Firstly, let’s define Envy and Jealousy. Jealousy is different from envy in that envy covets what others have, while jealousy is the fear that what you have, or may have, will be taken away. We view the world as a place where we must fight to get what limited resources there are before they are gone.
We’ve all been there — that insidious purgatory of ill where we are green with envy. Maybe it’s inherent within us or maybe it’s a result of the influences around us. With that thread of thought leading away, let’s look to a Jungian idea for explanation — We are all at war with our own evilness.
It’s true that we have cosseted within the deep and dark recesses of the privacy of our hearts terrible feelings and intentions. I wrote about how we are often the authors of our own destruction. This is largely true. This topic has been discussed over and over again with well-meaning friends until such thoughts have dissolved into bottles of whiskey and arrack throughout the years.
“All of our lives are too unique to copy the path from someone else”.
Master Shi Heng Yi
Surely there’s a salve for this pain we choose to put ourselves through, yes? Maybe the answer lies in knowing ourselves and the way our mind functions so that we can perhaps condition ourselves to react and feel differently. At times you have to wonder if solitude is the ONLY way to know yourself. Other people influence you and shape your character to fit theirs to help their gain. There are very few genuine people in this world but if you find one keep them.
The above paragraph is an attempt at urging you not to keep bad company. Bad company leads to bad habits. Being envious of others may possibly be something that’s learned. Or, could it just be biological?
We are animals just like our relatives the chimpanzees — a bundle of neurons, flesh and bone with an ocean of thoughts and emotions stitching our personalities together. Part of such personalities are the cocktail of hormones that make us feel. A new study carried out at the University of Haifa has found that the hormone oxytocin, the “love hormone,” which affects behaviors such as trust, empathy and generosity, also affects opposite behaviors, such as jealousy and gloating.
The hormone is an overall trigger for social sentiments: when the person’s association is positive, oxytocin bolsters pro-social behaviors; when the association is negative, the hormone increases negative sentiments.
This possibly could be an avenue to hack your biology so that you come out of this internal battle unscathed. Consider mindful meditation, which would be an excellent antidote to those evil proclivities that stand in deep thought within us.
Jordan Peterson has a great solution which is to nurse your feelings of envy to fuel your ambition. This is a thought that speaks volumes. One aspect that he mentions hit a nerve at one instance, and that is that you have no idea of the terrible life the person in the Ferrari is having.
Our brains have this insidious way of leading us down to a path of taking actions that could be illustrated as being self-sabotage. Comparing yourself to who you were yesterday is a better stab at maintaining your mental wellness that coveting the materialistic illusion crafted by social media influencers and the like.
Stoicism probably has an answer when it comes to dealing with envy. I’m sure at one time or the other you would have woken up at some liminal hour wondering — Is there life after death? No one knows the answer while you were probably trying to unravel that tangled skein of confused beaded thoughts.
History unravels the tale of how Roman slaves whispered Memento Mori — remember that you must die — to their commanders en route to war. Who would have thought that one verbal phrase uttered in a quasi-whisper would be a stark reminder that one must not be consumed by hubris, and that one must have your feet firmly on the ground.
I view this Latin phrase as a reminder not to waste time. Why waste time when life is short? Why make it shorter by coveting an imperfect life that is not yours? The Stoics used death as a sort of compass towards life, guiding them towards what really mattered to them. In other words, use this reminder to un-worry about other people’s lives and to start living one that is solely meant to be yours.
Envy is a complex, socially repugnant emotion made up of a mix of inferiority feelings, hostility, and resentment. Maybe it’s not a bad deal after all — to be envious. There is such a thing called Positive Envy where you can use these feelings of green to better yourself. We humans are complicated entities. While one emotion can lead to a state of disrepair, we could flip that same emotion on its head to achieve something positive, and maybe — spectacular.
Charlie: Because there are things inside of me I need to kill.
Why do we drink alcohol? Why are we addicted? The above conversation piece from Two And A Half Men gives an insightful answer as to why. You see, there are demons in our subconscious that lie and lie silent. Lucky for you if you don’t meet them, but most of us do.
Addiction, you see, is an attempt at a solution; it is not a problem by itself. As per Gabor Maté, most of our trauma can be rooted in childhood. The subject on this is huge, but a child that is emotionally abused will overcompensate by being overly nice even if they don’t want to.
A child’s brain circuitry is developed while in the mother’s stomach. A stressed out mother leads to a stressed out child. Children when growing up are narcissistic by nature, and believe that they are the center of their own universe. When they don’t get the love and attention they crave from their parents, they carry such dysfunction into their adult lives.
This is the reason why stressed out parents bring up children who are stressed out. This is why children are more prone to autoimmune disorders like Multiple Sclerosis and even Cancer.
So, does the fault lie with parents? Somewhat, but the majority of this fault lies with the social, economic and political issues that we have faced throughout the years. For instance, both parents, in recent times, have had to work to bring in the finances thereby leading to their children being neglected with no mother at home. We know that our emotions and physiology cannot be divorced from each other. When one suffers, so does the other.
“Nothing records the effects of a sad life as graphically as the human body.” – Naguib Mahfouz.
Most addicts aren’t afraid of dying. They are afraid of living. What does alcohol, drugs, food and shopping in excess have in common — they cure pain. The question shouldn’t be — Why is there addiction? The question should be — Why is there pain? Keith Richards in his biography talks of how he sought oblivion through his addictions. Why? Because he was not comfortable being in his own skin.
We are addicted because whatever we are addicted to offers respite from the pain that we are feeling or because it gives us pleasure that’s available to us.
Let’s first define this whole concept of Addiction — it is any behavior that gives you temporary relief or pleasure, but in the long term causes harm, and you can’t give it up despite the negative consequences.
Drugs per se aren’t addictive. Many people choose their addiction, and it is all to do with Dopamine and Endorphins. As many addicts claim, the stimulus they are addicted to offers them warmth and comfort and a space that is non-judgemental. This is all an attempt at trying to fill in the void that exists within us. It all goes back to what we didn’t get when we were small.
The Meaning to Life
I wonder at times if addiction can be cured through science. The meaning of life is to distract ourselves from the meaninglessness of life. Love is the highest meaning of life. We pervert it and fail it a billion times over. It doesn’t pay the bills, but it satiates the spirit like nothing else.
It takes courage and responsibility to be kind to flawed humans as Professor X has shown us. But it’s our highest calling. It elevates everything we do. Any sense of value or meaning in an objectively meaningless universe can only be the result of whatever sense of value we subconsciously project onto the world and some of the experiences within it, or in turn, whatever meaning we perceive when we look out into the world.
The very fact that people say — Find your meaning — means there’s no meaning to life. Rather we need to find our own individual purpose, and finding it means there’s a thin line between sanity and insanity.
Leave Well Alone
Jesus said that the kingdom of God is within. Buddha said be a lamp unto thyself. The choice we have to make is to heal and be kinder to ourselves. The majority of us are damaged in one way or the other. Yet the only solution, as per Jordan Peterson, is to be strong.
And, if we do choose to move away from the hurt and grief we feel, we’ll realize that we made those first steps towards healing. In the grand scheme of things, you’ll realize that choosing contentment is possibly the only way forward. Once we do heal, the Faroese word — nøgdsemi — gives an indication of how we should live. Nøgdsemi means Life Is Good The Way It Is and it offers a way to accept life just the way it is.