GREED is one of seven basic character flaws or “dark” personality traits. We all have the potential for greedy tendencies, but in people with a strong fear of lack or deprivation, Greed can become a dominant pattern.

7 CFs 300

What is greed?

Greed is the tendency to selfish craving, grasping and hoarding. It is defined as:

A selfish or excessive desire for more than is needed or deserved, especially of money, wealth, food, or other possessions [1]

Other names for greed include avarice, covetousness and cupidity.

Selfish and excessive desire is widely considered immoral, a violation of natural or divine law. For example, “avarice” is one of the seven deadly sins in Catholicism (avarice: pleasing oneself with material acquisitions and possessions instead of pleasing God). And according to Buddhism, “craving” is a fundamental hindrance to enlightenment (craving: compulsively seeking happiness through acquiring material things).

As with the opposite chief feature of self-destruction, greed stems from a basic fear of life. To be exact, greed is driven by a fundamental sense of deprivation, a need for something that is lacking or unavailable.

When this feeling of lack is particularly strong, a person can become utterly fixated on seeking what they “need”, always trying to get hold of the one thing that will finally eliminate the deep-rooted feeling of not having enough.

That one thing could be money, power, sex, food, attention, knowledge … just about anything. It could be something concrete or abstract, real or symbolic. But it will be something very specific on which the entire need-greed complex becomes fixated.

Once that happens, life becomes a quest to acquire as much of it as possible.

Components of greed

Like all chief features, greed involves the following components:

  1. Early negative experiences
  2. Misconceptions about the nature of self, life or others
  3. A constant fear and sense of insecurity
  4. A maladaptive strategy to protect the self
  5. A persona to hide all of the above in adulthood

Early Negative Experiences

In the case of greed, the early negative experiences typically consist of insufficient or inadequate nurturing in early childhood, perhaps enough to threaten the child’s survival.

All infants are born with a natural desire for love, nurture, care, attention and interaction. In some cases, however, the source of such things—notably the caregiver—may be absent or unavailable. Perhaps not all of the time, but enough for the infant to experience the lack. Enough for the child to become terrified of never getting enough of what he or she needs.

The situation could be natural and unavoidable, like the untimely death of a parent, or living through a time of famine. Alternatively, the situation could be deliberately imposed, such as willful neglect.

Another example would be a mother who is too off-her-head on drugs to look after her child.

Whatever the circumstances, the effect on the child is a sense of deprivation, unfulfilled need, of never having enough.

Another common factor in the formation of greed is the availability of substitutes. Imagine, for example, a parent who fails to provide nurturing but – out of guilt – provides lots of gifts in the form of money, toys, chocolate, TV. In effect, the parent says “You cannot have me, you cannot have what you really need, but – hey – you can have this instead.”

Ultimately, the substitute is always inadequate. No amount of TV can make up for lack of human contact. No amount of chocolate can make up for lack of love. But the child learns to make do with whatever is available.


From such experiences of deprivation and lack, a child comes to perceive life as being unreliable and limited — but also containing the missing ingredient for happiness:

My well-being depends on me getting all that I desire.

I cannot truly be myself, a whole person, until I get what has always been missing.

Life is limited. There isn’t enough for everyone. I miss out because other people are taking my share, getting what is rightfully mine.

Once I have it all, I will never lack anything ever again.

Over time, the growing child might also become cynical about what life has to offer:

All I ever get are unsatisfactory substitutes.

I cannot trust anyone to give me what I need.

If I am given a gift, there must be something wrong with it.

Everything falls short of my requirements.


Based on the above  misconceptions and early negative experiences, the child becomes gripped by a specific kind of fear. In this case, the fear is of lackof having to go without something essential as there may not be enough of it to go around.

What exactly “it” is depends upon the individual’s own idea of what it is they really need, but it will be something specific like love, attention, power, fame, money, and so on.

Because of this constant fear, the individual will obsessively crave the “needed” thing. They will also tend to envy those who have that thing.


The basic strategy for coping with this fear of lack is to acquire, possess and hoard the “needed” thing. Typically this involves:

  • obsessively seeking the chosen substitute for the original lack;
  • compulsively acquiring it;
  • hoarding it;
  • preventing others from acquiring it;
  • criticising what is available (in the hope of eliciting something better);
  • blaming others for failing to provide enough.


Finally, emerging into adulthood, the chief feature of greed puts on a socially-acceptable mask which says to the world, “I am not selfish. I am not greedy. I am not doing this for me. See how generous I am. See how my possessions make other people happy.” In fact, the greedy person is never happy so long as the possibility of lack remains.

The mask of greed can also manifest as criticism of others’ greed or selfishness. The chief feature thinks to itself: If it isn’t socially acceptable to crave and grasp and hoard, I shall go around criticising others who crave and grasp and hoard more obviously than me. That way, people won’t suspect how bad I really am.

All people are capable of this kind of behaviour. When it dominates the personality, however, one is said to have a chief feature of greed.

The survival instinct in greed

Because the compulsion of greed is usually driven by some early, traumatising sense of deprivation that may be lost to memory, it often manifests only later in childhood, adolescence and adulthood as one of our most essential survival instincts comes into play: competition.

Competition for resources is a universal instinct and one of the most important factors in biology. Different species can compete for the same watering hole, for example. Within the same species, males can compete for the same female, or for “top dog” position.

At an instinctive level we are still like hunter-gatherers who survive against the odds by making sure we have what we need. The cave-dweller within us is still primed to hunt, catch, gather and hoard.

