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 overthrowing the oppressive institutions that made them miserable, to refusing to care enough about anyone or anything to be hurt. 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, and We Are Not Going Through That Again for a (usually) more comedic take on the same sentiment.
- 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.
- In Berserk, the trope is invoked by those become Apostles. Since a Behelit is sure to appear in the hands of its owner when they reach their Despair Event Horizon, it is only natural that most willingly sacrifice their loved ones in order to become physically and emotionally invulnerable.
- 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.
- 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.
- This trope leads to the tragic ending of Danganronpa 3: Despair. Chiaki's friend Hajime disappears off the face of the earth, much to her sorrow. Months later, the same thing is about to happen to Chisa, so Chiaki panics and makes some really crappy decisions in an attempt to save her.
- 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.
- In Dragon Ball Super, this is the motivation for Jiren's Might Makes Right philosophy. After losing first his family and then his comrades to an evildoer, he decided that a person's own strength is all they can rely on in life. He then closed himself off emotionally and pushed himself to become the strongest mortal in existence, all so he would never be vulnerable like that again. When Goku's Ultra Instinct form begins to overpower him, he starts having traumatic flashbacks, and eventually fires at the audience to spite Goku's belief in The Power of Friendship.
- 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.
- The central conflict of Neon Genesis Evangelion is essentially this, with every major character having some aspect of this as their motivation. Pretty much all of the characters' Angst is caused by characters being unable to connect with other people for fear of being hurt. Shinji and Asuka being in love with but too frightened of each other to try and have a relationship leads to The End of the World as We Know It, that Shinji unleashes because he believes that no one loves him and everybody would hurt him. SEELE's end goal is essentially an attempt at this taken to its Logical Extreme.
- One Piece:
- This is the reason behind Boa Hancock's behaviour. After she and her sisters were made slaves in their childhood, she put on a strong, cruel image to prevent such a thing from ever happening again. It caused her surrogate mother figure to fear Hancock had really grown cold as ice, but fortunately, Luffy's actions proved that it wasn't the case.
- Charlotte Katakuri is a Slave to PR who has cultivated an image as The Paragon that he projects in public so he won't be ridiculed like he was as a child for his "pelican eel" mouth (which he now conceals with a scarf) — in reality he is every bit as gluttonous and hedonistic as the rest of his family. This is only amplified by the fact that the Charlotte Family is a Big, Screwed-Up Family that has no issue mocking and demeaning any physical deformities their siblings have (as Pudding and her third-eye can attest to). He only manages to break out of this mindset during his fight with Luffy, who saw Katakuri's true self (including his mouth) and didn't give a damn about any of his flaws, only about Katakuri's amazing combat ability as an opponent.
- one of the most tragic and disturbing examples in the series can be found in Gecko Moria, Moria lost his dearly loved crew in a fight with Kaido, with him as the sole survivor. he became so consumed by grief that he decided he would make a army of corpse puppets, or zombies, powered with the shadows of others condemning the shadowless people to a life without sunlight or a reflection, deciding it was better to have Nigh immortal zombie pawns he didnt have to care about rather than flesh and blood humans he could get attached to
- 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 The 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.
- Some portrayals of Batman himself suggest that his tendency to remain emotionally distant is a defense against feeling the kind of pain he experienced watching his parents gunned down.
- In The Death of Superman, Doomsday's motivation for killing everything he sees is that he was created via a horrific experiment that involved dying multiple times (we're talking hundreds if not THOUSANDS of deaths). He thinks everything in the universe is a threat to his life and he's terrified of dying again.
- 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.
- 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.
- Supergirl story arc Red Daughter of Krypton starts out when Supergirl, who feels she's been manipulated and betrayed by everyone since she showed up on Earth several months ago, promises herself that she'll not be hurt again, and if life tries to hit her again, she's hitting back.
Supergirl: Dad. Kal. H'el. Siobhan. They ALL let me down. They all broke my heart. And now THIS. No more. Nobody gets away with hurting me ever again. Not THIS time!
- A Boy, a Girl and a Dog: The Leithian Script: In this The Silmarillion fanfic, secondary character Maiwe did not want to give another chance to her formerly verbally abusive boyfriend, refusing believing that Edrahil had changed during the war and was a different person now and having sworn that she would not be hurt again. Beren warned her that attitude may hurt her anyway.
- In The Bridge, Aria Blaze muses that she wants to become stronger so that no one will ever be able to scare her again.
- In the Neon Genesis Evangelion fic A Crown of Stars, Asuka has been hurt by virtually everyone she knew (her parents, her step-mother, her guardians, the boy she liked...). As a result of it she does not want to let herself to fall in love because she does not want to be hurt again. Another character warns her that attitude will get her hurt anyway.
- One of Harry/Tristan's driving motivations in the Harry Potter fic The Jaded Eyes Series. Though he believes it's too late for himself he figures he can still save other magical children from suffering the same fate at the hands of muggles.
- In the The King of Fighters fic Sore ga Ai, Deshou?, Andy, as a result of constantly being shunted back and forth between numerous foster families, has difficulty opening up to people and forming any real attachments; his personal motto is "Don't get attached, don't get hurt."
