Silent Envy…

Another emotion worth leaving behind is envy. 

Like anything we recover from, it takes time and practice to change our patterns.  In my experience, we develop many habits of thought and behaviour, particularly on the subconscious level.  Not unlike when our computers are running processes in the background, we don’t see them at work but they are having an effect and they draw energy from us.  These are the tricky ones to break free from.  But with time, help, and practice, I have found we have all the opportunity in the world to do so.

In my blog-buddy Debbie’s Two Minutes of Grace, we had some discussion around how we tend to do what comes naturally.  Well seemingly naturally anyway.  But what it often appears to be is what we have programmed in through time, exposure, and practice.  These are the habits of thought that the subconscious has mastered so we do them without thinking.  Including negative things like envy.

Conspicuous everyday-envy is easy to spot.  We see someone with something we would like, such as a home, job, physique, relationship, or what have you, and we experience conscious negative thoughts of longing for what they have, and a negative outlook toward them for them having it and us not.  We may even say something disparaging or dismissive about them for having it.  This is the easy stuff to deal with.  We know it is wrong and we can address the behavior, if not on our own, we can get help.

The tougher, yet still workable stuff, are the thoughts that we are less aware of that can be found bouncing around the ether of our minds.   They taint our attitude, draw from our limited amount of daily energy, keep us mildly depressed, rob us of sleep, and affect our demeanor and decision-making.  This form of envy is one of the roots of self-pity which to me, is the master mind of all self-defeating behaviour.

This subconscious, Silent Envy is what can keep us up at night and simply put an ambient sour feeling all over us.  We feel it, but we don’t often directly express it.  It tells us to make irrelevant comparisons of ourselves and others, and to rank people by criteria that is meaningless.  They are not us and we are not them.  We do not share similar neurologies, genetics, opportunities, talents, predispositions, upbringings, or life experiences.  So on what basis are these comparisons valid?  None that I have seen, yet our subconscious minds still often make them.

Sure we all know that we should not judge, gossip, or be petty.  Yet somehow we can develop these invisible patterns of thought that run in the back of our minds and keep us exactly where we do not want to be.

So what do we do about it?  I can’t speak for everyone, but the best way I have found is to continually retrain my thinking in new and positive ways.  Most importantly, I had to get a functioning understanding…. no, deeper than that… I had to immerse my thinking in gratitude.  I had to learn to see it, feel it, seek it, find it, embrace it, celebrate it, run to it, and embed it in my subconscious thinking as much or more than the threads of envy that once wove through. 

God as I understand him teaches that we can be “… transformed by the renewing of our minds”.  Sounds almost spooky yet is this not the process of any kind of personal growth?  Weeding out old, ineffective, toxic thought processes and planting and nurturing new ones?  How do we nurture them?  By practicing them.  By making a deliberate choice to take that awkward pathway of stopping an old thought then mechanically forcing ourselves (at first) to follow the new, chosen way.

It feels at first like wearing a new pair of shoes that are not worn in yet.  And our old thinking will resist it.  In fact, my old envious thinking started telling me, “it isn’t fair that I should have to learn new thinking, those other people didn’t have to”!   Really? First off, if they didn’t have to they probably will with some other thread of flawed thinking.  And secondly…. Who cares what they have to or don’t have to do!!??  They are not us!

The sheer insistence we apply to following a new pattern of thought or behaviour will be a key to creating a habit of it.  In my experience, a happy, functioning day and happy, functioning life is a result of living in happy functioning habits.

I continue to slowly give up this habit of envy at the subconscious level.  Life is so much better and my head is a far less noisy place.




About Chaz

Husband, father, brother, son, friend. Sober member of AA. Grateful for the life God gave me and for the happy struggle of recovery.
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15 Responses to Silent Envy…

  1. Envy … Doesn’t that fall within character defects? I guess we always have to be on guard for character defects. Envy usually doesn’t pop up. But I guess you could say, really, that I am envious of some of the women in our group for what they have that I don’t at this stage of my sobriety. Their way of seeing the world is so vibrant and boisterous. I would like to bottle what they have at times and horde it for myself and my sponsees. I know it isn’t an unhealthy envy that I obsess over it until it consumes me. How can we not be envious of some sober folks, to be where they are or to know what they know? I want to have some things that I don’t and want to incorporate things that I hear that don’t come from my mouth. I don’t necessarily call it envy and maybe I should. That’s a toss up. But one should always be vigilant of shortcomings and character defects to be able to name them, list them then pray to change them.

    Sobriety is a process. And sometimes topics like these come up and we get to look at it from a new direction. So it’s all good. Thanks for the topic.


    • Chaz says:

      Hi Jeremy…

      Your reply brings up a recurring point; the crossover zone or fine line between admiration and envy.

      I too see things in people that I would like to have for myself. Is this envy? Good question. To me, when the desire becomes unhealthy, it is envy. When the desire leads us to compare ourselves unrealistically with the other person, in a self-depricating way, its envy. When the desire leads us to lash out in thoughts, words, or actions, its envy.

