Decoding Envy: Carveth

A Look at the Destructive and Creative Sides

Envy, a complex emotion often shrouded in secrecy, takes center stage in this video by Don Carveth. Carveth, a prominent figure in the field of psychoanalysis, delves into the nature of envy, exploring its destructive and constructive potential. By drawing on the works of Sigmund Freud and Melanie Klein, he sheds light on the dynamics of this powerful emotion.

Defining Envy: Desire and the Other

Carveth opens the video with a straightforward definition of envy: “Envy is the wish to have something that you lack that another person seems to possess.” This definition highlights the core element of envy – a yearning for something another possesses, coupled with a sense of lack within oneself. Carveth emphasizes the presence of another person in the equation, differentiating envy from jealousy. “[Envy] involves two people,” he clarifies, “whereas jealousy involves three.”

Carveth illustrates the distinction using the Freudian concept of the Oedipus complex. In this complex, a young boy develops an unconscious desire for his mother and jealousy towards his father, whom he perceives as a rival for her affection. This scenario exemplifies the triangular dynamic of jealousy, where the envious person desires something (the mother’s love) that another person (the father) possesses.

The Two Faces of Envy: Destruction and Growth

Carveth then delves into the work of Melanie Klein, a prominent psychoanalyst who explored the dynamics of early childhood development. Klein proposed a fascinating, albeit controversial, perspective on envy. According to Carveth, Klein believed that “envy can be destructive and can lead to spoiling the envied person or object.” This destructive aspect of envy manifests when the envious individual, consumed by their desire, seeks to damage or diminish the envied person or object.

However, Klein also recognized a constructive side to envy. Carveth explains, “She [Klein] also acknowledged that envy can be constructive and can motivate people to improve themselves.” In this scenario, envy serves as a catalyst for personal growth. The desire to possess something another has can propel the individual to strive for improvement, to bridge the gap between their current state and the desired state.

The Cycle of Envy and Hate: A Controversial View

Carveth then delves into a contentious aspect of Kleinian theory. Klein suggested that when a person feels threatened by a “bad object” (something or someone perceived as harmful), they might turn to a “good object” (someone perceived as safe and loving) for comfort. However, according to Klein, this seeking of comfort can paradoxically lead to hatred directed at the good object. Carveth explains this concept: “They [the person] may also start to hate the good object because of its goodness.” This potentially creates a vicious cycle where the individual, trapped between envy and hatred, struggles to find solace.

Reframing the Narrative: Envy and Withholding

Carveth challenges Klein’s explanation for hating the good object. He proposes an alternative perspective: “They [the person] may hate the good object not because of its goodness, but because they perceive it as withholding something from them.” This reframing suggests that the hatred stems not from the good object’s inherent qualities, but from a perceived lack of fulfillment. The individual feels the good object is not providing them with what they desire, leading to frustration and resentment.

Carveth’s alternative explanation resonates with the idea of envy as a desire for something lacking. If the good object is perceived as withholding the desired object, it becomes a target for the envious person’s negative emotions. This perspective underscores the importance of clear communication and addressing underlying needs within relationships to prevent the buildup of envy and resentment.

The Antidote to Envy: Cultivating Gratitude

Carveth concludes the video on a hopeful note, introducing the concept of gratitude as a potential antidote to envy. He emphasizes, “Gratitude can be a helpful antidote to envy. If we can be grateful for what we have, we will be less likely to envy others.” By cultivating an attitude of gratitude, we shift our focus from what we lack to appreciating what we possess. This shift in perspective can foster contentment and reduce the sting of envy.

Carveth’s video offers a thought-provoking exploration of envy, highlighting its destructive and constructive potential. By understanding the dynamics of envy, we can learn to manage this complex emotion and cultivate a more fulfilling and grateful approach to life.

Envy… and Gratitude

This is an excerpt to this video entitled, “Introduction to Kleinian Theory”.

I. Rejection of Death Instinct

  • Klein rejects Freud’s Death Instinct theory (20-25)
    • Reasons for rejecting the theory (25)
      • Klein argues sufficient ego exists at birth to experience anxiety (20)
      • She emphasizes the role of primitive defense mechanisms and object relations (20)

II. Splitting and the Paranoid-Schizoid Position

  • Splitting is necessary for the developing mind (40)
    • Ideal breast vs. persecutory breast (41)
    • Super ego identified with the bad breast (42)
    • Conscience identified with the good breast (42)
  • Two ways to protect the good from the bad (43)
    • Projection (paranoia) (43)
    • Idealization (depletion of self) (43)
  • The paranoid-schizoid position (44)
    • Term “schizoid” refers to splitting, not schizoid personality (44)
    • Splitting of both object and ego (44)
  • Persecutory object can be internal or external (45)