- Thousand Shinji, a Neon Genesis Evangelion/Warhammer 40000 crossover fic: One of the reasons of Shinji to want to Take Over the World is he does not want anybody hurting him or Asuka ever again.
- Meg from Hercules refuses to admit that she may have feelings for Hercules due to the fact that her previous boyfriend left her when she gave her soul to Hades to save his life.
Meg: Sometimes, it's better to be alone. Nobody can hurt you.
- Zootopia: After being bullied and rejected by prey animals as a child, Nick decided to never let others get to him ever again.
- Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind: "As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again!"
- Hitch: 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: Lost in New York 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.
- In the Italian movie Il Primo Re, the would-be founders of Rome all just want to become a force strong enough to defend themselves: Romulus and Remus have lost their flock of sheep and their native village to the Albani, their first followers were people the Albani wanted to sacrifice to the gods alongside the two brothers, and the Velientes are refugees from places raided by the Albani and lose their village to Remus' madness. They succeed even before founding Rome, as right before Remus' fated death they are reached by Albani horsemen chasing the would-be sacrifice victims and kill them all.
- This has been used as Spartacus' motivation in several fictionalisations.
- Magneto from the X-Men Film Series, is both a Holocaust Survivor and mutant "lab rat", which pushes him towards Do Unto Others Before They Do Unto Us regarding mutant suppression by the humans.
- In A Brother's Price, after her abusive husband Keifer Porter died, Princess Trini does not want to marry again, as a new husband could be just the same. (While he was bad for the whole family, he raped and tortured only Trini, and was more subtle with the others) This causes problems because it prevents her sisters from marrying, too - all sisters marry one husband, due to male Gender Rarity Value in the setting. She is also protective of people who are in danger of facing the same fate she did - when she is told that the Porters intend to make an offer for Jerin, she neglects her own safety to help. By agreeing to marry Jerin herself.
- 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.
- 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.
- In This Immortal, Diane lets slip that she used to be a pleasure girl on Taler and it wasn't a pleasant experience, which caused her hatred of all Vegans and was her motivation to join Radpol's Returnist movement.
- Words of Radiance (second book of The Stormlight Archive): Kaladin is terrified that if he lets any lighteyes know about his new Surgebinding powers, they will somehow take them away. He knows it's impossible, but that does not easy his worries in any way. This leads to him breaking his vows and losing his powers. He recovers them after he realizes what he did wrong and swears a new Ideal.
- On The 100, Lexa's response to the torture and murder of the girl she loved was to stop caring about anyone on an individual level and devote herself entirely to the well-being of her people as a whole.
Lexa: I thought I'd never get over the pain, but I did.
Lexa: By recognizing it for what it is: weakness.
- 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 invasion (and a brief alien invasion), 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.
- 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".
- 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 Breaking Speech about what a moron you are for thinking it.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Bajorans suffered a brutal fifty year occupation at the hands of the Cardassians and ex-freedom fighters like Major Kira make it quite clear they will never suffer such an indignity again. Indeed, this is what kick starts the series, as the first step to guaranteeing the Cardassians stay away is the Bajoran provisional government requesting Starfleet establish a naval presence at Bajor, so any attacks on Bajor will be an automatic act of war against the Federation.
- The Simon & Garfunkel song "I Am A Rock" seems to describe the feelings of someone who doesn't want to love anymore because they were hurt by it once.
Don't talk of love,
But I've heard the words before,
It's sleeping in my memory.
I won't disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.
If I never loved I never would have cried.
- The Wall: Pink gradually builds a wall throughout his life to protect him from being hurt emotionally, and realizes later that completing it wasn't such a good idea as it basically isolates him from everyone and drives him mad.
- In the end of "Ruiner" by Nine Inch Nails the narrator denies even having been hurt declaring:
you didn't hurt me nothing can hurt me
you didn't hurt me nothing can stop me now
- Mary J. Blige's song, aptly titled "Hurt Again."
- "How to Be a Heartbreaker" by Marina & the Diamonds espouses this attitude:
Girls, we do
Whatever it will take
'Cause girls don't want
We don't want our hearts to break
So it's better to be fake
Can't risk losing
In love again, babe
- 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.
- It's also the reason why Imperium hates aliens so much: during the Age of Strife, aliens, who were allies of us, turned on humanity, caused great destruction, enslaved people, etc. The Emperor decided that all aliens should be destroyed to make humanity's future safe, and frighteningly, his extremist views aren't very wrong.
- 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.
- Sebille a (sort-of) former slave in Divinity: Original Sin II is trying to remove the last vestige of her slavery, the living scar on her cheek, with which her master can continue to control her. By doing this she knows that she can never be used to hunt her own kind again.
- 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. Even from the beginning of the game, however, it's clear that he's fooling himself, and can't help but care about people.
- 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.
