EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Paul offers his advice on how to deal with envy and all other negative emotions, for he believes they are all best dealt with using the same technique.
THE CRITICS EXPLODE! “C’est très ironic that Monsieur le Grand Fraud American of Blogging, Paul Sunstone, professes the wisdom to know how to deal with negative feelings! As expected, he does not in his post ‘Negative Emotions’ submit to us any greater evidence for his fraudulent claims to wisdom in this matter than he ever even once submitted the innumerable victims of his youthful beddings to the actual pleasures of sex. Zut! Most of his victims were domestic animals, anyway. It is très ironique, precisely because the only feeling the Grand Fraud has ever provoked from any citizen of our world community of bloggers has consistently been the feeling that Paul Sunstone must of absolute necessity be summarily guillotined. The logic of the feeling is inescapable, no? We must remove his head to protect ourselves from the offense that is he. Protect ourselves and, not incidentally, our domestic animals.” — Aloyse Leblanc, Le Critique Passionné de Blog, “La Tribune Linville”, Linville, France.
(About a 5 minute read)
One morning the beautiful girl who always sat next to me in our political science class said something that instantly turned her a stranger to me, and me, achingly lonely.
We were chatting while waiting for our professor to arrive. I thought I would win some points with her by bringing up the morning’s best news. The paper had that morning told the story of an 11 year old boy who was about to enter Harvard on the merit of his being a “super-genius”, as the reporter had called him.
Reading the story over breakfast, I’d become excited. Humans could be that smart! How astonishing! It was like we’d gone to Mars as a species. Someone had pushed back the envelop for us, had shown those stupid ants they might outnumber us, but they’d never beat us for the glory of being absolute tops, as both God and Darwin had always intended us to be.
As was my boring habit back then, I picked the coldest, most objective words I could in which to speak the morning’s best news to the beautiful girl. Her response was just as passionate as my words had been dispassionate.
“I know! I read the same story! Didn’t it make you just hate him! I mean, what a jerk, the show-off! I felt so tiny!”
Ouch! I spent the whole rest of the day pitying myself for being so alone in the world.
I am almost clueless how I managed to grow up without feeling much in the way of envy for anyone or anything. Envy seems to be the one and only negative emotion I did not grow up feeling abundantly.
The one clue I have about why is my mother. If she herself ever felt it to any degree at all, she never once — so far as I can recollect — ever expressed feeling it. Maybe she somehow taught me to quickly dismiss it, to reflexively and almost instantly wave it aside — because that is for the most part all I can recall ever doing with envy.
I still do it to this very day. As a feeling, envy is no more than a brief and almost imperceptible one-word whisper to me. By the time I notice having felt it, it is gone.
Although I don’t know where, when, or how I picked up my technique for dealing with envy, I have learned from it, that’s the way for me to deal with all my negative emotions.
It was Joseph Campbell who taught me that the powers in us we deny by trying to repress them do not wither and die — they turn into our demons. It was Campbell who taught me that, but it was envy that showed me the best way to deal with negative feelings without actually repressing them. Envy showed me precisely how to deal with them.
Old Joseph never said much more about it than “don’t deny, don’t repress”. To his in-class professor, envy was my afterclass one-on-one tutor.
It’s simple in principle (everything, you know, is simple in principle). As simple as saying, the objective in chess is to checkmate your opponent’s king. It’s as simple as that — in principle.
To deal with envy, to brush it aside without actually repressing it — without compressing it into a black hole demon inside you — is to see how it really makes no sense to envy. How it really is useless even if you do feel it for a moment. And — this seems to be crucial — you must see it, all of it, very quickly.
Envy can be easily caught and brushed aside right at the start of it, but let it take off on you, and it will almost always out race you. Once it gets a start on you, you’ll be very lucky to catch it.
So, here’s what you do. You look. That’s the whole of it. You look at it. But do no more than look. Don’t judge it! Never think you’re looking when you judge it!
When you judge envy bad or evil, you are not looking, you are repressing. You are not ridding yourself of its feeling and influence over you. You are turning it demonic.
And never mistake simply swallowing the words, “Envy is useless. Envy is idle. Envy makes no sense.” — never make the mistake of thinking simply swallowing the words is looking.
You swallow words when you try to believe them.
You want to deal with envy? Or with any negative emotion or feeling? You must then see for yourself the scope and limits of it, the damage it does, the useless and unnecessary damage it does — and all the rest of it.
Mind you, not how bad it is. “Bad” is judging, and judging is never truly understanding. Not how bad it is, but how useless and unnecessary it is, etc.
Look at it anyway you can at first. That will most likely be too slowly done to catch it — at first. But the better you get at looking at it, the faster you will get at waving it aside. With some hard and sustained practice, you can get quick enough with your waving that you will actually begin catching it in time to brush it aside.
With some hard and sustained practice at looking, seeing will become reflexive.
The object of chess is to checkmate your opponent’s king. The goal of dealing with envy is to look at it, see it for what it is — see it true — then quickly brush it aside without at all trying to merely beat it down, without at all trying to repress it with the clumsy and heavy club of judgment.
Got all that? Good! Just don’t forget to practice it a wee bit before you take on envy for the World Championship of your spirit.