I consider my grandfather as one of the wisest people I've met. He's been on this Earth for more than 86 years, lived through World War II, the Cold War, held the title of Deputy Minister, witnessed rise and fall of the Soviet Regime and its horrors. Simply put, grandpa has seen and lived through shit, that not a lot of people have. He's been like a father figure of mine, showing me that everything is achievable with discipline, persistence, and respect towards people. Following his behaviour, I learned the meaning of humbleness, compassion, and kindness, yet there one thing that I'll be forever grateful for – he thought me compersion.
Compersion – From French compérage, derived from French compère, from Old French comper, from Latin compater, compatrem (“godfather”). Compersion is the feeling of joy one has experiencing another's joy, such as in witnessing a toddler's joy and feeling joy in response. Grandpa has this unique trait to get genuinely happy when he witnessed the joy of others. He felt delighted not only for his close ones but for most of the people he knew, and I've always looked up to this.
One day I asked him – "Grandpa, how come when someone else feels happy, you get happy too?" His reply has been a mantra for me since the first time I heard it.
If you want to live a content, fulfilling and joyful life – be happy not only for yourself but for others. If you're going to poison your life and the life of others slowly – be envious. There is nothing that's more self-destructive than it.
This sentence he told me stuck in my mind and it has been my guide when the feeling of jealousy arose. Thanks to his example, in time, I was able to shake off that toxic feeling entirely, yet I see many people – both close friends, family and acquaintances struggle with jealousy on a daily basis.
We're living in the age of the most rapid technological advancement known to humans. In our known history, there has never been a time where people connected with each other with such ease. Thanks to the internet, we're having the ability to break the physical boundaries of distance allowing us to consume all sorts of information, both meaningful and senseless. We've all been there – watching the 12th "Dank meme compilation" on YouTube or scrolling through Instagram and Facebook, wasting hours, while we could spend our neural power on reading books, learning a new language, drawing, playing an instrument, meditating of just taking a walk. But learning a language takes time, and we can't get all that tasty dopamine in just five minutes – on the contrary, just a couple of likes on your new portrait photo of our pizza feeds our brain with a micro-dose of that tasty hormone.
Now don't get me wrong, from my experience, social media is cool. It gives me the opportunity to reach out to people I like and to have an easy, ongoing digital communication, ignoring most of the physical boundaries like distance, sound dispersion or the fact that in order to have a proper vocal discussion, most of the time human beings have to be at the same location. While the lack of borders is great, social media has some bad in it as well, isn't that true? Nowadays we're experiencing something never seen before – we're allowed to take a glimpse at handpicked moments of the lives of our acquaintances through various social media channels, and if you're not lucky enough, to be though from a very young age that comparing yourself to others is pointless – you're heading towards one hell of a ride.
You have probably experienced this scenario – you're sitting on the couch, tired after work, tapping through our Instagram stories. What is the usual content you see – smiling faces of known and unknown people, having fun on beaches and mountain resorts, eating local cuisine or just being in love, diving in the joys of life? Some days we feel fine, and content like this could even bring a smile on our faces, but as we know we all have our bad days.
Days where we feel lonely, sad, angry or ignored – the days where our weakened emotional state leads us, unintentionally, to compare our "miserable existence" with the "amazing lives" of others Usually, at moments like this one of our biggest enemies creeps in – self-pity. I've looked at self-pity as the Head of Espionage of one's negative emotions. Gloominess blurs our minds, covering up the fact that kindness and compassion are innate human feelings, and it leads us on the path of toxic comparison.
My definition of toxic comparison is comparison based on your current emotional state, primarily fed by self-pity, rather than common sense and logic. A good example of toxic comparison are sayings like "If I only had...", "If I could have what they had", "If I were where they are" and so on. If you've reached to this stage – comparing yourself with others, based on your emotional state – congratulations, you're on the path of envy.
Here's a thing I came up with a couple of weeks ago. Insecurity lures people to the toxic comparison stage. Toxic comparison does it’s best to leads people to either self-pity or hatred – the gateway emotions that set one on the path towards envy. Once you step in the envious fields it's a matter of time that you'll hit Stage One again – insecurity. You loop. Yet the problem usually grows deeper. The envy spectrum gets wider, covering much more ground than before – spreading its plague, growing one's insecurity which inevitable leads to more comparing, then more hate, then more envy.
