The cure for your friend envy, a.k.a. ‘frenvy’

Jealous of a friend? Don’t let it poison you—take this instead
By Suzan Colón  Published on 08/16/2018 at 10:00 AM EDT
Illustration by Suzan Colón

Have you heard about Frenvy? It’s an awful disease, but it doesn’t have one of those Big Pharma commercials with a list of side effects a mile long. Frenvy is “friend envy,” also known by its more familiar name: jealousy.

Frenvy is a little more toxic than basic jealousy, though, because it can damage your friendships. It’s one thing to see a celebrity’s great bag and want it. It’s another to see your bestie’s great partner and want him or her badly enough to do something that brings on the pain for everyone. Oh wait, there’s that long list of side effects!

Frenvy may cause: bad behavior, hurt feelings, lying, bitchcraft, gossiping, name-calling, poisoned relationships, stunted emotional growth, drunkenness as a cover for doing what you secretly want to do, falseness, heavy sighing, a dull “why me/why not me” mindset, emotional overeating, and more. (Your skin turning green? A myth. Usually.)

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Worse, frenvy is progressive. Sure, the outward symptoms may go away over time, but they leave their mark inside. They fester into a belief that other people are lucky, but not you. That leads you to not try as hard as you might, feel left out, give up on your goals, and generally not do all the great things you could do, had you not come down with that awful case of frenvy. Dang.

Thankfully, there is an antidote to frenvy. The cure didn’t come from modern science, but from ancient spirituality. Best of all, the side effects are all positive and will make you feel great.

Your prescription for frenvy is Pratipaksha Bhavana, a.k.a. the Yoga Thought-Swap Trick. It comes from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a book of millennia-old Yoga wisdom about living well and doing good (and you thought Yoga was just about exercise).

Pratipaksha Bhavana is in Sutra 2.33, which reads: “When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite [positive] ones should be thought of.” A modern equivalent is “Turn that frown upside down.” We can also turn negative feelings upside down and find their positive aspects.

When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite [positive] ones should be thought of.

Take frenvy. At its core, it’s about wanting what a friend has, whether it’s a great partner, a fabulous job, a seemingly charmed life free of cares and worries… Yeah, frenvy is almost understandable in those cases. The point is, you basically want what your friend has. Left unchecked, that justifiable desire for happiness and good things gets twisted.

But not when you have a quick shot of Pratipaksha Bhavana! All you have to do is turn envy upside down. What’s one of the opposites of envy? Inspiration.

Yes, instead of being envious or jealous of what your friend has, you can be inspired by what they did to get it. I once had a bad attack of frenvy when a close friend of mine got a book deal. We’d written our novels together, but she was headed for fame and (small) fortune, while my novel, rejected by agents, was underneath a sleeping cat. I felt the symptoms of frenvy coming on: chartreuse complexion, jaundiced eye.

Then I remembered what was behind my friend’s “luck.” She’d been writing that novel for years. She’d gone to classes and workshops and endured peer critique. She’d written draft after draft, then rewritten some more. She’d carefully crafted a query letter, often thought of by authors as being harder than writing the whole book, and approached a ton of agents. She wasn’t lucky; she had a great work ethic.

That inspired me to do the same. Without a dose of Pratipaksha Bhavana, I wouldn’t have worked just as hard to get my own book deal for Yoga Mind.

Some people do seem to have all the luck and don’t always have to work hard to get what they want. Pratipaksha Bhavana can still work its healing magic in those cases by reminding you that even if you have to work harder to get what you want, there’s no reason you can’t get it. Watch one episode of The Voice, and you’ll hear a ton of hard luck stories, and those people are singing their hearts out in front of millions. Okay? You can do amazing things, too. You can even become the object of other people’s frenvy! (Hopefully they’ll practice Pratipaksha Bhavana too, and not hate you.)

Be inspired by others, and believe in yourself. Soon you’ll be in that part of the Big Pharma commercial where you’re smiling and bouncing in slow motion out into a gorgeous new day, happy and cured of frenvy—without the annoying side effects.

Suzan Colón is the author of Yoga Mind: Journey Beyond the Physical, 30 Days to Enhance Your Practice and Revolutionize Your Life From the Inside Out.

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