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

Bibliography

Carveth, D. (2016) Introduction to Kleinian Theory 5. YouTube Video. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/VxdWHU1wrBY on 12.2017.

The Paranoid-Schizoid Position

Melanie Klein (1997/1924-1963) writes that in the first 3-4 months of life the infant experiences anxiety, which is driven by the fear of annihilation. This is a primary cause of persecutory anxiety.

It would appear that the pain and discomfort he has suffered, as well as the loss of the intra-uterine state, are felt by him as an attack by hostile forces, i.e. as persecution. Persecutory anxiety, therefore, enters from the beginning into his relation to objects in so far as he is exposed to privations.

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The infant’s first feeding experiences are perceived by the child as closely related to the its experiences to its mother’s breast. At this early stage of infancy, the child has yet to grasp the mother as an individual i.e. a whole and separate being.

At this point we may consider the relevance of Bollas’ Transformational Object.

Persecutory Anxiety and Greed

When the child is neither hungry nor full, one can imagine that the child is experiencing a balance in its libidinal and aggressive impulses. These impulses are made stronger when it is reinforced through, e.g. frustration. Klein suggests that the aggressive impulses give rise to emotions of greed. An increase in feelings of greed leads to more frustration and aggression.

Children whose feelings of frustration are reinforced (due to deprivation and/or due to temperament) experience growing persecutory anxiety, and have problems tolerating deprivation and dealing with anxiety.

Persecutory anxiety, however, can in some other children, lead to feeding inhibitions.

Love and Hatred

This swing between gratification and frustration are powerful stimuli for feelings of love and hatred.

As a result, the breast, inasmuch as it is gratifying, is loved and felt to be ‘good’; in so far as it is a source of frustration, it is hated and felt to be ‘bad’. This strong antithesis between the good breast and the bad breast is largely due to lack of integration of the ego, as well as to splitting processes within the ego and in relation to the object. There are, however, grounds for assuming that even during the first three or four months of life the good and the bad object are not wholly distinct from one another in the infant’s mind.

Splitting

This is where we can perceive the concept of splitting. The infant experiences the positive and negative feelings toward the same object. It is at this position in the development of the child’s ego, that it is able to differentiate its experiences as good or bad. It in turn has love or hate emotions towards that same object. This split in feelings is experienced in the paranoid-schizoid position.

Internalization – Projection and Introjection

These experiences of gratification and frustration, which happen due to external stimuli ultimately become internalized. The infant projects its love impulses to the good attributes of the mother’s breast, and destructive impulses towards the frustrating breast.  The infant introjects by building a picture of the good breast and bad breast. This gets developed and distorted by phantasies.

This good-object and bad-object picture becomes a prototype for all external and internal persecutory objects, which the infant takes with it to adulthood.

Emotions in infants are extreme and powerful in nature. Persecutory anxiety deem the “bad object” as terrifying and, as a means of allaying the fears, the infant creates an internal picture of the good object as a powerful, all gratifying object. This is how idealization of the good object comes about. It is a means being omnipotent : creating characteristics of good object to protect one from the bad object.

Moving Forward from the Paranoid-Schizoid to Depressive Position

How Infants Adjust

Even during the earliest stage, however, persecutory anxiety is to some extent counteracted by the infant’s relation to the good breast. I have indicated above that although his feelings focus on the feeding relationship with the mother, represented by her breast, other aspects of the mother enter already into the earliest relation to her; for even the very young infant responds to his mother’s smile, her hands, her voice, her holding him and attending to his needs. The gratification and love which the infant experiences in these situations all help to counteract persecutory anxiety, even the feelings of loss and persecution aroused by the experience of birth. His physical nearness to his mother during feeding—essentially his relation to the good breast—recurrently helps him to overcome the longing for a former lost state, alleviates persecutory anxiety and increases the trust in the good object. p.63

The infant eventually realizes that the good and bad object belong to the same organism, which is, in the infant’s perception the mother. When this happens, the infant develops into the depressive position ( the term has nothing to do with depression).

The desire for unlimited gratification, as well as persecutory anxiety, contribute to the infant’s feeling that both an ideal breast and a dangerous devouring breast exist, which are largely kept apart from each other in the infant’s mind. These two aspects of the mother’s breast are introjected and form the core of the super-ego. p.70

What Klein explains here is the phenomenon of splitting, omnipotence, idealization, denial and control.  — These are aspects of the personality that, in adults are associated with dysfunction if it predominates, controls the life to the individual; and if the individual has no capacity towards ambivalence (seeing in shades of grey instead of black and white).

In the infant, this is stage is a necessary part of ego development. The infant has to temporarily rely on his phantasy to cope with such acute anxiety. The experience of the good and bad alternate swiftly. The mother’s continued loving behavior towards the infant helps the infant develop towards an understanding that good and bad experiences belong to the same person.

