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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Things Are Not Always What They Seem

One of the most common and very difficult feelings to contend with is the feeling of envy.
Artist:  Morgan Konn
 A lot of envy is provoked by thinking someone you know has more money than you do.  But, there are also other sources of envy---a relationship that is stable and happy, a woman who seems ageless and amazingly attractive, a person for whom everything seems to come easily, and I'm sure you can come up with others.
From my years as a therapist, being privy to the inside view and, also, from my own life experience, I have come to the conclusion that usually people pay-one way or another-for what goodies they got in life.   Are there some who are just a lucky few?
Well, sure.  But, honestly, in my observations, for the most part, life, in fact, is fair.

Here are just a few examples-true situations, just slight changes in details to protect identity-that I happen to know about:  I know a guy who is married to someone who was smart with finances (trained in accounting) and had some computer development savvy and so she made a lot of money in stock investments during the dot com hey-day.  They live very well, traveling in comfort and occupying a beautiful house when they are home.  They have plenty to leave their grown children and if they have them, their future grandchildren, well-off.  He does work but only as much as he wants to; his job isn't something they need to rely on financially.  
The stress level for these two is low; they enjoy a lot of ease in the mundane details of life management.  So, here's the rub:  He has confided in me that he is not happy in his marriage.  He cares about his wife and yet she doesn't pay attention to him in the ways that would make him feel valued.  But, between a strong commitment to family and the so very comfortable life that he lives, he has never been able to take the step to leave.  He considered it seriously at one point but couldn't bring himself to go forward.  This is a case where there is a trade-off.  It would not be apparent to the casual on-looker.  They have a wonderful social life with their fellow church members, are agreeable in their relationship---there are no big rows, and they both have hobbies that they enjoy.  But, as you can see, the full picture is not as perfect as it seems.

Yesterday I saw the movie, People Like Us.  In that film, there is a sub-plot wherein one of the main characters carries a resentment which he has developed over his entire life only to find out that there is a perfectly rational explanation.  Had circumstances not come together for the truth to be revealed to him, he might have suffered bitterly for the remainder of his life. So, this film may serve as an illustration of the concept that things are not always as they seem and that often we make incorrect assumptions and hold them as reality.

I'll offer one more true story to illustrate this point:  This one is simple; it is just about a woman for whom things seems to come easily in life.  She has created a lovely home, she occasionally entertains and is quite gracious, she always seems to be perfectly groomed, cool calm and collected.  The truth is that she has worked very hard, sometimes at labor intensive jobs, all of her life.  She struggles a lot to keep up with all of her obligations.  She feels lonely sometimes.  She says:  "I don't like to complain.".  She has told me that she thinks that it is unfair to unload her troubles on others.  So she  tries to be a pleasant companion to those she interacts with in her life.  Her facade is always friendly, warm, and upbeat.  You can see how this person might be miss perceived.

Both of these individuals, in the first and last story, mean well.  They're not despicable liars.  They just found themselves developing a life that leaves them often misunderstood and the subject of unfounded envy.
In the second story, envy was not an element but a person had created an explanation in his own mind of a troubling experience; it was based on appearances that were not as they seemed.
Envy doesn't feel good and usually doesn't help people to bond.  So it is a problem for both the envier and the envied.
The help I can offer you is the assurance that, for the most part, if you know the back story, the envy usually disappears.
By remembering that appearances can be deceiving, you may be able, sometime, to relieve yourself of the miserable feeling of envy.

Do you have a story you know that you can share with us which illustrates this concept?

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