We are also a tribal species who will instinctively take from other tribes as a desperate measure to feed our own. This is pretty much what all post-apocalyptic movies are showing us: take away civilisation, and we soon return to “acting like animals.” (Except that animals, of course, animals don’t usually take more than they need. It’s not a very efficient use of energy.)

Greed in action

Let’s now unpack the elements of greed in action to illustrate how it works and what it feels like.

Compelling need

By definition, greed is a compelling “need” to constantly acquire, consume or possess more of something than is actually necessary or justifiable. You would experience this subjectively as an all-consuming lust, hunger or craving for something (money, sex, food, power, fame, etc…). This might be triggered by suddenly seeing the object of your desire, or an opportunity to go after it. Underlying the desire, however, is a terrible insecurity, a primal fear of lack or deprivation, though this is likely to be more unconscious than conscious. On the surface there is just the compulsion to satisfy the need.

Risky commitment

When the “need” is being strongly felt, you become compelled to commit a great deal of time and energy to seeking and acquiring your thing, setting all else aside. The only clear course of action, it seems, is to try and satisfy this longing because, after all, it promises to give you that long-lost sense of security.

Others might question your peculiar commitment and determination, given that it seems you are willing to risk everything over this personal obsession. But you can always find a way to argue the case: “This is important to me. It will make me happy. It will make you happy too. And if I do happen to end up with more than I need, I’ll just give some away… Everybody will thank me for it!”

Brief gratification

Sometimes you might achieve success in getting what you seek. And in those moments when the elusive object of your desire is actually in your hands you experience truly intoxicating feelings of triumph and relief.

However, these gratifying moments are all too brief… You feel that the “win” was just not enough. In fact, there is no such thing as enough.

Despite all your best efforts, and despite every success, an abiding sense of security or fulfilment is never reached. The overwhelming desire is literally insatiable so long as the underlying fear is never addressed.

Harsh realities

You may then experience frustration at the transience of such pleasure, especially given the investment of time and energy. (“Was it really worth it?”)

You may experience shame and guilt over the damaging effects of your actions upon your relationships, reputation, financial security, etc. (“What was I thinking?” “I’m hurting the very people I love.” “I’m ruining my life when it’s all been going so well.”)

You may feel overwhelming anxiety over the uncertain future (“I’m on a slippery slope to hell”).

All of this has the effect of evoking fear and insecurity, and a compelling need to fill that hole, and so the cycle begins again.

You might experience all these at some level at once, or have different ones in your foreground at different times. Still, it is very comparable to a cycle of addiction, in that the desire becomes harder and harder to satisfy, so the target level of a “win” or a “fix” keeps going up, which in turn requires more and more investment of time, energy and money.

There is also a greater cost to self-esteem, as you become more and more “enslaved” to the need. And of course, a greater cost to one’s other commitments, such as career and relationships, which compete for the same time and energy.

By way of illustration, I came across this NY Times article by a guy called Sam Polk [2], a former hedge-fund trader, who describes the greed pattern in his own experience:

“In my last year on Wall Street my bonus was $3.6 million — and I was angry because it wasn’t big enough. I was 30 years old, had no children to raise, no debts to pay, no philanthropic goal in mind. I wanted more money for exactly the same reason an alcoholic needs another drink: I was addicted.”

An obsessive pursuit of wealth not only taps into our competitive survival instinct very neatly — seeking, hunting, catching, hoarding, winning, stealing if necessary… It also MAGNIFIES the sensations involved (desperation, excitement, thrill, triumph, reward) and it ACCELERATES the whole cycle, from what may have been days, weeks and even months (to acquire enough food to get through winter, say) to hours, minutes or even seconds (to win a jackpot).

“When I walked onto that trading floor for the first time and saw the glowing flat-screen TVs, high-tech computer monitors and phone turrets with enough dials, knobs and buttons to make it seem like the cockpit of a fighter plane, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. It looked as if the traders were playing a video game inside a spaceship; if you won this video game, you became what I most wanted to be — rich.”

The satisfaction, he says, wasn’t just about the money. Soon, it was more about the power.

“Because of how smart and successful I was, it was someone else’s job to make me happy.”

Note the sense of entitlement to being looked after, a common factor in many forms of greed.

Positive and Negative Poles

In the case of greed, the positive pole is a state which may be referred to as DESIRE, EGOISM or APPETITE, while the negative pole is one of VORACITY or GLUTTONY.

+ desire / egoism / appetite +
– voracity / gluttony –

Egoism (not to be confused with egotism) is state of self-centred acquisitiveness: I will have what I want and need. It is the opposite of altruism.

Why is this a positive pole? Because in moderation, satisfying one’s own needs and desires is part of what life is about. We are not all here to be self-sacrificing saints. We are here to make choices, and most of our choices will be driven by our own needs and desires. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with having a “healthy appetite”. In fact, it is healthier to be driven by one’s desires rather than one’s fears.

Voracity or gluttony is a state of excessive egoism, unjustified acquisitiveness. Not only does it cause one to acquire more than is ever going to be necessary, it can also lead to others being deprived of the same thing.


Moreover, once the negative pole of greed takes control of the personality, it does not care who it hurts in the process of getting what it “needs”. All things are secondary to the fear of lack. This is why, of all the chief features, greed is the hardest on others in one’s life.

How to handle greed?

Greed isn’t simply naked selfishness. It is multi-faceted and multi-layered, with elements that may be buried far below the level of everyday awareness. So if one is to get on top of a pattern of greed then one ought to consider this complexity.

