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JOY IS NOW: LET'S TALK ENVY WITH TIFFANY MADVIG

by Lisa Anderson Shaffer, LMFT
May 30th 2021
00:35:25
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Hi Friends and welcome to JOY IS NOW! The podcast where we take a psychologically minded look at life. I’m your host Lisa Anderson Shaffer, coach, consultant, and resident psych enthusiast.
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Hi Friends and welcome to Joy is Now the podcast where we take a psychologically minded look at life. I'm your host, Lisa Anderson Shaffer, coach, consultant and resident psych enthusiast. Joy is Now is sponsored by listeners like you visit Lisa Anderson Shaffer dot com to join the community and become a one time or recurring patron of the podcast. Today I'm excited to host for an emotion segment discussion, Marin, mother of two self described, fierce supporter of women and founder of the Altogether Collective, a women's coworking space and supportive community in San Rafael California Tiffany Madvig. Welcome Tiffany to Joy is Now. Thank you so much for having me. This is really fun. I'm delighted to talk to you. It's been like at least a year that I've been wanting to have a conversation with you so I'm glad we're finally doing it. I know me too. I feel like I came across your work so early on in what I was starting to create and just through connections and this community here is so supportive of women, but it's nice to actually sit down.

I mean face to face through screens, right? We'll take what we can get right now. Right? 100%. So not only was I glad to just talk to you and sit down with you, but you brought possibly one of the emotions that I have been the most excited talk about that no one else has brought in. So do you want to say what that is? Yeah, I agree. I picked the topic envy, which does not get enough discussion and honestly I went back and forth, but I'm really glad I picked it. Me too. It's one of you're absolutely right. There's not enough conversation about it. I feel specifically there's not enough casual conversation about it. And I think that that really hit home for me as a parent realizing like envy is this really big feeling and it's something that we should kind of talk to their kids about as soon as we start talking to them about emotions and how they're feeling and we sort of gloss over like oh they're just jealous or oh you're having feelings of envy and it's like first those are two separate things and we'll talk about that in a moment, but also it feels so big and so horrible.

But I think it's even hard to hold onto it long enough to actually have a conversation about it or think about it. I agree. And I, the thing I honestly love about envy is that I think it gets a really bad rap, like I think that it gets packaged in this really negative way. And yes, there is obviously very big feelings around it, but I think that if we can unpack that, it's actually, it can be really positive. It can actually be a way to you know, self reflect and understand things about yourself. You might not be looking at, oh my gosh, could not have been said better, and then put it on a billboard, best thing said on Saturday for sure, and you're the perfect person to talk to about this with that sort of perspective because coming from a psychoanalytic lens that kind of colors the way I see and think and talk about emotion, that's a very that kind of is a very psychoanalytic systems perspective of seeing that everything has, like there's two sides to a coin and you don't get to just hold one meaning that if you think something is negative or can't be reframed to actually work for you.

So that's one thing. And then the other thing is if you think something's just positive and you're only going in that direction are actually missing this whole thing, it's like you have to hold all the space. And I think envy is a brilliant example of just have like having to do it. It's one of those things you have to kind of force yourself to hold all the space where I don't think it comes easily. Yeah, you have to do the work and I think the more you do it, the easier it gets. So I think that it's something that especially as women and as a society we we avoid, right? Like I think there's like these horrible red lights around envy and you're like, you don't want to admit that you felt that way or that you think that way or that there are people you're envious of, whether it be parenting or like career status, financial status, all these things that sort of were told to ignore. But as soon as you kind of turn that negative red light into this bright white light, you start to realize that there's parts of envy that can actually become like a guiding force. And I think that that's the part of the conversation that often gets missed.

Like if you're, if you're only looking at it negatively, then you're never gonna be able to understand your own, you know, your own longing. Like the things about it that you need and that you want. Yeah, that's a really great point. A lot of times on this podcast, we get to a point in the conversation where I always have this question about like experience and just just like getting older the sand. I call it the sand as the sand was through the hourglass. Like you can't and that's development, right? Psychologically speaking, neuropsychological speaking, physically speaking, that's what we call development. And you can't cut the line of development. You can have arrested development where something dramatic can happen and you end up stuck there, but that's stuck nous carries with you, you don't skip over that, you carry it. And so with being able to see something with that full, I call wide focus. But it is really that space of being able to see like, okay, this is a feeling I'm having, it's not a feeling I like, but it's an emotion.

