The envious syndrome: Procusto

The envious syndrome: Procusto

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Envy is a declaration of inferiority. Napoleon Bonaparte

The mind is its own abode and alone can make heaven a hell and hell a heaven. John Milton, Paradise Lost.

  • Guadalupe is a woman original, enterprising, hardworking and creative. I recently joined a new job and that particularly bothers her partner Beatriz because she, even with ten years in that same place, had not thought of creating new forms of work.
  • Elizabeth is a woman intelligent, proactive and visionaryHe is pursuing his doctorate and has implemented new analysis procedures to accelerate what used to take his classmates and teachers weeks of work. His advisors try to block her, even now she is a victim of abuse by her all of them in his university. His crime, so to speak, is to think differently and be intelligent.
  • Alberto is a man honest, communicative and compliant in the activities he performs. Victory His couple, is an anchor for him, because every time he tells her the goals he wants to achieve, she demotivates him and gives him 10 reasons why, he won't be able to achieve it?
  • José is very sociable, uninhibited and optimistic, is constantly looking for new ways of doing simple things differently. However, their "best friend”Jorge always advises him to abandon his way of thinking because he thinks he only makes castles in the air.

What do these characters have in common? This dyad has two parts:

  • some are proactive people, with great initiative and many socially positive qualities, we will call them guests, Y
  • in their counterpart the others are envious, controlling, incapable and with many socially negative qualities, we will call them Procustos.


  • 1 What is Procusto syndrome?
  • 2 What are the effects of Procustos on your guests?
  • 3 Strategies for change

What is Procusto syndrome?

To be more understandable, I will divide this term into two parts: on the one hand, what Procusto means in Greek mythology and on the other hand what is known in Psychology as a syndrome.

Like all myths, they are stories or legends, not necessarily true but part of a tradition, culture or country. Then then, although there are many interpretations of Procusto, I tell my version below.

The name of Procusto is born from Greek mythology. Son of Poseidon, Procusto (literally the stretcher), also known as Damastes (the controller) and as Polipemón (A lot of damages) in the story was a man who had a house in the hills and kindly offered an inn to travelers. I treated them in good looks and when I invited them to spend the night at their inn “was a controller ”; If they were small in size, I offered them a large bed, gagged and tied hands and feet, breaking their joints and “stretched ” until it is just the size of the bed. On the contrary, if the travelers were large, offered a small bed, tied and gagged, so that they were just the size of the bed, cut off their heads and the parts that came out of the edges of it. The constant is what, Procusto to all his guests, controlled them, stretched them and it caused them a lot of damage. The same legend describes that the hero Theseus, practices the same procedure to Procusto (he controls it, stretches it and causes it harm) killing the wicked.

On the other hand, a syndrome is: a set of symptoms and signs that are usually due to a single cause (or set of related causes) and that together indicate a particular physical or mental illness or disorder. Also called symptom complex (APA, 2010). The symptoms are subjective manifestations of a pathological state. The symptoms They are described by the affected individual rather than observed by the examiner. The signs: They are objective manifestations of a state that can be pathological. The signs are observed by the clinician rather than described by the affected individual (, 2013).

The symptoms of Procusto and its guests form a symbiotic dyad, that is to say, there cannot be one without the other and their characteristics are very clear and opposed, only the behavioral patterns of the Procustos are presented below, understanding that the profile of the Guests is the reverse pole:

Los Procustos… go through a psychosocial thermometer that goes from some hostile behaviors, to the truly serious and pathological ones:

  • In the affiliate social area they are: Disrespectful, rude, hostile, pedantic, rude, unfriendly, insecure and distrustful.
  • In the emotional conflict-depressive area they are: Frustrated, discouraged, bitter, pessimistic, depressed and unsuccessful.
  • In the emotional emotional area they are: Hateful, cold, indifferent and insensitive.
  • In the emotional reactive area they are: Spiteful (one of the main characteristics in the paranoid personality disorder), temperamental or short-wicked, aggressive, volubile, conflicting, intolerant, disqualifying and anxious.
  • In the educational occupational area they are: Unable, inept, inefficient and lazy, mediocre and with feelings of inferiority (this last characteristic is important, since it is related to personality disorders by avoidance).
  • In the proactive occupational area they are: Apathetic, dominant and passive.
  • In the ethical-moral area they are: Unfair, dishonest, liars, corrupt, false, bad, incorrect, utilitarian, envious and sorry.
  • In the area of ​​serious personality disorders are:
    • Ególatras, narcissists, with high false self-esteem, in need of being admired or taken into account to the extreme, envious, arrogant and with a great sense of being self-important, lacking in empathy, feel special and with the right to authorize and control everything (related to narcissistic disorders) (Halgin & Krauss, 2004).
    • They present behaviors fundamentally related to a lack of moral, social or norms consideration. There are psychopathic behaviors, that is, there is no remorse in doing good or evil, they are not ashamed to commit harmful acts towards others, little capacity for judgment and inability to learn from experience, extreme self-centeredness and inability to love, lack of emotional response to others, impulsivity, absence of nervousness, lack of trust and sincerity. One of the most important features is his great self-worth, tendency to pathological lies, lack of empathy, regret and willingness to take responsibility for the acts themselves (all related to the antisocial personality disorder) (Halgin & Krauss, 2004).

What are the effects of Procustos on its guests?

Taking into account the above characteristics, the damages that the Procustos cause to the guests is that the latter are: despised, screamed, isolated, not disturbed, destroyed, stigmatized, humiliated, discriminated against, harassed, ignored, rumors spread, their ideas are stolen , they practice mobbing or bullying and misrepresent their ideas with all the intention of cutting their dreams, goals, purposes, ideas, projects or expectations.

The behaviors of the despisers are unconscious and toxic (they always express negative opinions) and even believe that they are right in EVERYTHING, their objective is that the OTHER fails in their projects and in their life. They deform teamwork and don't care that a global project as a group succeeds, as long as some person (the guest) doesn't stand out.

They demand quality levels that they themselves don't have. The idea of ​​the procustos is that you depend on their words and opinions and live suspicious and insecure. They will pretend to be your friends, partner, family members (whether or not they are blood relatives) or partners, but it will only be to boycott or take advantage of you. Maximize your little mistakes and minimize your big wins.

However, on the more hidden side of the Procustos, envy with respect to its guests is like an inverted admiration. Of course mediated by envy!

So, if guests thrive, the more they will attack!

Procustos are found in virtually all areas of our social interactions: friends, family, school, work (business) and partner.

We could think of them as stereotypes of goodness (guests) and evil (Procustos). The description in graphic images from my point of view is synthesized in the drawing of the Dutch artist Maurits Cornelis Escher on the tessellation of angels and demons. In his book, "The Lucifer Effect" Philip Zimbardo, referring to Escher's drawing mentions:

  • The world is full of goodness and evil: it has been, it is and always will be.
  • The barrier between good and evil is permeable and nebulous, and
  • Angels can become demons and, something that is perhaps easier to imagine, than demons can become angels (Zimbardo, 2008).

Strategies for change

For guests

  • Have legal support (trade union, human resources, human rights, mediating organizations).
  • Have a psychological support.
  • Resort to different strategies to control emotions (mindfulness, yoga, aerobic exercise), dissociate from conflicts and find spaces where they can spread their ideas and grow.
  • Generate resilience activities where you can grow despite adversity, flourishing and thriving. The more you flourish the procusters will go into apathy.
  • Keep looking for spaces to develop, there will be people who will validate and support your dreams and others who will despise anything you propose.

No one has the right to decide the goals in your life!

For the Procustos

  • Learn to manage the talents of the people around you and grow by collaborating and not competing.


APA (2010) Concise Dictionary of Psychology, Editorial el Manual Moderno, México.

Halgin R. & Krauss S. (2004) Psychology of the abnormality (Clinical Perspectives on Psychological Disorders), Editorial McGrawHill, Mexico.

(2013) Dictionary of psychological terms, accessed July 20, 2017, online: // www. /diccio/dictionary-de-psicologia-r.htm#letra_s

Wikipedia (2016) Procusto, accessed July 19, 2017, online: // //

Zimbardo P. (2008) The Lucifer Effect, Editorial Paidos, Barcelona.

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