Here are some suggestions, in no particular order:

  • Understand that while greed is a compulsion, you still have free will. You have many choices available you you. Try not to justify or rationalise your actions by saying that you have no other choice. You do have other choices, it’s just that you allow the intensity of “need” and the fear underlying it to hijack your mind, overriding your ability to step back and ask yourself, What are my options here?
  • Identify how the cycle of greed works within you, if you can. What triggers the craving? How conscious are you of your options? How do you convince yourself and others that your compulsive striving isn’t irrational? What happens when you actually achieve success? Does it always turn out to be just too little, and the elation too brief? Does it soon turn into frustration? Does it deepen your insecurity? Each part of the cycle is a falsehood, a weak link that can be broken.
  • Get a hold of the idea “There is no such thing as enough.” See if you can feel its presence in your own mind, or some variation of it. Then affirm to yourself how illogical and destructive it is. See if you can decide for yourself what “enough” is – a specific level of income, for example. Notice any resistance to that and see where it’s coming from (competitiveness? fear of losing? fear of insufficiency?)
  • Try to reduce the time you spend looking for opportunities to satisfy the craving. Avoid spending time looking at the things that turn your craving on. Avoid stimulating the desire with thoughts of competing for the prize. For example, who cares what your neighbours earn? — it’s none of your business. Avoid hanging out with friends, relatives or colleagues who boast about their own achievements. Try not to feed any thoughts about getting more and more.
  • Instead of giving your attention to things you want but don’t have, be mindful to take real pleasure in what you do have. In other words, don’t just tick the boxes for the things you’ve acquired, then focus on what’s next on the list, but relish the things that you already have, with gusto. If you have a private swimming pool, love swimming in that pool! One of the factors in greed is a disappointment even in great success because of the background thought that there is always more to be had. To avoid that, immerse yourself in the sensory and visceral pleasures of what you do have — let your instincts know that they have been well met at a physical level!
  • Also, notice any good things in your life which you did not acquire through your own striving. Some people with an obsessive need for intimacy, for example, may be born into great wealth but not even notice it because they are so fixated on resolving the lack of intimacy. So, pay attention to what you have. If gratitude works for you, express gratitude as a daily exercise. If not gratitude, then appreciation — express (just to yourself is OK) your appreciation for the good things you have. Let the appreciation grow — you will find yourself feeling happier.
  • Address the underlying dread. See a therapist if necessary, or just try introspection and journal-writing if you have the self-discipline. See if you can identify the “lack” or whatever it is that you fear so terribly. Naming things is empowering. Find the association between this anxiety and your greed-type actions. Know that you have the choice not to act on that fear. You may also be able to shed a realistic light on the fear so that it diminishes – “I used to crave food because I got so little. Now I can afford to feed myself, I know that I’m not going to starve to death as an adult, and so there is no need to gorge on food at every opportunity.” Bring the light of conscious awareness and choice to your inner drives and conflicts.
  • Finally, if you are aware of having a compulsion towards greed, try, try, try not to judge yourself too harshly for it. Greed is one of the traps that anyone can fall into. It’s not as easy to embrace as, say, self-deprecation because it so outwardly and blatantly selfish, which is socially unacceptable, even if the individual doing it hates himself for it. But just hating yourself for it solves nothing. However, being able to come to terms with it — to say “I have this problem. It’s like an addiction, but I’m dealing with it. I’m getting on top of it. I’m bigger than this thing. And I’m going to make sure no one is ever harmed by it again, including me.” — that’s heading towards a solution.


    [2] Sam Polk on YouTube

    Further Reading

    TYDFor an excellent book abut the chief features and hw to handle them, see Transforming Your Dragons by José Stevens.

88 thoughts on “Greed

  1. Brilliant!
    I actually have a mother who out of greed even hides food, everything from baking soda, cheese, bread, and is always trying use her family for something to she does not want to spend her money on.

    Her sick behavior has become even worst with age. She lies about everything and is always up to something. It’s hard not being able to trust your own mother, actually I wish I never knew her.

    • Ouch. It is said that impatience is hardest on yourself while greed is hardest on those around you. I would just add, bear in mind that under all that self-serving behaviour there is a deep-seated terror of deprivation. Best of luck to both of you.

    • I am afraid you’ve misunderstood the whole point of this exercise, that should focus mainly on finding your own true character flaw, henceforth enabling you to tame your dragon than diagnosing your mother’s. It seems quite obvious you both suffer from the same chief feature, otherwise you wouldn’t be so bothered by hers. Moreover, the first
      listed cause for GREED is lacking paternal or maternal love and affection…

    • Meanwhile six years later….

      I totally get what you are saying. I used to say that about my father and my mother, but mostly my father.

      The abuse started when I was in the womb, and did not stop after I left home, for by then I had developed self-destructive behaviour. I had virtually no safe places save the dissociation, which I lived in frequently and unbeknownst to me until fairly recently, subconsciously; it worked when I was a child for survival, but harmful as an adult.

      Our parents did what they did because somebody did something to them, it is more often than not generational. The first step towards healing is recognizing those inherited traits in ourselves, and then forgiving what others have done to us. This starts to break down the cycle.

      Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves. We unhook ourselves from our abusers, torturers, tormentors, etc. Forgiveness is also a diminishing pain. It takes time for the emotion to catch up with the decision. Forgiveness also does not mean to go back and be revictimized. Reconciliation is not necessary if not realistically possible.