I still have to have it. I think that there is part of being younger where you try to cut that off completely. Like, oh, I don't want to feel envy so I'm not going to pay attention to it or I don't want to feel anxious so I'm not going to pay attention to it. But it's like there are really good things about envy. There are really good things about anxiety and stress and grief and all of these things that we try to like, No, it's just like cut off at the root and I'm I mix, I'm so excited to talk to you about this today. Just they've done what you said, but before we get started, I wanted to present a little research. Is that cool? Of course. Okay, as we dive into our discussion of envy, I think it's important to point out that envy and jealousy are in fact different. Not only do they manifest differently, but they actually exist in completely different regions of the brain. Jealousy is an emotional response to the perceived threat of losing a meaningful relationship to someone else, Like losing a best friend or partner to a new friend or lover, or fear of losing the attention of a parent to a brand new baby sister.

Because jealousy is seen as a direct threat to losing something we hold dear. It affects the frontal lobe, which is the part of the brain crucial to emotional regulation, and more specifically, the lateral septum, which is located in the lower posterior part of the frontal lobe. The lateral septum is linked to jealousy as it processes what is known as social pain or feeling hurt and social situations, jealousy also typically sparks a fight or flight response, triggering the release of stress hormones such as cortisol. So not only does jealousy not feel good emotionally, it actually feels pretty crummy physically, too. Envy, on the other hand, is its own beast and an elusive one at that feelings of envy are not restricted to any one part of the brain, which is fascinating. We have such a complex response to envy that it pops up in a few different places depending upon the individual response and past experiences. And we can activate a part of the brain known as the ventral striatum. It's a part of the limbic system responsible for decision making and reward related behaviors.

This is the part of the brain that involves comparison how we feel when comparing our success to someone else's, what they have, what we want and how we get what we want. And we can also activate the anterior cingulate gyrus, the part of the brain involved in complex emotional responses like empathy and decision making assessments when we feel envious of someone who is a competitor in our line of work, getting a promotion and we have the response of wondering why they have it so easy or they don't work as hard as me or they had more help than I did. That sort of pull of unfairness. That's our interior cingulate gyrus. If the envy feels particularly painful and irrational, specifically, the dorsal interior cingulate is activated as this region of the brain also lights up when we are in physical pain as a psychotherapist. What I find so fascinating about envy is that we generated ourselves. It manifests within us as response to something that is often unprovoked while posting a photo of your perfect beach vacation in the middle of winter on instagram might be the adult equivalent of saying nana nana nana on the playground.

Whether we experience and we are not from viewing those photos comes from within. Consider how phenomenal it is that the person making that gorgeous vacation post might not know us personally. In fact, they probably don't and they might not even be aware of our existence at all. Yet we feel as though we are being provoked by their happiness, success, whatever advantage we choose to see, which is weird, right? Some of my favorite writing about envy comes from Object Relations psychoanalyst Melanie klein, her book Envy and Gratitude is like a total beast to get through. But wow, is it fascinating to summarize and grossly summarizing cliff note version and stuff? It's like Klein defines envy as the angry feeling that another person possesses and enjoys something else desirable, often accompanied by an impulse to take it away or destroy it. Now, an Object Relations theory, it is this impulse to take away or destroy that is of great significance. As much of Object Relations theory stems from a destructive infantile drive to destroy what is good out of fear, that we will be unable to successfully integrate it into our own selves and character.

But here's where it gets really interesting in antithesis to envy climb came to see gratitude as an expression of love and life and therefore the opposite of destruction, the opposite of taking away the opposite of envy. Hence her papers and be in gratitude. This is particularly fascinating as while clients papers on envy and gratitude were written from 1946 until her death in 1960. Her thoughts here are touched upon in modern neuro psycho research, specifically what researchers discovered about envy and the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex in 2017. So I'm going to read a little bit about the study. A study published in scientific reports in 2017 concluded that individuals were more likely to feel pervasive envy all the time if they had a larger dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex, something that we can't really control you either do or you don't the door. So lateral prefrontal cortex plays a significant role in higher level brain functions like attention, focus and memory. But here's the really, really cool part. The study also found that if people with larger dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex is also had high emotional intelligence, they felt less envious in those in their group who did not concluding that the size of your dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex, something that you can't really control might make you more susceptible to envy.

But you can actually alter its effects through empathy. And it just so happens that researchers know that empathy while also being significant in emotional intelligence and what we know to be emotional resilience is a result of the practice of gratitude. So this is where I start to like salary. So how amazing is that? So as Klein wrote long before we have the technology to study the neural pathway of envy in the brain, the way we do now, gratitude is indeed the antithesis of envy. You want to feel less envious work on your Eq and gratitude is a great place to start. So how does all that sit with you? I think that the one, the one part that that really stuck out to me is the, is the picture of the beach, right? So I think that we live in a society that glorifies everything. We've spent the last year even more online than then we thought possible, right? Like we went from a very in person world not that long ago to being almost exclusively online. And I think that when you see a picture of somebody playing on the beach, it does, it triggers something inside of you that says I want that.

