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Ellman, C.S. (2000). The Empty Mother: Women's Fear of Their Destructive Envy. Psychoanal Q., 69(4):633-657.

(2000). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 69(4):633-657

The Empty Mother: Women's Fear of Their Destructive Envy

Carolyn S. Ellman, Ph.D.

This paper explains the importance of understanding the little girl's envy of her mother and how the resolution of this envy (and her fear of other women's envy) is crucial to a woman's development. I postulate that envy is a universal part of female development (with more or less destructive effects on a woman's personality, depending on the libidinal/sexual components of her attachment to both parents). I hope to show that by interpreting a woman's fear of her destructive envy, one can free her not only to enjoy her own sexuality and to find appropriate ways to express her aggression, but also to be more creative. I believe that guilt about these envious feelings often leads to profound inhibitions and masochistic behavior.

Two clinical examples illustrate how envy manifests itself in treatment with a woman analyst, and hwo the working through of intense envious feelings leads to a greater ability to enjoy one's own capacities without constant fear of retribution.

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