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The Destructive Emotion of Envy

2 November 2009


Envy is a commonly felt emotion, so common in fact it can be hard to catch yourself in the throws of its energy.

Envy is highly destructive to yourself and your relationships, yet it can turn out to be a valuable part of personal growth, when it is caught and transformed into positive energy to move yourself forward and heal a deep sense of inner lack.

As I continue on my own personal journey of self-discovery, or maybe that should be self-recovery, as in the recovery of My-Self, and I regain lost personal power, I’ve noticed a pervasive and invisible force at action. Both in myself and those around me I’ve experienced the hugely destructive energy of envy commonly at play.

It seems that when we grow in our own personal power and regain a sense of true confidence in our abilities and uniqueness, an unwelcome bout of envy is not far away. I’ve experienced this in myself and others in a most insidious way.

Thought patterns start to surface such as:

" “It’s okay for you.”
" “You’ve got it made/easy.”
" “They’re obviously loaded how can they have money problems.”
" “You don’t have to struggle or work hard like I do.”
" “Everything has happened so easily for you; you’re lucky.”

Then there follows the unconsciously driven behaviours such as:

  • Turning up late for meetings or appointments
  • Not paying on time, forgetting to pay, not bringing your cheque book, etc.
  • A downturn in enthusiasm in relationships, projects, work
  • Taking more from others “who’ve got it made” than has been offered or agreed to
  • A noticeable lack of general respect starts to become evident including talking down others’ successes and focussing on their weaknesses”.

What’s happening when envy surfaces is two-fold.

On the one hand, the lack felt inside of you gets compounded in a very self-destructive way. By focussing on another and your perceived and usually false sense of their success or luck, you neglect your own self worth, true needs and feelings of a lack. Often this lack is based upon deeply held core self-beliefs such as:

"I’m not good enough"
"I’m nothing/no one special"
"Who am I to be successful, wealthy and powerful?"
"I’m not worth that much"
"No one will pay me that amount of money".

And overall, you block your own growth and creativity; your vital life-energy force.

The second dynamic that results from this destructive emotion is a pretty venomous energetic force, which is aimed at someone else, with the aim of making them less in order for you to feel better, and reduce your deep sense of lack in yourself. Unconsciously you may begin creating disharmony in that relationship.

Let me give you a more detailed and personal example to show how envy can operate. I had a discussion recently with friends who are more financially successful than me at present. They explained to me their own current financial worries, and a very quiet yet powerful voice inside me started up: “Listen to them worrying about hundreds of thousands of pounds and here’s me so concerned about just a few hundred pounds. What have they got to worry about? They’ll be okay whatever, what about my financial concerns!”

This voice in me comes from my upbringing ├índ the family and community I was socialised in, where it was almost a sin to be successful and wealthy, and those who were, were obviously okay and “had it made”;  they didn’t have to struggle or worry.

Yet what this process does is add to my inner sense of lack of worth, i.e. “I’ll never earn as much as them or be that successful; I’m not worth that”.

Yet now I recognise it, from having experienced it at work in myself, I can more quickly stop if from affecting me when I recognise it operating in someone else and they’re directing it at me in a destructive way. I can see it for what it is and say: “I’m not going to get pulled into this dynamic”, and therefore energetically send it back to its owner.

Now this sometimes has led to an end in that relationship as it creates such a torrent of anger in the other person when it’s returned that the relationship gets soured beyond the point of salvation. Not always though, if the other person can begin to see envy at work in themselves and the affect it’s having on the relationship, then deep work can begin to take place in both people involved.

If envy is therefore recognised for what it is and further excavation work is done to find out why and how it is operating then it is very possible to turn it into an “Aha” moment, learn from it and begin to stop the energy before it takes hold of you and your behaviour.

As I described above in my personal example, what happens if I unconsciously allow envy to play out in me, is that it perpetuates my deep inner feelings of a lack in myself and I stop my own growth dead in its tracks; professionally, economically and in my relationships. We get nowhere fast when we feed our self-destructive/false-self part of ourselves; our survival mechanisms essential to us when we were younger. Yet as an adult, responsible for our own self and our actions, we can choose not to continue these harmful patterns.

It takes courage, a high degree of self-awareness and a willingness to be vulnerable to recognise our own envy at work. And it takes strength and courage to see it working in others and not let it affect you; even if a relationship is disintegrating before your eyes.

My advice when you find yourself thinking the types of thoughts listed above is to ask yourself: Where do I feel inadequate right now?

What voices inside of me are really saying: “You can’t do that.” “You’ll never have what you really want.” “You’re not worth that.” 

And then try to release the power of this force in a healthy, self-aware way, for example through journaling, ceremony, therapy or painting, rather than aiming it unconsciously at someone else.

© Angela Dunning, November 2009.


Some questions to reflect on might be:

* What are your own experiences of envy?

* Can you tell when it’s operating in yourself or in others?

* What are the ways you transmute this energy into a healthy rather than destructive energy?



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