Some people deliberately create envy, and the ease of visual boisterring on social media has stirred a global fire of human vices from jealousy, lies to murders and stomach-turning mistreatment of animals (read NYT investigation into the company hired to vet out violent or otherwise toxic Facebook and later also Instagram posts). Encouraged by the nodding likes, some real, others fake, surreptitiously bought or strategically amassed, posts that are envious get often the highest numbers of virtual engagement. This is not just about morals, but our conscience and genuine joy.

If you get swirled into the downward spiral depends on your capability to see through, recognise it and pull yourself out of that eye of the storm. I have a few remedies for our current afflictions. These worked for me, so may do good for you as well. At least I hope, for I work to make the world a better place through helping others and in so for myself. It is a law of attraction, perhaps even a circular economy. What goes around, comes around; either way.

American art

Pop art by Roy Lichtenstein at the Fondation Carmignac, France

On envy though problems and solutions

I have this linen-hued skin notebook (made in Italy, the host of the Catholic church, what a coincidence!) where I write down what bothers me. Kind of Saint Augustine’s Confessions of a Sinner, but not as profound, and eschewing any religious scale. I name a concrete problem I face on the left side, and develop a solution/s on the right page/s. Sometimes the solutions run over a couple of sheets, but I try to keep my own advices brief, so I actually ever read them back. And I do, finding that some problems keep returning. Same old issues spur from deep inside ourselves. Some are universal, others unique to our personality, background, situation and experience. This is perhaps the most practical aid out of my countless stacks of scrapbooks into which I scribble random ideas and inspiration next to my poetry, as well as insightful wisdom of others. I advise you to get one P&S journals for yourself too. When kept at hand, this genuine journal of confessions can move you forward from a sticky, marshy, stuck place.

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Here, I would like to share one of my problems. Well, not that I want to bother you with my junk, but this is a universal “deadly sin” humanity has dealt with from the time beyond recorded history. Even before the Bible mentioned it, we succumbed to envy. Let’s address it humanely together!

For some of life’s questions, you are not alone. By opening, together we can find an answer. Therefore sharing a piece of myself, my PROBLEM, I hope that you can be inspired to find your own SOLUTION.


So on the PROBLEM with envy. I do not suffer from this disease of the heart and mind chronically. Yet, insidiously like a virus it creeps in, attacking my immune system before its symptoms manifest. Once out there, we can catch the vile worm eating up our otherwise happy minds. I realised that we judge harsher those whom we envy. Jealousy, familiar in its romantic metamorphosis even to the gods in the Greek mythology (for they all already had some form of power), casts blinds over our eyes. It has transpired that the Greek mythology and other centuries-defying mythologies such as those of the Aztecs and the Maya (intriguingly its namesake – maya – is used in Buddhism as the veil that blinds us from seeing truth) were the antecedents of the science known as psychology today. By dimming of the light that might shine behind the shutters of our envy, out there in reality, we perceive more darkness in our life’s days and we ignore potential innocence next to other qualities possibly there. This is not just bad for the unjustly envied objects, but also also for ourselves.

Negativity burns our hearts into the ashes of lonely bitterness.

Envy blocks out our genuine happiness, the small joys of the everyday. We feel underappreciated, weak, smaller when we are under its spell. Jealousy’s poisonous resentment tastes bitter. Envy is gender neutral, unlike most negative traits that were historically ascribed a female side (perhaps innocent while under the spell of the snake’s venom).


The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets by Helen Vendler

Shakespeare’s Lessons on envy

Shakespeare said in Othello that envy has green eyes, but to me it sees only one color — gray. Did he mean calandine, leek or blackish green? I can settle on verdigris (closest shade of green to grey at least in its name). His tinted metaphor spoke of jealousy. Othello’s faith in Desdemona, his wife, is not strong as he suspects her of cheating on him based on Iago’s unfounded allegations. That “green-eyed monster” in this case of the main character’s envious possession ends in the graveyard. He kills his wife and later himself when he finds out that his rage — based on a rumour — was unjust. Shakespeare’s Sonnets also include some insight into jealousy (read the No 69 in Helen Wendler‘s wonderful rendering inserted above).

