In detail

Envy: what it is and why we envy

Envy: what it is and why we envy

Envy is the pain that causes the prosperity of others. Aristotle

The envious are those who suffer for the good they see that has touched other men in luck. Discards

  • Carlos describes himself in an interior as an envious person but evidently with his friends he shows the opposite.
  • Alexandra, lives spying on her neighbor Lorena who has bought a new car and every time she arrives and greets her, Alexandra feels her stomach is turning, because she hasn't changed her car for 5 years.
  • Roberto and Alondra every time they go for a walk with their son they put an amulet (deer eye) to protect him from the envious and that he does not get sick.
  • Violeta knew that Pearl has a new boyfriend who treats her like a princess, in her most abject thoughts, she hates her because she has not been able to find her better half, despite being a good girl.
  • Ricardo has become ill and does not know exactly what he has, every time he goes to the doctor he sees people smiling and feels angry when they smile at him because he envies the health of others and the pain does not let him live fully, day or night .
  • José works all day and has not gone on vacation for more than a year, he barely found Luis who told him that he received an inheritance from his grandfather and this will allow him to travel to Europe for a full month, which made José sick of courage and think: "damn Luis, how lucky he is and does not even work."

In the practice of Psychology today it is impossible to analyze some behavior in the purity of our own discipline, which is why it is increasingly common to find studies where different specialties overlap to explain a single topic, the case of Envy is no exception, I call this system interaction.

Just this systems interaction makes for some authors, the envy is an emotion, for others a feeling, a behavior, a personality trait or even a series of imbalances of chemical messengers: serotonin, norepinephrine, coristisol, dopamine and more.


  • 1 What is envy?
  • 2 Definitions of Envy
  • 3 What do we envy?
  • 4 Why do we envy?
  • 5 How do we overcome envy?
  • 6 The chemistry of envy?
  • 7 Envy its origin in emotions
  • 8 The point of view of the economy
  • 9 Positive emotions against negative ones

What is envy?

It is a way of experiencing a negative emotion (anger, resentment, anger, exasperation, indignation, annoyance, irritability, hostility, regret, melancholy, pessimism, grief, self-pity, dejection, despair) that transforms into feelings and then into unpleasant thoughts. There are those who consider envy as a personality trait (Taylor, 1988).

In the most serious cases when a negative emotion is experienced, it can lead to pathological cases as Goleman (1977) points out: extreme anger turns into pathological violence and hate; sadness in severe depression and fear in phobia or panic. Envy is destructive, and without control it can even reach murder.

An envious person is incapable of being charitable, is malicious, unfair, hostile and acts with resentment.

It is the evil eye of the time of our grandparents, because who possessed some quality or was envied and a form of protection or amulet, even in our days in Mexico, is to carry a seed called "deer eye" or a ribbon Red.

Definitions of Envy

The definitions of envy range from the academic to the philosophical.

Envy: It is a feeling of displeasure, of disgust, for the joy of the other. "The moody and contracted, the bitter, cannot suffer the laughter of the one who is cheerful and satisfied, because he envies in the end a feeling of which he is incapable." (Dorsch, 1994)

From psychoanalysis, penis envy

Envy: Negative emotion of discontent and resentment generated by the desire to have the possessions, attributes, qualities or achievements of another person. Unlike jealousy, with which it shares a certain similarity and with which it is often confused, envy only involves two people, the envious person and the envied person (Viveros, 2010).

Envy of the uterus: In psychoanalytic theory, envy that some men feel for the reproductive capacity of women, which is considered an unconscious motive that leads them to denigrate them (Viveros, 2010).

Envy (from Latin invidia) is that feeling or mental state in which there is pain or misfortune for not possessing oneself what the other has, whether in goods, superior qualities or other kinds of things (wikipedia, 2012).

Melanie Klein (1988) defines envy as the feeling of anger that someone has and enjoys something desirable, being the envious impulse to take it away or spoil it.

Kant (Kant, cited in Borg, 1988) referred to envy when a person sees the good of others in pain, even if he does not cause any harm to his own good.

What do we envy?

The joy, the happiness, the pleasure, the qualities, the goods, the goals of another person, the people around him, the working conditions, his appearance, his spirituality, his clothes, his state of health, his money, the love they have, their social skills, their luck.

And, we see ourselves as inferior, lacking, unhappy, because the other we see better and sometimes almost a perfect person or with the qualities or luck that we lack.

In addition, we assume that the other person possesses what we want and do not possess or have it in less quantity or quality, it makes us feel, angry, sad, depressed, desolate, discouraged, desperate, hopeless, and we think he has what he does not He deserves and we don't have what he has.

Therefore the other, becomes the competitor or the symbolic rival, even if he does not know, with which we assign that role is more than enough.

Socially it is something negative or bad, which should not be felt, and when it is felt, it should not be manifested, in the worst of the forecasts it is denied, concealed or lies about having it.

Why do we envy?

