Historically, we always had a hard time recognizing negative emotions. We are hell bound to hide from those emotions; ignoring them, trying to pretend that they are not even there and that all is “well.”
We often feel envious too, yet hardly ever do we talk about it. Envy has a bad rap and even presented as “one of the seven deadly sins” in Christianity. It’s not surprising that most of us are hard-wired to believe that this feeling should be well-hidden under wraps even from yourself. But if you are able to recognize it – you can harness its the power for good!
During the research conducted in UC San Diego, 900 people were asked if they experienced envy during last year – more than three-fourths said yes. So it’s a very common feeling!
WHAT NEUROSCIENCE RESEARCH HAS TO SAY
What is interesting is that envy has a positive ground behind it. It’s an automatic brain reaction towards an unfair situation that benefits another person from the same social group. It’s harder to envy somebody who is far away or far behind us. The more similar we feel to another person – the more chances for envy to take place.
On a purely biological level, we perceive envy as a threat to our survival. If we scan the “brain on envy,” we’ll see that the same structures of the brain are activated as if we experience pain.
We shouldn’t blame ourselves for something that our ancient brain feels. It’s designed to promote survival and keep us safe. During thousands of years, it was developing under the notion of scarce resources. If your neighbor managed to get better food or lock in a better-looking healthier partner – your chances for proper nutrition and decent mating opportunity faded away.
Now, we live in the 21st century, but our biology still thinks that other people’s successes are a threat to you. In reality, we have enough for every person to live a good life, but our brain still works the rule “if they get it – you don’t.”
WHAT HAPPENS IN REAL-LIFE
In the world of social media, we are stimulated by this information all the time:
“Oh, Kelly got this new job!”
“Oh, Mary has so much fun in Rome.”
“Bridgit just got promoted.”
“Grace posts photos with her friends… seems that she can build great relationships.”
Our brain automatically dishes out the impulse that if they have it – there is not enough for us. Which makes us feel threatened and the logical way to work with threat is to eliminate its source. But nowadays we have unlimited opportunities for all! And if another person gets that promotion, you can do it too!
HOW CAN WE USE ENVY FOR GOOD
As a personal growth expert, I lead groups of people teaching them and helping them squeeze out the best out of all emotions, including envy.
Envy has the potential to show us what it is that we want. We do not allow ourselves to go after it. More often than not, there are fears or limiting beliefs that keep us in a negative circle.