On Envy (& Jealousy) – Part I

Over the past two weeks, two people have approached me about experiences they are having concerning jealousy. One person has told me that she is jealous of a friend. The other has told me that her friend is jealous of her. There are 3 points that I want to pick up on this:

The difference between envy and jealousy

Envy refers to a sadness at the sight of another’s perceived advantage. From the Latin invidia, meaning “to look against the affairs of others hostilely”, envy breeds resentment and turmoil eventually leading to begrudging the other, to selfishness and to implicit covetousness if it is not remedied.

Jealousy wants to vigilantly guard what one possesses (or wants to possess) and to keep others from having it. The etymology for this word brings up “zealous (which means a fiery kind of fervent), enthusiasm, and longing”.

Jealousy in its rightful and balanced form, isn’t a bad thing. A prime example of this is a marriage. It is right that a husband or wife vigilantly guard the marriage (the person possesses the grace & mission of marriage, but does NOT possess the person who is the spouse **very important**). What often goes wrong in jealousy is when that husband or wife forces the action of guarding beyond the point of vigilance into an extremity of paranoia, and knowingly or unknowingly interchanges guardianship of the sacrament of their marriage into a possession of their spouse. A human being is not the possession of another human being, and should never become one. This will lead to enslavement, objectification and imprisonment in both parties. The human being rightfully belongs only to God, but they have to want to choose that for themselves.

As mentioned, jealousy in its rightful and balanced form can be considered quite a healthy thing. However, envy, in any form is not a healthy thing. At all. Nothing about envy can be good for you, or for the other. Unfortunately, what many people don’t really realise, is that envy is beyond the human dimension. Envy is of a spiritual nature. So if someone is envious of another, there is no cure for this except by spiritual means. Envy employs your emotional, psychological and social (psychosocial) faculties, but the issue of the envy one experiences is not emotional or psychological or social at its very root. In other words, your thoughts, feelings and relational capacities are not the fundamental cause of the envy. We can then deduce that envy is not of human nature. However, the nature of envy can become manifest in anything human. This leads to the thoughts, feelings and relational circumstances where we would experience envy, which then of course fuel our decisions, choices and consequently our actions.

This highlights how the spiritual becomes manifest in the human being. There is a journey there, that envy takes, to infiltrate a person’s spiritual faculties, which they will feel the breadcrumbs of in their soul. And it’s here in the soul that envy will do most damage, depending on the person’s response to it. However, unless you are an extremely spiritual person, do some sort of reflection and recollection on yourself at the end of everyday through prayer and are conscious about where your moral compass is pointing at any one time, then it is very difficult to spot your own envy in yourself. It’s often either pointed out to you, or you notice the effects of the envy, by your own feelings, thoughts, choices, actions, and consequences of those actions.

So whilst jealousy may be taken out of its correct context and would still need addressing, the priority for me, would be to address envy. You’ve probably heard of something called the seven deadly sins? Well… envy kills you. And if you’re a spiritual person, it will kill your relationship with God. My primary concern for souls would be to address this – but it can’t be done on a purely human level. It requires spiritual work that combines your efforts, with that of divine help. There are 3 steps I would recommend to take:

  1. Identify if you are envious, or jealous, or none of the above! Be honest, try to be objective when thinking about it and put your pride to the side during this task. I’ve put some questions below to help you discover if you are or not.
  2. Increase your spiritual capacities. You will need them to remedy your envy.
  3. Remedy the envy. This will take a lot of time, often a lot of painfulness, past hurts may come to the surface. The key to this is perseverance, and keep up your spiritual practice. I will write a blogpost on the remedy at a later date, but for your information, the 3 things necessary to remedying envy are:
    1. Detachment
    2. Deep generosity
    3. Humility

So to help anyone who is perhaps experiencing envy, or knows somebody else who is, here is step 1 of my recommendation:

 

How do I know if I’m being envious?

Here are questions I would ask myself to determine if I’m being envious. Remember, be honest, try to be objective when thinking about it and put your pride to the side during this task. Answer these questions with a candle lit safely by your side, in a quiet place and time that is today’s ‘me-time’.

  1. Is there something someone else has/doesn’t have/is/isn’t, that I have/don’t have/that I am/am not, which hurts me or which I can’t bear?
  2. What is it that hurts/upsets me?
  3. Where could that hurt/upset be coming from? (Reflect on your past, and do a lot of digging)
  4. How is it taking me away from my true self and living out my values?
  5. How is it affecting my productivity?
  6. Where has it affected my (personal/professional) relationships? What have those outcomes been? What have the impacts of the outcomes been?
  7. Which choices have I been making in my heart as a result of this?
  8. Where have those choices stopped me from growing, overcoming and practising virtue or character strengths?
  9. Where has this situation driven me to act irresponsibly, unfairly or irrationally?
  10. Which concrete actions that have I taken were influenced by this hurt/upset, if any?
  11. Could I survive without/with (without if your envy is because of a lack of; with if your envy is because there is too much of)? Could I excel without/with it?
  12. What would the situation look like if I were not envious?