- In The Secret World, reclusive property mogul Nathaniel Winter is revealed to be secretly motivated by this: having grown up neurotic and frightened of almost everything, he resolved to never be afraid again - namely by seizing power by any means available to him. For a while, being rich and connected was enough - but then he discovered the Secret World, and realized that magic could make him even more powerful than before. Unfortunately, with no innate magical talent, he'd need to study for years to harness the power he desired; impatient to become the greatest magus who ever lived, Winter decided to take a dangerous shortcut and infuse himself with magic via mechanical means. The means of harvesting and infusion was Atlantic Island Park, and the process transformed him into the Bogeyman.
- 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.
- Lambda of Tales of Graces. His plan to Kill Em All is because everyone he ever knew as a child was either manipulating him for their own ends, or they died trying to protect him. Main character Asbel, who went through similar circumstances, breaks down Lambda's plan by asking a simple question: "And Then What?" The hesitation on Lambda's part shows he's really having a Suicidal Cosmic Temper Tantrum.
- Marceline from Adventure Time went through a LOT, and frightens people to show them she had enough by pretending she's a jerkass.
- In Danny Phantom, this trope is the origin of Dark Danny. After losing his parents, sister, best friend, and teacher, Danny (with former nemesis and new guardian Vlad's help) sought to remove his human half to get rid of the pain and grief that plagued him. Unfortunately, the process turned his ghost half into a remorseless sociopath, who killed his human half, tore out Vlad's ghost side and absorbed it, and went on a ten-year-long rampage.
- In Green Lantern: The Animated Series, after having her heart broken by Razer, Aya deactivates her emotions to get rid of the pain. Then things get even worse.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- Babs Seed. She was bullied mercilessly for her lack of a cutie mark in Manehattan, and during a visit to Ponyville, joined up with resident bullies Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon to avoid getting bullied there too. Fortunately, the Cutie Mark Crusaders show kindness and acceptance to her condition, and she becomes much happier and calls them her friends.
- Moondancer. After Twilight, the pony she considered her best friend, didn't show up for her first party and moved to Ponyville without a word, Moondancer was so heartbroken that she decided friendship just wasn't for her. Fortunately, Twilight eventually realizes she'd wronged Moondancer and their other friends in Canterlot and returns to make amends. After much effort, her apologies eventually get through to Moondancer and bring her out of her shell.
- Starlight Glimmer was heartbroken when her foalhood friend Sunburst moved to Canterlot to study magic once he got his cutie mark, which she blamed for their separation. Starlight vowed to never make another friend fearing that another cutie mark would end those friendships as well, and this event inspired her to purge all ponies of their cutie marks.
- In Star Wars Rebels, this is Ezra Bridger's motivation, although the way he goes about it evolves. His parents were taken by the Empire when he was seven, and he survived by refusing to rely on or connect to anyone. When he joins the Ghost crew and eventually adopts them as his new family, he becomes very protective of them, and trains to be a Jedi so he won't be helpless to save the people he cares about.
- Voltron: Legendary Defender: In Keith's official vlog, he comes to the realization that the reason he's seldom able to connect with other people was due to his abandonment as a child; now, he pushes other people away before they get the chance to reject him.
- 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 hundreds of thousands of shell-shocked survivors of one of the most horrific genocides in human history. And add to those numbers the Mizrahi Jews who fled or were expelled from the Islamic world. And that's not even getting into all of the Jews that had in the Middle Ages and other periods in history been used as scapegoats for things like the Black Plague, and seen as targets by wayward Crusaders.
- 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 Bonaparte, 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.
- Russia doesn't have much in the way of natural borders to prevent or slow an invasion, as seen when the Golden Horde rolled in from the east back in the Middle Ages, so after that trauma and centuries spent under the Mongol Yoke, its leaders' best defensive strategy was to push Russia's borders as far from Moscow as possible, which naturally led to conflict with Russia's neighbors. Then after the communist revolution, the Nazi invasion during World War II was so horrific that the now Soviet Union built up a glacis of subjugated satellite states, a devastating nuclear arsenal, and a military so large that it contributed to the USSR's collapse, all so it wouldn't have to go through something like that again.
- 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.
- Bas Rutten, one of the most famous MMA fighters and commentators, was bullied as a child for his skin condition and scrawny constitution, and it made him start training. One of his partners in Japan, Minoru Suzuki, had a similar childhood.
- Many join the armed forces for this very reason.
- Similarly some therapists and social workers go into their line of work to prevent what happened to them (whether it be abuse, debilitating mental illness or attempted suicide) happening to anyone else.
- This is also what happens with a number of bullied students that go on school shootings, which normally target their tormentors first in a desperate effort to make the bullying stop. On the other end of the spectrum they may go the nonviolent route and instead take their own lives to keep it from continuing.
- It's been argued that sociopathy and other personality disorders are behavioral adaptations that people develop to cope with extreme situations in childhood and adolescence but which are maladaptive when trying to fit in or survive in society. Anti-social personality disorder sufferers have incredibly diminished empathy and a desire for control, paranoid personality disorder sufferers are pathologically unable to trust and always suspect people are taking advantage of them, Schizoid personality disorder sufferers use fantasy and withdrawal to cope with loneliness etc.
- The horrid impact of World War I brought about a common sentiment of "never again" (which was also repeated in a sense after the second War to End all Wars). As history showed, it did.