For Melanie Klein, envy, greed, jealousy and gratitude form a cluster of mental states and developmental possibilities. Envy is foremost experienced as an angry feeling or sadistic (oral and anal) expression of destructive impulse directed at the mother’s breasts (i.e. the crucial source of nourishment over which the infant exercises no power). Klein referred to the impulse as ‘primary destructiveness’ (i.e. innately present but elaborated by the environment and adverse experience). Envy, however, is not just a destructive feeling aimed at someone possessing or enjoying something desirable; its power is realized in the impulse to spoil it or take it. Hanna Segal writes that often underlying envy is a ‘wish to exhaust the object entirely, not only in order to possess all its goodness but also to deplete the object purposefully so that it no longer contains anything enviable’ (1974, p. 41 emphasis added). Marcus West (2010) argues that the experience of envy is indexed to personality. He writes ‘that envy is a secondary phenomenon related to the psyche’s early functioning which has an implicit aversion to separation and difference and a preference for sameness. This is not an explicit behavioural principle, such as Freud’s understanding of the pleasure principle; instead it represents the psyche’s means of recognizing, classifying, making sense of, and thereby processing the infant’s experience’ (p. 460).
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
- Envy, greed, jealousy, gratitude
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number