hadar to do their bidding on lesser species. However, there are subtle hints through the show that the prejudice against changelings did not start until after the Founders started their empire-building.
- Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer: several justifications for falling to Chaos are protection against that god's particular domain. Mostly seen with Nurgle, the god of disease, whose followers are infested with pus-filled growths and oozing sores, but are no longer negatively affected by them, instead reveling in every new pox they develop.
- Squall Leonhart of Final Fantasy VIII. The reason for his cold, detached demeanor was because his fellow orphan and sister, Ellone, left him alone as a child and he developed abandonment issues. He feels that, eventually, all friends and family will die or go away, and the only way to avoid the pain from that is to never let anyone in again.
- The main antagonists in Star Control II, the Ur-Quan, have this motivation: they were once enslaved and hideously mistreated by the Dnyarri, and after winning back their freedom while suffering constant excruciating pain (which protected them from Mind Control), they decided the only way to make sure it never happened again was to enslave (Kzer-Za) or exterminate (Kohr-Ah) everybody else first.
- This is Drakath's motivation to become the Champion of Chaos in AdventureQuest Worlds, according to the end of the They Might Be Giants event, which saw him being kidnapped (along with the Hero and the TMBG members) by a crazy alien collector.
- In League of Legends, after Professor Stanwick Pididly stole credit for both the creation of Blitzcrank and the technology that revived Urgot, Viktor decided to protect himself from this happening again with his newest accomplishment - the transformation of himself into a killer cyborg. This both removes (mostly) the pain and anger he feels over his inventions being stolen, and demonstrates his own skill in a way that can't be stolen.
- Many nations with a recent or ancient history of being oppressed have carried this sentiment into the modern day, which results in rather thorny foreign policy. The problem is particularly severe in Africa and the Middle East where this trope often leads to violence but many other countries with reputations for being 'hard' or 'rugged' have felt this influence at some point.
- Case in point: Israel, which actually went so far as to print the words "never again" on their first (totally hypothetical) nuke, and generally have it as a sort of unofficial motto. This is what happens when your country is founded entirely by millions of shell-shocked survivors of one of the most horrific genocides in human history.
- Finland. Basically every able-bodied male Finn (and a lot of women) is trained to be a soldier.
- The Haitian revolution was originally put down under Napoleon, but after the French let their intent to re-enslave the Haitians be known, the war re-ignited and eventually led to the end of French rule.
- Nat Turner's Rebellion, which involved killing all of the whites the rebels came across, was started for similar reasons.
- Strangely, the Soviet Union might count for a significant period of time. Namely, from 1945 to about 1985, when the helm was taken by Mikhail Gorbachev, a man who hadn't been actively involved in politics or the military during the Second World War. The case had been made that the Soviet Union created its nuclear arsenal, a glacis of subjugated satellite states, and maintained a cripplingly huge military because its leaders and, actually, the whole country, were severely traumatised by the massive slaughter of the German attack.
- This is often case with scholarly-minded children, especially boys, when they grow up. They are often mercilessly bullied and picked on at school, and once they graduate or otherwise get out of school, they often begin to train in martial arts, self-defence skills and some kind of armed combat to never let the childhood trauma renew. At best, the person may become a Badass Bookworm. At worst, a Broken Ace.
- Many join the armed forces for this very reason.
- It's been argued that sociopathy is really just an adaptation to help one survive in extreme situations. Which actually makes sense looking at some of the traits; incredibly diminished empathy, desire for control, doesn't trust others, etc. This really doesn't explain sociopathic serial killers like Ted Bundy, though, who was raised with every advantage imaginable and still became a sadistic murderer.
- YMMV on "every advantage". There may have been food on the table and clothes on his back, but Bundy's upbringing was thoroughly dysfunctional—for years he thought his mother was his older sister (a lie put forth to hide the shame of her illegitimate pregnancy), he may have been the result of Parental Incest and his grandfather/father was physically and verbally abusive. Things mellowed out slightly as he got older, but the damage may have already been done by then. And he still invoked this trope in a horrifying manner—the vast majority his victims resembled a young woman who had dumped him, indicating that he needed to symbolically kill her over and over again.