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Waska, R. (2002). Craving, Longing, Denial, and the Dangers of Change: Clinical Manifestations of Greed. Psychoanal. Rev., 89(4):505-531.

(2002). Psychoanalytic Review, 89(4):505-531

Craving, Longing, Denial, and the Dangers of Change: Clinical Manifestations of Greed

Robert Waska

Greed can be defined as a normal desire that combines eagerness, curiosity, competitiveness, and a need for security, accusation, and protection. A passionate, excited hunger to possess all of the object, fundamentally the mother and her breast, gives rise to particular ways of relating to the self, the object, and to the environment. The ego becomes colored by an ongoing yearning, thirst, and longing for as much of the object, or certain aspects of the object relationship, as possible.

Greed becomes pathological when the “as much as possible” feeling is experienced as a cruel limitation. The pathologically greedy ego will not take no for an answer. When confronted with limitations, aggressive dynamics increase. External limits agitate oral aggression and increase feelings of greed and impatience. In addition, the ego can often be more hungry and demanding that the object or environment can produce. Both circumstances can create painful or hostile struggles internally and interpersonally. Many patients have trouble on both fronts.

The mental functioning of paranoid-schizoid (Klein, 1946) patients, who are still combating persecutory and catastrophic object-related phantasies, can be severely compromised by pathological greed. Depressive patients (Klein, 1935) are affected in similar ways if greed is the primary affect underlying their phantasy world.

The ego, fueled by unrest, greed, and anxiety, develops ideal expectations of an object capable of endless feeding. This constant reassuring, on-demand receptacle for all needs and ill-feelings is approached in different ways by depressive and paranoid patients.

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