book abstracts  

Berman, A. (2006). Envy on the Crossroad between Destruction, Self-Actualization and Avoidance.
In: Envy, Competition and Gender: Theory, Clinical Application and Group work. L. Navaro and S. L. Schwartzberg (eds). London, Brunner\Routhledge.

Envy is traditionally considered a hostile emotion towards the other's happiness. Envy arouses fear and hate. These emotions, aroused facing envy, might come in the way of scientific thought and deep observation of the social phenomena that come with envy. It is totally clear that some of the envious people do behave in a destructive manner while others, when envious, tend rather towards self-actualization and equalization, without hurting the other or what is the other's. An observation made by Frankel and Sherick (Frankel & Sherik, 1977) on children showed after two years of age, an important transformation occurs in the behavior stemming from envy. If, indeed, until that moment behaviors of taking and destruction are seen, then from two years and above, children want to be like their object of envy. "I want like that" replaces "I want that". This transformation helps many children to aspire to equalize and to learn to request as a solution to their envy. The chapter proposes three factors that define the difference between those who tend to spoil and destroy and those who tend to self-actualize and/or equalize. The first factor deals with the awareness (consciousness) and the owning of the emotion. The second factor deals with self-image and especially with the self-evaluation of personal capability (as a part of self-image). The third factor is the one of deservingness (or entitlement). By this chapter, the people who will tend to strive and self-actualize when envious (these are the ones who may thrive out of envy, even though they suffer from it, like all the rest) are those who are aware of their envy, believe in their capability and have a positive evaluation of their deservingness. These people will be able to gain personal growth while envious. The people who are the most dangerous in their envy are those who do not identify it as such, and thus do not own it, have a low appreciation of their capability and together with that have a high evaluation of deservingness: they feel they deserve more (or better) and the gap in favor of the other creates in them a sense of wrongfulness and rage. Beside equalizing and destructiveness there is another important behavior that stems from envy: namely avoidance. People who are aware of their envy, but do not experience themselves as deserving more and do not estimate themselves as capable of achieving more, will tend to avoid the challenge and to distance themselves to the more calm and secure social situations. All the behaviors related to envy are expected to be found in both men and women. It seems to me that we should look for the more significant gender differences in the area of the sense of capability and deservingness. Men are probably brought up to feel more capable and more deserving than women (notwithstanding their objective ability). Women probably tend, more than men, to feel incapable and undeserving. When that is the woman's evaluation of herself - envy will not be the dominant emotion aroused, facing the gap between her and another, but rather depression and giving up. Finally, envy holds within it a component of hope: the hope of equalization and achievement. It is a sign of energy and motivation. The owning of it enable fruitful therapeutic work and a transition from aggression and self-justification to remorse, reparation and self-actualization.

Dr. Avi Berman, Clinical Psychologist, Organizational Consultant, POB 1017 Ramat Hsharon Israel,

Dr. Avia Berman is Israeli delegate of EFPP group psychotherapy section.


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last modified: 2008-03-05