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Life

Why Are We Envious?

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?

Envious Hormones

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.

One or the other

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.

A Solution

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.

Compare yourself to who and what you were yesterday

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.

Memento Mori

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.

Stay Envious

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.