Love is so much more authentic when it is born out of sympathy and not desire, because it’s the only way to keep it from getting hurt. Durrell
Freud (1922) first formulated the mechanism of pathological jealousy in the Schreber case and then elaborated it in his article “On some neurotic mechanisms in jealousy, paranoia and homosexuality”. However, he first makes a valuable contribution on normal jealousy by his distinction:
“…in essence, they are composed by grief, pain for the object of love that is thought lost and for the narcissistic forehead, insofar as it can be distinguished from the others; in addition, by feelings of hostility towards the preferred rivals and by a greater or lesser amount of self-criticism, which wants to make the self responsible for the loss of love. These jealousies… take root in the depths of the unconscious, take up again the earliest motions of infantile affectivity and spring from the Oedipus Complex or from the brothers of the first sexual period” (p. 217).
This same author wrote that infidelity or the impulse to commit it reactivates the jealousy of the second degree or projected jealousy. This desire to commit infidelity may be a passage to action or to remain repressed in the unconscious. In the married couple, the father of psychoanalysis tells us, the fidelity required has to overcome multiple obstacles, such as, for example, that another person seems sexually attractive to you:
“…those who refuse to experience such temptations feel its pressure so strongly that they often turn to an unconscious mechanism to relieve it and achieve such relief and even complete absolution from their moral conscience, projecting their own impulses to infidelity upon the person to whom they must keep it…” (p.218).
These jealousies have as their unconscious content the fantasy of infidelity itself, this translates into a slight flirtation of both spouses, which is equivalent, according to Freud, to a return to fidelity. These slight advances in infidelity protect the couple against the passage to the act because they generate the jealousy that leads in turn to the assessment of the other member of the couple. Thus, the desire for a foreign object is satisfied in one’s own object. While the delusional jealousy, or jealousy of the third kind also covers up one’s own infidelity but with an object of the same sex which is homosexual.
Many others since Freud have made interesting contributions to the understanding of jealousy. In the following, we will offer different complementary opinions that allow us to show the intrapsychic mechanisms that intervene in the genesis of the sick jealousy whose approach varies according to the different theoretical frameworks.
Jealousy is a universal experience; it is the most primitive characteristic for both humans and mammals. Jealousy, in a number of circumstances, is related to the feeling of disability experienced by the infant during the breastfeeding period.
Fenichel (1935) says that the difference between pathological and normal jealousy is similar to the difference between grief and melancholy. Unlike envy, the experience of jealousy involves three people. It is possible to hypothesize about its origins at the moment when the child acquires the ability to distinguish the people around him. The time, in which you can distinguish your self from others, establish a certain degree of object constancy and have certain representations of the self and the object.
The intrusion of a third person into the mother and child dyad by either the father, siblings or any other person is inevitable. Therefore, all children know the feeling of jealousy as soon as their self allows its conceptualization. Psychoanalysts tend to think that the existence of childhood jealousy in adult life can produce monogamy, while the Oedipal conflict makes it difficult to maintain (Horney, 1928).
According to Fenichel (1935) this type of behaviour in the person offers an economic advantage to the libido. From a psychoanalytical point of view, very little attention has been paid to the differences between the clinical syndromes of jealousy. However, the intra-psychic elements of jealousy remain an intellectual challenge among scholars.
In this regard, Waelder (1951), says that the projected jealousy is derived in both men and women from their own infidelity, from their own impulses that have succumbed to repression. Every day we realize that the faithfulness required in marriage is tested daily by the temptation of the other. Anyone who denies this statement will be driven into infidelity by using the unconscious mechanism of mitigation; consciousness is absolved by projecting one’s own impulses of infidelity on one’s partner.
The urge to infidelity is denied, this puts pressure on the consciousness which translates into feelings of restlessness. To get rid of this feeling, the person places attitudes on him or her that he or she “believes” to be observed in his or her partner, inferring that he or she is greatly tempted to commit adultery. Thus, the projection, rather than being a primary response, becomes a complex mechanism whose ingredients are the denial of one’s own urgencies, the desire to displace guilt and the exaggeration of any observed attitude.
