So many of us have Fears, Blocks, and Resistance about Compassion. Here are some of the common misgivings and […]
By Kimberly Sogge on June 26, 2021.
“Certainly, then, envy is the worst sin there is. For truly, all other sins are sometime
against only one special virtue; but truly, envy is against all virtues and against all
Geoffrey Chaucer – The Parson’s Tale
It is election season in Canada. An election season is an excellent opportunity to observe some of the most primal psychological processes at work. As we observe politicians’ attempts to spoil opponents’ efforts for change, leaders’ fearful guarding of power, and the desperate lying of different interest groups, we have an opportunity to understand the universal psychological processes underlying envy, jealousy, and greed writ large. On a smaller scale, any adult who has existed in a political environment has seen the processes of envy, jealousy and greed at play. I have found that understanding the primal roots of envy. jealousy and greed consistently assists me in stepping out of a position of reactivity when dealing with colleagues and patients whose attacking behaviors may otherwise harm, surprise, or destroy. So in honor of Canada’s election season, the next three posts will be on the tripartite theme of Envy, Jealousy, and Greed.
We will start with the most destructive of the ugly triplets: Envy.
I use primarily cognitive-behavioral theory-based interventions in practice, but in the case of envy, it seems to me that psychoanalytical psychology provides the best explanation. One psychoanalytic writer, Dr. David Hiles of the UK (www.psy.dmu.ac.uk/drhiles/papers.htm) has this perspective on envy: “Envy is one of the ugliest of experiences. At the extreme, it is the destructive attack on the source of life, on goodness itself. In everyday life, envy is a common enough experience, but when experienced unconsciously, or early in life, or when left unresolved, it can be overwhelming, and moreover it can be “soul destroying”. (For copies of Dr. Hiles papers, go to www.psy.dmu.ac.uk/drhiles/papers.htm). Dr. Melanie Klein, a leading psychoanalytic theorist, defined envy as “the angry feeling that another person possesses and enjoys something desirable – the envious impulse being to take it away or to spoil it” (Klein 1984, p176). Envy is defined by Klein as an innate “expression of destructive impulses” present from birth. Envy is recognized by the desire to ruin, poison, or tear down the good qualities or contributions of others.
Sound familiar? Perhaps you have had a Mean Girl in your life, an envious colleague, a vindictive boss: what do you do? Here are my top recommendations for managing envy from others.
Hile, D. www.psy.dmu.ac.uk/drhiles/papers/htm
Klein, M. (1984) Envy and Gratitude and Other Works 1946-1963. London: The Hogarth Press