      I chose to look at the good and bad aspects of each parent’s character — the bad in order to break the cycle, and the good to encourage growth and to be grateful for the good they did teach me. Now I am grateful for, in example, my father who tried his best with what he knew to do right by me and teach me a better way to live, and my mother who tried her best to nurture me in the midst of her own crushing pain. Today I stand by my own convictions not someone else’s, was sheltered from even worse abuse, and came out of it with a desire to break generations of dysfunction for my own children and future generations, and also the ability to empathize with and help others. Not perfect by any stretch, however, never give up on the road towards wholeness.

      I sincerely hope that you chose to forgive over these past six years. YOU are worth it.

  2. I must say the realization of greed as my chief feature just came crashing down like a ton of bricks.
    I live in poverty so my greed hasn’t been for expensive material things, but rather for knowledge and truth and the desire for personal growth and reflection at the expense of others.
    My girlfriend just flat out called me selfish last night after I didn’t want to go to bed as early as she did and then begged her to tell me why she was upset. All for my own need and with complete disregard for her feelings.
    I never had a lack of gifts or food growing up. But I did have a very distinct lack of emotional love and support from my parents that continues to this day. Unfortunately it’s gotten to the point over the last few years that it’s manifested as major depressive disorder and frequent panic attacks for which I’m now taking medication.
    All I have to say is ‘wow’. This has been a very sobering morning

    • I have a personally question for you, if u don’t mind me asking you what kind of medication are you taken & the only reason I’m asking such a personally ?? Is because I too went threw the same problems I’m my childhood & now that I’m older I have these random panic attacts. Many doctors have tryed to put me on different meds but to be honest I’m scared to take somthing that’s pointless and what if they woundnt work.

  3. I’ve reached a crossroad: how do I render appropriate my acquisitiveness of knowledge, in my ‘growth phase’ as you put it (I tentatively take it as my soul’s aim in this life, to put it in your terms-officially materialist atm-and it’s what led me to this site, incidentally thru a google exploration of stalin and gogol’s different moralities. Huh.)

    I never had a ‘lack’- the first birthday present I remember was an encyclopedia-tell me why, whose entire collection I had within a few more bdays. The rental units were part of the new middle-class of a post-colonial third world (my dad is 3 months older than my country), both university educated (very unusual, economically but a common cultural aspiration from then and now, men and women) and my teachers all said I had so much potential-and as many questions.

    I want to know all of it, but from a bloody-minded determination to know the conditions of my existence, to know the worst for it, and to provide for it. We all want wisdom, which is manifested in anticipating the forseeable and hedging accordingly. At what point do I know enough, and any more is greed? I am also willing to retransmit inspiring information to all who will listen (while pointing them in the direction of the source, for extra) and since my hunger for knowledge in itself can’t deprive others of that or other knowledge, que problem?

    • It just sounds like you have a huge drive to acquire knowledge — I don’t see any problem, but then you haven’t mentioned experiencing a problem either. The only issue would be if that drive comes from an irrational existential fear (such as “I must know everything or my life will have no meaning” or “I must know more than anybody else if I am to win”) rather than authentic desire (“knowledge is of inherent value”).

  4. Hi, first off, I want to say thank you for having a series of such insightful posts. You really gave me a new scope through which I can view and improve upon myself.

    But as to the “Greed” article, I saw that in others like “Self-Deprecation” you provided ideas on how to solve the issue. With greed here, I see none. Why is that?

    • Oh my gosh, you’re right. Haha, maybe I was subconsciously taunting all those with Greed who would read it and then feel the “lack” of helpful advice!

      Thanks for pointing this out Phil. I wrote all of these character flaw pieces in one session and must have just lost track of this one. Now added to my priority TO DO list.


    • My Oppinion is, There is No cure for greed! You either ARE or ARE NOT! I know someone who has been this way all her life…so greedy that she stole many things from many people for the simple reason of having them in her own possession! She has allowed material things to ruin, even rot instead of offering them to someone else that could have used them. She actually used to hide food from her family and friends and instead of cooking at home, would sneak off to a Restaurant to eat alone! And then, LIE about it! And when she thought she had a “Friend” she would do everything possible to keep that person to herself…if you tried to be friends with the same person, she would get really defensive and mad over it! Needless to say she is now Obese, alone, and still greedy!

    • Hi Debbie,
      She sounds like a classic case of someone with intense greed in several forms, but little awareness of it, and still less empathy for others. In fact, she could perhaps qualify for the label “Machiavellian personality type”, which just means a person whose social life is merely a deliberate tactic to serve their own selfish ends. Very hard work to be around…!

  5. I really think what you said is true…. I’m writing a paper on the effects of greed and how it can change someone’s life. And what you said was helpful cause I didn’t understand why someone would go out of their way just for money or fame or even food :-p…
    But thanks again for your help…

  6. Thank you very much for this article. It has allowed me to have far more compassion for my father, about who’s greed I’ve puzzled over for most of my life but particular at the moment because even when he is facing life threatening surgery he is unable to conquer his greed for food. I just realised through reading the above that the lack he is so fearful of is that of his own fathers love, who in turn was most likely unable to express his love owing to his experience as he was disowned by his own father as a young man. I had a dream this week in which I was clearly trying to work out my own greed for food which is what brought me to this article. Incredibly helpful & given me much comfort & lots to think about, thank you.

    • Thanks, Gayle
      I’m really delighted that you got something of value from the article.

  7. What is the best way to cure this in oneself?

    I am at the point where all I think about is how to get money and become rich. It’s draining me, as I can’t stop this feeling of insatiability. It’s causing me to experience shortness of breath, and affecting my concentration.

