Envy is the coward side of hate, and all her ways are bleak and desolate.
~ Henry Abbey
Envy is a debased reaction to perceived lack. The individual on the receiving end of envy is condemned for possessing what the other feels they lack and desire. If envy remains unchecked, it may lead to relational dynamics infiltrated with a ruthless competitive energy.
When the rancor of envy is most venomous, the object of envy is dehumanized and hated.
Many of the clients I encounter seeking treatment for complex PTSD present with histories replete with pathological envy.
Often, they are victims of psychological abuse at the hands of cluster-b parents (borderline (BPD), narcissistic (NPD), histrionic (HPD), and dependent (DPD) personality disorders) and present with childhood memories of continuous sabotage and deprecation.
In the most heinous of circumstances, they were sadistically humiliated, character assassinated, gas-lighted, shamed and maligned and ultimately reduced to a state of debilitating fear and self-loathing by their parents and other family members.
Victims of pathological envy carry an insidious inescapable shame, which enforces the edict that one’s gifts are a threat, responsible for instigating feelings of resentment, inadequacy and hence, envy.
Having learned that any indication of happiness, accomplishment,or admiration results in contempt and myriad forms of emotional violence, victims of pathological envy often hide in the shadows, having lost sight of their innate endowments or simply too fearful to expose those essential parts of themselves.
To reinforce illusions of safety, victims of pathological envy may convince themselves that it is noble and virtuous to be diffident and self-effacing. Alternatively, unable to tolerate human flaws and thus driven by perfection, they may identify with the aggressor and perpetrate the cycle of abuse they endured by deriding and diminishing others.
Ultimately, in a subconscious effort to master psychological and emotional injuries incurred from pathological envy, traumatic patterns will be enacted with those who either embody the traits of one’s parental abusers and/or the scorned victimized child.
Projecting deep-seated feelings of inferiority onto a vulnerable target or subjecting oneself to familiar/familial forms of degradation becomes a driving force.
Desperately trying to please and/or destroy the object of one’s hate is fueled by a futile attempt to acquire agency and fix a tragic history. By re-enacting and re-visiting this traumatic pattern, the excruciating visceral realities of the wounded child are defended against and superficially managed.
This desperate attempt at mastery relies on magical thinking and primitive defenses, which assist with denying the core sense of helplessness characterizing victimization. Ultimately, what results is more suffering. But in spite of repetitive evidence disproving the efficacy of this strategic defense, its relinquishment is akin to psychological annihilation.
Transformative healing can only occur when this fruitless pattern is curtailed. With the help of a dedicated therapist, original pain is exhumed and assimilated. When the victim of pathological envy is able to fully grieve and accept the magnitude of mental cruelty and malevolence perpetrated by those she was unconditionally dependent on for love and survival, she can potentially reclaim the self worth and integrity that envy robbed.