Envy and Gratitude – Melanie Klein

Instinctively, the breast is felt as the source of nourishment, even of life itself. In normal infant development, the “breast” is introjected and securely grounded in the ego. This leads to the formation of the core of the ego, and the foundation for satisfactory growth and development is laid.

The infant’s early emotional life is characterized by a sense of losing and regaining the good object. The innate conflict between love and hate (eros and thanatos) leads to the internalization of good objects and bad objects. This type of conflict is necessary for the normal enrichment and growth of the personality and for the strengthening of the ego. Thus, conflict and the need to overcome it emerges as the basis of human creativity. When the breast is experienced as both good and bad, the internal object splits with the ego. This split is caused by the ego’s early lack of harmony and serves as a defense against primitive anxiety, dissipating destructive and persecuting anxieties, and providing a mechanism for ego preservation. An important distinction needs to be made between the good and the idealized object. There is often an extremely deep division between an idealized object and an extremely bad object.

The transition from the Paranoid-Schizoid phase to the Depressive Phase takes place at the beginning of the 2nd year of my life. Having effectively internalized the Good Object, the infant will be far removed from destructive impulses and persecution anxiety. But it is not possible for the baby to completely get rid of them. However, the baby, who has not internalized the good object, will experience feelings of envy, jealousy, greed at different intensities depending on the internalization and constitutional effect. The envious baby will not be able to develop a sense of gratitude and will not be able to fully internalize the feeling of love in the future. The baby, who cannot internalize the good object, will use the defense mechanisms of omnipotence, denial, and most importantly, division, quite frequently in his future life, and envy will increase with these defense mechanisms and this will continue in a vicious circle.

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