Dealing with envy and a full emotional breakdown

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Dealing with envy and a full emotional breakdown

Post by Andrew Corvero on Thu Jun 18, 2015 5:01 pm

How do you cope with envy towards people who seem to have it far easier than you and constantly gloat about it to your faces?

I know that envy is wrong, I know it's destructive and I try to bury it or use reason to demolish cognitive distortions that are the basis at this feeling, but I still find it very hard to fight it in some cases.

Case in point: one of my friends isn't particularly physically attractive (I've been told many times that I'm more physically attractive than he is), he's funny but has no sense of shame, and he's a colossal nerd to boot. He gets plenty of dates, and I wouldn't have any problems with that if he didn't like to gloat about them so much, sometimes without even noticing (for example "This evening I was about to go out with a cute French girl, but then I canceled the date because I wanted to play video games") especially right now when he knows I'm going through a string of rejections and I struggle a lot to meet someone who's interested in me.

Rationally speaking I know perfectly well why he's much more successful at dating than me: he has no shame, which means he has no hangups about hitting on girls and he doesn't give a damn about rejection. He's also very, very funny (he could easily do standup comedy) he has a very positive personality and outlook on life, and very clever and cultured.

On the other hand I always struggle to face the possibility of rejection, especially right now that I'm caught on a depressive loop when I think that nothing I'm doing is worthy of being liked (I know I shouldn't and it's not true). I'm also plagued by anxieties about how I look, how much people are going to focus on what's wrong with me, how people are going to judge me and as much as I try to always keep myself positive and to present a smiling face to the world I think that my depression is showing through my body language and in other ways.

It's all well and good from a cognitive point of view. But on an emotional point of view I think I'm exhausted. These days even just walking down the street is a continuous torture because my brain keeps comparing me to every man I see (and asking myself: "Does he look better than me?"). Sometimes approaching women is easy, but as soon as it seems to my brain they don't like me, or when they actually rejected me, I feel horrible, ugly as sin, unlovable, a complete failure.

Rationally speaking I know that those feelings are pointless and self-defeating, they I don't have it so bad as I think I do, that he's not as successful as I think he is, and that I can fix my flaws in time. But from an emotional point of view I feel plenty of envy, rage at myself for being envious, frustration, pain, boredom, even despair. Those feelings aren't always there, but when this friend of mine gloats about his dating success they all come back at full force.

It's not his fault. I like him and I like spending time with him. But these feelings are ruining my life. I feel like everything I'm doing is wrong and there are plenty of things about me that need to be fixed, but I can't do anything without hitting a wall or being rejected, while he has nothing to fix and can do whatever he wants and get what he wants.

I know this is just the depression talking, but I feel like I'm trapped in a life I hate and every time I try to change it I fail. It didn't use to be like this but in these last few weeks I feel the weight on the world on my shoulders.

I know this is a long post and there are plenty of issues. It's OK if you think you don't have any answers. But if you do have any kind of advice, please write it. I value your opinion a lot.

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Re: Dealing with envy and a full emotional breakdown

Post by Caffeinated on Thu Jun 18, 2015 5:26 pm

I can think of a couple things you can do when your friend gloats about his success to your face.

1. You could straight up tell him it bothers you when he gloats about something you're having trouble with, and ask him to stop doing that. This is an emotionally vulnerable strategy, and in some relationships it'll work well but in others it might not. You'll have to judge for yourself what kind of relationship this one is.

2. You could make it clear that you don't like the gloating by using humor and teasing. Something like: "Shut up about that, we all know you made that girl up" or "Suuuuurrreee, you blew her off. Riiiiggghhhtttt."

As far as your feelings, I think you might want to separate what you know to be the case from a cognitive point of view from how you feel about it on an emotional level. Sort of like if you got a sore throat, knowing how you got it (caught a cold, too much yelling left you hoarse, breathing smoke and pollution, etc) doesn't soothe the actual soreness. So maybe look into doing something nice for yourself to feel better. Like make yourself a cup of your favorite beverage and sit in a comfy chair and read a good book. (Or whatever kind of thing is soothing to you, the beverage/chair/book one would work for me.)
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Re: Dealing with envy and a full emotional breakdown

Post by Enail on Thu Jun 18, 2015 5:38 pm

I feel you on envy. No matter how much you know logically that it's pointless and unhelpful, sometimes that "why them, and not me" feeling is hard to still.

Maybe you should take a short break from that particular friend while you ride this bout of depression out? Or is he someone you could ask not to bring up that kind of stuff for a while?

Kleenestar had some very constructive suggestions in another thread a ways back. But it sounds like maybe you're in the kind of mood where you need to just feel the feelings and vent a little first; maybe take up some free-writing ranting regularly? One thing that helps me get my focus off of that kind of thing is trying to notice other things. As you're walking down the street, pay attention to people who are not easily comparable to you; old people, kids, anyone who's different enough from you that they wouldn't trigger your comparison; and also to stuff that's not people. Animals, the sky, passing trees, whatever. Just getting my mind off of me.

