Ever heard of the Seven Deadly Sins?
Over the past few months I’ve noticed one of the these deadly sins showing up in my client calls, with some regularity. And you know what happens when you think of yourself as a sinner? Shame comes rushing in.
Shame likes everything to look neat and tidy. It hates the messiness of being human. So it brushes the debris of sin under the carpet where it can be forgotten. But dang, that just make things worse.
You end up tripping over it again and again.
What works a whole lot better is taking the rug out into the daylight and giving it a good shake.
“OOOH”, you think. “I don’t want everyone seeing my dirt”. I hear ya. That’s why you do it in private. Or with a trusted partner, who’ll hold the other end of the carpet, and cheer as the sin debris flies free.
The sin that’s been creating lumps under the carpet for my clients lately is Envy. You may know her by her pet name, Jealousy.
Whatever you call it, we’ve all experienced it. I certainly have! And it feels like crap. But sweeping it under the rug doesn’t make it go away. And pretending it isn’t there only trips you up.
A client, let’s call her Evelyn, was envious of her friend Jenny’s success. Jenny’d just been picked to be a back up singer for a hugely successful band. She was about to embark on a world tour that could be life-changing.
Evelyn was thrilled. She was inspired by how hard Jenny had worked to make her dream come true. She also felt relieved. The life of an artist can be a struggle. Lots of times Evelyn worried about how Jenny was going to pay her rent. This gig was going to make things easier for Jenny, and that made Evelyn so happy.
She was feeling all sorts of positive emotions about her friends success. She loved her like a sister. She was excited, but she was also jealous.
Jealousy kept killing her joy. And long with the jealousy came shame.
“How could I be jealous of my best friend?” Evelyn questioned. “I feel awful. Even though I’m excited and I know she’s earned it, I’m so embarrassed to admit it but there’s a part of me that doesn’t want her to have it” Evelyn was ashamed of how she felt. She thought it made her a bad person. It was challenging for her to even tell me about it, afraid that I would judge her.
I asked if we could look a little more closely at the jealousy, rather than sweep it away. She was tentative, but willing.
She was most upset that she could be thrilled for her friend and also not want her to have this success. We teased apart these seemingly opposing feelings by first exploring the beliefs she had about Jenny’s opportunity to go on tour.
What might it mean to Evelyn? With a bit of time to sink into her own body’s sensations, she could feel her fear. While on tour Jenny wouldn’t have as much time to connect. Evelyn might feel lonely. Jenny might change and not be the sweet understanding friend that she is now. She might meet all kinds of new people she liked better. Evelyn might be abandoned. Evelyn was just afraid of losing Jenny’s love. I helped her see this was perfectly natural. We all have a need to be loved.
Then we looked at the envy head on. I encouraged her not to be all polite and sophisticated about her feelings but to be as honest and straightforward as a kid might be. Just say what came up without filtering. She said things like, “I want that.” “It’s not fair” “Me Too”.
With a little investigation, it soon became clear that Evelyn didn’t really want to join a band. She had no desire to be trapped in a bus with a bunch of other people, eating road food and sleeping in hotels. She didn’t even want to be onstage in front of thousands of screaming fans.
What she did want was a chance to be heard, to make an impact, to be acknowledged.
Turned out Evelyn wanted to write a book, but she’d never had the courage to do it. She knew she had something worth sharing but was afraid she might not be a good enough writer. With some support in facing her fears she decided to take a writing class to start building her confidence and her craft.
That would move her in the direction of writing her book, but it didn’t guarantee she’d be heard, make an impact, or be acknowledged.
I had Evelyn imagine her book was published. It was making a huge impact. She was getting all sorts of acknowledgement for it. As she imagined this, I asked her to describe how she was feeling. She said, “Generous. Kind. Patient. Accepting. Beautiful. Smart. Open. Strong.”
I asked her how she’d treat herself if she was all of those things.
Ah, there’s the rub.
Turns out she’d treat herself quite differently. She’d dedicate more time to doing the things she wants to do. She’d sleep more. She’d be on social media less and in nature more. She’d let go of some old relationships. She’d even shop at different stores and wear different clothes.
There were many things she’d change, but I had her pick the one change, that if she did only that, it would make all other changes easier. She chose it. She committed to it. I supported the change. It’s transforming her life.
You see the deadly sin of envy could very well be your soul speaking to you. It might be your highest calling showing you a glimpse of what you haven’t been willing to face head on.
Next time you feel envious (or jealous) you can use it as a way to hear your soul calling you.
Don’t judge yourself. Get curious.
- If someone achieves, or has, something you want, ask yourself what part of that you want for yourself?
- Give yourself time to imagine that you have it; whether it’s a passionate lover, a brilliant mind, beautiful body, wonderful career, or whatever it is you want?
- How would having what that person has, make you feel? Notice the sensations in your body.
- Then ask, how would you treat yourself differently if you felt that way?
- If there are many things you’d change, just choose ONE. Make sure it’s The One. You’ll know it.
- That’s the one your soul wants for you!
If you don’t want someone else to have something, be curious again. What do you believe will happen to you if they have it?
By staying curious you’ll get to the core of your fear, and on the other side of that fear there is love. There is always love.
So let yourself be totally jealous, green with envy. And then listen to what your soul wants you to know.
Learning how to deal with “unpleasant” emotions is one of the benefits you’ll get from reading my upcoming book, The Power of Pleasure.
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