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Cronos and his Children

 Envy and Reparation


Mary Ashwin


This is a short book about envy. Its object is to question whether envy is the worst sin, as Chaucer thought, and whether there is an equally powerful opposing virtue. Concepts of envy are explored both theologically and psychologically.

Firstly I look at ideas of how evil came into the world; some creation myths are discussed. Concepts of sin and the supposition that that the seven deadly sins are a remnant of Gnostic beliefs are examined. Envy as a sin is then discussed.

In the second chapter everyday envy is the subject. Its particular qualities are looked at and it is differentiated from similar emotions. Its sociological function is explored and the idea of self-envy is introduced.

The third chapter is about the more serious aspects of envy - pathological envy which has a damaging effect on the envier and their inner and outer world as its seeks, discovers and then despoils anything desirable and good. The array of mechanisms envy utilises both to attack and defend itself are examined.

Envy poses problems in the psychotherapeutic relationship and these difficulties are explored in the fourth chapter. The fusion of envy with the death instinct and the impact this has on the envious person’s recovery is discussed.

Finally having painted a bleak picture I suggest there is hope. Envy is a multifaceted, intransigent and recalcitrant emotion. Nevertheless, it can be ameliorated and modulated so there is hope that the deeply envious person can, in time, realise their creative potential and sustain loving, generous and appreciative relationships with others, and even more crucially, with themselves. 



Acknowledgements   iii
Introduction 1
Chapter 1: Evil and Sin  8
Chapter 2:  Everyday Envy   30
Chapter 3:  Pathological Envy  51
Chapter 4: Envy in Psychotherapy Sessions 74
Chapter 5: Conclusion 94
References 110


I would like to thank for their help, support and inspiration the lecturers of the School of Psychotherapy at Regents College.

Thank you to Paula Bar and Robert Young without whose sustained containment, help and encouragement this would not have been written.

I would like to acknowledge Ros Leigh for her perception and insight in helping me to understand my patients and thanks to those who provided much food for thought.

I am grateful to my friends and family for their encouragement and love, particularly Michaela, Jean and Dave.





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