If the infant gets enough good experiences it can integrate the good and bad experience. It would have less need to project his hate externally. He can see in wholeness, it’s mother and later, father etc. It moves forward to the depressive position.

Out of the alternating processes of disintegration and integration develops gradually a more integrated ego, with an increased capacity to deal with persecutory anxiety. The infant’s relation to parts of his mother’s body, focusing on her breast, gradually changes into a relation to her as a person.

The Paranoid-Schizoid Position and Personality Disorders

If, for example, the infant experiences overwhelming frustrations and is not able to have a sense of goodness from the mother, its psyche is kept in the paranoid-schizoid position, unable to develop further.  The individual develops a persecutory complex that does not enable him/her to see beyond black and white. This is the precursor to personality disorders (PDs) like schizotypal PD, paranoid PD, borderline PD, narcissistic PD and antisocial PD.

Low functioning personality disorder states indicate the inability of the individual to move dynamically to and from the paranoid-schizoid to the depressive position. The person in this case remains unable to see both good and bad in the same person. Instead there is projections persecution, and paranoid anxiety.

Growth towards the Depressive Position

As the child develops, and if it is given the necessary love, it moves into the depressive position (this has nothing to do with being depressed, but rather an ability to be ambivalent). This is a development. The child recognizes the mother as an individual separate from it. He learns that he is dependent and learns to accept temporary frustrations. He also learns to love, mourn and pine. He is more able to take responsibility for his impulses. He feels guilt, and is able to care. He lessens his hallucination of being omnipotent.

The depressive position is capable of ambivalence : seeing good and bad in the same object. This is also a position of the neurotic.

 

 

Bibliography

Klein, M. (1997). Envy and Gratitude: And Other Works, 1946-1963. Random House.

Making Reparation & Mourning as the Road to Mental Healing

Reparation allows us to live out loud. When I can apologize, I have less inhibition. According to Melanie Klein, Reparation is a basis of creativity… to restore the loss. Capable of recovery.

We make reparation for our miss-doings. We are humans and we make mistakes. Sometimes it is our negligence that hurt others. Sometimes we are just too weak, too young, too old, too ill, too afraid to do the right thing at a particular time.

Mourning is involved in also other aspects of losses, which does not involve the death of another, but rather the death of one’s sense of self. An example of how this can happen is when one is being diagnosed with a debilitating illness or has become disabled in some way, or has a child/family that is diagnosed as such. Mourning is also “the reaction related to painful experiences that entail an experience of loss — such as loss of the quality of life, loss of health, loss of previous self-identity, loss of hope, or loss of the container function of the parents. (Barone 2005)”

Owning up to our mistakes/shortfall/incompetencies and taking responsibility for hurt caused is a means of making reparation.

In so doing we also mourn the losses (a broken relationship, a lost trust, a lost opportunity, a metaphorical or real death) as a result of our incapacity to do what was necessary to avoid the unfortunate situation.

Being able to face with the loss / to accept responsibility is the path towards inner-strength. We are able to move on from our human failing. We know that we have the resources in us to get on with life because we are able to overcome a mistake that caused us guilt.

Facing up to one’s role in such losses is not the same as blaming oneself. It is to acknowledge what actually happened, and how one was part of it. To blame oneself is to accuse oneself of something one doesn’t believe one has responsibility for. 

Gestalt Therapy Case Example of Making Reparations

Mr. K, a young man of 23, comes to therapy with impulsive anger issues. He has been incarcerated for assault and battery. Each time he regresses into violent behavior, he regrets it, and feels guilt. However, at the slightest provocation, he bursts into uncontrolled rage.

He has been to behavioral therapy to control his impulses. The treatment did not work and he was sorely frustrated. In jail, he was offered gestalt therapy counseling from an intern–  what looked like fighting fire with paper.

The therapist realized after 4 sessions a pattern in this client. Each session, he earnestly repeated the same story to her. Each time he did so, he revved himself into anger. It was a story of his childhood. His father had a violent nature and would beat his mother. As a child, from his early childhood, he remembers his mother in tears of fear and frustration as she served the family their meals. His older brothers were also later violent towards her and Mr. K.

The work for Mr. K turned out to be one of reparation. This was only possible because he was able to feel sadness and guilt (in the case of violent patients who do not feel this kind of remorse, it might not be possible).

Mr. K. was supported to revisit this childhood scene, and as he was retelling the story, the therapist asked him to hold back his anger and breathe by saying comforting words. She asked him what he experienced watching his mother’s sadness. He said he felt hopeless. He said he was too small and afraid to save her.

The therapist supported the client with helping him formulate these statements: “mother, I am 6 years old, and I am too small and too weak to save you.” and to himself “K, I am sorry, I am 6 years old and I am too small and too afraid to save your mother.”

Both K and the therapist were very touched by the phenomenon in the therapy room. This is the taking of responsibility. It is not self blame, but the recognition that one was simply not humanly able to save the mother.

