Lately, rushes of envy have barraged me. Jealousy is my least favorite emotion...which I have found is not unlike many of my clients. I have worked with clients that have hurt themselves or others very badly driven by feelings of envy. The first time we feel this deeply visceral response is often quite impactful.
Jealousy is such a complicated emotion in that it is a combination of desire, disappointment, and anger. For many of us, my clients and myself included, this is an overwhelming constellation of already challenging feelings. This compounded with envy being a paralyzing feeling, because in its inherent nature we are unable to have what we want, is devastating. The suffering is awful and the solution is only to let time pass and to work on self-soothing.
The normal human response to envy is to dislike the person that has the something we want. We say horrible things about them. We ruin their reputation. We try to harm them back. We call them names and run them into the ground. Sadly for the object of our hatred, this response brings no actual lasting comfort.
In my experience there are only two self-soothing responses that actually soften the feelings of envy. First, I work with my clients about naming their desire, disappointment, and anger. We talk about how normal it is to desire and to be disappointed and angry when things don't work out. Secondly, we reframe together a glass half full type of thing. I ask my clients when they are expressing jealousy to focus on what they do have. What are they grateful for, what are their blessings? Encouraging my clients to rest in the space of having instead of not having can take the edge off enough that the craving for revenge dissipates.
Talking to friends and loved ones about desire before envy hits can be soothing as well. We are often afraid to express our vulnerability by expressing our wishes, cravings, needs, dreams, and hopes but I have found that when I talk to those I love about my desire they respond in kind with laughs of understanding. Desire is the great equalizer, we all know about this because we are human.
Envy means we are alive and passionate and care deeply about something. It is a great barometer of what is significant and meaningful to us. Being compassionate toward ourselves in these moments will help, receiving support from others will help and time will help to ease the big feelings. To manage my own jealousy, each day I mentally list what is most present for me that I am grateful for.