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Berke, J.H. (1985). Envy Loveth Not: A Study of the Origin, Influence and Confluence of Envy and Narcissism. Brit. J. Psychother., 1(3):171-186.

(1985). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 1(3):171-186

Envy Loveth Not: A Study of the Origin, Influence and Confluence of Envy and Narcissism

Joseph H. Berke

Envy is an inborn, destructive motivating force, opposed to love and antagonistic to life. Writing in The Metaphysic of Morals in 1797 Immanuel Kant had no qualms about describing envy as ‘the vice of human hate’, a moral incongruity that delights in misfortune (Schadenfreude) and ingratitude. He called envy a ‘hate that is the complete opposite of human love’ and concluded:

The impulse for envy is thus inherent in the nature of man, and only its manifestation makes of it an abominable vice, a passion not only distressing and tormenting to the subject, but intent on the destruction of the happiness of others, and one that is opposed to man's duty towards himself as towards other people (Kant, p. 316).

Over a hundred years later Freud also commented on a hatred which opposes love. This is a hatred which is directed against ‘any source of unpleasurable feeling’ including the absence of something needed; the presence of noxious sensations; and over-excitement, an intolerable inner tension associated with the very things a person wants.

The ego hates, abhors and pursues with intent to destroy all objects which are a source of unpleasurable feeling for it, without taking into account whether they mean a frustration of sexual satisfaction or of the satisfaction of self-preservative needs (Freud 1915, p. 138).

Mere relief from the distress does not assuage such a degree of unpleasure. On the contrary, it remains as a passionate hostility towards any stimulation, even rooted in desire, which has become too painful to bear.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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