58: Sex And Addictions: Did You Know That Envy Represents A Lack Of Self-Acceptance?
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Aeschylus once wrote of envy, “That it is the character of very few men to honour without envy a friend who has prospered”.
But what is envy?
Envy is often understood to be a synonym of jealousy. Envy is however slightly different. Although jealousy also stems from feelings of inadequacy and comparison, jealousy is a fear of losing what we have, for example, losing a partner to a rival.
Envy however, is a wish to have what another person has – and usually this is to our own detriment.
Envying others puts them on a pedestal and in so doing – we reduce our own value.
Years ago and during my training as a relationship therapist, I had to attend weekly group therapy sessions consisting of my fellow colleagues.
It was during these sessions that I became aware of the enormity of envy and how it can thread it’s way through people’s lives, often simmering away for years until it is finally expressed, acknowledged and understood.
And usually envy arises from a deep-seated insecurity.
This often stems from way back, when you felt abandoned, pushed aside, rejected, unloved, humiliated and shamed into believing that you were not as good, clever or as beautiful as your siblings, or others in your class and so on.
You may also have felt that your siblings and others got what you never got.
And if this belief system was in any way reinforced, you may have grown up believing it to be true.
Consequently, whenever someone shares their successes: that they’ve had a raise or a promotion at work, that they’ve bought their dream car, built their dream home, or that they’ve met their dream partner and so on, you may feel irked or incensed.
You may immediately start comparing yourself, or your situation, to theirs.
And your knee-jerk reaction might step in, leaving you feeling that somehow you’ve lost out, or that you weren’t as lucky, or that you should’ve been the recipient of what they’ve got or achieved, especially as you’ve worked just as hard and deserve the same.
Occasionally people admit to feeling this and sometimes they can immediately begin talking about their own loss.
Either way, most people compare themselves to others – all the time.
However if envy builds, and if it is reinforced by various life events, then it can turn into a rage that can seethe for many years to come.
And if this rage is turned inward it can become destructive and it can leave a person feeling worthless and a victim of circumstance. And mostly it can leave people feeling not enough, inferior and a failure.
As Bertrand Russell once wrote, “Envy was one of the most potent causes of unhappiness”. And he was right.
And envy can reveal itself in all sorts of strange ways:
Envy can hate anyone for being in a position of authority or being able to help others, when they are unable or incapable of doing so themselves.
Envy can hate anyone for appearing in the limelight – no matter how negative or destructive the situation turns out to be.
An example of this is the envy that a sister may feel towards their step sibling for being chosen by their stepfather for sexual abuse. The commotion that may follow if the abuse is ever exposed and so on, may result in the step sibling getting more, if not all the attention, and this can create massive envy in the other sister for not having been selected.
This situation and reaction may come as a surprise to many. However, it is unfortunately more common than some may be prepared to acknowledge.
And the ensuing rage that can occur when some people feel left out – can be quite shocking.
Feeling left out, not good enough or not chosen, can leave deep scars that can become the source of horrid revenge, anger and much hatred – often to our own detriment.
This is why Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote, “ Our envy of others devours us most of all”.
It can eat away for years or it can be acted upon. And the revenge that envy can create can be murderous and vicious.
Envy can disparage, defame and sabotage its enemy, whilst feeling inferior and worthless at the same time.
Envy is therefore a primal emotion, intertwined often with jealousy and shame that reaches way back into childhood via sibling rivalry and the Oedipal longing of one parent over another.
Feeling excluded from the marital bond can have long lasting repercussions of feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness.
Also, if a child then feels that their emotional needs are being shoved aside, if they feel abandoned in any way, not seen or loved, but discarded, then this could result in a feeling of shame and worthlessness. Not being able to conquer and be loved by a parent can leave deep emotional scars with regards self-worth and inferiority.
This is why by envying others we often don’t realise that it is our own way of reinforcing a learnt childhood belief system – that we have no value and that we don’t deserve more.
I therefore encourage you to watch your envy habit carefully.
Envy also represents a lack of self-acceptance and self-worth.
It is therefore important to ask yourself – what envying someone else does for you, and how it makes you feel.
If your envy makes you feel that you have less, that you are worth less, then try to recognise where your feelings may be coming from and start working on creating self-acceptance.
It is so easy to envy but, if what you land up feeling is negative, then stop it. It’s not helpful.
And recognise this: negative self-belief systems often take us away from ourselves. So instead of focusing on who we are or what we can contribute, we often land up beating ourselves up.
Instead, why not start today by making different choices.
Learn to believe in yourself and what you have to offer. Stop the negative thoughts and begin to realise that everyone has a value – including you. You might not have your brother-in-law’s Porsche sitting in your drive way but you have other values. Try to recognise these and try focus on your life – not his.
Harold Coffin put it so well – “Envy is the art of counting other people’s blessings instead of your own”.
And Jean Vanier wrote, “Envy comes from people’s ignorance of, or lack of belief in, their own gifts”.
So why let this be you?
© 2017 Information Copyright Deidré Wallace
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