Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Jealousy and Envy 101

My basic philosophy is summed up best in a quote (I don’t know who first said it) “relationship is primary, everything else is derivative.” Everything we experience is generated by our relationships (real or imaginary) with something we perceive.

All of us have been jealous or envious of another and what we perceive about their relationships. And most of us have been jealous and envious more often than we like to admit!

Here is how it usually goes: we see someone else with something we used to have, wish we had, or want to have more of. When we admire someone it is because they exhibit some quality we find valuable, or have something/someone we used to have in our lives, wish we had in our lives or want to develop more of in our lives.

Sometimes we are able to feel glad for the other person while wishing it was us having that relationship instead or along with them. Other times we simply experience a sense of unfairness, and we do not wish the other person well. In this case, we think they don’t deserve it (and we do) or there is not enough for both of us and if they have it, we can’t.

Whatever it is we perceive the other person having, we think that our not having it diminishes us somehow. Or, their possession of it threatens a key component to our identity, usually a sense of being special or important.

This conditioned response is based in a scarcity model of life. We feel that the other person having something means there is less or none of that admirable thing available for us. And, at one level, this perception is accurate. If someone else gets the last tank of gas at the pump, there is indeed no more gas in that pump for you. However, there are likely other gas stations you could go to in order to fill up. Alternately, there are cars that run on other types of fuel and many alternate ways to get yourself from point A to point B. However, if all you are focused on is who got the last drop of gas in that particular pump, then indeed there is something you can’t and don’t have. When we say “there is an energy crisis” what we really mean is there is a fossil fuel crisis. There is plenty of energy, but not enough of a certain type that we prefer and are used to using.

Often, when jealousy or envy is triggered, what is threatened is our habitual and preferred way of thinking about ourselves as special. When others appear not to recognize our specialness, or take something to which we feel entitled, we go from feeling secure to feeling inadequate and uncertain.

What are some good strategies for taking our jealous and envious reactions and the energy created by them and using it to create abundance instead of scarcity, to respond positively to the challenge instead of indulging in destructive behavior?

How To Use Your Jealousy and Envy For Growth - Some Easy Guidelines:

1) Don’t Just Imitate – Integrate!

You will never be anything but a second-rate version of someone else. You may admire the qualities and skills of another, but anytime you catch yourself inflating or diminishing yourself when comparing yourself with them, you are missing the point. Go ahead and learn and integrate the skills and behaviors you admire in the other person, but make them your own, imbue them with your unique expression. Be the absolute first-rate you!

2) Don’t just Agitate – Motivate!

If you want something, how can you get it in a way that benefits everyone in the relationship? How can you take your desire for change and have it add to, rather than take away from the relationship? What can you do that doesn’t rely on needing to inflate yourself or deflate another in order to feel ok? Don't just react against something and stew in the feelings of unfairness and inadequacy that your jealousy generates, do something positive for yourself that you can feel good about. Being against something is easy, being for yourself...that takes some action!

3) Don’t Just Regurgitate – Innovate!

Ask yourself these questions before just going on autopilot and spewing the usual reaction to your envy or jealousy

  • Is there really scarcity here – not enough for me to share in?
  • Do I feel a sense of unfairness?
  • Do I see myself as a victim here? What are the advantages and disadvantages of my victim mindset?
  • What can I do right now that is a new behavior to free me from my negative pattern?

Realize that your perception and subsequent interpretation of your experiences are mostly learned and should be questioned as they may or may not be accurate. Whatever you interact with can provide a sounding board, a focus, a mirror, a target, an excuse, permission to feel your feelings, inspiration to think your thoughts, and material to derive meaning and purpose from life. What you choose to do is up to you. Why not use each experience to learn and grow? What are you waiting for?

Warm Regards,