There are some feelings I consider wasted emotions.
I suffer from some of these wasted emotions and I don’t mind talking about that. Worry is probably my biggest wasted emotion. I’ve wasted time, energy, good relations (temporarily mostly), and lots and lots of sleep worrying about things. Worry, on occasion may lead to something productive. If, for example, I manage to write out and complete a to-do list to ease my stress. Or, if I spend extra time or attention with someone I care about because I am worried about them. There are many ways that worry can become worthwhile. But, I freely admit that I’ve spun myself into circles with needless useless wasted worry.
Insecurity is another wasted emotion I am constantly dogged with. Too often Sweetie bears the brunt of this wasted emotion and it is awful. Simply awful. You would think by now that all my insecurities where my husband are concerned would be gone and we wouldn’t be weighed down by it. But no, it rears its ugly head time and again and I am still trying to learn to discipline my own thoughts to banish insecurity forever.
Thankfully, there is one (what I consider) wasted emotion that I don’t tangle with too often: envy/jealousy.* Maybe my brain just figured out that I’m wasting enough energy on worry and insecurity. Or maybe I’m just not wired for jealousy. (Have they figured out what parts of the brain these emotions come from? I need to finish reading my Destructive Emotions book.) But throughout much of my life, when I have been handed good news by people I know, I manage to process it through my brain without the filter of jealousy kicking in. Or maybe – like that lesson I learned the hard way with my sister and talking about people behind their backs – I learned a long time ago that envy can be ruinous not just to me, but to my relationships. Sitting here writing about it – I distinctly remember a conversation I had with one of my best friends in high school. She was so happy about something concerning her family and I remember making some biting comment alluding to how much money they had. I was sort of happy for her but I do believe that my own jealousy made me snarky and mean. She called me on it. Literally. She called me up and told me how much that hurt her (or maybe she passed me a note….I’m forgetting). I agonized over it because I felt so bad and I knew she was right. And I think because of my obvious envy – among other things – our friendship took an unrecoverable slide.
It’s interesting how some particularly painful experiences can shape my behavior for years after.
All I know is – I didn’t feel jealous of one of my best friends in high school when she got a boyfriend – something I very much wanted. I felt like so many stupid young boys didn’t appreciate her enough and was glad that someone finally did. I didn’t even feel envious of friends who got loads of attention from different guys in college. Sure, I would feel miserable for myself for being single and feeling so unattractive for so long. But there was (as far as I remember) no major encore of my high school Snarky Jealousy. I stopped worrying altogether at the grades my friends were getting when mine nose-dived. I don’t begrudge my friends material happiness. And I’ve never stood beside a loved one on her wedding day feeling lonely for myself – I’ve been too dizzyingly happy for her.
So maybe I’m just over-aware when I see the destructive trail that jealousy leads people on. As far as wasted energy is concerned. Sure, I understand a bit of envy here and there. But it strikes me in particular when people are jealous of their own loved ones. When that envy swamps what should be a shared joy, I think it is such a tragedy that someone ends up spending more time feeling bad for his/herself than happy for someone else. What happens when someone is greeted by a loved one with news of new love, happy family, new children, bigger paycheck, job recognition, or some other joy? Do you feel joy? Or do you end up feeling sad? And does that one moment of good news lead to countless moments of feeling loneliness, loss, bitterness, rage, or worry? And how is someone supposed to feel when they share good news and know that it makes someone else miserable?
I recently commented on someone else’s blog about how I enjoy getting Christmas letters from people and I don’t understand why some people hate them so much. People who revile them call them “brag letters” and maybe their hatred comes from constant jealousy. But my letters are what they are. The year my uncle died I think I just wrote a long poem. When my father died I told people my father died. I wonder if my jealous friends and family members enjoyed that particular letter more than my others. Who knows. I hope not.
In any case, I’m left again feeling I don’t have a proper solution. I just hope that people can learn to separate their own disappointments in life from the joys of others. Especially from others you claim to like, or love. We spend so much time concentrating on ourselves. At the least, we should be able to afford other people sincere happiness when it is due. They say the word jealous comes from the Low Latin zealous and from the Greek word that meant zeal in a good way – like emulation, ardor, zeal – with a root connoting “to boil, ferment” or “yeast.” I just keep thinking how the word ends in “lousy,” which is pretty much how it makes you feel.
What if we could learn to turn our negative “jealous” back into positive “ambition?” If we must feel the pangs of envy for someone else, can we bend it into achievement and use that energy to help us work harder to fulfill our own goals? At the end of the day, think how bad you feel when you hear insincere congratulations when you yearn for shared joys. How crappy it is to get criticism instead of praise? Why do that to someone else? Even if you don’t express it out loud. If you want to be selfish at all, spend the energy on yourself and figure out how to get closer to some semblance of that other person’s joy. Then share some good news and see how people’s faces and voices light up in celebration. Savor those sincere congratulations. Sometimes they are hard to come by.
I snagged this picture from HERE, where there are also a few good words about jealousy.
*There are differences in the etymology of these two words. Maybe I should be focusing on Envy, which seems to have a more negative connotation than jealousy. For now, I’m sticking with jealousy and I figure you understand the point.
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