Are you getting any sort of treatment for the depression side of things, to get out of the current loop?

Hope you feel better soon, that sounds really rough.
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Re: Dealing with envy and a full emotional breakdown

Post by Andrew Corvero on Thu Jun 18, 2015 7:04 pm

Thank you for your replies!

Caffeinated wrote:You could straight up tell him it bothers you when he gloats about something you're having trouble with, and ask him to stop doing that. This is an emotionally vulnerable strategy, and in some relationships it'll work well but in others it might not. You'll have to judge for yourself what kind of relationship this one is.

Yeah, I don't think it would work in the relationship I have with him.

You could make it clear that you don't like the gloating by using humor and teasing. Something like: "Shut up about that, we all know you made that girl up" or "Suuuuurrreee, you blew her off. Riiiiggghhhtttt."

This might work better, although I have to be careful not to overdo it and come off as a dick.

As far as your feelings, I think you might want to separate what you know to be the case from a cognitive point of view from how you feel about it on an emotional level. Sort of like if you got a sore throat, knowing how you got it (caught a cold, too much yelling left you hoarse, breathing smoke and pollution, etc) doesn't soothe the actual soreness.

Yeah, that's an excellent comparison. I used to assume unconsciously that once I figured out what's wrong with my character flaws and my unhelpful thoughts everything would have taken a sharp turn for the better but I doesn't really work like that. Knowing how to deal with cognitive distortion is useful but it's no magic cure for my problems (nor for anyone else's, really). It takes time to work on your insecurities and there's no moment where you just realize what's wrong and level up. Improvement is a matter of slow grinding, not of rapid fixes.

To put it in a funny way, I was unconsciously thinking just like the mathematician in the joke where he's woken up by a fire, looks at a fire extinguisher, says "Ha! So there isa solution" and quickly goes back to sleep. Smile

So maybe look into doing something nice for yourself to feel better. Like make yourself a cup of your favorite beverage and sit in a comfy chair and read a good book. (Or whatever kind of thing is soothing to you, the beverage/chair/book one would work for me.)

That's a good suggestion. I think I'll watch some Doctor Who, it always puts me in a good mood.

Enail wrote:I feel you on envy. No matter how much you know logically that it's pointless and unhelpful, sometimes that "why them, and not me" feeling is hard to still.

it's just so hard, isn't it? You rationally know it's pointless and damaging but there's a part your brain that keeps screaming about how unfair it is. Scumbag brain.

Maybe you should take a short break from that particular friend while you ride this bout of depression out?

That's what I was thinking. I said him I didn't really feel like going out with him this evening, and he said it's OK, no big deal. Probably in a couple of days I'll be able to have a laugh at the whole envy thing and I won't end up ruining my evening and his. It's a win for everyone.

One thing that helps me get my focus off of that kind of thing is trying to notice other things. As you're walking down the street, pay attention to people who are not easily comparable to you; old people, kids, anyone who's different enough from you that they wouldn't trigger your comparison; and also to stuff that's not people. Animals, the sky, passing trees, whatever. Just getting my mind off of me.

That's a good suggestion and it's what I should do more often. Also it helps to actually interact with some people and see that they're not the invincible superheroes who judge others on each and every move like the ill part of my brain keeps screaming.

Are you getting any sort of treatment for the depression side of things, to get out of the current loop?

Cognitive therapy and meds. I found a very good therapist who treats me very professionally, exactly like I want to be treated. I feel in charge of my own therapy, almost as if I'm training and he's just there as a professional trainer.

Sometimes venting on the forum is helpful, too!

Hope you feel better soon, that sounds really rough.

Thanks a lot! It is rough but I'm confident I can make it. Sometimes it's just good to let it all out, though.

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Re: Dealing with envy and a full emotional breakdown

Post by waxingjaney on Thu Jun 18, 2015 7:33 pm

Andrew Corvero wrote:How do you cope with envy towards people who seem to have it far easier than you and constantly gloat about it to your faces?
I generally don't associate with people like that for any length of time, and I take their gloating as a reaffirmation of their dipshititude and failure as a human being.
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Re: Dealing with envy and a full emotional breakdown

Post by Andrew Corvero on Thu Jun 18, 2015 7:58 pm

waxingjaney wrote:
Andrew Corvero wrote:How do you cope with envy towards people who seem to have it far easier than you and constantly gloat about it to your faces?
I generally don't associate with people like that for any length of time, and I take their gloating as a reaffirmation of their dipshititude and failure as a human being.