    I have become Daniel Plainview – I am not interested in anything or anyone that doesn’t seem to help me become rich. I need to fix this before it gives me a heart attack.

    Thanks for your help.

    • Hi John

      Apologies for my very late reply – I’ve been out of action due to health issues, creating a huge backlog, but getting back up to speed now. In the meantime, I hope you’ve managed to avoid that heart attack.

      As for greed and how to cure it… You are not the first one to ask and I can see that the greed pattern is taking you to an unhealthy place, i.e. the vicious circle of addiction. I’ll see if I can give a full and helpful response. 

      [Edit – I’ve cut my response from here and added it to the main text – B]

      By the way, in looking through scientific articles on the nature of greed, it’s amazing to me how unsympathetic and judgemental in tone many of them are. Instead of saying, for example, “greed is a destructive habit that can be as painful for the individual with greed as it is for those around him…”, they tend to say (in effect) “greed is a destructive habit indulged in by bad, selfish people who ought to be ashamed of themselves.” 

      It’s also very easy to wag a finger at those driven by greed and blame them for the global financial crisis. Saying after the fact that certain people acted selfishly and recklessly out of “sheer greed” is like saying terrorists act out of “sheer evil” — it doesn’t explain anything, it just makes “them” out be less human than “us”. 

      One good and recent exception is the book Scarcity (see below for link).


      Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much, by Sendhil Mullainathan & Eldar Shafir.

    • This is exactly what I was looking for. Thank you for your thoughts, and explanations on what greed is, and how to cope with it as a self fault. I wonder if there are any articles about protecting yourself from the greed of others, particularly those who are close to you. I feel that I have been in several situations recently where I was the victim of another’s greed. Due to the situation, a simple ‘no’, which I am good at, was not the answer. One situation was my son, whose father died when he was 15, the other was a work situation with a ‘boss’ who was insecure, cruel, and misused his supervisory position. Are you familiar with articles, or do you have any thoughts on how to deal with greed from that angle? Thanks, Becky

  8. Lack…WOW. Mothers and fathers. I really should commit to these problems from running my life anymore. This article is terribly accurate to the spiritual issues I feel in life. I;ve gained value from this and I comment as a way of remembering what greed is all about, I hope and pray that I may be able to mend myself and rid of vulgar habits. Im not even religious bruh! AWESOME AND GREAT

  9. This was a very interesting article Barry. I enjoyed reading it and agree with most of the stuff. I cant save that I have been greedy about anything in my life though. Maybe as a child with my toys or something, but not to much of anything today. I am a very likeable person and don’t do anything I’m not expose to. I an writing a research paper on greed and this was very helpful.

    Thanks Barry,
    Kasey Hawk

  10. Excellent article, best I’ve ever read about greed.

    I have a brother who is a self-made billionaire and he is the greediest person one can ever imagine. Not only greedy but excessively selfish as well. He defrauded our mother out of her half of their partnership when he was just 25 years old by threatening to not be her son anymore if she didn’t rescind the contract. He has restricted his own family’s spending to the point where his wife feels resentful of anyone that even asks for financial help. He is extremely envious of siblings in any successes they may have and revels in any of their failures. He barely helps to financially support our parents and brags about it, yet his annual contribution equals about $50 of my household’s income as a percentage of his income and he still wants siblings to do more! He threatened to put my mom on welfare recently and he reconsidered when she said he’d better not dare do that. He is devious, cunning, and shameful in all aspects of business and personal life and I am ashamed of him. His attitude and behavior towards his parents and siblings is atrocious and has destroyed our family.

    Everything in your article is true, I have witnessed it first hand and it makes me sick at heart. Thank you for affirming what I have always suspected all along with him, a fear of being unlovable and not receiving the love he needed as a child.

    • Hi Michelle,

      Really glad the article rings true for you, or rather your brother. But … good grief. He must be one of the most serious cases I’ve ever come across. Not so much a textbook example but the very epitome of greed, full-on and larger-than-life. Amazing. And also horrendous for you and others in the family. (With greed, it’s those nearest who suffer the most.)

      Thanks so much for sharing,


  11. Hi Barry,

    Wow my so called ex fiancée is so greedy and so selfish we bought a house together and when separated he wanted everything to himself what is worse its a joint bond. Lawyers are so surprised with his behaviour, to show eh is greedy I found that he was stealing money from his work environment millions and he was busted. this thing of taking a small amount landing up buying big things. Even now he has not learnt his lesson he only thinks of himself not even for his own kids. I think when his asleep he sees money only and he likes to play big and he is a very good liar from his background to his education which he comes from normal family but said to people from rich family. I’ve never seen a person so evil like that one. He is in denial of things and thinks he is the only one who exists. People are really sick out there talking of him, i’m glad i’m no longer with such a person.

    • Sounds like what psychologists would call a narcissistic personality (high sense of self-importance and personal entitlement, low sense of empathy for others). In other words, a case of greed with very little self-awareness.

  12. Hi Barry. I’ve read all your posts with interest and was very surprised to work out my chief feature is GREED! I have little interest in money but rather I covet ‘things’. If I get something at a bargain price or FREE then even better!

    I find it fascinating how greed is so looked down upon. The comments for all the other pages are mainly about how people relate to the feature themselves but here on GREED most people are saying ‘Yes. I know someone like that and they are really, really horrid.’