Answering these questions should give some clarity as to whether there is envy going on in any particular situation – whether that’s in personal or professional life. Envy is extremely detrimental in the workplace. It breeds:

  • Deterioration in trust
  • Irrational conflicts
  • Lack of commitment & focus / Increase in distraction & fault-picking
  • Avoidance of accountability
  • Diversion from achieving end goals and results

Managers can observe attitudes and behaviours stemming from envy, and should pull staff up on it gently and in the right way, should it be causing dysfunctionality within teams or inhibiting progress and team excellence. When a personal matter affects an organisation’s productivity, then managers have a duty of care to their staff, and can offer support or help. Nobody deserves to work in a negatively charged environment – whether that’s implicit of explicit.

 

Keep an eye out on my next blogpost for part II, containing the remedies to envy.

 


Life Coach, Change Agent Management, Holistic Massage Therapy, Wellbeing, London, West,

I’m Claz, a Professional Career Coach based in West London, accredited in the UK. I am also a Life & Wellbeing Coach, working with individuals as well as organisations.  You can contact me through my website www.touchofclarity.com.

An Alternative to ‘New Year, New You!’

There are so many things I’m excited about entering into 2019. I can’t wait to be meeting and working with amazing clientele who are full of potential and I’m totally looking forward to the ways in which my business will be an opportunity for many others. But one thing I want to do differently right now is suggest an alternative to ‘New Year, New You!’ – a notion that serves as a popular up-sell strategy for life coaches around this time of year. The idea of ‘new year, new you’ is to start anew, with a fresh outlook and fresh new ways of doing things, or even a brand new way of ‘being’. Life coaches support clients to come up with new year’s resolutions, targets, and promises which they make both to themselves and where appropriate, to loved ones. We also support them to follow through with the resolution by holding them accountable. Often however, no matter who we are, or what our experiences of the past have been, we can potentially set ourselves unrealistic objectives that we not only become disillusioned by, but even become rebellious toward after a certain time. The thing is, I don’t often find an issue with the resolution itself. More often, it’s the approach to the resolution that is badly managed, and sometimes life coaches can fall into the trap of promoting an unsustainable approach to human behavioural change over the new year period. Here’s a solution to the folly of the ‘New Year, New You’ ideal, which proposes an altogether healthier approach to ‘A Transformed You’. The solution is itself, transformation. The approach: to enact three fundamentally healthy actions that drive and sustain the transformation.

 

Action #1: Don’t ignore your past – use it to your advantage!

Yesterday, Disney’s The Lion King was on the TV, and I was struck by this particular scene. It presents a very healthy life lesson for all of humanity. Our past, no matter what it was like for us, became a promise of increased knowledge and learning at the very moment that it became a reality of a present moment for us. That learning extends as much to ourselves – our intellects and inner world from where our behaviour and responses stem, as to our external world – our environments and circumstances that influence, inform and evoke our behaviour and responses.

As Rafiki the baboon says, “we can either run from the past, or learn from it”. The former does not help us to grow or to transform into freer human beings. People who run from the past tend to use it as an excuse for behaviour that is not conducive to transformation into a more mature being. A refusal to confront the past imprisons them to a moment of the past that shaped their attitude, behaviour and responses, resulting in present decisions formed by experiences that hold them captive. This prevents progress in maturity. It is easy enough to make plans and set goals, but when we are triggered by negative emotion, attitude, or experiences associated with the past, the person who runs from the past will refuse to overcome the barrier. This same barrier will return time and again if it is not addressed.

The person who learns from their past and brings it with them into the present moment from a reconciled position is liberated from the captivity of the past. Their decisions are formed and made with the future in mind. They are able to use their past to know ‘how to’ and ‘how not to’. They have been changed from a deeper place within themselves, that their actions are informed by this knowledge gained from their previous experiences.

The point here is that interior change caused as a result of our past is the safest way of sustaining the journey toward the end goal or resolution. The notion of ‘new year, new you’ tends toward an attitude of ignoring past experiences which configures and informs our current self-knowledge – a vital key to setting and achieving realistic goals. The folly of ‘new year, new you’ is that at the stroke of midnight on 01/01/2019, you didn’t become a whole new person, and your history was not voided as if some man in the cloud with a giant computer deleted your mental and emotional cache! We didn’t just enter into the new year a brand new person, no matter how much we might want that to be so. We bring with us into the new year all our old habits, fears, discouragements, resentments, as well as capacities and capabilities. Don’t forget to include your own ability to bring into 2019 all that was positive and successful from your past! Use your past as an advantage for the decisions you make along this journey of achieving your new year’s resolutions, and you’ll find yourself more encouraged and committed to the change you’re putting into action.

 

Action #2: Accept change as a journey and not as an immediate reaction

The purpose of you setting a resolution is because you want something to change in your life. What I have learned, however, in the many years that I have been journeying with people, is that the last thing many of us human beings want to change, is ourselves. We believe it’s much easier to change our external world – our circumstances, environments, states, the people in our lives – than our understanding, knowledge, attitudes and behaviours. As a change management practitioner, it’s my job and joy to bring to light the journey of change in every human being. The journey is often a difficult one, but is ultimately a very liberating one! In fact, the greatest joy of reaching our goals ought not be the goal itself, but how much we have grown and changed along the journey.

