Among other contributions on the subject, Meissner’s view9 is worth mentioning because of its clarity of style. In discussing narcissism and the paranoid process, he commented, “Envious feelings are frequently identifiable in narcissist patients [and are caused by] feelings of deprivation and resentful entitlement.” Such experience of humiliation, he stated, is linked both to masochism and sadism: “Narcissistic patients enjoy sadistically humiliating others, just as their own humiliating superego afflicts them.”
How envy becomes a narcissistic issue
In the envious person, the persistence of an archaic, grandiose, and omnipotent sense of self is a necessary condition for the pathological manifestations of envy. As a vital element to his mental equilibrium, the envious person must feel or believe that he is entitled to all that is good and valuable. As psychoanalytic inquiry has demonstrated,6-10 being narcissistic sets the stage for a propensity to catastrophic reactions to perceived slights or disappointments. “Narcissism is incapable of self-sustaining action and continually requires fresh gratification. It is not self-limiting . . . it has no inherent stability.”9
Given that the narcissist depends on an external source of support (eg, praise, admiration) for his sense of emotional equilibrium, his “self” becomes envious by the realization in (or projection onto) others (or objects) of the qualities he imagines unique in himself. Inevitably, the envious person experiences each of his envied objects’ successes or attributes as a challenge, and, at times, as a mortal injury to his sense of self. “Whatever threatens our status in life, whatever throws into question our accomplishments and attainments, whatever defeats us or limits us, or prevents us from attaining the object of our desires, all these and more are forthright assaults on our narcissism.”9
A necessary ingredient added to such an experience, to determine certain destructive and, at times, criminal manifestations of envy, is the conscious or less-than-conscious sense of shame in the envious person. This shame is the “signal affect of feelings of humiliation, inferiority, or narcissistic mortification.”9 Initially, the envious person unsuccessfully attempts to become the object of his envy (by imitation or challenge). Later, after his attempts fail, he decides to ignore or remove him- self from such reality, only to find the envied object obsessively trapped in his mind.
The envious person becomes haunted by his mental images of the envied object. Then, with his emotional sensor (superego) harshly prosecuting him and recriminating his “imperfections,” the envious person starts to feel as if he is a failure. His cruel superego demands perfection and omnipotence. The envious person feels tormented by a mirror image that constantly reminds him of his mundane limitations and imperfections. He is left with a mixed sense of impotence and rage. His mental state is one of self-depletion that includes feelings of inadequacy, lowered self-esteem, and self-pity.
Without the prospect of accepting his limitations or lacking the sublimatory channels needed to cope with them, he develops vengeful, diabolical desires of destroying the envied object. These mental images ultimately become a breeding ground for his conscious or unconscious decision of annihilating the envied object. Only the destruction of his mental representations will restore his inner peace and bring him back to his original sense of grandiosity and omnipotence.