Envy, by Marta Dahlig, Deviantart
I’m about to write a painful, bitter post. It’s about something brings me a great deal of shame, so much shame I hesitated writing about it at all. It’s about what’s probably my very worst quality. But my need to be honest on this blog (because it may help both me and others), no matter how ugly or socially unacceptable my feelings may be, overrode any misgivings I had about what I’m about to write.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an envious person. Having been programmed by my FOO to be a perpetual victim, honed and chiseled by master artisans to become a dysfunctional, self-loathing adult unable to achieve even the normal comforts, supports, and pleasures non-abused people enjoy and take for granted; seemingly set up to always fail (and then get callously blamed for my failures by the very people who programmed me to fail), another unpleasant side effect of being programmed to be a “loser” is a nasty tendency to envy others for having those things that should have rightfully been mine too.
I’m not talking about winning the lottery or acquiring a new Ferrari (though those things might count too). I’m talking about envying those who achieve or acquire normal good things that most people who were raised in loving families take for granted–landing a great job, acceptance by a publisher, a place to go and be supported unconditionally when their luck is down, a wide circle of friends, an inheritance earned through simply being who they are and being a member of a family that cares about them unconditionally.
If such a good thing happens to a person I always knew had those things, someone who never seemed surrounded by darkness and always seemed to have things pretty easy, I envy them a lot less than if those things happen to someone I had met when they were still on “my level”–in other words, a fellow victim who suffered abuse and is still reeling from its fallout, struggling (and failing) to find their footing in a world that seems so cruel and cold, the way I continue to do and feel like I will be doing until the day I die. If such a person’s fortunes suddenly change, I fall into a slimy, nasty cesspool of envy. Instead of feeling inspired and encouraged that yes, the good thing that happened to them could happen to me too and I should just be patient, yada yada yada, I just feel consumed by that bitter, horrible emotion that does no one any good, least of all its bearer.
Coveter-in-training: being a hybrid mini-me/scapegoat/golden child to someone I knew even then I could never aspire to set the stage for my tendency to envy others.
I think I know why it’s easier to envy people who suddenly came into a great opportunity to change their lives than those who already had things easy. It’s a “misery loves company” kind of feeling: when you feel victimized by life and all the people you ever had to answer to, it helps to know that others feel exactly the same way because it means you’re not alone. It’s not that you want the person who’s fortunes changed to feel as badly as you; it’s not even that you’re not happy for them. It’s more that there’s a sense of solidarity in being able to wallow in a communal pit of misery together, and suddenly that feeling of solidarity is broken. It’s that feeling of realizing, “it’s not just me after all! I’m not alone!” being thrown into doubt because that person is suddenly able to lift themselves out of a hellish existence and you are still not. In all honesty, it feels like a kind of…well, betrayal.
I know it’s not really that at all. All of us who were victimized by narcissists all strive to break out of the trap of a life of failure set up for us by our abusers early in our lives. During our wallow in communal unhappiness, we feel strong solidarity. We support each other, cry on each other’s shoulders, feel angry on behalf of each other, and wish each other the best with utmost sincerity, as we wish it for ourselves. But then one one is suddenly lifted up out of the mire, you can’t help but feel left behind. You’re completely unprepared to feel that way, because this person was an angel to you and came to you at a time when she was most needed. You looked to her for inspiration, advice and support. So you beat yourself up over your envious feelings because you know feeling this way is wrong and sinful. You feel like a hypocrite, since in theory, you wanted what was best for this person and still do. You know they deserve good things and there is a part of you that is happy for them, but it’s corrupted by the unwelcome thought, “why not me too?” like mold on a delicious chocolate cake.
You know their reward was not undeserved. We are all at different parts in our healing journeys, and some are farther along than others. The person you so envy is farther along their spiritual and emotional journey than you are. You’re well aware of that fact and it never bothered you. You saw that person as a teacher and guide. You know that perhaps you’re just not ready yet to handle something that good happening to you yet and that’s why it hasn’t happened. First you must learn to better appreciate the things you already have, to see the glass as half full.
Of course you wish this person no harm; your envy is not the sort that wishes to take away anything or try to sabotage the person’s good fortune. But the bitterness and sense of unfairness is still there, eating away at your insides like an unwelcome and potentially lethal parasite. You know better but you can’t help it. Exhausted from your bitterness, you feel tired an depressed. You shout at God in frustration and exhausted rage: “When is MY ship ever going to come in?” You don’t want to take away anyone’s good fortune; you just want to have some for yourself too.
I think it’s hard for ACONs to learn to trust. The people in our lives have proved to be anything but trustworthy. We’ve been hurt, betrayed and disappointed by everyone we thought mattered. We learned to expect the worst from people. Many ACONs turn to God or religion as a respite. Desperate to trust someone, anyone, they fully embrace God and throw their worries blindly at the feet of the Almighty. Their faith seems perfect. Others, like me, have more trouble. How can we fully trust an entity we can’t actually see? How do we even know there’s anything there at all? We overthink everything and overthinking makes faith difficult to attain. I pray for faith constantly, because I know that’s the only thing that will take away my fear, self-loathing, suspicion of everyone, and my envy. The person I envy right now has faith that seems nearly perfect. How can I get to that point?
I pray that one day my envy can be transformed, that I can be genuinely happy for the good fortune of someone else, and even be inspired by it. I also pray that the person this post refers to doesn’t judge or condemn me for feeling envious, but something already tells me they will not. I will always be grateful they came into my life.