The next steps came naturally. The therapist guided the client in a mourning process. The loss of a mother that could protect the son. Weeks of therapy was devoted to this process. It included creating art, writing poems.

Incapacity to make reparations and mental pain

There are individuals who have difficulty or have not capacity to accept responsibility. This is a mental state for some people and is part of their personality. In psychoanalytic term, it is a condition of being stuck in the paranoid-schizoid position and not being able to move forward to the more ambivalent depressive (nothing to do with depression) position.

When one is stuck in the paranoid-schizoid position, one suffers deep depression and paranoid anxiety. One’s state of mind is that on seeing the world in black and white and nothing in between. Everything is either very good or very bad. This was Mr. K’s life before his sessions with the therapist. He was had paranoid rage, and was very depressed.

Being so paranoid also leads one to have a need for omnipotence, which one displays through grandiosity or threatening (manic) behavior.

Taking responsibility for one’s own deeds is a lessening of omnipotence. Discovery of the resilience of the good object. Less fear of destroying it.


Manic reparation in the Paranoid-Schzoid position.

Say for example a man who strikes his wife then brings her flowers. Avoidance of acknowledging damage done, his aims to repair the hurt is in such a way that his own feelings of guilt and loss is never experienced. Not acknowledged. His wife is felt as inferior, dependent and contemptible. She is confused by his behavior. He then considers her ungrateful. He blames her for his anger towards her.

In this case his unconscious guilt is not reprieved. The good object, the wife, is “magically repaired”. Instant repair. It is like the instant cure of swallowing pills instead of going through therapy. Of going to sleep so that you do not see.

Emotional tantrum is used also as a quick way of handling problem

How do, for example, some people reveal their contempt? By raising emotionality. This is also see among people who do good deeds, like some social workers and activists?

Freud on Mourning and Melancholia

Freud (1922), in Mourning and Melancholia, writes about the ability to mourn as a means of overcoming loss. The inability to mourn or the absence of the mourning process leads to melancholia, which we understand today as major depression.

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Genuine Reparation and Creativity

Genuine reparation is slow, there is no quick fix. It takes consideration of the other person. It takes mourning the damage. It takes getting to experience the guilt, the fear of damaging the good object, the relationship. It also takes creativity.

Renunciation of magic and omnipotence. Allows the object to be free. To accept the separateness of the object. This is how we overcome guilt.

Un-recognized guilt, leads to aggression turned towards the self, which is a condition we know as major depression.

Hence the recognition of a loss and the process going through the mourning process, is essential to recovery and prevention of major depression. Much of the therapeutic process involves in one way or another accompanied mourning of loss.

Bibliography

Barone, K. C. (2005). On the processes of working through loss caused by severe illnesses in childhood: a psychoanalytic approach. Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy19(1), 17-34.

Klein, M. (2002). Love, guilt and reparation: and other works 1921-1945 (Vol. 1). Simon and Schuster.

Freud, S. (1922). Mourning and melancholia. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease56(5), 543-545.

Psychoanalysis and Segantini Art

The art with the theme of the “mother” or good and evil mothers by 19th Century painter, Giovanni Segantini, enlivens us to the concept of the good and bad internalized mother in psychoanalysis.

The Two Mothers : Depicting the idealized image of mother. Good and nurturing.

The Evil Mother: the seductress tied to a tree with baby at her breast.

According to scholars like Don Carveth, this idea of the bad mother was blindsided by Sigmund Freud, who was thought to have idealized his relationship with his own mother, and hence could not bring himself to the realization of the bad mother concept.

The Punishment of Luxury: the narcissistic in the mother who is preoccupied with pleasure, abandoning mother.

It was Melanie Klein, who under the mentorship of Karl Abraham, who managed to bring this concept of the two mothers to psychoanalysis.

It was believed that the artist Sagentini lost his mother as a child. He felt guilty with the idea that he was a cause of her death. He was brought up by relatives after his father left him with them. This means that he lost also his father. Sagentini suffered mood swings, which Abraham attributes to the repression of the image of the bad mother (the mother complex). Sagentini’s traumas are not reducible to the Oedipus complex. He was nevertheless susceptible to revenge on the (internalized) mother (and the abandoning/vain…etc. mother) who abandoned him, and he depicts them in his painting.

Abraham points out that excessive hatred/hostility to the mother can be replaced by exaggerated by the opposite: the love of the mother, putting mothers on the pedestal (as in the case with Freud). Sagentini lived with depressive guilt (of having hate for mother turned against himself), and in a way made reparation by depicting the mother & child in his art.

Art is a reparative creative way of healing, and an essential to being healthy. Reparation of one’s internal objects (e.g. internal mother). When one repairs internal objects one can feel whole again and no longer broken. This is the central theme in Kleinian Theory.

The internalized mother is important in the lives of humans. It is the relationship to this internalized mother that we are able to feel protected in this world. In time of trauma, and existentially frightening setback, it is this relationship that gets broken.