Food for thought…..
Envy and jealousy are old friends of mine. They frequently show up uninvited and I’m not sure I’ve yet learnt effective ways to deal with them. So maybe if I write about it that will help me to clarify how to deal with these guys so that I don’t let them ruin my day!
Envy has been big this week as yet another international ACBS / ACT conference is taking place that I’m not attending. My mind is busy with thoughts along the lines of, “I’m missing out again”, “Everyone will have so much fun”, “My career is over”. These are very familiar thoughts and they have been much louder since becoming a mum and choosing to focus more on family than career at this stage.
It dawned on me this week that perhaps I’ve been trying to force something here, to feel happy for others attending the conference instead of feeling envious. Hence the question – do I have to hug the green eyed monster? Or maybe the real question is this: do I have to embrace it as well as replace it with another feeling of happiness for others? Buddhists refer to mudita, i.e. taking sympathetic or altruistic joy in the happiness of others. Buddhist practice mudita as an antidote to envy and jealousy. And that is probably a really great thing to do……and first things first.
Right now I realize that the first step may just be simply noticing and acknowledging how I actually feel and not expecting myself to feel differently. So I say to myself as I notice envy, “ahh there is envy”. And perhaps also an internal reminder, “It is OK to feel this”. Another favourite exercise is to breathe in and say to myself, “Hello envy” and breathe out with “my old friend”. Simple huh?!?! And yet I’ve complicated it with the expectation of a different, better, “more mature” feeling that I’ve been beating myself up with as a rule. Sounds a bit like trying to control feelings doesn’t it?! And we all know how that works out – maybe OK in short term but long term it tends to lead to all kinds of complications.
So first comes acknowledgment. Then comes a connection with values. What do you want to stand for? How do you want to behave? Or the biggy……how do you want to spend your time on this planet? Clarifying what matters most here can be so helpful. For instance if you value connection with others and also being a loving parent this will help guide how to respond when the green eyed monster shows up in your life (assuming I’m not the only one struggling with this monster!!).
Then comes action. We can choose to sit and sulk and ruminate about how hard it is missing out. Or we can focus on the choices we are making and be really present to those. For example, when I check Facebook I can see loads of ACT buddies having a great time at the conference. And I can choose to notice my envy and thoughts of missing out and hit “Like” or make a comment to share in their fun. AND I can focus on being truly present to my kids as they play rather than caught up in my head. Those choices feel vital and healthy.
So it seems to me that whilst maybe it is helpful to hug the green eyed monster I don’t have to like feeling envy or jealousy (or any other difficult feeling) and nor do I have to force myself to feel a different feeling. It is OK to feel this stuff – and in the presence of that feeling what do I want to be about? My actions are what matters here.
What feelings are you struggling with and how might you start to handle them more effectively?
(image from notsalmon.com)