This is my theory on why envious people tend to decay morally and emotionally in time. This sort of loop is applicable to other common negative emotions like the superiority complex, aggressiveness and egoism. I’ve struggled a ton with aggressive behaviour, especially in my teen years and the stages are almost identical – rather than feeding your insecurities with self-pity, you feed them with anger. While all of the above might sound like a dead end, I found a way out of my situation – it required discipline, persistency and self-reflectiveness. Oh, and another thing – you cut the bullshit out of your self-talks and get real with yourself.
I was heading home with my newly bought notebook. I had a single goal for the day – to sit down, cut the crap and dig deep. I wanted to know what generated all that anger, all that insecurities I was covering up. I knew I had to be patient with myself, applying tremendous efforts on keeping myself mindful to stay focused on the arising emotions once my self-interrogation started.
The mind tends to justify our bad behaviours, masking it as self-love, yet we shouldn’t fall for that. We all have a moral compass that always knows what's right and we should always aim to listen to it. On top of that, it’s a nice reality check that judging is still easier than getting judged.
I asked myself questions like "What are you afraid of?", "What made you this way?", "Why do you approach your fears with X (anger/envy/whatever you'd like to change)", "Have you thought about the people you're hurting?", "What do you have to do to change".
I always asked the questions in the second person, a thing I learned throughout my meditation practice since it tricks your brain to be both reflective, yet it doesn't allow your mind to go inwards, risking to slide down on the path of self-pity.
The notebook self-intervention was an excellent way to start. I unveiled a ton of truth I was covering up deep in my head, realising my real potential as a person and as a professional. This approach gave me a crystal clear view of both my fears and insecurities. Now all I had to do is to find a way how to deal with them.
Meditation has been a part of my life for the past 4 years. I can't stress enough how sitting down for 10 minutes could potentially lead you towards a better, content life. Meditation reminded me that kindness, compassion, love and humility are innate feelings, and our biggest enemy is our ego.
Through meditation, I learned to put my ego in check, at times I'm even able to catch the initial spark of a negative feeling. And once one's present with the rise of a toxic emotion like this, their mind tends to let go.
Beware though, meditation takes years upon years of daily practice to become a powerful tool for the mind. I might have meditated for four years, but I can't even say that I'm past the early beginners' stages. Be patient and curious not about the outcome of your meditations, but the process of it.
Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.” – Arthur Ashe
I started out with Headspace, and this has been my go-to app ever since. Through those guided meditations I was able to change my views on anger and resentment, sadness and pain, acceptance and happiness. I highly suggest if you're a beginner meditator like me, to give Headspace a try. If you're not into apps, Andy Puddicombe has some great books on how to start meditating on your own. You should definitely check them out.
The first time I heard that through the repetition of kind wishes/mantras towards a close one, a friend, a person you have a problematic relationship with and then to all beings sounded like absolute nonsense. "Yeah right, like I'll ever want to wish any good to the person I truly dislike," I told myself. Yet the answer to that was simple – the more grudges I hold, the more I poison myself.
Like the great Marie Curie carrying radioactive plutonium and radium in her pockets unknowingly destroying her health, I bore grudges and hatred towards so many people equally destroying mine. Applying loving-kindness to people you currently apply resentment, envy or name-your-negative-emotion-here is both a victory over your ego, and it's a victory over your self-destructive emotions. Loving your "enemies" might sound counter-intuitive at first, but it's the logical path one should follow. Why destroy your health, holding grudges or being envious towards others, while you could apply all that energy improving your life.
Loving-kindness works. And it works wonders. Through this practice, I improved my relationship with my father, some friends and some "rivals". It gave me the ability to swallow up my overly inflated ego and to discover many positives in the people I disliked. It teaches me to let go of the need to compare and to prove to myself that I'm better than others.
Applying daily kindness thought me that no matter the differences, we're practically all the same. It's a matter of choice and practice to reach this perception. But like all good things, loving-kindness takes time, and it requires daily discipline.
A great resource you should definitely read "Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection" by Shanon Salzberg. It really is life changing – all it requires is to lower your scepticism levels.