Since I’ve been back from Japan – almost a ten days ago – I decided to that I wanted to read a book every week.
Man’s Search for Meaning – by Viktor E. Frankl
This week, I was reading “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl. This book was written in the year 1946, just after the war. It is one of the most impressive books I ever read in my entire life. It’s an educational book, an insightful book with a lot of psychology involved. But most of all, it’s the autobiographical story of how Frankl managed to stay alive in 4 concentration camps in World War II. The most fascinating thing is that he tries to explain the moods, the events and the actions of his fellow prisoners and the SS officers from a (logo-)psychological point of view (What is logotherapy? Click here for the wiki). This is why I find “Man’s Search for Meaning”; a very important book. In this blogpost, I will write a summary and a review of his book.
Frankl was taken on a train to Auschwitch. Together with 1500 other people he had been traveling by train in overcrowded carriage (page 9, 10). After their arrival to Auschwitz, the 1500 people were “cooped up in a shed built to accomodate probably two hundred at the most.”
For most of us, envy is part of the human experience. It’s that nagging feeling you get when someone owns or has something that you would really want to have yourself. That material or immaterial possession makes you green with envy of another person. Most of us know the feeling. Your classmate has better grades than you do and you hate her for it. Another guy is dating the girl of your dreams and you feel terrible about it. Your aquaintances have a bigger house than you do and you resent them for it. Your colleague gets a raise while you are stuck with the same salary for the next 6 months. Or you could be in the situation that your friend is more popular than you, while everyone is overlooking you!
Whatever the cause, envy can have a crippling effect on people. Envy has the ability to consume rational thought and therefore I consider it a dangerous emotion, when it goes unmoderated. In various cultures, envy is seen as something that is bad, and it is sometimes being called the mother of all sins. It is called that because envy can lead to anger and greed among other things.
In some countries, the instinct of trying to demean succesful or happy people is called “the Tall Poppy Syndrome”. That means trimming down the majestic flourishing poppy. It’s figurative speech for the tendency to disparage or discredit the succesful, the happy, the lucky, the pretty, etc. That sounds kind of mean and terrible, if you ask me, and also a bit backwards. What if we envied Einstein or Tesla for their intelligence and we would haved oppressed them mercilessly so that they would have been entirely crippled? Then they would not have made the discoveries and they would not have thought of their very useful theories. They would not have furthered the sciences. In that scenario, a lot of the perks of modern life would not have come to be.
Now, if you’re feeling envious, what should you do about it? Below are 7 tips on how to deal with feelings of envy.
1. Count your blessings
Envy is the opposite of rosy tinted sunglasses. While wearing the Glasses of Envy, you cannot see hope or perspective. With such a clouded vision, it’s wise to start by digging into your own mind. And convince yourself of this truth: “My feelings of envy are purely subjective.”. Perhaps Mary is jealous of Jane, because she has great hair. And Jane is jealous of Peter, because he has a better job than she does. And somebody could randomly harbour feelings of envy towards me, because I am really good at first person shooters and I have great taste in shoes! If you look at it like that, it’s not really useful to be envious of anybody really. We all have things going for us that other people could potentially be jealous of. Better to count your blessings. Instead of hating Will for his great pianoskills, find joy in the fact that you yourself have great people skills. If after you’ve done that, you’re still feeling envious, please continue reading.
2. Open your eyes
Look at the situation objectively. Is the position of your the person you feel envious of really that admirable? If you look closely, you will see that no life is easy, really. Everybody goes through struggles. Even the subject of your envy. Seen in this light, he or she could become the object of your empathy rather than your envy. But your envy can put faulty, untrue thoughts into your head. You may read arrogance into the words and actions of a succesful person where there is none. You can come to think that somebody thinks highly of himself, while he is really humble. Envy distorts reality. Your feelings of envy are like sunglasses which allow no sunlight to go through. Get rid of them. Open your eyes and look for the truth.
3. Realize that there’s plenty for everyone
A common thinking error of envious people is that they think that somebody else’s happiness may leave less space for their own happiness. They see it as if beauty/ talent/ popularity is scarce in supply. They think that their own possibilities are limited. It’s the “her win is my loss” – mentality that runs rampant through our society.
But no, that is not the truth at all. In fact, if you see your friend succeeding at something, you should congratulate him or her. Because they showed you that there’s a possibility to excel. So that means there’s possibility for happiness and success for you as well! That brings me to the next point:
4. Be envious Be inspired
When you see someone succeeding in your vicinity and you feel bad about that, try to turn that primitive, instinctive and immature emotion into something good, like “inspiration”. Feel inspired by the success of your acquaintances or your colleagues. Your classmate got an A? Maybe you can get an A too if you really try for once. Feel inspired to do your best. Because feelings of envy could really be:
5. A wake-up call
Sometimes, feelings of envy mean getting a wake-up all. You have been not been doing as well as you could be. You neglected your health so you got sore or you were mopey to people so nobody likes you anymore. When you’re in that situation and you see someone that can run as fast as the Roadrunner and is loved by everybody, feelings of unease might crawl up on you. Because you know that you should be in better shape if you would only try and you know that people would like you better if you would not snap at them. Don’t make the thinking error that these people are just better than you, they usually just work hard. That brings me to the next point:
6. See the hard work
A beautiful person is usually not born beautiful. Ever seen a supermodel without any make-up up? Or a celebrity? They usually don’t stand out. But with a sense of style, proper grooming, exercise and a friendly demeanor, an “average” (nobody is average really) person becomes a very attractive person. Beauty is hard work. Intelligence is hard work (brain training, studying). Being rich is hard and smart work. Excelling at music is hard work. Decide if that hard work is worth it to you if you pursue these things.
7. Take it step by step
That elegant woman spent years on developing her personal style. That rich man read up on investing and economics every day. Every day, they worked on their craft and they became better at it. We as humans have a very plastic brain and a body full of potential. That means that we can choose something that we really want to master and that we can work towards it, while our brains and bodies are adjusting in the process. If you want to accomplish something go for it! But take it step by step. It’s like running a mile every day and getting quicker at it every time.
Envy is a unpleasant emotion for yourself and for your environment. But it’s not impossible to overcome these toxic feelings. I hope these tips were of any use to you. If you have matters to comment on or a question to ask, please feel free to post them below ^-^.
This year, I started teaching Japanese to people who were interested in learning about Japanese language and culture. It was exciting and interesting to do this. I could put a lot of creativity into my lessons. Lesson structures, new ideas, thinking of ways to explain things, making drawings and illustrations. And most of all: creating a fun and educational experience for the people attending my classes. Certainly one of the highlights of my year.
Another highlight of my year flowed from this experience.
Being a Public Speaker at the Mensa October Weekend
One of my student was somebody of the Mensa branch of the Netherlands (for privacy reasons, I will not mention his or her name). Mensa is a High IQ Society. We clicked and he or she always had interesting stories to tell. He or she told me there would be a Mensa event in October of this past year. That was the October Weekend of 2015. He or she asked me to give a lecture of 1.5 h over there. Continue Reading