III. Passion and the Paranoid-Schizoid Position

  • Passion belongs to the paranoid-schizoid position (46)
  • Love, commitment, and ideals are formed here (46)
  • The sacred resides in the paranoid-schizoid position (46-47)
    • Examples: religious reverence, secular sacred (life of a child, democracy) (46-47)

IV. Dialectical Thinking

  • Mental health as an oscillation between paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions (48)
  • Fairbairn’s concept of mental health (48)
  • Author’s concept of a transitional area (48)

V. Envy

  • Envy is a two-body phenomenon (distinguished from jealousy) (49)
  • Envy can lead to destructive behavior (spoiling) (50)
  • Envy in patients can lead to backlash against progress (50-51)
  • Envy of the analyst (52)
    • Can be experienced as a defense against unconscious destructive wishes (Kernberg) (52)
    • Can be an attempt to resume a development process (Kohut) (52)
  • The envious super ego (53)
  • Projection of Envy (53)
  • Defenses against Envy (53-54)
    • Spoiling
    • Devaluing
    • Rigid idealization
    • Projection of Envy

VI. Idealization

  • Kernberg vs. Kohut on Idealization (54-55)
    • Kernberg: defense against destructive impulses (54)
    • Kohut: attempt to resume a development process (54)

VII. Countertransference

  • Winnicott on hate in the countertransference (55)
    • Some patients distrust analyst’s goodness and need to experience their hate (55)

VIII. Analyst’s Bias

  • Analysts may have a bias towards linking or separating (56)
  • Importance of analyst’s development of a “bisexual orientation” (56)

IX. Attacks on Linking

  • Beon describes attacks on linking in schizophrenia (56)

X. Use of Analyst as Container

  • Patients may use the analyst as a container for bad objects (56-57)
  • Three possible responses of the analyst (57)
    • Unaffected (blocks process) (57)
    • Rejects the bad object (patient sees analyst as persecutory) (57)
    • Contains the bad object (leads to relief and Envy) (57)
Continue reading Envy… and Gratitude

The Manic Need to Control : Kleinian Theory

These are excerpts on the subjects from notes taken from Carveth’s lecture “Introduction to Kleinian Theory 5”.

Manic defenses are manifested to protect the ego from despair. It is a means of being omnipotent, and is very much belongs to the paranoid-schizoid position as defined by Melanie Klein.

Inability to deal with loss, leads to symptoms, like depression, and behaviors, like rage. This is a sign of a regression into an existence of black-white thinking, in which there are projections made towards the outside world to ward off unbearable feeling. It is attack on psychic reality, in an effort to control the external objects.

Read also : Making Reparation and mourning as the road to mental healing.

Why the need to control, triumph?

These acts defend the self against realization of dependency. It defends against loss. Triumph is needed so that the person defeats the object, so that there is that “I do not have to care for the object”– which is an aggressive and dangerous condition.

This kind of thinking also serves to ward off envy. Hence it is better to come to terms with one’s feelings of envy, so that on can use it constructively, like for self improvement, than to avoid feelings of envy by trying to dominate and destroy the other.

Contempt is there to deny the object’s value …the object is rendered not worthy of guilt. Contempt justifies the abuse and annihilation of the other.

There is also “manic” in the culture we live in. Our culture as we know it, is one that seems to put taboo on tenderness.

Read also : Conformity and Obedience: Slippery Slope to Dehumanization of the Other and Privacy as Personal Control.

Quote from the 18th Century on Control of the Other

Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) in Social Contract 1762:

“Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains. One thinks himself the master of others, and still remains a greater slave than they. How did this change come about? I do not know. What can make it legitimate? That question I think I can answer.”

Notable notes:

Interesting points (at the last 5 mins of the video) on guilt, control and being omnipotent.

Strategies for dealing with the object related

From Britton’s Sex Death Superego:

  1. The Schizoid withdraws from the object
  2. The borderline colonizes the object
  3. The Hysteric impersonates

From Carveth‘s The Still Small Voice :

  1. The psychotic denies the reality of the
  2. The pervert castrates the object#
  3. The psychopath destroy
  4. The neurotic acknowledge dependence and guilt towards and suffers from the conflicts
  5. The healthy person repairs loves depends on and sacrifices for good object but also prepared to hate the bad object


Carveth, D. (2016) Introduction to Kleinian Theory 5. YouTube Video. Retrieved from on 12.2017.