Why when comparing ourselves socially with others, our deficiencies or deficiencies arise, since there is always someone better than us. Thus, socially the so-called "envy of the good" would be the same as the "envy of the bad", because in essence it is a negative behavior.

According to Parrot (1991) During an episode of envy the following characteristics are presented:

  1. Desire for what the other person has, desire frustrated,
  2. Inferiority: sadness of one's own deficiencies or inferiority in relation to the envied person; anguish for one's status; despair at the possibility of not having what the envied person has,
  3. Resentment focused on the agent: resentment towards a specific person or group; dislike for his superiority; anger and hatred towards those who are held responsible;
  4. Global resentment over the injustice of circumstances or destiny;
  5. Blame for feeling bad will towards the envied; believe that grudges are wrong, and
  6. Admiration, emulation of the envied or identification with the envied.

How do we overcome envy?

In dysfunctional terrain, we want to be better than the other person or we want to ruin the other's position of advantage. "Dear Santa: Don't make me lose weight, but make my friends fat."

The chemistry of envy?

Each external stimulus activates in our body a whole series of chemical messengers which change the internal balance within our being, this impacts the five trillion cells that form our organism.

When we experience envy our body generates: resentment, anger, resentment, repression of thoughts and resistance to change our paradigms, with it in the bloodstream circulates a corrosive hormone, known as Cortisol, the stress hormone.

To balance our thoughts we need to generate oxytocin and serotonin, and we can achieve this naturally by having: relaxation, rest, smiling, enjoying sex, taking a massage, sunbathing, living with loved ones.

Today we know that the centers where emotions (cerebral tonsil) and oxytocin (hypothalamus and pituitary gland) occur, have a higher production of the latter hormone, has an analgesic effect that mitigates physical and emotional pain, reduces blood pressure , reduces muscle tension, reduces the feeling of anxiety and thereby reduces the appetite associated with stress and improves wound healing among other benefits (Uvnäs, 2000).

Envy originates in emotions

Emotions have been studied for many years, however, Charles Darwin was one of the pioneers of science in 1872, with his work: The expression of emotions in man and animals. And, he concluded that emotions were not good, nor bad, but only adaptive behavior.

Later, in 1921 Wilhem Wundt, he published "The language of gestures" and came to the conclusion that gestures are a mirror of emotions and the inner world of the interlocutor.

At present, due to neuroimaging techniques (positron emission tomography and magnetic resonance imaging) we know even more about them. They are part of a whole that implies a simple and at the same time complex sequence: emotion, feeling, thought and action or behavior.

Thus, emotions are psychophysiological phenomena that represent ways of adapting to certain environmental or self-stimuli (Emotion, 2011). According to Paul Ekman (2012), they are universal.

The neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, from the University of Southern California (UCLA) has reached the following conclusions: Emotions are a complex set of chemical and neuronal responses that form a distinctive pattern. These responses are produced by the brain when it detects an emotionally competent stimulus, that is, when the object or event, real or mentally remembered, triggers an emotion and the corresponding automatic responses. The answers come from both the brain's innate mechanisms (primary emotions) and the behavioral repertoires learned over time (secondary emotions). Feelings, on the other hand, are the conscious evaluation we make of the perception of our body state during an emotional response. Feelings are conscious, mental objects such as those that triggered the emotion (images, sounds, physical perceptions ...). Emotions that are not perceived as feelings are unconscious and, however, can have an effect on our behaviors (Monge, 2009).

The point of view of the economy

In economics, envy is related to people's decision-making, since they are not only guided by their own benefit but also by the material gains that other individuals in their social network can have.

From this perspective, Envy has an evolutionary origin, according to Antonio Cabrales Professor of the Department of Economics of the Carlos III University of Madrid, the concept of envy used in the study is what is known in technical terms as "aversion to inequality." That is, individuals are willing to spend resources of all kinds (monetary, effort, etc.) in order to reduce differences in material well-being with respect to other people. Envy is raised as a result of a competition for limited resources, and we have it coded in the genes "(Envy, 2010).

Positive emotions against negative ones

We usually divide only for pedagogical purposes at emotions in positive and negative.

According to Izard (1971) the positive emotions they are: joy, love, happiness, and negatives, they are; Fear, anger and sadness. In general, positive emotions tend to improve the feeling of well-being and foster constructive relationships with others. Negative emotions tend to diminish the feeling of well-being and create disturbances in relationships with others.

Positive emotions generate behaviors of: encouragement, love, appreciation, friendship and rapprochement in the interaction with other people.

Suggestions for change

Learn to live and enjoy what you want and have.

Recognize that the achievements of others are usually the product of their effort, although there are people who more easily obtain their satisfactions and goals, each of us is different and you need to work for yours.

Learn from others when they show us their negative aspects, because it is likely that they will ultimately serve as a mirror and we will also have those features.

To learn more, do not miss this book by Juan Antonio Barrera