Envy – aka Tall Poppy Syndrome.

Envy: What Good Can We Glean from Such a Toxic Emotion?

Julie J. Exline Ph.D.

It’s little wonder that we call envy the green-eyed monster. Given its destructive power in our emotional lives and relationships, it certainly seems to deserve its time-honored place on the list of the Seven Deadly Sins. And in terms of its potential to heap misery upon us, envy is tough to beat.

Even if envy is generally a bad thing, could it contain any seeds that could be used for good in our lives? Before tossing it on the trash heap, let’s see if this ugly feeling called envy contains anything that could possibly be redeemed.

One good aspect of intense negative emotions is that they have “signal value.” In other words, they tell us—often in a loud and obnoxious way—that something’s wrong. And if we pay attention to these signals of trouble, we might be able to turn things around.

Envy damages relationships by dividing and alienating people. It sets us against others by fueling thoughts of relative status, competition, and resentment. Envy can also cause us to lash out with hurtful words or actions, creating more rifts. To overcome this divisive mindset, try to find something–anything–that you can do to move toward interpersonal harmony and healing. Restrain that impulse to tear the other person down through gossip.

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