And I think the thing about envy that I love is that you can dissect it, you can say I want that beach, but maybe you want that beach without your kids or maybe you want that beach in a year from now when it feels safe. Like there's just different parts of enemy that I think people don't think about and you, you tend to look at, I mean if you're envious of Oprah, do you envy everything about Oprah? Or do you just love Oprah? Like do you want your own digital media mega platform? Or do you just like that? She seems wise, Right? And so I think that we tend to like glorify all the people that we see on the internet and out in the world and especially in a year when we've been stuck at home and we've had nothing else. And we hone in on those little things, we hone in that picture of the perfect day at the beach and we were envious because we want that thing. But do we want all of it? Is that really where we want to be or they're just parts of it that that we're longing for?

And I think that that is the part of envy that I just am so curious about and I think honestly it just looking at it through that lens has transformed my life. Yeah, I would, I would agree for sure. It's making me think of what we started with with this idea that it doesn't feel good. So instead of actually being really clear about what is coming up for us in those moments, because to me it doesn't matter like you and I both know we've done content creation and A million other things for our businesses. So we know how that was the 500 photo that was taken. It probably went through Photoshop or something like that, which is fine. I mean, more power to you. It takes a lot of work, these things to get one shot. And that reminding myself of that doesn't matter. I'm like, so what we all do that, like, you know, we all do that. That doesn't change the fact that it's eliciting something in me and I like what you said about really parsing it out and that's sort of the hump that we have to get over in a moment of envy is just sitting with the discomfort long enough to say, you know, if we're talking about the beach vacation, say, okay, so what is it?

Because sometimes for me, it's like, not even what I think it is. It might be like, oh, I actually really like those shoes. Yeah. It might not even be, it might be such a small part of it. Like they're on the move. It might not even be something so big as related to success or something. That takes a long list of small steps to achieve. It might just be a bracelet or something. And then it's like, okay, well if I do really like that, let me do a little research. Is that attainable to me? If it's not, do I want to take the steps to be able to budget for that? Or is it like not that important to me. And sometimes it's either one or the other, but really that system is representative of the larger stuff too. Like you're saying like maybe it's not the beach vacation that they're showing with the partner in the waves and the surfing, maybe you want to be somewhere alone or on a paddleboard or something like that.

But it is, it is the work and the patience with ourselves to end those triggering moments kind of sit back and be like, let me really think about what it is exactly about this that's triggering and it could be to the caption, the person might be a total asshole. Like let's not count that out either. Maybe the person is talking about it and and saying something that you don't agree with personally or whatever. Like that's always in the mix too with social media, but that's important, important to parse out like is this triggering to me because I just don't like the way they're talking about it. Yeah, totally legit. I think that the triggering piece is so important because I think that oftentimes it's not just one person's beach photo, it's like 10 people speech photo and you realize it on the 10th time and then you that's when you start to ask yourself, okay, why is the photo from the beach triggering me? Why is it that in my case, Why is it that every single time, you know, Rewind six years, I had my son.

Why is it that every single time I see a mom who has taken time for herself and establish routines and and done all these things that I personally wasn't doing. Why does that trigger me? Right? And so I think that in life we we get lots and lots and lots of opportunities to reflect on the things that are triggering us or making us envious. And it's it's never that first photo that kind of sends us over the edge. It's when we see it repeatedly and that's when we start to ask ourselves. Okay, so now I've seen this example and I obviously need something that I'm not getting because I'm longing for this other, this other version of my life that I don't have. And then you take that and you break that down and you say, okay, so maybe I do need something from this photograph. But what part of it do I need? Right. And and in my case, prior to starting my own business, it was it was that escape. It was an opportunity to have time for myself, independent of my kids. But it took me a lot of envious moments to start to say, hey, you know, I am not envious of, you know, the mom that is taking her son to music class because I've done that, right?

