The word envy comes from the Latin invidere – to look upon maliciously. It is to look at another’s good fortune grudgingly, the feeling of horror when we contemplate a colleagues advantages or the need to spitefully denigrate when we fear that others are getting more than their fair share and certainly more than us.
Melanie Klein’s view of envy highlights its destructive assault on anything that is admirable. ‘Envy is the angry feeling that another person possesses and enjoys something desirable – the envious impulse being to take it away or to spoil it’ (Klein, 1957: 181).
In psychological terms envy is a feeling or impulse, which in its destructive and spoiling qualities can be disastrous to the personality. Envy can inhibit development when deeply entrenched in the psyche and exerts a powerful influence on the whole personality.
The more we examine our own envy, the more we understand it, the less likely will be our need to use it against others. In therapy we might find a way to transform our envy into a vehicle that allows us to look deeper into ourselves. When we feel the raw force of envy we know that we are not settled in our minds and bodies and not fully accepting of who we are in both our beautiful and flawed ways.