Psychiatrists and psychoanalysts distinguish between envy and jealousy, but most people mix up these complex emotions and actions that follow them which is not surprising as there is some similarity. Envy can be defined as fear of not being able to have something because envious person thinks they lack the ability to achieve it. Jealousy arises when valued relationship is threatened by the emergence of a rival who competes for attention, affection or commitment. Therefore, in jealousy there are at least three people while in envy it can be minimum two up to maximum of billions .
In jealousy the predominant feelings are anger, fear and sadness.
In envy the predominant feelings are of fear, deprivation and malicious joy.
Envy and jealousy can be extremely dangerous, but not always, of course. A person can be more easily recognized as jealous than envious as the latter is usually hidden emotion.
Envy is thought by psychoanalysts to be oral phase of psycho-sexual development of separation/individuation. The aim of envy is to destroy the person (s) with the envied quality. This can be done through rubbishing them or their achievements, smearing their reputations, for example, but there are many ways of harming others. Another way is to deprive them of what they need.
Envy is narcissistic and aggrandizing aspect of self.
Some psychoanalysts like Melanie Klein, who wrote an excellent essay; " Envy and Gratitude", thought envy was constitutional i.e. that some people were born with the tendency to be envious long term.
Psychoanalytic theory is that oral sadistic stage of libidinal development is the one in which destructive impulses towards mother's breast predominate and are not moderated by gratitude towards what good breast provided and if not integrated means that libidinal development is incomplete. It is as if to say if the child is really good breast would not be depriving them. From the feeling of personal badness emerge the acts of not loving others.
There are also professionals who claim that most people experience envy and that recognizing it for what it is can be liberating. If envy is based on false belief of inferiority i.e. that one is not capable of achieving the same as the envied person but one realizes that with work one can, envy can turn into ambition with goals and plans. However, the truth is that not all people are the same and true inferiority exists so one has to learn how to deal with it. One obvious way is to become helpful to those who are successful and become part of that success. Appreciation of other people's talents is one way of dealing successfully with what could become envy. Accepting that everybody including oneself has areas of inadequacy is healthy and not life threatening.
Negative self opinion underlying envy can be further reinforced through own envy and by others who notice envy. However, shame acts as a regulator of envy.
Anything can become the object of envy: success, beauty, friendships, talent, confidence, sexuality, freedom, courage, self -respect, identity, good memory, knowledge, fame and so on.
Envy is poisonous and envious person feels bad. Common way envious people flee that bad feeling is to become sadistic. Sadism is the joy of seeing other person suffer/die.
Envy also causes fear/paranoia of retaliation and leads to avoidance and hostility towards the envied person(s).
Envy has been linked to poor commitment, depression and greed.
Narcissism which accompanies envy is about control over other people but not control for the sake of control. It is about controlling people so that they never get close and find areas of inadequacy in narcissist and expose these inadequacies to him and the rest of the world.
Domination is the key characteristic of narcissistic/envious people who lack empathy for others and surround themselves by co-dependents. In organizations, if they are in position to do it, narcissists appoint people who uphold the image they desire.
Greed and envy go together. In psychoanalytic terms, greed arises when breast is perceived as frustrating and depriving. Greed arises out of the sense of deprivation. One cannot get enough to satisfy one's needs. The working definition of greed for an adult is excessive acquisition of possessions beyond what one needs or deserves. As it is the sense of deprivation that causes greed when the sense of deprivation is severe enough it leads to robbing of others and even destruction of the supply. The greedy person consumes everything in its way.
Some people advocate treatment for envy such as measures that would raise self-esteem, making lists of good things about the envied object as well as self.
Envy is one of the most difficult things to manage. It can come as a shock, out of the blue and from unknown persons one has no control over whatsoever.
Dr Bruce Gregory stated, "... many people have the fantasy that if they try hard, 'do it right,' be reasonable, logical, and have goodwill and a team approach, these factors will generate a positive outcome in interpersonal or group settings. This is about as deep a fantasy as one could possibly have, as it is not based in reality. Why is this? It is... because a narcissist's survival is dependent upon having control, or the perception of control."Ref When this control is challenged, he feels threatened and responds as though his very survival is at stake.
It is thought that large proportion of human beings are co-dependent on narcissists and have the following characteristics:
avoidance of decision making and of confrontation
lack of trust
checking on outside sources before making decisions
The typical psychological defense mechanism used by envious/greedy/narcissistic person (s) is projection and denial of object.
Projection is the name given to the behavior exhibited when person denies it to themselves and others what they truly feel because it is unacceptable. Instead these characteristics are ascribed (projected) onto others. Thus envious person would not say their qualifications are inferior but would adopt the approach of criticizing and exaggerating and publicizing the slightest defect of the envied person.
Here is another example: The desire to have sex with lots of other people becomes criticism of the promiscuity of the envied object. Or allegation of infidelity etc.
Denial of Object is another defense mechanism when envious person denies the envied person's qualities so that there would be no recognition of those. Thus the envious person achieves the sense of superiority over their envied object (person).
Narcissists and co-dependents can have the same characteristics as described above.
ENVY MASQUERADING AS SOCIAL JUSTICE
This is an interesting aspect of how envy manipulates the public opinion. In the name of social justice e.g. pretending to address the needs of the poor those who worked hard to gather what they have, suffer envious attacks and are deprived of what they have earned. False allegations are made against the envied person and huge amounts of money can be used to defend one's reputation. In fact, one can lose everything by fighting through the courts of the land in an unfavorable political climate.
Knowing that this is what may happen some people move out of the country when certain parties come into power or are on the way of getting into power. Capital leaves the country.
Also, it is not surprising that thousands of doctors were processed through disciplinary procedures when Labour Party came into power in UK. They were stripped of their authority to raise matters of health concerns. Cut and paste judgments of inability to work in teams became common place. As well as terms such as lack of insight in doctors into their deficiencies. Perfect example of projection by envious projecting their lack of insight onto others.
There has been expectation of subordination by doctors to those who are less qualified as narcissistic people do expect such things.
Some Nurses and Social Workers could diagnose and discharge patients although not qualified and against medical advice.
In order to pay for the persecution of doctors Charity Commission allowed the General Medical Council to become a charity. The government lost about £100 million in taxes over a period of time. The courts of the land already decided in 1920's that General Medical Council could not dodge the tax and was not a charity, but who cares about the legal decisions when the need to destroy is so overwhelming.
Meanwhile, the Solicitors Regulation Authority never became a charity. There is a lot of legally qualified persons in the government so it would appear they did not wish charitable regulation for themselves.
Written by Dr Helen Bright, Consultant Psychiatrist