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“Desire beneath the Elms”: An Evolutionary and Developmental Model of Envy

Carolyn Ellman


The author gives evidence that envy is universal and therefore points to envy having a strong evolutionary basis. She looks for this basis in the development of self-consciousness and awareness of others. Using contemporary ideas from evolutionary biologists and infant researchers, she proposes a model of both a healthy and destructive use of envy as development unfolds. Clinical examples show how a certain lack of mirroring and containment in infancy can derail desire and self-awareness, resulting in a pathological state of envious feelings that cannot be translated into a healthy use of the environment.


desire, development, envy, evolution, self-awareness

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