The thing is I don't think he's doing that intentionally or maliciously. There's another guy who does it to make me feel bad, and I've realized I don't care about that guy, since he's a dick and everybody knows it. But my friend is just happy about being happy. He's a great person in many ways. He is supportive, he's funny, he's clever. He just doesn't really get depression and suffering, especially my depression and suffering.

He's having the time of his life and he's happy to make others happy and he just doesn't get why I'm feeling so bad. He's constantly telling me that he loves my company, he sees that some days I can go out and have loads of fun, that some days I have no problem flirting with girls, and he doesn't get why I'm so incredibly anxious or depressed at other times.

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Re: Dealing with envy and a full emotional breakdown

Post by nearly_takuan on Thu Jun 18, 2015 9:46 pm

Andrew Corvero wrote:
The thing is I don't think he's doing that intentionally or maliciously. There's another guy who does it to make me feel bad, and I've realized I don't care about that guy, since he's a dick and everybody knows it. But my friend is just happy about being happy. He's a great person in many ways. He is supportive, he's funny, he's clever. He just doesn't really get depression and suffering, especially my depression and suffering.

He's having the time of his life and he's happy to make others happy and he just doesn't get why I'm feeling so bad. He's constantly telling me that he loves my company, he sees that some days I can go out and have loads of fun, that some days I have no problem flirting with girls, and he doesn't get why I'm so incredibly anxious or depressed at other times.

Exactly; the world is not divided into assholes and people with perfect empathy.

Quite a lot (maybe all) of my friends are either already in their Happy Relationships or are actively and frequently dating. Most of my relatives, too, even the ones ten years younger than I am. Add to that general cultural assumptions, and it's practically inevitable that everyone I ever meet is going to say something insensitive-toward-me eventually unless they prepared in advance not to. For that matter, so am I; there are also a lot of people I've met who are objectively worse off than I am, if not in that context but in others.

This isn't the type of problem where "drop 'em" is an option. These people are everywhere; alternatives, almost nowhere. Refusing to put up with it sounds nice in theory, but sometimes you just have to fall back on the duct tape of trying to endure.
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Re: Dealing with envy and a full emotional breakdown

Post by Jayce on Thu Jun 18, 2015 9:53 pm

I like to detach myself from other people's successes, what does your friend being good with dating relate to you at all? Nothing. What does it say about you? Nothing. Also there is this quote I like to remember "there are things that I can do that you cannot, but there are things that you can do that I also cannot". Its useful to keep repeating it to yourself until you drill it into your head.

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Re: Dealing with envy and a full emotional breakdown

Post by Andrew Corvero on Thu Jun 18, 2015 10:04 pm

nearly_takuan wrote:
Andrew Corvero wrote:
The thing is I don't think he's doing that intentionally or maliciously. There's another guy who does it to make me feel bad, and I've realized I don't care about that guy, since he's a dick and everybody knows it. But my friend is just happy about being happy. He's a great person in many ways. He is supportive, he's funny, he's clever. He just doesn't really get depression and suffering, especially my depression and suffering.

He's having the time of his life and he's happy to make others happy and he just doesn't get why I'm feeling so bad. He's constantly telling me that he loves my company, he sees that some days I can go out and have loads of fun, that some days I have no problem flirting with girls, and he doesn't get why I'm so incredibly anxious or depressed at other times.

Exactly; the world is not divided into assholes and people with perfect empathy.

Quite a lot (maybe all) of my friends are either already in their Happy Relationships or are actively and frequently dating. Most of my relatives, too, even the ones ten years younger than I am. Add to that general cultural assumptions, and it's practically inevitable that everyone I ever meet is going to say something insensitive-toward-me eventually unless they prepared in advance not to. For that matter, so am I; there are also a lot of people I've met who are objectively worse off than I am, if not in that context but in others.

This isn't the type of problem where "drop 'em" is an option. These people are everywhere; alternatives, almost nowhere. Refusing to put up with it sounds nice in theory, but sometimes you just have to fall back on the duct tape of trying to endure.

There's a huge difference between people who hurt you inadvertently, out of lack of concern, misunderstandings or wrong assumptions, and people who do it deliberately. I'd pretty dishonest if I didn't recognize that. I may be hurt, but those people didn't mean to hurt me. I'm pretty sure I have hurt many people without meaning it, and some of them may even have never told me that.

People who deliberately go out of their way to hurt others can be rightly defined as assholes and either they change their behavior or you're completely justified for not wanting them around. But if you think that all the people who ever hurt you should be shunned regardless of their intent sooner or later you'll end up alone.

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Re: Dealing with envy and a full emotional breakdown

Post by nearly_takuan on Thu Jun 18, 2015 10:08 pm

Yes, that's what I'm saying.