In this respect, Fenichel (1935) warns that in this type of jealous or compulsively unfaithful personalities, the loss of love or the search has to do with the aspiration to possess a partial object to incorporate it orally. This is related to a fantasy of stealing from the mother. In Kleinian terms, the fantasy of theft is related to the inner contents of the mother’s body, that is, its nourishing, reproductive and creative capacity. As Riviere and Fenichel (1935) say, oral fixations play an important role in the development of pathological jealousy.
For Stoller (1975) jealousy is an experience of apprehension, anxiety, suspicion or distrust in the face of the loss of something valuable, it can be a person or his love. When associated with a sexual partner, jealousy may involve feelings of possessiveness toward the person or their affection as a valuable object. Usually they appear before the existence of rivalry with a third person, the one who suffers from jealousy feels afraid of the intrusion that this person may commit within his loving relationship.
Pao (1969, quoted by Pierloot, 1988) tells us that pathological jealousy can be understood as a persistent egoistic state that is installed due to conflicts triggered by homosexual and oral sadistic impulses, including those within narcissism and melancholy. This is consistent with what Schmideberg (1953, quoted by Pierloot 1988) says: oral, anal and genital factors contribute to feelings of jealousy.
For Glover (1949), for example, some components of jealousy may be the following:
- Envy: envy is a component of jealousy, it is part of a triangular relationship and occurs when the jealous person feels that he or she not only has to take care of the loss of the object, but has already lost it. If this is the case, the opponent is envied for possessing the woman or for her ability as a lover. It is important to mention that when speaking of a lost object this author refers to a partial object.
- The desire to be like the other, to emulate him, is not present in jealousy. Metapsychologically this feeling is connected with the identification and idealization that can serve an adaptive function to manage anger or a narcissistic wound.
- The narcissistic wound is probably the same in both jealousy and envy, however, in jealousy there is a greater awareness of guilt and of having failed.
- There is more anger in jealousy than in envy.
- The estrangement for the possession of the object occurs in both states, but in the case of jealousy there is also an element of loss.
There are other authors who think that the jealous person needs his or her
partner as an object that helps to preserve his or her self-esteem. Lagache (1947, quoted by Pierloot 1988) describes the love of a jealous person as a captive love contrasted with a detached love. The former wants to possess and assimilate his partner, the desire is insatiable and the partner is always experienced as a loving object of rejection. Introducing a rival offers the possibility of an honorable explanation for the rejection.
Moulton (1977) argues that men who marry women who have a stable career appear externally proud of them but somehow rely on the female strength to relieve them of the responsibility of being the breadwinner. Many men are unaware of their great need to have a strong and reliable mother with them.
This only becomes apparent when the wife becomes very successful, too busy, earning a lot of money and even being a financial help to achieve family goals. If the husband denies her independence, he becomes jealous and very competitive with his wife, in this case, she may feel that she is not loved and may use her strength against him instead of with him or for the sake of family unity (ibid.).
Pierloot (1988) states that there are some people who constantly seek confirmation of their suspicions, that their partner is unfaithful. Their conduct is based on an internal conviction, independent of any possible arguments or elements of reality. They make titanic efforts to provoke each other’s suspicions. They torment their partners to force them to confess their infidelity. By making special arrangements, they even try to push their partner into infidelity. The person seems to need to live through this uncomfortable and painful situation.
Therefore, this author points out that jealousy is an emotional state caused by the idea that another person has taken an object, as a rule, a loving object, which by right belongs to an individual, or at least that one has to share that object with another person.
There are authors who point out (Fisher, 1974; Lobsenz, 1977) that jealousy does not have a practical function since it is considered an out-of-date reaction that arises from a deficit in self-esteem as well as from an inappropriate desire to control the couple’s behaviour. However, regardless of the decline of monogamous relationships in our contemporary societies, Mullen (1991) insists that jealousy still has social relevance and interpersonal meaning since it is usually a response to infidelity, which has a moral dimension.
As for the strategies that exist to tolerate jealousy with the unfaithful couple Sinclair (1993) considers that there are three basic areas to analyze:
1. The ambivalent feeling towards the unfaithful partner that takes the form of hostility to the break-up; doing everything possible for reconciliation regardless of the price to be paid (future lack of trust, doubts about the integrity of the partner, honesty etc.); or investigating with the spouse what attracted him/her to the other partner in order to find a possibility of recovery of the partner.