    I’m putting my hand up and saying YES my personality is greedy and selfish. I get annoyed when I don’t get what I want – to the extreme that I fantasize about living on my own, away from husband and young children, just so I can get what I want. I hoard things and keep them secretive. They are MINE. I also acknowledge if I have a chocolate bar I’d rather hide in a corner and eat it than share it with my family. Not very nice but true.

    It appears to me more like a self-preservation thing – if I have all these things around me I’ll be safe. My mother was also very greedy. Can behaviour be learned rather than forged? It wasn’t a great childhood ( I was lonely and mildly neglected) but nothing traumatic. My mother was also a MARTYR “Look what I have sacrificed for you!” I’m not though. I can’t work out my second feature.

    Luckily I guess I’m aware enough to know that selfishness is bad. I may hide that chocolate bar now but I would share food with my family in a real famine (or at least I believe I would). We are very lucky to live where all our basic needs are met and so there is no really reason to be greedy.

    My advice to people suffering from GREED is to acknowledge it and understand it for what it is – a survival instinct. And then to move past it. It’s okay, there’s nothing to fear – you are clothed, fed and sheltered (hopefully). Next look at what really makes you happy – sharing experiences (community), learning new things (education), helping others (charity), creating things (art/construction) and focus on those things instead 🙂

    GREED is for babies. You are more mature than that!

    • I saw this and laughed…..There was a period in my life where one minute I had a very well paid job, the next I had the same amount of time in the job out of one. Thank God I lived like this (except didn’t see it as coveting, instead more like self survival!) particularly when one day I was on the motorway praying from one service station to the next I would have some money in my cash point to get petrol rather than the car using its self cut out device on me between stations due to lack of petrol and money!: I have little interest in money but rather I covet ‘things’. If I get something at a bargain price or FREE then even better! Particularly if it is something you really need.

  13. Hi Kelly,

    Thanks for your perspective and advice.

    Funnily enough, someone just commented the same thing about Arrogance – lots of people willingly own up to Self-deprecation but few own up to Arrogance or Greed. I guess it’s because we know that the outward-facing features (Arrogance, Greed, Impatience) are all classic signs of ego, or sinfulness if you’re a Catholic, while the more inward-facing features (Self-dep, Self-destruction and Martyrdom) seem relatively socially acceptable. So anyway, well done for “coming out” with Greed!


    • I would say the more we mature psychologically and spiritually, the less selfish are our desires. Life gives us the means and opportunity to develop from egoism to altruism via insight, empathy and compassion. I guess we just have to find the motive.

  14. I am struggling to fully understand the greed of a family member, I am trying to explore coping mechanisms further advice would be useful to me

    • That they need an excessive amount. That no amount is enough, or too much. That life itself is somehow dependent upon acquiring and holding onto these things, yet these things are merely just artificial substitutes for what life really needs (love, contact, nurturing).

  15. So, what about if you never steal from people but you steal from stores? You aren’t hurting anyone, you aren’t taking anything from anyone, you’re just taking it from the company. And I don’t mean stealing iPhones and tablets, I mean overpriced lipsticks and insanely small figurines for the price they are. If the company is greedy by taking your money with overpricing, doesn’t it not count?

    • When we say that “No one gets hurt by my stealing”, we overlook the fact that WE are.


      By convincing ourselves yet again that some sinister intangible “thing” out there (such as a big corporation) is to blame for our own actions.

      It’s just another way of saying “I am innocent, at least compared to them, therefore I should be allowed to get away with stuff. I’m not responsible for the bad things I do. THEY are.”

      It’s the ego wearing the mask of martyrdom (as opposed to greed). Martyrdom convinces us that we are innocent but exploited by dark forces that leave us impotent. It absolves us from taking responsibility for or own choices.

    • Yeah, but the price goes back to the consumer and the price goes up. The company has to make its money back from theft, and the consumers end up paying for it.

  16. Someone’s mother’s *greed could be their own offsprings problem unless they are in fact the *greedy one and their mother is not. Further more it cannot be *impatience driving someone to not *wait for a *greedy mother to be generous. For an example: claim: ‘If a person can’t be *patient and *wait for a *violent person to stop committing physically descriptive acts of violence against their physical body, it is *their problem.’ is a narrative flip, which is also a symptom of greed. Someone hides his or her greediness by trying convince descriptively *visible people that an undescribable *invisible people are indescribably greedy. Non-violence as well as not being greedy are *unseen. Violence is *seen. The unseen nature of greed is attempts to keep *hidden both a physical object and the *unseen primary objective. Nevertheless acts of greed are *physically is descriptive.

    Blaming the *victim makes an attempt for one to *cover up one’s own *hidden inability to acquire a *sense of justice deprived of another. The flip side is playing *devil’s advocate which forces an alleged *victim to legitimize both allegations of crimes that *remain to be seen, as well as giving them an ample opportunity to confess *hidden guilt, depending whether or not they are *crying wolf in order to *victimize an *unseen individual, i.e. *the devil, and acquire sympathy by sectretly attempting to defraud another’s *hidden nuturing emotions of *empathy.

    Not all are mindfully equipped to acquire a useful understanding of psychology, because in itself psychology demands rigorous *honesty with oneself in order to effectively display stewardship of a general idea of the knowledge of the mind within the mind, which is the third most untapped source of academia next to the *hidden contents of worlds oceans and outer space.

    Nitpicking through the *hiddenness of the human mind to eliminate bugs in the system is really an *unknown knowledge unless other people are actually using their own *freewill and *freer mind to thank a student of knowledge for having *helped them adress something *hidden.

