Hello there, and happy hump day. 

I have a friend who is younger than myself by 15+ years. She's exactly who I'd of wanted for a little sister, if I'd had one.
I truly can say there is not one negative thing that could be said about her.
After busting her butt in school, she recently just landed an AMAZING, prestigious job, all on her own. No family connections, no favors, she did it all by herself.
Among the congratulations, she had a family member (by marriage) say,  "I'm so surprised they hired you, I'm SURE they had more qualified applicants!" With the obligatory "No offense" thrown in, which is supposedly going to somehow make that statement less egregious.  

As my friend was telling me about this encounter, all I could think was "I've seen this show before."

"Jealous" is often used when someone actually means "Envy". Jealousy, involves 3 people. Think of the feelings the once only child had when mom and dad bring home a new baby. He is jealous of the attention his new sibling is getting. "Envy" involves two parties. Think of how you might envy your friend who has never had a bad hair day in her life. Does this make sense? 

Sticking with the scenario of envying your friend with great hair, that's what is considered "benign envy." Meaning, there is nothing at all malicious about it.  If asked "Are you envious of Becky's hair?" The friend might respond along the lines of "Of course! Look how shiny and healthy it is! Who wouldn't be envious of her hair!!"
What I described though in regards to my friend and her new job, that's something which is far darker. That is what is called "malignant envy." Malignant, as it is a metaphoric cancer.

This is what Dr. Leonard Shengold says this type of envy is:

Clinically, one sees in malignant envy the phenomenon of the subject feeling with delusional intensity that what the envied one has is not only urgently wanted but has been stolen from the self.

In other words, the envious persons wants something that you have. They feel that they are entitled to it, and you are not worthy of having it and that you somehow "stole" it from them in the first place.

While the list of things you could be envied for is endless, I find there is one thing that evokes it more than anything- being happy.

Designer bags, tropical vacations,a "perfect" body, a new luxury car will all be causes of envy. In my personal experience, NOTHING will cause you to be the victim of other people's envy more than being happy.  

Of course, when you are dealing with a healthy person, you don't end up being on the receiving end of their envy. At least not in this malignant way. When someone has sound mental health, they understand that you and your life has no bearing on their life.
Where you run into trouble is when you you are dealing with someone who is unfortunate enough to not have a strong hold in their mental health well being. Often, you'll find these people high on the narcissistic scale.

If you look on-line, you'll find countless articles on how to deal with envy if you are the one feeling envious. Yet, there is next to nothing out there to offer guidance for folks who are on the receiving end of envy.
Clearly, I'm not a psychologist. I am innately happy though. That unto its self has caused me my share of being exposed to someone else's envy.
This is the advice I gave my younger friend as to how to deal with her envious family member and it's the advice I would give to anyone else in a situation like hers.

  • Watch out, they very well may try to sabotage you. I don't know if its more sad or scary that some people get to this level. Regardless though, protect yourself. Don't give them enough info for them to ever make use of it. Don't give them the name of the company that just made you an offer. Don't tell them which restaurant your boyfriend made special reservations at.

  • Do not let them bait you into arguing with them. That's EXACTLY what they want you to do. It gives them self validation that they are right in thinking that you are an awful person and that you do not deserve what you have (and that they covet).

  • Expect passive aggressive behavior. They will try to tell you and anyone else for that matter how you've "wronged" them. Often, it will be about stuff that has nothing to do with what they envy you for. Maybe they are upset that you are going on vacation, but a vacation is not in their budget this year. Out of seemingly the blue, they might say how you have become a bad friend and are not there for them. The best way to deal with this, is to stay your authentic self. Someone else might believe them initially. However, everyone else will eventually see that your behavior and actions do not reconcile with what the envious person is saying about you. Sooner than later, it becomes obvious to everyone that this person is lying BECAUSE they are envious of you. Trust me, it becomes embarrassingly obvious what they are up to. 

  • Always remember, THEY are the problem-not you. We are all responsible for our own lives and our own happiness. When a healthy person feels pangs of envy coming on, they use it as motivation. The people who get overcome with with this nasty, bitter envy and resentment are typically the same people who feel that their happiness is everyone else's responsibility. If only their spouse would earn more money, they would be happy. If only their child tried harder to become homecoming queen, etc. Their lack of self-awareness is not your 'fault'.  Nor, is it your obligation to accommodate.
I finished my chat with my sweet , younger friend with this for perspective as to what she is actually dealing with from her envious family member...

Have you ever felt as if you were on the receiving end of envy? How did you deal with it? What advice would you give?



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