“A feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.”~ The New Oxford Dictionary of English
Some people think that narcissists are plagued by the “green-eyed monster”, yet others would say that narcissists ARE the green-eyed monster. They are jealous of anyone who has more resources than they do (such as status, power, beauty, money, success, etc). At the same time, they also have a strong belief that other people are jealous of them. Excessive levels of jealousy and envy are characteristic traits of narcissism. People often use the terms jealousy and envy as synonyms, however, there is a distinction between the two.
Definitions of Jealousy and Envy
Jealousy refers to a fear of losing something we have to another person.
Envy refers to wishing we had something that another person has.
Narcissists take jealousy and envy to the extreme, resulting in pathological jealousy and pathological envy. Applying these emotional states to a love relationship, we see the difference:
- A jealous individual may fear their partner leaving them for another mate or committing an act of infidelity
- An envious individual may feel ‘left out’ or resentful because their partner feels good about themselves, has great friends or a satisfying job.
When these emotional states become pathological, then delusion and irrational behavior sets in– and the results can be devastating.
‘Pathological jealousy’ is a totally different story than jealousy. This form of jealousy indicates that the individual believes he has exclusive ownership over another and that this ownership is necessary for him to maintain the relationship.
Pathological jealousy shatters an otherwise loving relationship piece by piece. Trust, intimacy and connection are destroyed. Pathological jealousy can be extremely dangerous, leading to significant abuse and often violence. It’s the most treacherous aspect of abusive relationships, frequently leading to the devastation of the victim mentally, emotionally, physically, and frequently financially.
Pathological jealousy is truly narcissistic. The most frightening and frustrating part of pathological jealousy is that the narcissist cannot be appeased or reassured. Pathologically jealous individuals are hyper-vigilant, always on the lookout for reasons to be jealous.
Signs of Pathological Jealousy
- Accusations of looking at other men
- Eye contact with a man is considered flirtation
- Accusations of giving attention to other men
- Accusations of being uncaring or “appearing single” if not granting enough body contact or attention in public
- Interrogation of behavior
- Interrogation of phone calls and all other forms of communication
- Reading diary, going through belongings
- Incessant questioning: where you were, who you were with, etc.
- Demanding reports of any males in your company
- Isolating, not allowing you to socialize on your own
- Threatening ‘tit for tat’ retaliations if you pursue own interests
- Taking your car keys and money
- Hiding makeup, damaging clothes,
- Interrogating and accusing if home late
- Laying stipulations and conditions in regards to contact with males
- Checking up on you
- Accusations of affairs when pulling away or attempting escape from the abuse
- Accusations of affair when libido suffers as a result of the abuse
- Not being able to be reassured
- Not trusting you
- Verbal and physical violence triggered by jealousy, blaming other men for jealous behavior
- Blaming you for jealous behavior
- Always an excuse for jealous behavior
- Denying jealous behavior (except when hitting ‘rock bottom)
- Gaslighting techniques trying to confuse your trust in self; Gaslighting techniques trying to prove there is reason to be jealous.
Pathological envy is extremely painful for the narcissist and devastating for the love recipient. It isn’t as obvious as pathological jealousy, and can be insidious and more difficult to define in a relationship.
Dr. Sam Vaknin, an expert on narcissism describes pathological envy as “…a compounded emotion. It is brought on by the realisation of some lack, deficiency, or inadequacy in oneself. It is the result of unfavourably comparing oneself to other – to their success, their reputation, their possessions, their luck, and their qualities. It is misery and humiliation and impotent rage and a torturous, 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.”
If you’re in a relationship with a narcissistic individual, the relationship dynamics will feel like a ‘me versus you’ battle with an enemy. A large source of this dynamic is pathological envy. Pathological envy is a very intense and destructive emotion, resulting from strong emotional insecurities and feelings of low self-worth.
Signs of Pathological Envy
- Being uncomfortable / moody when you’re given praise or attention
- If not the centre of attention he/she discredits the experience or leaves the scene
- Discredits your ideas, interests, friendships
- Depression if you’re happy and energized
- Depression if you’re successful
- Creating arguments if you’re successful
- Prescribing what is or isn’t right for your life
- Intense anger when not consulted
- Intense anger when not utilized for projects yet depression / moodiness when inputting energy that may assist your project
- Undermining your reputation
- Undermining your interests
- Undermining your work
- Undermining your friendships
- Using gaslighting or abuse to undermine your self-esteem
- Projecting: declaring you’re the person doing the undermining or discrediting to yourself and them.
Reactions to Envy
Narcissists must be superior to others in every single way. So when someone else has a resource that they don’t have, but want– admiration, status, skills, money, etc.–the narcissist sees it as a significant threat. Like so much else in the narcissistic mind, it is unconscious, discounted and denied, which makes it more treacherous for the object of his envy. Sandy Hotchkiss, author of Why Is It Always about You, says, “To admit to envy would be to acknowledge inferiority, which no good narcissist would ever do.”
So what does a narcissist do? He will try to take credit for the other person’s good fortune (“my son must get that great quality from me”) or he:
- Feels contempt for those he envies and puts them down vehemently–sometimes to their face, sometimes not. This restores his vision of the world where he’s always on top.
- Can’t share in the other person’s happiness, which disappoints others or make them doubt themselves. Narcissists even envy others when they are the center of attention for a sad reason (death of a loved one, illness) and will not support them in their time of crisis.
- Fantasizes about his own success
- Indulges in self-soothing activity (gambling, drinking, sex, etc.) to ward off feelings of imperfection and shame.