    The art of psychology is quintessence of what can be perjoritively known as “nitpicking.” No one *inherently knows what psychology does without a *patient to *thank them for *helping them with their *problems. Acts of *kindness and *love oppose all inherent predispositions of *material greed. Giving people hugs can potentially reveal *generous giving because an embrace is invisible until a hug is *present. To *reveal a *presence of *compassion of someone deprived of a *desire for *generosity embraces shared consciousness which is also *invisible albeit descriptive. So is *desire. So is *greed. So is *patience. So is *kindness. So is expressing the loss of something that is inherently *invisible. Love is not greed. Expressing a desire for a parent capable of showing love is not a selfish desire.

    Rendering love as useless is what convinces the conciousness of the heart, which has 40,000 neurons, to send messages of hunger to the 0.1 billion neurons in the stomach, most often during expressions of grief and loss,, which sends an objective message to be recieved and processed within the 100 billion neurons in the brain, and returning to sender its conclusive message to the 40,000 neurons in the heart attempting to replace what the 0.1 billion neurons in the stomach because of ever-present in the back of the mind or “thalamus” which tells the pituatary gland to carry out specific commands to present atomic and subatomic information to form throughout the entire body. Whether or not this manifestation is a command for something visible or invisible, something missing or known in the body as present, neurons works according to what is present, needed, missing or within the body. The pituitary gland already knows what it is, and the size of the object of desire is full known in the 40,000 neurons in the heart, which is the first organ to form in the body.

    The heart is where image of the body was first formed from a single neuron and sent out, ending up in formed brain that has a pituitary gland that knew exactly what size to make you and what form and dimensions your body features should take on as the outer region of the heart. The trippy part is that the pineal gland is the first part of the brain to form so your pineal gland knew enough about you to be able to tell you what your unformed body would look like even before your pituitary gland told you to grow from a fetus into a baby in utero 266 days later.

    God is Love. Love is all around you. Love is inside of you. Love consiously waits *patiently to be *desired. Love is unconditional. Love makes the heart beat faster. Love presses against sensory cognitive dissonnace within the body.

    Conditional love is yet inadequate to address or reveal hunger to or satisfy or create hunger within the consciousness of the body. To the minds eye opens the known image of its *desire. Whether consciously, subconsiously or unconsciously it seeks to fulfill whatever image it reflects.

    Unconditional Love is beyond inherent human capacity. Conditions are infinite guidelines beset on all sides. And to have spoken directly to Love out of a desire that Love reveal the hidden quintesssen of Love and allow this to confirm its desired objective throughout the body as the object of its desire, is the desire of the stomach to reveal a gut feeling to replace a desire hidden in the back of thd mind to command the most powerful muscle in the body that is directly connected to the heart to begin to speak to Love.

  17. What about 2nd and 3rd generation rich people who are also greedy? Or corporate greed? In the case of rich families, the children supposedly wouldn’t have grown up lacking in anything, no early childhood trauma. They could’ve possibly grown up lacking in direct parental affection (that seems to be the current commercially accepted stereotype), however, this would be difficult to determine without corroboration from the greedy individuals themselves. And if this was the cause isn’t it the maintenance of affluence that is the very cause of the lack of affection and so would act as a deterrent to greed? And corporate greed, is that just an amalgamation of unchecked greedy individuals, a greed cult? I live in the U.S. where addiction to food, drugs, sex, etc have their individual rehabs. But the addiction to money is presented as a positive character trait, when in reality, it has the most potential to do the most harm to the greatest number of people. Does capitalism, which by its very nature stratifies society, foster greed?

  18. Hey guys! I want to use this article in my thesis however I need “credible” sources to quote. Is there an author or a book that I am able to cite?

  19. Hello I thought this was great! Thank you so much for all the helpful information. I want to cite your article, can i please get citation info. Thanks again.

  20. Im working on a psychobiography about greed. and i used your paper as a reference. how can i cite the paper? Please reply asap.

  21. This is the most relevant article I have seen on greed. I would like to cite you in my book which is about empowering “smugglers”, change agents inside of organizations, to do something about the greed that has infected corporate America (the world actually). This is a beautiful summary. I can be reached at . I have signed up for your blog and look forward to exploring your site. I also visited the youtube video you suggested. I couldn’t believe how much the hosts of the show didn’t understand where Sam Polk was coming from. I intend to email him as well. Thank you again for putting this out into the world.

  22. I’m writing a paper for my college English class and like your article. Any way i could get the citation information?

  23. Really loved your article! I am writing a paper on greed and was wondering if I could get your sources? Thank you!

  24. This was a really nice and beautiful article. I am writing a paper about greed and wondering if you can send me the citation information. I hope you have a great day!

  25. Hello, thank you for all the information provided. I came across your article because i have understood now at the age of 27 why i am acting in a such destructive way for me and the ones around me.

    I realized in the last months that my life is going on and off like episodes from a reality show. and it was like this since a long time ago..i can see the vicious cycle more vivid and present than ever. I decided to seek your help and guidance because i don’t believe in therapy with modern pills or modern doctors and yesterday an episode happen who completely devastated me and i saw myself asking : Why do i live anyway? i should rather not and hope that my next re incarnation will get me to a better place, mentally speaking.

    Since i started to acknowledge , it seems that its more difficult to conrol it and life is telling me to think again , i am still the same person as before..i cannot seem to remember what am i reading and to put in practice is impossible in that moment.

    I just moved with my BF and the last episode got me to physically hurt him, and shout in a very scary way..he left the house and i remained alone with all that i have done..and starting judging everyone in my family have a silent hate towards my family because they left me alone at a young age to go abroad for work.

