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Our mind can work like a computer doing multiple processes in parallel. In one story we are happy for our friend and their recent success. In a parallel emotional track we have a pang of jealousy for their same success. On a third track, or following that jealousy is a self-judgment about what a lousy friend we are. Then, with that bad feeling about being a bad friend, we might even over compensate with congratulations to make up for it in a way that feels false. This is all possible because our mind can do multiple narratives and emotional responses at the same time or in rapid succession.
The first step to getting past such jealous responses is to be aware that this is what the mind does, even if you don’t want it to. Much like the doctor tapping the knee to check your reflexes, the mind can have a number of conditioned responses to the same input. Often we are pulled into the next layer by judging ourselves, or our mind for these rapid responses. Unlike the reflex in the knee, you can change the responses of your mind and emotions. Acknowledging and accepting breaks the self-judgment cycle.
The second step involves identifying the source of the reaction. When it comes to jealousy and envy of our friends successes one of the biggest factors is often self-judgment. It is likely that you have had in your mind an image of success about where you wanted to be in your life at this point. Beliefs are acquired over years form Images of lifestyle, income, relationship, children, and career that you have labeled success. Your mind unconsciously remembers all of these standards. Whenever you see someone achieving such a “success”, an Inner Critic jumps to compare where you are to the stored reference of success. It then gives you an emotional slap for having failed to achieve unsaid forgotten standard. Your friend getting what they want, is just a trigger for the Inner Critic to give you an emotional slap.
Why the emotional slap? Sometimes we have learned through negative reinforcement. We have collected in our memory a way to motivate our self even if that motivation has made us feel bad or label us as a loser/failure. Are we really upset that our friend got something they wanted? No. We are more likely hurting because our mind quickly and unconsciously did a self judgement. If we don’t have awareness we don’t notice this dynamic. All we see is our friend with what they have and think that is causing us pain, so we direct or ill feelings to them. When you notice these less conscious layers of beliefs then you can detach from them and the emotional response changes.
At more layered levels we might add in a sense of comparing ourselves not just to our fictional image of perfection for our self, but to them. Sometimes our mind’s mental function of comparison doesn’t use its own image of success, but uses someone else as the basis for comparison. In that case the Inner Critic labels one person as the successful winner. In its continual game of comparison and keeping score when it labels someone else as a winner it indirectly labels us as the failure. This self-judgment is often at the core of the jealous reaction. Detach from that belief dynamic and you will not just be a better friend to others, but to yourself also.
You can find more specific instructions on finding and changing these core beliefs by doing the exercises in the Self Mastery Course. The first four sessions are available free.
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