The Laws of Human Nature 12: Poison Envy

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Envy is an inescapable part of the human experience. But nobody likes to feel – let alone admit to – envy. Instead, whenever we feel the stirrings of the green serpent, we rapidly turn the feeling outwards, projecting that gut churning insecurity onto the object of our desire.

So, we're not envious – that person just got lucky; they knew the right people; their stuff isn't even that good! And on and on it goes, because we'd rather demolish someone else than pause for even a moment to admit that we actually feel inferior, weak and vulnerable.

This episode quickly becomes very personal. Jon and Andrea put each other in the hot seat by revealing which envious tendencies they've detected in each other. The results are uncomfortable to say the least.

And what about the dangers of provoking envy in others? They're not going to admit to that emotion either, so we need to learn to look beneath the surface in order to root out their true feelings. Learning to read microexpressions is just one to break the envy code.

Robert counsels us against gossiping and badmouthing other people because this is often simply a mask for envy. But this troubles us. Is it really so bad to have some fun by badmouthing people we don't like? Does envy always lie just beneath the surface when we do this?

Ultimately, giving everyone else the 'benefit of the doubt' without ever revising our opinions based on their actions is a one-way ticket to getting walked all over. Some people are simply assholes, and the most toxic among us have generally become highly adept at concealing it.

The real lesson here is not that we should all try to be angels constantly beating ourselves up for feeling envy, but to become expert at understanding our own emotions. Is it envy we're projecting outwards into mean-spirited feelings, or, if we look closely, are these negative emotions justified by the actions of our target? This is delicate internal work, and we dig deep in this episode to understand the nuances between boundaries, envy, gossip, and just having some fun.

Also Including:

  • The envious underbelly of Frankenstein's Mary Shelley
  • First impressions and how to weaponise them
  • Drag queens and envy
  • The spectre of Brian Rose
  • In our society, are dreams only for the talented?
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