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The Green-Eyed (Envious, Jealous, Spiteful) Narcissist

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The Green-Eyed (Envious, Jealous, Spiteful) Narcissist

By Sam Vaknin
Author of "Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited"

The New Oxford Dictionary of English defines envy as:

"A feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else's possessions, qualities, or luck."

And an earlier version (The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary) adds:

"Mortification and ill-will occasioned by the contemplation of another's superior advantages".

Pathological envy - the second deadly sin - is a compounded emotion. It is brought on by the realization of some lack, deficiency, or inadequacy in oneself. It is the result of unfavourably comparing oneself to others: to their success, their reputation, their possessions, their luck, or their qualities. It is misery and humiliation and impotent rage and a tortuous, slippery path to nowhere. The effort to break the padded walls of this self-visited purgatory often leads to attacks on the perceived source of frustration.

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There is a spectrum of reactions to this pernicious and cognitively distorting emotion:

Subsuming the Object of Envy through Imitation

Some narcissists seek to imitate or even emulate their (ever changing) role models. It is as if by imitating the object of his envy, the narcissist BECOMES that object. So, narcissists are likely to adopt their boss' typical gestures, the vocabulary of a successful politician, the views of an esteemed tycoon, even the countenance and actions of the (fictitious) hero of a movie or a novel.

In his pursuit of peace of mind, in his frantic effort to alleviate the burden of consuming jealousy, the narcissist often deteriorates to conspicuous and ostentatious consumption, impulsive and reckless behaviours and substance abuse.

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Elsewhere I wrote:

"In extreme cases, to get rich quick through schemes of crime and corruption, to out-wit the system, to prevail is thought by these people to be the epitome of cleverness (providing one does not get caught), the sport of living, a winked-at vice, a spice."

Destroying the Frustrating Object

Other narcissists "choose" to destroy the object that gives them so much grief by provoking in them feelings of inadequacy and frustration. They display obsessive, blind animosity and engage in compulsive acts of rivalry often at the cost of self-destruction and self-isolation.

In my essay "The Dance of Jael", I wrote:

"This hydra has many heads. From scratching the paint of new cars and flattening their tyres, to spreading vicious gossip, to media-hyped arrests of successful and rich businessmen, to wars against advantaged neighbours.

The stifling, condensed vapours of envy cannot be dispersed.

They invade their victims, their rageful eyes, their calculating souls, they guide their hands in evil doings and dip their tongues in vitriol...

(The envious narcissist's existence is) a constant hiss, a tangible malice, the piercing of a thousand eyes. The imminence and immanence of violence.

The poisoned joy of depriving the other of that which you don't or cannot have."

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From my essay, "The Dance of Jael":

"There are those narcissists who idealize the successful and the rich and the lucky. They attribute to them super-human, almost divine, qualities...

In an effort to justify the agonizing disparities between themselves and others, they humble themselves as they elevate the others.

They reduce and diminish their own gifts, they disparage their own achievements, they degrade their own possessions and look with disdain and contempt upon their nearest and dearest, who are unable to discern their fundamental shortcomings. They feel worthy only of abasement and punishment. Besieged by guilt and remorse, voided of self-esteem, perpetually self-hating and self-deprecating - this is by far the more dangerous species of narcissist.

For he who derives contentment from his own humiliation cannot but derive happiness from the downfall of others. Indeed, most of them end up driving the objects of their own devotion and adulation to destruction and decrepitude..."

Cognitive Dissonance

"...But the most common reaction is the good old cognitive dissonance. It is to believe that the grapes are sour rather than to admit that they are craved.

These people devalue the source of their frustration and envy. They find faults, unattractive features, high costs to pay, immorality in everything they really most desire and aspire to and in everyone who has attained that which they so often can't. They walk amongst us, critical and self-righteous, inflated with a justice of their making and secure in the wisdom of being what they are rather than what they could have been and really wish to be. They make a virtue of jejune abstention, of wishful constipation, of judgmental neutrality, this oxymoron, the favourite of the disabled."

Avoidance - The Schizoid Solution

And then, of course, there is my favourite solution: avoidance. To witness the success and joy of others is too painful, too high a price to pay. So, I stay at home, alone and incommunicado. I inhabit the artificial bubble that is my world where I am king and country, I am the law and yardstick, I am the one and only. There, in the penumbral recesses of my study, my flickering laptop for company, the only noises are electronic and I am the resident of my own burgeoning delusions. I am happy and soothed. I am what I can dream and dream my very being. I am no longer real, simply a narrative, an invention of my fervent mind, a colourful myth, sustaining and engulfing. I am content.

Romantic Jealousy

Pathological envy is not the same as romantic jealousy. These two emotions have little to do with each other.

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Romantic jealousy is a narcissistic defense. It reflects the narcissistic traits and behaviors of possessiveness; objectification (treating the spouse and regarding her as an object); and extension (treating the spouse and regarding her as an extension of oneself: devoid of autonomy, personality, needs, wishes, and emotions). Thus, the spouse’s cheating (as in infidelity) is perceived by the narcissist to be tantamount to a violation of and an encroachment on his self.

Exactly like non-narcissists, narcissists are humiliated by having been lied to; suffer abandonment anxiety; compare themselves with the spouse’s new paramour; and feel deprived when the “services” of the unfaithful spouse are no longer available to them (a denial of service which may encompass sex, emotional intimacy, house chores, companionship, or any other function.)

Romantic jealousy is the product of a violation of trust (which in the narcissist provokes paranoia: where else lurks deceit?), breach of exclusivity (which threatens the aforementioned narcissistic enmeshment), and denial of possession (which in the narcissist translates to fear of loss and abandonment anxiety.)

Narcissists are, consequently, even romantically jealous of intimate partners their spouse had before the marriage and after the divorce. Some narcissists, realizing that they cannot control their spouses forever, become swingers or engage in group sex, where they feel that, by bringing adultery home, they have “tamed” and “controlled” it. If you can’t beat it – join it, as the saying goes.

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Aug/23/2012, 5:19 am Link to this post  

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