Original Articles

Working with a child's envy in the transference

Published in: Journal of Child & Adolescent Mental Health
Volume 18, issue 2, 2006 , pages: 73–78
DOI: 10.2989/17280580609486626
Author(s): Renate Gericke


In literature, envy has long been written of as one of the seven cardinal sins. In biblical mythology, envy as a consequence of vanity can be understood to be the reason for archangel Lucifer's fall from a state of heavenly grace and unionship. Freud was the first psychoanalytic theorist to introduce the idea of envy, albeit through his controversial concept of penis envy. Karl Abrahams and Melanie Klein later placed envy at the crucial developing stages of the relationship between primary caregiver and infant. Klein boldly identified envy as a primary constitutional emotion. However, the presence and difficulties of envy in clinical work remain largely underreported, more so in work with children. This paper asks whether an attachment base can be secure if envy is dominant. The analysis of a nine-year-old girl ('Kirsten') and her envious transference with her therapist will be examined, to explore the relationship between envy and attachment security. While contemporary research focuses on developing attachment theory in relation to specific psychiatric conditions, this paper will discuss affect as the binding link or disruptive force between self and object representations, that then determine attachment security.

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