Vindictive Triumph: A Look at the Deep Psychology of Overeating
If you’re honest with yourself, is there anyone in your life that you would love to watch squirm if you finally “lost the weight”?
Psychoanalyst Karen Horney refers to this as vindictive triumph.
Vindictive triumph is characterized by the desire to show superiority over others, while doing it a way that causes humiliation of others.
Personally, when I was younger, weight loss was very motivated by vindictive triumph. I wanted to be thin so that I could be popular and “show up” the pretty girls in school.
Maybe that’s why it never worked out.
There was too much on the line.
When weight loss is about superiority, success means everything. Failure also means everything, bad.
Often, you hear me say that the desire to overeat is always about a feeling… and it’s also about our beliefs.
If I believed that being thin would make me better than everyone, then being heavy would make me less than everyone. That puts a lot at stake!
Then, if someone — like a weird woo-woo Psycho-Spiritual Wellness coach (ahem) — told me that I needed to quit dieting in order to feel normal around food and achieve my natural weight, I probably wouldn’t have done it.
The risk would feel too great.
Giving up dieting might mean gaining a few pounds (during the Rebellion Binge stage) while you get reacquainted with your body — it’s not permanent. Eventually, you’ll slowly inch toward your natural weight.
But to the vindictive triumph-seeker, the initial gain would be too devastating. Weight gain would mean open failure, which would cause humiliation in front of everyone…
As you can see, vindictive triumph is not a triumph, actually — it’s a barrier.
It gets in the way.
The desire for vindictive triumph is a direct block to weight loss, because it keeps you clinging to the “safety” of food rules.
You can’t listen to your body when so much is at stake. You remain a slave to your mind, which is full of rules from other people telling you what, how, and when to eat.
And even if you manage to lose weight by dieting — and achieve that sweet, sweet vindictive triumph — you’re on shaky ground. Because it’s probably the type of weight loss that you end up gaining back.
So, where do we go from here?
We let go.
Let go of whoever or whatever you’re trying to “show up” by losing the weight.
This could mean letting go of the need to prove yourself to your parents. Or letting go of the silent competition you have with every other woman in the room.
We all have our neuroses somewhere different. Do the work to find yours, and then let it go.
And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find enough relief from the fear… enough space to break free from compulsive eating.
It’s not easy to break through the beliefs that get in the way. It takes hard work.
But it’s THE work. The work that matters.
Get your psychological and spiritual house in order, and let the rest take care of itself.
You got this.
We’re in this together,
PS. Find this intriguing? Then you’ll get a lot from my new book Daily Reminders. It takes the psychology of overeating and goes deep. 203 pages deep. ????
I haven’t received your Tuesday newsletter for two weeks now. Did I accidentally unsubscribe? Please say no because I LOVE THEM!!!! I look forward to them every week. Thanks so much and Happy New Year!
Kari Dahlgren says
Hi Stacey! Yes, the newsletters are still happening! I went offline for a few weeks, but I did send on this Tuesday, so let me know if you didn’t get it. I’m glad you love them, and I hope you’ll hit reply to one someday!