We can’t escape change – it’s necessary for our survival and good for our human faculties (by this I mean body, soul and spirit). It happens not only outside ourselves, but the most precious place that change happens is within ourselves. Attitudinal and behavioural change doesn’t happen instantaneously – it is a process that requires self-knowledge (as addressed above) and time (addressed here). Due to many varying factors, we tend to want to speed things up and if possible, skip parts of the process required to achieve the goal. If I were to set a goal of praising God from the top of a mountain, the temptation is to imagine myself singing from the top of the mountain. However, a zoomed-in image of the goal ignores the rest of the picture, and I would then forget or ignore the reality that is the climb that would get me there. Embracing the bigger picture, and gaining knowledge from maps means that I can assess the valleys, mountains, deserts and oceans on the journey in between where I am at now, and that goal. They inform me of what needs to happen for me to get to the top of the mountain and to make decisions on whether that need must be met to achieve the goal. For example, I don’t need a good singing voice to get up to the top of the mountain, but I need a sturdy pair of legs that are fit for climbing, and I will need lots of courage! There’s lots of other things that would need to be added to this list. In essence, it would be folly to commit to the goal without perceiving the journey that will get us there a sustainably changed person without giving up. In other words, it’s not the things around me that ought to change, but my approach to change that takes into account the reality of my humanity.

The point here is that for the change in us to be sustainable, we have to undergo a journey of behavioural change to move us into the future, as painful or difficult that may at first seem. It’s the most foolproof way of tackling barriers and remaining committed to the goal. We need to let go of old ‘vicious’ habits, and form new ‘virtuous’ habits. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, back in 1969, upon observing the process of overcoming grief and bereavement, identified a characteristic pattern of responses that human beings needed to go through to ‘let go’ of the past and begin to embrace and engage with a different future. It is a model that applies as much to objects, circumstances and situations as to ourselves and other people in our lives. If practiced, the increase in the probability of a change being successful is really quite noticeable. Kübler-Ross’ 7 stages of the process of human change are: 1) shock; 2) denial; 3) anger or blame at others; 4) self-blame, bargaining or guilt; 5) depression or confusion; 6) deep acceptance; and 7) problem-solving. A graphical representation of the change curve can be found here. Undergoing this process is the most natural and harmless way of accepting the present moment and forming new habits and connections in our psyche and heart.

 

Action #3: Form new habits for your new beginnings

Once a change has taken root within ourselves, we’ll find that our lives begin to change, in huge and small ways. That’s partly because the change has cost us. A lot. We were so dissatisfied with the way things were, we found the benefit of the change outweighed the cost, and the long-term change is now here to stay. So what must a person do, if say for example, his or her approach to life has changed, but s/he misses the positive aspects of what s/he used to have and s/he discovers a longing in his/her heart for this aspect of his/her past? This re-visit or return to fond memories happens often, and my experiences with other people tend to show that the majority of these are relational (contact with certain persons of value in the heart or any subconscious establishment of a relationship to objects, circumstances, environment or states). A preventative measure to the ‘re-visit’ or ‘return’ lies in 3 important questions:

1)     Do I have an attachment of any kind (most especially emotional attachments as these are the hardest to detach from) to this person/object/circumstance/environment/state?

2)     What boundaries can I set to ensure that I go into the future avoiding old habits associated with this person/object/circumstance/environment/state?

3)     How can my own ability and capacity to live with this person/object/circumstance/environment/state be strengthened and improved?

Answering these questions once the initial change has happened but before one has reached that point of re-visit/return could be very useful to the next part of the process.

 

The pre-condition to transformation

The irony of finding freedom in these actions that focus your capacities on remaining committed to that journey will paradoxically invoke change in the life that is external to you, because the change will ultimately happen in you yourself. There is one pre-condition to this taking full effect. The three actions, to be successful together, require your readiness to change. I encourage starting 2019 and our new year resolution(s), not with ‘New Year, New You’ in mind, but with long-term sustainable transformation in mind. If you like, you can call it: ‘new year for new beginnings’. Only with readiness to change will we find ourselves:

a) letting go of the past’s bad habits, attitudes, behaviours and misunderstandings

b) living the present moment of transition by developing new habits, attitudes, behaviours and understandings.

c) putting a plan in place to ensure the sustainability of the changed ‘me’, having new habits, attitudes, behaviours and understanding embedded in my daily life for the future.

May the changes that are to happen in your life and your readiness for that change bring you to an encounter with the truth of who you are and what your mission in this world is to be for this year. I would love to hear how this has been helpful for you! Likewise, please do share it – especially if you find someone you know is encountering disillusionment and difficulty progressing toward their goal or new year’s resolutions further down the line!

 

Every blessing!

C.

Copyright © 2018 Claz Gomez.

Photo credit to Vlad Bagacian on Unsplash