I guess it wasn't strictly correct to say there aren't alternatives. But I guess I don't think of getting involved with malicious types as a proper alternative.
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Re: Dealing with envy and a full emotional breakdown

Post by Caffeinated on Fri Jun 19, 2015 1:18 am

Andrew Corvero wrote:
As far as your feelings, I think you might want to separate what you know to be the case from a cognitive point of view from how you feel about it on an emotional level. Sort of like if you got a sore throat, knowing how you got it (caught a cold, too much yelling left you hoarse, breathing smoke and pollution, etc) doesn't soothe the actual soreness.

Yeah, that's an excellent comparison. I used to assume unconsciously that once I figured out what's wrong with my character flaws and my unhelpful thoughts everything would have taken a sharp turn for the better but I doesn't really work like that. Knowing how to deal with cognitive distortion is useful but it's no magic cure for my problems (nor for anyone else's, really). It takes time to work on your insecurities and there's no moment where you just realize what's wrong and level up. Improvement is a matter of slow grinding, not of rapid fixes.

To put it in a funny way, I was unconsciously thinking just like the mathematician in the joke where he's woken up by a fire, looks at a fire extinguisher, says "Ha! So there isa solution" and quickly goes back to sleep. Smile

I love that joke. And I do the same thing. It can feel so confusing when understanding a problem doesn't automatically solve it, especially when the problem is a cognitive one.
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Re: Dealing with envy and a full emotional breakdown

Post by Kaz on Fri Jun 19, 2015 5:41 am

Andrew Corvero wrote:
waxingjaney wrote:
Andrew Corvero wrote:How do you cope with envy towards people who seem to have it far easier than you and constantly gloat about it to your faces?
I generally don't associate with people like that for any length of time, and I take their gloating as a reaffirmation of their dipshititude and failure as a human being.

The thing is I don't think he's doing that intentionally or maliciously. There's another guy who does it to make me feel bad, and I've realized I don't care about that guy, since he's a dick and everybody knows it. But my friend is just happy about being happy. He's a great person in many ways. He is supportive, he's funny, he's clever. He just doesn't really get depression and suffering, especially my depression and suffering.

He's having the time of his life and he's happy to make others happy and he just doesn't get why I'm feeling so bad. He's constantly telling me that he loves my company, he sees that some days I can go out and have loads of fun, that some days I have no problem flirting with girls, and he doesn't get why I'm so incredibly anxious or depressed at other times.

Now, this is interesting, because what I - and judging from responses I suspect I'm not the only one - got from your original post was that you thought he was doing it intentionally to wind you up. I think the word "gloat" has that connotation, myself.

So I think I'd suggest trying to reframe this in your head. He's not "gloating" if he talks about what's currently happening in his life - he's not living his life *at* you! Especially if you haven't clearly told him this is a sensitive subject and you'd prefer him not to discuss this stuff with you, which you've mentioned wouldn't work for your relationship. And I think it's generally something you have to accept, in friendships, that nobody is telepathic and people don't remember what's going on their friends' lives as well as their own so everyone is going to put their foot in it once in a while and say something that's pretty insensitive with respect to what their friends are dealing with. If it's happening more often, at that point I do think the onus is on you to make clear certain subjects of conversation are off-limits.

(If it's the case that this is coming up a lot with this friend, I wonder if there's a way to do the "I'd rather not talk about relationships right now" thing without going down the "I find this hurtful because of $personalstuff" route? If not, maybe you could manage a flying subject change every time he talks about dating, or just be a super-boring audience for it with lots of monosyllabic replies so that he doesn't get the conversation he's looking for. This is also basically what I'd recommend for lines of conversation like "I don't understand why you're so anxious!" if you don't want to get into it or know it's not going to go well - do not engage. "Yeah, weird I guess, but it's how it is. So what did you think about the baseball game yesterday/new expansion to shared video game/insert other flying subject change here?" Having the subject changes be obvious isn't necessarily a bad thing, since it can drive home "I'd rather not talk about this" without having any awkward too-personal conversations.)

ANYWAY all that doesn't mean you're not allowed to be upset by this kind of discussion, but - what Caffeinated said about separating out the cause of the feelings from the feelings themselves. I especially suggest this because I've noticed for myself that if I'm blaming someone for my current level of upset I can get into a righteous-anger spiral that maintains itself and strengthens the feelings of upset ("friend should have KNOWN I was dealing with X and not made that comment! They're really insensitive and that remark was totally out of line! *stew* *seethe*") whereas if I let it pass as "eh, it hurt but they didn't know, I'm sure I've said insensitive stuff to them before" it's a lot easier to get past the feelings.

Finally, I admit I'm with Jayce that it can be helpful to remind yourself that there are undoubtedly things you do that you're better at than him and/or he's jealous of. In fact, it might help if you can find something specific along these lines to remind yourself of if you realise you're getting all jealous. It might not feel like a worthwhile trade to you, but it can still help in the "grass is greener, don't know what they're struggling with that I'm not" way.

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