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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Is Your Envy of Others Ruining Your Relationships?

Envy is defined as the emotionally painful feeling you have when you perceive that someone has something that you want and don't have, whether it's a possession, an attribute, a relationship, a new baby, a job, and so on.  Envy is a complex emotion.

Is Envy Ruining Your Relationships?
There Are Degrees of Envy
Like any other emotion, there are degrees of envy.  A mild form of envy, for instance, might involve wishing a friend well for getting married, but wondering why she found happiness in a romantic relationship and you haven't.  Why does she get to have a wonderful husband while you're having difficulty meeting someone?  This is a more benign form of envy.  A more malicious form of envy might involve not only wishing that you could meet someone wonderful like your friend did, but also secretly hoping that her relationship fails.  There is a bitter and toxic quality to this form of envy that is corrosive to your sense of self as well as to maintaining relationships.

Your Envy Sets Up a Rivalry Between You and Others
When you feel envious of people close to us, you set up a rivalry between you and them, even if the rivalry remains in your mind and you never express it.  When you're envious, you see the other person as being luckier, better looking, more intelligent (or whatever other attributes you ascribe to the other person) than you.  This may or may not be realistic.  But whether or not it has objective reality often has little to do with envy.  In fact, if you're immersed in envious feelings, you might have already lost any objectivity in the matter because you're so focused on others.

Strong, Pervasive Feelings of Envy
When you experience pervasive feelings of envy, where you're constantly comparing yourself to others in an unfavorable way, you tend to see life most of the time in terms of what others have and you don't.  Your perspective is filtered through the lens of feeling that what you have is inadequate compared to others.  You tend to feel deprived most of the time and this can lead to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.

Pervasive Feelings of Envy Are Often Related to Childhood Deprivation
When envy is pervasive in most of your life, it often stems from early childhood deprivation, whether the deprivation was emotional, physical or both.  In these types of situations, you continue to feel the longings you felt when you were a child.  At that time, you deserved to be loved and taken care of but, for whatever reason, you were deprived instead.  Your longing to be nurtured was legitimate and real.

This type of longing usually doesn't disappear when you become an adult.  As an adult, this longing, which is "carried" emotionally by your inner child, usually manifests as envy.  When it's a pervasive feeling of envy, these feelings become distorted.  What is real for the deprived inner child becomes displaced on others in a distorted way when you become an adult.

Pervasive Envy Can Ruin Relationships
Pervasive envy can ruin relationships, including family relationships, marriages, friendships, and relationships with colleagues.  If you're constantly complaining to others that you feel they have better opportunities, relationships or possessions, it's a big turn off to them.  After a while, they'll feel guarded around you and might not want to be around you.  At best, they'll see you as petty and, at worst, they'll see you as someone who is too self centered to be around.  Chances are good that they won't understand that these pervasive feelings of envy come from earlier experiences.  And, even if they do, they still might not want to deal with your envy.

People who feel pervasive envy are often not aware that this is what they're feeling.  They usually believe that their feelings are objectively true and not a distortion.  In their eyes, other people are luckier, more attractive, and so on, than they are.  Their focus is on others and not on themselves.  It can be very painful to realize that these envious feelings are distortions in their minds.  But once they develop this awareness, there's an opportunity, if they're open to it, to change.

Envy Can Become a Self Perpetuating Pattern
Living with constant feelings of envy can be a self perpetuating pattern.  The more you feel it, the more intense the envy becomes.  There are people who live their entire lives comparing themselves unfavorably to others.  They take no responsibility to change what they don't like in their own lives because they're too immersed in feeling resentful towards others.  This creates an increasingly deep sense of unhappiness and bitterness.

Getting Help to Overcome Envy
If you're someone who is stuck in the rut of feeling envious towards others and you're so focused on what other people have that you don't, you owe it to yourself to get professional help from a licensed mental health professional.  Doing inner child work can help you to overcome envy and feel better about yourself.  In addition to preserving the important relationships in your life, you can also improve your sense of self and the quality of your life.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.  I work with individual adults and couples.  I have helped many clients to lead more fulfilling loves.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  
Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To  set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006.

Also, see my article:  Is Envy Ruining the Quality of Your Life?


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