Philosophy Tuesday

Was talking with someone about envy recently… ontologically it’s quite the interesting emotion, and one that I’m sure pretty much all of us feel to some degree at various times throughout our lives.  But in musing about it, I realized that there might be several nuances and additional layers that I hadn’t really considered before.  I call them Envy Envy, Due Envy, and Shame Envy.

(As a quick aside, it’s important to note that, though they’re often used interchangeably, there is also a distinction between Envy and Jealousy.  Briefly, Envy is about really wanting something someone else has, whether possessions, attributes, status, or whatever.  Jealousy is to feel insecure or protective of something you already have, or to feel threatened or to worry that someone will take something you already have.)

Envy Envy is the garden variety of envy, that longing for something that someone else, such that we ache within.  A little envy can be motivating, since it can push us to get off our duffs and go out to get that thing.  But a strong amount of envy, or being envious of and pursuing something improper (including something that won’t get us what we actually want) can be quite deleterious.

The next two take this common Envy and add something that doubles down on the deleteriousness.

Due Envy layers on a sense of entitlement.  It says “Not only am do I want and covet that thing you have, but I deserve it and I ain’t getting it.”  It’s envy coupled with a feeling of insult and of being thwarted.

Shame Envy, while similar to Due Envy, twists its layer towards a sense of, well, shame.  Not so much shame for feeling the envy, but more along the lines of “Not only do I want and covet the thing you have, but I should have it by now and I’m bad and wrong and failing for not having it yet.”

And it’s very much possible to have all three Envys at the same time!  Envy Envy is already present in Due and Shame envy, but since Due and Shame envy share that same fantasy of expectation and entitlement, when the discomfort of shame sets in, Due Envy lashes out to try and discharge the pain.

The key here is to recognize that it’s the expectation and the fantasy that’s at the root and that needs the transformational attention.  Because without addressing that not only does their deleterious impacts continue but it’s unlikely to be able to wrangle the base Envy Envy back into that productive zone.