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Mindful : August 2016
Envy springs from believing there is something we want that someone else has. What happens when we ask our- selves whether it’s really what we want? Try this: 1 Imagine that you’re able to purchase the mansion of your dreams. 2 Now imagine owning that mansion 20 years from now. Be as detailed as possible: Who will clean it? Will you be paying the taxes and upkeep? How will it feel to be in that big house alone at night? 3 What do you notice about your envious feelings now? Are they still as strong? Often when we take our envy to court, it can help us see whether pursuing this path will truly make us happy or not. envious of a couple in her building who traveled whenever they wanted. “But you hate traveling!” I said. “So you env y what you don’t really want?” How intriguing. It made me wonder what my friend was really longing for: An idea of free- dom or of seeing new things? (Though she never seems happier than when she’s home.) Sometimes, we long for an elusive thing that may not even exist. It’s like Cary Grant once said: “Everybody wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant.” No matter the extent or object of our env y, a particularly ornery thing about it is that even when you get the toys, the promotion, or the well-toned physique, you can still feel envious. There are no limits to wanting what we don’t have, especially if we believe that it will make us happier. An Antidote to Envy What happens when the object of our desire moves from fantasy to reality? Even worse, the brain’s habit of trying to rid itself of the discomforts of env y through rumi- nation about how unfair it all is and how resent- ful we are, only etches the negative thoughts even more deeply into our psyche. In fact, when we leave env y unattended, it nurtures our sense of inferiority. You may not like that your neighbor can afford to send their kid to private school, but does spreading rumors about them really give you a better opinion of yourself? More telling: Our brain actually registers envy as pain. In one study, partici- pants were asked to think about env y-inducing situations, such as meeting a school peer a year after graduation, with the awareness that this person had now surpassed them in job quality, income, freedom, and attractiveness. Ouch. The participants’ fMRIs showed the dorsal anterior cing ulate cortex lighting up a pain response If we could notice the ways we begrudge others’ success, we might then be able to pause and ask ourselves: Is this really who I want to be? 62 mindful August 2016 emotions