Rational Reasons For Minimizing Envy & Scorn

* It’s bad for your health.
* Envy creates feelings of shame, anger and rage and diminishes one’s sense of control.
* Envy occupies your mind in useless directions and saps inner resources that could be better deployed elsewhere.
* Envy makes you volatile and self-destructive, reducing your ability to like and trust yourself and others. Envy isolates you. Envy reduces your ability for human connection and receiving benefit from those connections (and nothing predicts happiness like the quality of one’s social ties). Envy and scorn reduce your ability to notice the humanity in others and thus it limits and distorts your understanding of reality. Envy reduces our ability to make positive contributions to others and to receive the same from them and thus it reduces our chances for happiness
* Nobody wants to admit to envy so it reduces your ability for integrity and transparency. Envy increases the gap between your reality and what you can publicly admit.
* Envy is exhausting and it makes us unhappy and fewer people want to hang with those who are miserable. Happy people are rarely envious and envious people are rarely happy.
* Every person I know full of envy is miserable. They’re usually an alcoholic or other type of addict.
* Envy kills one’s motivation to participate fully in life. Envy reduces your ability to get along with others and to compromise.
* Envy makes us hate ourselves.
* Envy distracts us from the gaping wounds in our life.
* I’ve never seen positive byproducts from people becoming more envious.
* Envy makes us feel one-down, hence more likely to be hyper vigilant, which is exhausting and unhealthy.
* Envy makes you cynical and reduces your ability to appreciate goodness and beauty and love.
* Envy makes you more likely to say things on social media and in real life that will hurt you and yours.
* Envy distorts our understanding.
* Envy increases our feeling of victimhood. Envy leads to conspiracy thinking, a sure mark of a loser
* We tend to think of people more successful than us as cold, which is a cognitive distortion of reality, and that people below us as are warm but incompetent, which is also a cognitive distortion.
* Envy leads you to deliberately harm others which provokes retaliation.
* Our fate is determined, in part, by our emotions, including envy.
* Your envy reduces the incentives for others to do great things for fear of being envied and hated by people like you, and lack of greatness hurts everyone.
* Envy promotes “Olympic-caliber emotional gymnastics to protect and promote our fragile selves.”
* Envy transmuted into inspiration can transform you (Susan Fiske). So why would you want to hold on to something that damages you when you can change it into something that serves you?
* Envy leads to impotence.
* Envy reduces our ability to learn from and about those we envy.

Professor Susan Fiske wrote in this 2011 book, Envy Up, Scorn Down: How Status Divides Us:

* envy damages close relationships that might otherwise provide an antidote to misery. Envy makes us feel inferior and probably prickly about receiving help or expressing gratitude.

* As it keeps the nervous system on alert, with downstream risk to the cardiovascular and immune systems, vigilance becomes costly. Low-status people incur the costs of vigilance for good reason. People are chronically watchful when their lives feel out of control. Indeed, this is the cost of being lower in the hierarchy and looking up all the time at those who control one’s fate. Consistent with this analysis, men’s social class predicts their heart disease risk; in pathbreaking work, Michael Marmot and his colleagues, surveying the Whitehall sample of British civil servants, show that the risk rises with the experience of not having enough control at work.115 Besides lack of control as a risk factor, negative emotions are implicated in this finding, because resentment, hostility, anxiety, hopelessness, and cynicism (emotions related to envy) underlie the harms wrought by loss of control.

* Both envy and scorn identify a gap between what we have and what someone else has.

* Emotions determine fates beyond the moment.

* Social isolation endangers health, threatening the immune system, cardiovascular system, and health habits.113 Negative emotions, including loneliness, may damage immune functioning by inflammatory processes often associated with cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, frailty, and functional decline.114 Social support helps people survive heart attacks.115 Social ties also correlate with longevity, even controlling for physical health, smoking, alcohol use, obesity, activity, class, age, life satisfaction, and health habits.116

* We are healthier and happier when we think that we know who we are and where we stand. Self-knowledge adapts us to navigate our days, from the minor level (“Do I wake up easily?” “Am I a good tennis player?”) to the major (“Do I get along well with my patchwork family?” “Do I reliably meet my work deadlines?”). Evolutionary psychologists argue that a self-concept serves our survival needs because it helps us not only in planning our own actions but also in coordinating with others.1 How could we know whom to join and whom to avoid without knowing who we are? How could we know what role to play when we do join others? How do we know what we can and cannot do if we do not compare our abilities to others? How well we get up, get by at tennis, get along with others, or get things done—all of these are relative judgments. Whether we should be the local alarm clock, tennis partner, family mediator, or group motivator depends on our abilities relative to those of others who are available.2 Other people serve as a reality check on our abilities (“I may be better than most people at getting up without an alarm clock, but I know where I stand relative to others as a tennis player, and it’s not good.”).

Having information allows us to predict what will happen, and that is a comfort. By and large, we do not like surprises, at least not the ones that come without party hats. Even more, we would like to be able to control what will happen, or at least understand the contingencies between what we do and what we get. We like to know about upcoming parties, raises, lay-offs, proposals, and babies; also, we prefer to have some say in these events. What is more, the illusion of information and control—as long as it is not too far from reality—matters more to us than its accuracy.3 That is, many of us tend to overestimate our own knowledge and influence, which reassures us that the world is not random and that what we do makes a difference. At a minimum, we like to believe that a trusted someone is in control, whether that someone is our president, our tech support, or our god. Indeed, some researchers suggest that our persistent religious beliefs stem from a need for at least vicarious control.4 Our motives for seeking prediction and control are among the most basic to our survival as social creatures.

* The opposite of dismissing someone is to merge with that person. Envy can transmute into inspiration. A superstar becomes a role model if two conditions are met. First, we must believe that we have the opportunity to follow the person’s success, and second, we must believe that talent can grow, that it is not fixed.

* Probably the most effective way to defuse envy is to become one with the other. If self and the enviable other overlap, the comparison evaporates. Close relationships researchers Art and Elaine Aron and their colleagues show that relationships thrive when people incorporate the other into the self.96 Overlapping the self with the other also facilitates empathy, of both the cognitive sort (understanding the other’s pain) and the emotional sort (feeling the other’s pain).

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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