Hax: How to deal with feelings of envy

The Washington PostJune 1, 2013 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: A column of yours from December raised a rarely talked-about issue between friends: envy. It's human to envy those who have what we want, but it isn't an easy emotion. What do you think is the best way to navigate this minefield of (privately) acknowledging the ugly emotion but also caring genuinely for your friend?


One way is to accept that we all have ugly thoughts and feelings sometimes. One of our jobs on Earth is to master them, which means not letting them corrupt our behavior - and making the necessary repairs when they do get the best of us.

Another is a mental exercise I use all the time. When I feel envy, I ask myself whether I'd trade lives with that person if I could - not the part I envy, but all of it. There's always at least one part of their world (though typically dozens) that I wouldn't want, enough to make me say, "No thanks, I'll keep mine."

Hi, Carolyn: I went through a breakup about four months ago. The relationship didn't end in the best way; I simply stopped taking calls from him because I could no longer take the lies and deception.

Now I am terribly lonely and missing companionship. I am seeing a therapist to make sure I'm taking care of myself while going through the healing process. But, I'm sad and I miss him (or I miss companionship).

I feel dumb for missing the man who caused so much drama and distress in my life, but we also had many good times. How do I get through this time without being a downer?


Branch out, please. I won't suggest how, because it has to be in ways that have personal meaning to you - but the way you present this situation, it sounds as if you see your world generally as the Past With Your Ex, the Present Without Your Ex, and the Future You Construct So You Don't Think About Your Ex - and there's so much out there that's better than someone who lies to you on a regular basis.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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