    A lot of things happen and i feel that i am over traumatized and never escape from my mind.

    I feel really bad about myself..i cannot forgive what happen in the past an these things attract others and so on..i need to heal..i am crying right now , i cannot even speak about these without bursting into tears .thank you for you

  26. Great article. your info confirmed to me that I was right in my long time observation of a family member who married a guy who is a millionaire and from poor Italian Immigrants back in 1930’s, who came into this country with only the clothes on their backs.
    I observed their tactics for 23 years and this Christmas at their home I confirmed GREED.
    I googled GREED and found your article. Enjoyed it and learned and confirmed a lot. Thank You!

  27. Hi Barry! I really enjoy your article and I want to use it in my essay, can you sent me the citing detail please?

  28. I believe that many of us are conditioned to be greedy by the dominant institutions of our society, such as advertising, media, entertainment industry, banking, etc. They all exist for one purpose: to sell you something. However, they first have to create a feeling of “lack” in our lives so that we will go out and buy things to “fill in the hole” in our psyche. This is how marketing works.

    After all, do we really need everything that’s marketed to us on TV /the internet? I’m sure we could all comfortably survive without most of the unnecessary stuff that we are constantly being bombarded with through advertising. So, advertising creates a feeling of insecurity or “self-lack” which can only be overcome through consumption. In this case, fear and a lack of self-worth are the drivers of greed, but they originate from the advertising/ media industry.

    I’m not saying it’s the only source of greed, but it is certainly an important one in our consumer-driven society. It’s not just your parents or friends who can teach you to be greedy; there are other factors involved.

    Spirituality (or the lack thereof) needs to be analysed not just from an individual standpoint, but also from a social one. After all, we live in a society and we are all influenced by certain aspects of it – both good and bad. We can’t really empower ourselves until we’ve addressed the causes of our social dis-empowerment (from political scientist Michael Parenti). This too requires both an individual and social analysis. Very often new-age spirituality tends to downplay social factors which influence people’s personality and spirituality.

    Just thought I’d share a different perspective. I love this site and have been reading it for months now. I’ve learned a lot from it and it has helped my own spiritual growth tremendously, but I also like to think critically about everything, so I usually end up combining philosophies, as long as they resonate with me.

    Cheers Barry. Keep up the amazing work.

  29. So true…great article….feeling like there is never enough or like you are being cheated out of what everyone else has, and then spending your whole life trying to make up for it. It makes me sad because this is my mom and she has never realized the great life in front of her, yet continues to compare herself to what her in laws have, thinking she has never had the nice things they have had and then buys cheap replacements, (many of them) to replace the feeling, yet it never quenches the thirst for what she feels she’s missing out on, (the real thing)….I’m sad thinking about it because she is a good person, who is generous on the other hand….She was one of 5 who grew up with immigrant parents who had very little, including enough food and decent clothing. While I can only imagine what that was like, it has caused so many problems over the years and it’s been our family secret. The hoarding is insane..everything has purpose, even broken things that she feels she can repair. Nothing gets thrown out. We are a large family and I recently realized that most of us are also hoarders..(we call it collecting, antiquing, and thrifting) but it’s all too much and our houses our overflowing. I have a brother who just collects junk items and I think he has 30 mowers that do not run, but one day, he will need the parts, so he says! He has also taken on many animals although he is not a farmer or uses them for any purpose besides calling them pets. My parents are now elderly and they either don’t want to see this or don’t care anymore. In reality, we grew up in a newer house with a big yard and lots of space. We watched what we spent but had a lot, especially for the times. In my own home, I keep it organized but I have many totes full of things I tell myself I am going to sell. My basement if full and so is my garage. I have way too many nick knacks and collectibles all about. We go to auctions to get items for resell but only a small fraction goes to the flea market. As you said, it’s an addiction…What if I miss out on that “good” thing that will bring me money? In reality, when I do get that “good” thing, I keep it! I think that since my flea market/auction addiction has started 3 years ago, it got my mom revved up and got her collecting even more..she is in her late 70’s and tells us she is going to have a big sale one day. There is a slim chance that will happen, yet she needs more for her stockpile and she says there can’t be enough, although there is no place to store it and her basement only has a single path through it with items stacked to the ceiling. Every space in her home is used to store things and there are days it looks like a bomb went off. Maybe my comment is a much needed vent because this isn’t something I can tell anyone, so I apologize for that, but I do feel I at least realize there is a problem and I am going to work my hardest to clean this up and control myself. This time, when I put out my items for the trash, I won’t tell my mother because she will come by and take it all and then she will let me know I am giving away too much and will want to make me feel like I am the one with the problem because I don’t see value 🙁
    I am then made to believe this is a normal way of life and my mother tells me she worries about my concerns, giving it all a green light!

    • A great illustration, and I’m glad you took the trouble to vent! It’s interesting how everyone you mention comes up with some sort of rational justification for the hoarding, but it’s always a fiction, a cover story, to hide the underlying fear of missing something.
      Many thanks.

  30. I found this article also very helpful. Can hardly wait to get to the others! I finally found answers as to why I stop using something up just before it runs out. It reminds me I need more, and there is pain associated with it. Or I get something I need, say, for maintaining my health, but don’t use it because I know I will need to get it again. What is the programming? I have mostly thought my way through around this, I just want more understanding, because the pain catches me once in a while. I am sure there are lots more tentacles to unhook.

    This is not my main dark character trait, but I think it ties into my main one, Self-Destruction.

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