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Gerhardt, J. (2009). The Roots of Envy: The Unaesthetic Experience of the Tantalized/Dispossessed Self. Psychoanal. Dial., 19(3):267-293.

(2009). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 19(3):267-293

The Roots of Envy: The Unaesthetic Experience of the Tantalized/Dispossessed Self

Julie Gerhardt, Ph.D.

In this paper I suggest that no matter how omnipotent, destructive, or perverse the currents of entitlement and hatred are that envy coils around, envy often serves as a fig-leaf for desire—a psychic figuration of refused desire. This claim invites us to consider the vicissitudes of maternal subjectivity in order to understand the patient's unconscious envy. Whereas Klein's focused on the wish to spoil the good object or take something away from her, my emphasis is on the self and the archaic wish/need to feel at-one-with/the same as the object which, when not realized, can transform into destructive envy. This paper attempts to develop the following three claims: (a) the idea of lack, abjection and/or humiliation as a narcissistic precondition for unconscious envy; (b) envy as a phantasied, pre-emptive means of identifying with the object once normal identificatory processes have gone awry (Benjamin, J., 1988, 1995); and (c) the role of the analyst's subjectivity and unconscious communication in provoking or mitigating the patient's unconscious envy (Spillius, 1993)—specifically, the analyst's unconscious countertransference identification.

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