2. Rivalry with the lover through: sexual fantasies; aggression with the lover; exchange of information between the faithful partner and the lover in order to review the validity of their interpretations of the reality of the situation and protect themselves from manipulation of the infidel (although these encounters are excessively painful for both parties).
3. Sexual compensation with a quarter; that is to say, for the recovery of self-esteem the faithful couple looks for a substitute that can be with the intention of provoking jealousy, a fourth person with whom they can negotiate, find someone with whom they can make an alliance, thus repeating the behaviour of the unfaithful couple.
Melanie Klein in 1934, when describing the depressive position, says that the baby is beginning to realize that he is separated from the mother. He is confronted with his inferiority and the feeling of envy towards the mother and has to face frustration, guilt and anxiety at the loss of the mother. In order to remain in a narcissistic, undifferentiated position, he attacks his internal objects, which leaves him submerged in a world without love, which he will recover with his maternal loving acts.
Seeing the younger sibling attached to the mother’s breast is a factor that connects envy and jealousy with oral eroticism. Melanie Klein (“Envy and Gratitude”, 1957) gives envy a central place in personality development, which is derived from Abraham’s description of the oral phase.
The envy for Klein (Ibid.) is operative from the beginning of life with the existence of primary envy to the mother’s breast based on the idea that the baby feels that the breast possesses everything he desires, that the milk and love he possesses are unlimited for his own gratification, even since he is well nourished.
The baby’s attitude towards the breast includes the desire to possess it as the source of all good, but also to attack it sadistically, devour its contents or spoil it by putting faeces and urine in it. The destructive part of envy is crucial in the formulation of Klein’s theory; however, it must be differentiated from the feeling of voracity because it has to do with devouring and incorporating the contents of the chest, without necessarily destroying it. In incorporation destruction is accidental, in envy it is primordial, it incorporates, but it does not destroy or annihilate as in envy. When the envied object is damaged and cannot be received it can result in a state of deprivation that becomes voracious.
Klein also says that excessive envy in a person can have profound consequences for personality development. It diminishes the person’s ability to enjoy and interferes with the neutralization of aggressive impulses. It can also be associated with an early sense of guilt that becomes a vicious circle of envy, guilt over envy, inhibition of guilt gratification, voracity/guilt, among other things. As another way of understanding infidelity, Klein brings the notion that early guilt in the baby with the mother can quickly lead from orality to premature genitality, leading to obsessive masturbation and promiscuity.
Pierloot (1988), for his part, quoting Riviere, says that she considers jealousy as a defence mechanism against envious impulses, which corresponds to Klein’s (1957) conception of child development. The envy goes first to the primary object, the mother’s breast.
In the first stage of the Oedipus complex it is directed towards the combined couple, based on the fantasies of the mother’s body inhabited by the partial objects breast, penis and babies. Jealousy to a certain extent surpasses envy, hostile feelings are directed against the rival so that the loving object can be preserved.
Stoller (1975) considers jealousy to be a phenomenon that is more mature than envy because it is related to the complexity of the triangular relationship with objects. It’s a more complex feeling that can include envy as a form of jealousy. Jealousy invariably involves three or more people. The confusion that exists between the distinction between jealousy and envy can be clarified in the following concept:
“…jealousy has its roots in envy, envy is always present in jealousy, jealousy can hide envy or envy can hide jealousy. This distinction is basic, to face the technical difficulties that may arise while interpreting pre-oedipal or oedipal contents within the psychoanalytic treatment”.
In jealousy, says Glover (1949), there are two components that are not found in envy:
a) There is an unconscious homosexuality, which causes strong tension. In a couple relationship, there is a homosexual impulse and a heterosexual impulse, however, the former is unconscious.
b) Suspicion, this is a paranoid characteristic of jealous people. This is not an affective state but the consequence caused by defences such as projection, projective identification, and externalization of libidinal or aggressive feelings.
A couple in a satisfying love relationship challenges the envy and resentment, always present in those who are excluded and those regulatory agencies and distrustful of the conventional culture in which they live. (Kernberg,1988).