Shakespeare further taught me that there are many forms of envy beyond the obvious sexual, and that denial is a vicious self-harming weapon that either wounds or kills us. For example when we desire something in what the others shine. Our craving for that which we think we do not possess drives us to the madness of jealousy. Be it beauty, boldness, hard work, inventiveness, success, talent, zeal, and other enviable possessions. We also may go after the darkness in others, and that is even worse. Control, fame built on supperfice or sleeping their way up with the ‘right’ people, manipulating by strong charisma, money, power or throngs of lovers. The Angels must get sick by this! Glad I am not one of the winged guardians.

The Levitated Mass at Los Angeles County Museum of Artart photography

With the shutters down we keep slumbering in our ignorance. What’s going on outside, really? What is true? Like in a dream, we imagine what our envy dictates. Subconsciously filling the unknown lines with invented stories, that we eventually believe are true. This is a negative defence mechanism of the ego, comprehensively connected by psychodynamic theory (I incline towards the Jungian, broader version, simply explained here). Such an incomplete lie we tell ourselves becomes even more harmful when spread to the world. Today, one does not have to be a wealthy media-owner to circulate mass lies, you can just be an “influencer”. Whether an organisation or an individual, responsibility evades either when not being publically ostracised or in other ways punished.


Newsha Tavakolian: A microphone and an empty stage in Tehran Freedom women in Iran at the Fondation Carmignac, France

What to do about our jealousy for our own good

Before envy brings you down, recognise it and name it. Denial poisons truth and our own selves, our integrity blasts without us even noticing. The SOLUTION to envy starts here. We need to understand why and what we are jealous about before we can remedy it. Imagine, giving an aspirin to someone with a headache for years, but then the person dies because of an undiagnosed brain tumor. Too late for detecting correctly and to apply the best available cure in the moment.

To be fair, also try to see that envied human being in their unique context. Holistically acknowledge their strengths and try to appreciate their humaneness beyond just the surface. Perhaps their intentions are noble. They might just want to create a comfortable, safe life for themselves and even better for their families and loved ones. Most of us do. Shamefully though, empathy is a too scarce a commodity we shall praise more. These people we tarnish may be in a precarious situation we may not be either familiar with or aware of it at all.

People often cover their weaknesses with manifold masks. Playing up their strengths is not only wise, but it balances some deeply seated insecurities. Well, sometimes we put on a mask for fun, safety or necessity. Being human is not simple.

Rolls Royce ladyRady diving

The last, but perhaps the most important step in remedying envy is to ask yourself: What is it that I am lacking in myself? Why did this form of envy had arisen in my mind? How connected is that concrete jealousy with what I truly want in life, expect from myself and is it reasonable? The remedy is only complete when we deal with the root of it — our own insecurities. Mask down, this is the only way, be transparent with yourself.

I was inspired to start this personal psychological confessionary upon the initiation by Carl Gustav Jung, the famous Swiss psychoanalyst. Studying Jungian psychology today, one comes across the posthumously published The Red Book that Jung had drawn, painted and wrote throughout his long life. Unlike with most of his other work, he was unsure whether it should ever see the light of his readership beyond his closest colleagues. What preceded the edited version of what became later The Red Book (Liber Novus) were black and white journals (named simply after the colors of their covers) containing the personal entries of Jung on his own psychological processes. Later defined as individuation. For me the black became “PROBLEM” and the white “SOLUTION” both included in my beige, neutralising notebook.

goodness inspirationpsychoanalytical reading

I must alert you that the majority of us never achieve this complete psychological stability that the psychoanalyst spoke and wrote about. To name a few that Jung mentioned – Jesus made it in. Add Confucius, perhaps Socrates, Mother Teresa, Joan of Arc and Gandhi. Individuation is a process that leads to a self-actualised completion of a person here in this life, the full integration of one’s conscious and unconscious mind. Gordon Allport, the American father of developmental psychology, wrote that any given individual is a unique creation of the forces of nature. There was never a person just like them and there never will be again. We each have a unique set of traits. Perhaps fully individualised person laughs over others envy, it is something they are well above and beyond.

Therefore your black and white books will be different from mine. These journals of your problems and your own concoctions of solutions become your idiographic overview of your true self. They are opportunities for change or further steps to development as a complete being. The solutions are sometimes written much later as we do not shake the answers immediately off our mind when the bothersome issue arises, yet we shall keep our journal at hand. The solution pops out during a random everyday situation, while reading a book, dreaming or relaxing. Grab it and write it down. This will be your mirror and muse for most of the future’s heart and mind ills. Envy being one of the symptoms of inner dissonance, alerts us where we should focus and work more on ourselves.