I am incredibly moved by the responses I received to the last post. It is inspiring and enlightening to hear what the experience of friend envy is like for other CRPS sufferers and also those suffering a variety of life altering illnesses. We all know that jealousy is only going to bring us down, but everyone is forced to deal with it at some point and it’s been great to discuss this with people without feeling judged.
I have been thinking a lot about this emotion, Envy. Why is it so taboo to admit jealousy? Is this common in other cultures or is this a by-product of being raised in a predominantly Christian country? (I would love to hear your thoughts if you have any insights into how jealousy perceived in other cultures)
When I was in primary school, we still made Christmas decorations in class and attended RE (Religious Education). Religious education, that is, as long as you believe Christianity is the only religion. There was no education regarding any others. In fact, if you happened to be Muslim and attending my primary school in the early 90s, you spent RE sitting outside the classroom. Perhaps those Muslim children have grown up to feel less guilty about their jealousy, unless Islam also has a rule like this:
In a perfect world, jealousy wouldn’t exist, but we all know that little ‘being nonexistent’ secret about perfection. By growing up believing something written so definitively as the quote above, we grow up to deny a part of our psyche its existence. We cannot help thoughts that appear, only deal with them once they get here. If we believe from the get go that all envious thoughts are bad or wrong then our initial reaction to having them is going to be one of guilt. Once guilt gets a foothold it will spread like mint through your herb garden. Perhaps you can relate to feeling jealous of a friend, followed by feeling guilty that you aren’t just happy for them, followed by feeling guilty that you haven’t achieved whatever they have achieved, followed by feeling guilty for feeling guilty when you feel like you should be happy with the things you do have, followed by feeling guilty for feeling guilty and miserable when there are people in the world without even a bed to lie down and feel guilty in.
Vintage Guilt by Greenchild
I don’t believe that envious thoughts are wrong. I don’t believe any thoughts are wrong. How can a few impulses fleeting through synapses in our brain be ‘wrong’ in the sense of good and evil? We certainly don’t create them with intention. A thought is a lot different to the process of thinking. I can’t stop the jealous thoughts appearing, but I can reason them down to emotional blips by thinking about them in the right manner. That thought process might be reminding myself of the concurrent emotion of happiness for my friend, remembering the things in my life I am grateful for, the positive mental growth that living with CRPS has afforded me, the friends I have made, the steps I am taking, however small and the still achievable dreams I have for the future. It’s a lot harder to get onto this productive thought trail when everything is turned a darker shade by guilt piled on top of the jealousy.
Thought about from a primitive perspective, jealousy can be a useful emotion. If we covet the good things that others have, then we are motivated to do well for ourselves…or simply club the owner and steal what he has, thereby procuring a better future for ourselves and our offspring. In modern society, I hope more people are using their jealousy for the former rather than the latter, although I realise my rose-coloured glasses are getting a little well worn. Like everything, the thought process I’ve described above for overcoming envy is fallible and doesn’t work all the time. I might think I know better, but I still plummet into guilt potholes and have to climb back out of them again. Those are the times I am so grateful to have found others I can discuss these feelings with, openly, and just get ‘em out of my system. Venting is the saviour of my sanity.
Love & Pondering,