Thursday, 6 September 2012

Negative thoughts: How to deal with jealousy, how to overcome fear and envy

Unfairness is everywhere and, if you care to look, you will detect more than your equitable share. Some people are born in the right environment, others possess powerful connections, inherit better looks, or simply draw the lucky number in a lottery.

Occasionally, your valuable work won't be appreciated and, instead, people will praise worthless nonsense. You may at times have to endure discrimination or ostracism, with the accompanying financial drawbacks. Disappointment, self-pity, and envy are frequent reactions to those situations.

The cause of negative emotions

Those negative emotions result from complex thought processes, which are as widespread as they are illogical. Imagine, for example, the case of an inexperienced person who is appointed to a high position within a bank thanks to his family connections to the detriment of a much better-qualified candidate.

What will be the feelings of the person who has seen his rightful expectations evaporate in a cloud of unfairness? On the one hand, irritation and perhaps anger. In addition, discouragement or even depression. Finally, envy, together with an overall sensation of futility. Let us examine in detail the thought sequence that generates these feelings:

  1. The open position should be filled with the most competent candidate.The people who will make the choice should strive to identify who the best candidate is.
  2. The selection should be made exclusively on the basis of rational criteria.
  3. People should display extra care when they make such crucial decisions.
  4. When someone makes important choices for an organization, he should not let himself be influenced by personal interests and family connections.
  5. Since I am the best-qualified candidate, I should obtain the appointment.
  6. If a less experienced person is selected for the job, that would constitute a terrible injustice.
The ideas described above seem irrefutable at first sight, but they fall apart if we subject them to rational examination. 

Looking for a workable solution

In reality, we all know that some people carry out their duties in an exemplary manner while others are as negligent as you can be. For every person who possesses a strong sense of justice, how many will you find who prefer to look the other way?

Even if you happen to be the best-qualified individual for that particular job, how much of that is the result of luck anyway? If you are reading this, I bet that you have not been born in appalling poverty, deprived of access to basic education, and neglected by your parents to the point of near-starvation. Do take a minute to assess if at least part of your success is the result of pure coincidence or good fortune.

My point is not to state that everything is relative, which is not. Equally, I am not trying to tell you that you shouldn't have ambitions, which you should, by all means. What I am arguing is that envy, a deep feeling of misplaced disadvantage, is mostly a logical illusion.

In a world where millions of people are ignorant, thoughtless, and driven by nefarious ethics, what sense does it make to focus on the unfairness of the day? Lamentations and wishful thinking can bring about certain psychological relief, but they are essentially a waste of resources.

The rational solution to negative feelings

The rational response to unfairness is not envy, but relentless action. Given sufficient time, intelligent persistence tends to weigh off the influences of inheritance and chance. In our example, the person who has not been chosen for the job would do better to put on a good face and start to look around, discreetly, for a better position for himself at a rival bank.

Your time on earth is limited and should be used promoting your own cause in front of rational, fair individuals. For what concerns other people's mistakes, prejudice, or arbitrariness, you will be better off if you shrug your shoulders and move on. In the long-term, life often has its own funny ways to settle accounts without your intervention.

For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my book The 10 Principles of Rational Living 


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