Theories Of Jealousy

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Jealousy is hard to define and harder to categorize in terms of who feels it more, men or women. In this article Toril Moi explores how jealousy forms and manifests between the different sexes using psychoanalysis, sociology and psychiatry.

The foundation of understanding jealousy begins with Freud's theory detailing the three layers of jealousy; Normal, projected and the delusional jealousy. Normal, regardless of it's name is not rational or entirely predictable. It is the jealousy experienced when a loved one has been lost to a rival. Projected jealousy rises from ones own unfaithfulness or tendency towards it and projecting these feelings and impulses onto another. Delusional jealousy rises from repressed homosexual desires. Denying these
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When looked at through the lens of psychoanalysis, there are two development stages through childhood that contribute to how jealousy manifests. The preoedipal and the oedipal stage. The preoedipal stage is similar for both boys and girls and is largely concerned with the child's relationship with its mother. She is not only the child's first object of love but of hate as well. The child undergoes two phases here, the paranoid and the depressive. While these appear in child like ways they form the foundation for their adult counterparts.

In the Oedipal stage we see sexual differentiation emerge. Whereas in the previous stage the mother was the primary love-object the girl changes her choice and focuses on the father. Having changed her love-object the girl develops “hostile feelings towards the mother who is accused of having deprived the daughter of something (the penis)” (Moi, 1982). However, this change of love object is not complete and traces of preoedipal mother fixation remain. And it is for this reason that women may experience jealousy as a sense of loss which draws a depressive
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This creates a dynamic where the boy identifies with his father but also views him as a rival. This usually ends with the boy renouncing oedipal love for his mother and taking up full identification-love with the father in that he wishes to be like him. The man may therefore experience jealousy as an intense anger against a rival which draws an aggressive reaction.

Homosexuality also has a role to play. It is often seen as a taboo and this in boys is emphasized by the fact that close physical ties to the father and other men are discouraged. Homosexual tendencies are likely to be repressed in men. In girls, their feelings towards their mothers are more ambivalent than boys to their fathers and physical contact between them, their mothers and other girls are culturally encouraged. Homosexual tendencies are therefore stronger in women. It is in this we see the higher inclination men have for delusional jealousy as it arises from repressed homosexual

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