How I Replaced Envy with Admiration
Transformational steps for mental health
In this story, I highlight a potent emotion that creates unpleasant feelings and causes us suffering. This painful emotion is called envy. Of course, there is nothing wrong with envy as an emotion. However, its effects can produce undesirable feelings and a painful state of mind.
I struggled to deal with envy in my younger years. This mental and emotional challenge required me to put significant time and energy. It took me years to rewire my brain for admiration. Fortunately I achieved it so, I'd like to pass along my insights.
Every emotion tells us something important is happening in our body and mind for survival. Emotions are messengers and require acknowledgment and assessment. Some emotions create pleasant feelings, and some unpleasant ones. Living with good feelings is a desire for humans.
When some of us see a friend with extraordinary talent, a celebrity with stunning looks, or a neighbor with a luxurious home or a car, we might have a disturbing unconscious feeling. It is the emotion of envy.
When we feel envy, we experience discontent and resentment. It usually occurs when we see qualities, possession, and fortune in others that we don't have and a strong desire to have them. When we engage in social comparisons, we may experience the emotion of envy naturally.
Envy is a primitive emotion. We developed instincts to evaluate ourselves by examining our capabilities and outcomes compared to others. There is no single brain region creating envy specifically.
However, according to researchers of this paper examining the neural basis of comparison, the ventral striatum is activated. This brain region plays a role in making decisions and responding to rewards. The paper suggests that the ventral striatum plays a role in mediating the emotional consequences of social comparison. The ventral striatum is part of the limbic system in the brain . It belongs to the emotional part of the brain.
We make evaluations and comparisons using our cognitive brain. However, another brain region called the anterior cingulate cortex is activated in terms of comparisons. This paper in Nature explains an experiment to shed light on the subject. So my point is multiple brain regions are responsible for creating the emotion of envy.
The paper titled "Cognitive neuroscience of social emotions and implications for psychopathology: examining embarrassment, guilt, envy, and schadenfreude" identified the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex sorts out conflicts for these complex and disturbing emotions. Envy is one of them considered irrational and annoying.
We know that our unconsciousness reflects in our physical world. As envy happens unconsciously, we can't do much about it. However, we can do a lot when it arrives at the conscious mind. Using this human capability, we can turn our unpleasant emotions into pleasant ones. Emotionally intelligent people proved this.
A more pleasant and closest emotion to envy is admiration. By using our thinking brain, we can convert envy to admiration. As soon as we intentionally create the feeling of admiration for an enviable situation, we experience a pleasant relief. The emotion of admiration creates this beautiful effect.
When we feel admiration, we create respect and warm approval for enviable situations. By using fMRI experiments, neuroscientists identified some brain regions activated with admiration. They also used theoretical accounts to create these experiments involving interoceptive representation and homeostatic regulation.
The findings published in a paper on PNAS identified activities in the anterior insula, anterior cingulate, hypothalamus, and mesencephalon. This research study provided insights on the functions of the posteromedial cortices and the recruitment of the anterior insula in social emotions concerned with physical versus psychological pain.
Even though admiration and respect are different emotions, both respect and admiration differentially activate the anterior temporal lobe, as pointed out in this study. Researchers pointed out that admiration and respect are positive social emotions often experienced when recognizing excellent behavior in another person. They confirmed that the evaluation and interpretation of the social behavior of another person are dependent on semantic memory.
Admiration for the well-being of humans was studied significantly in psychological literature. For example, this research study tested for associations of dispositional admiration and adoration with dimensions of psychological well-being and life satisfaction. Their findings suggest that "admiration and adoration bind people to ideals irrespective of their ability to move closer to them, thereby providing a potential source of satisfaction."
Our emotional intelligence plays a role in switching envy to admiration. This study published in Nature identified evidence for dispositional envy exhibiting a structural neural correlation with the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and superior temporal gyrus. In addition, the researchers pointed out that findings explained why individuals with high emotional intelligence exhibit less envy.
I don't see a reason to cite many papers on the harmful effects of envy and satisfying effects of admiration. It is obvious to experience the effects of envy and admiration in our lives. In my opinion, it is common sense that envy is harmful, and admiration is an enjoyable emotion. However, transforming envy to admiration requires conscious effort and dedication. First, we need to create an intention for feeling admiration.
We can use our prefrontal cortex to observe and evaluate the situations creating envy. Then, we can use our task-switching capability of the cognitive system replacing envy with admiration and adoration. Mindful behavior is a critical cognitive and emotional intelligence approach.
In my younger years, I used to envy the excellent academics that I followed. When I saw their outstanding articles published in refereed and peer-reviewed journals, I used to feel a knot in my stomach even though I enjoyed the content. However, after I learned to transfer envy to admiration quickly, I felt a remarkable shift and liberation in my psychological well-being.
Envy is natural, but we have the choice to acknowledge this emotion, feel its effects for a little while, and quickly tap into our cognitive system to make a quick assessment and make the intention for creating admiration. This mental process can rewire our neural pathways with practice. Admiration also increased my intuition and meaningful connections with others.
It took me several years to rewire my brain for admiration. Nowadays, when I read a breakthrough paper, an invention, or inspiring content valuable for humanity, I instantly feel admiration. More importantly, this baseline emotion quickly turns into sublime exhilaration, bliss, and even euphoria. Sometimes my friends and family members cannot make sense when they see me reading an academic paper or an invention report with tears of joy.
Thank you for reading my perspectives. I wish you a healthy and joyful life. The original version of this article is published on another platform. If you enjoy writing, you can join Vocal as a creator to find your voice and reach out to a broad audience. I also write on Medium and NewsBreak.