      The stopping points of desire to have what another has that occur prior to these or other slippery slopes of negativity are, in my book, healthy admiration of another or what they have.

      Life is so full fine lines. One person put it to me this way, “Our weaknesses are our strengths gone out of control”.

      Thanks for adding to the dialogue. Like you, I find that thoughts and topics can be explored and refined through dialogue.



  2. Caddo Veil says:

    Chaz–I have new regard for the “miracle” of Google! I was having blog-dementia and couldn’t remember the name of your place to save my charming life. Well, thank the Lord, I found you again–and I think I could save myself some stress if I just put you on my blogroll, or “followed/subscribed”! Anyway, I always love what you have to say–even when it’s a 2-hankie post! Wishing you a most blessed day!!

    • Caddo Veil says:

      PS, I’m having a bit of trouble doing the “like” button–the window thingy that asks for my info is off the screen to the left. I think that means I have to be logged in before I visit here–I’ll try to remember for next time! Just wanted you to know I wasn’t “not liking” it…..

      • Chaz says:

        Hi Caddo…. thank you for your comments. No problem on the tech difficulties. Somehow the search engines have me on their radar screen.

        See you on the blogs.


  3. Caddo Veil says:

    Oh, wow–see? It worked this time (the like)!! I know, I’m so easily thrilled–some people like that about me!

  4. J Holmes says:

    Great article Chaz. I love that picture of the gal with the chain saw. I am still laughing. Of my many faults I have never had an envy issue. I missed that gene but the slot was taken up by worse stuff.

  5. Chaz great post on a great topic. I love the image of the woman in the green dress with a saw! So cool. Hope you’re having a great Vday. Heather

    • Chaz says:

      Thanks for stopping by Heather. Yes, Vday going great. We are on holiday so dinner by the pool and stroll on the beach. Enjoy yours too. Ciao. Chaz

  6. Heidi says:

    Chaz–I was searching for something you might have said about another topic and stumbled into this. How did I miss it??? I like . . “This form of envy is one of the roots of self-pity which to me, is the master mind of all self-defeating behaviour.” Yes. Self-pity. I may not always recognize it but that one is such a deeply rooted problem for me. I can see not only do I find ways to justify it, but I also probably feed it in my mentoring because I try so hard to empathise and end up supporting thier perspective. Ouch. So glad to find this.

    Just as a side note. I’m working on a post about how easy it is for Christians or others who have staunchly held belief systems to just blow by Steps 1, 2 and 3. For myself, I thought I came into the program at Step 4. For a long time, I just couldn’t see that I needed to do any work on those first 3. Now I’m re-looking. I think I was hampered by my staunchiness?? ha. Would love to hear from you about this.

    • Chaz says:

      Hello Heidi! So sorry for such a late reply. Have not logged in for a couple weeks at least. Life’s just been busy on many fronts.

      I can relate to staunchiness being a hinderance to an honest and effective working of steps 1-3. I was one who blew past them with an air of pride that I already knew of and how to believe in and surrender to God. BUT!… if I truly knew how to genuinely do this, why was I trapped in my active alcoholism?

      For me at least, my practice of turning over to God was always followed by my immediate taking back what I had just turned over. If you have a chance to watch that Pineapple Story vid I referenced some time ago, the missionary in it gives such a memorable and vivid illustration of false-surrender and the self-deception many of us who believe we believe in God fall into.

      For me, I think I did one false-surrender too many. And when I reached to take back what I thought I had just surrendered to God, he handed me my teeth instead 🙂

      Well maybe he didn’t, but I am sure you get my point. I think we who are immersed in church cultures are unknowingly in danger of having a relationship with the culture and community more than with God. When all else failed for me, and the culture couldn’t help me, I only had God left… and it was at this point that I was finally reachable and teachable. Prior to that, I was giving it the “Christian ya, ya, I know, I know”, approach to turning my will and my life over.

      Great observation! Would be happy to read and comment on this topic. Will cruise by your blog soon.

      On the self-pity thing… oh man, I could go on and on. In fact, maybe I should do another post on this. Self Pity is so much bigger and more insidious than we give it credit for. It, like alcoholism, is cunning, baffling and powerful.

      More on this at some point.

      Look forward to your thoughts.



      • Heidi says:

        Oh, good. I would just love to see some more thoughts from you on this. You’re a bit further into the reality than I am, I think. I’m just so excited to be able to learn this. If surrender were a product, I’d be out selling it!

  7. Heidi says:

    Chaz, oh, Chaz. Where are you? Thank you for commenting on my post today. I really miss your thought-provoking posts. Just saying….

    • Chaz says:

      Hi Heidi…. been fully occupied with a bunch of stuff like work, family, etc. In addition to my regular job, my wife and I also have a business that is taking increasing amounts of my time. Plus just life. Aging parents being a big part of it all.

      Back to blogging soon.

      Thanks for the concern.



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