I've tried that. It didn't work. I love my child, I don't love, you know, waving ribbons in the air and banging the drums like that just didn't fill me up. And so I've tried that and now what's the next thing I want to try? Right? And, and so the same exact picture. It could literally be the same woman, you know, same instagram feed whatever you want to call it and there's something there, but it's not what I tried. And so you need to try again and then you need to try again and you start to dissect it and you realize, hey, the thing I thought I was envious of is not the thing that I'm actually envious of. 100%. You bring up a million good points there. I want to touch on two things to pull out. The first is that you mentioned something that doesn't part of the reason why I want to do this podcast is I want to kind of shine a light on some of the psychological process that psychotherapists go through when they work with patients because it's not talked enough about like you go to the dentist and the dentist, like here's what we're going to do. Not so often do you go to a psychotherapist and they say, here's what we're going to do here is what's going on inside my mind.

Here's how I work because it's sometimes it's a little bit elusive. There is there's a third quality which some analysts called an inter subjective analytic third which is like the combining of the thoughts creates this separate thing and there's a lot pulled from that. But in a very basic way there is this idea of like you said, life presents you something over and over again. You get many opportunities to figure it out. And that's one of the things that when you're on your, in the other cherry or other side of the room, a psychotherapist, we get many opportunities to present it or to focus on that or to reframe it. So if a client is going through something or patients going through something and they bring it up and we realized later, oh my, like I had the perfect opportunity. Now I'm like in my car driving, I have the perfect intervention. It's like the, I always kind of frame it as the window will open again. It's not, you don't just get one shot. So that's, that's sort of a universal kind of coming from within and then also from a sort of a partnership in thinking whether it's even with a therapist or it's a family system.

We all have the opportunity with each other over and over again to address or to pause or to think. So that's and I think that's interesting to think about, especially like you said, with envy. And the other thing is this kind of very small shift that you talked about. Like I always say 2% change is really big. Like we have 98%. They think it's like every every year they add a little bit, 98% point something of the same genetic material as a chimpanzee. Meaning that there's 2% of us that's different and we drive cars, we have jobs, we go to supermarkets, we do a lot of things that chimpanzees don't, So that's huge, that 2% is making a very big difference. So like you said, really thinking about what is it and what can I try and do to figure out like specifically what's triggering and listening, this feeling of me?

Was it this know like, okay, I'm going to try again. No, and maybe you try these different things and like you said, I think the motherhood and time and capacity, I mean we could talk about that for three days straight, probably three years straight. But a lot of what brought some peace of mind to me is kind of what you just said is like really seeing, is that what it is? Well, let me try that and then being like, no, because we did music together and I hated that shit to my kid, loved it and I was happy to do it for a brief period of time, but I was not the mom sitting in there, there was like, this is great. I was like, I I'd rather like just being a sandbox covered with like, or in the middle of a bog somewhere, looking at salamanders, like there's not, they make you sing along and like they're not, you know, I literally, to this day, I'm like, I don't like sing sing little red wagons saying, I don't know, I mean Baby Beluga sing something.

I know and like maybe else dry, but don't make me memorize a book of songs that make no sense and then sing with my one year old. Like I just, I still can't to this day, anyone that loves it. No offense. Like, I appreciate that, but it exists. It's just not for me. And I realized that the hard way, right? So like I I was, I left my career and I was like, what do I do now? And, and so I sort of dove into this other world of like the moms who were embracing motherhood and this whole other way. And I ended up in this music class and I was like, this is not it either, right? And so you go through trial and error. And I think that that is life. Like you have to make mistakes, you have to mess up. But for me personally envy just it was a game changer. Like I realized that the person I was envious of on this like very big, big stage and inside my head was the woman who had reinvented herself was the woman who had taken her struggles and figured out a path for herself that represented her, Not this, you know, external validation, but like a real internal validation.

Like, hey, I thought I wanted this now I'm going this direction. Like I'm just going to figure it out as I go and that's how I came. I came to that through envy and this past year has been an incredible example all over again. Like I watched, I mean I could cry so many women. I admire women that I held on a pedestal so high because they were the women that gave me permission to do the thing I wanted to do, which was start my own business and build my own life. I watched them fall and not from any fault of their own, but I watched them close businesses. I watched them. I mean dreams disappear and I kept asking myself over and over and over again. Okay, now who do I envy? Right. And you know, fortunately for me, there were also examples of women that we're figuring it out and and half of that is luck. But that that became who I envied, right? It was it was the person that was finding a different path. It was the person that had to pivot and and tried and tried again and tried again and that became my guiding light once again, I mean so different than music class but like once again it was just okay who is figuring it out?

Who is finding the path and the steps forward and it's not going to look like mine. But it made me realize that like I I didn't want to close and I wanted to find a path forward and it wasn't gonna be the path that I thought that I was going to take. But again, these these women became, you know whether they know it or not became a shining light like when when people were throwing and investing in businesses I think of, I mean chris at long way is a perfect example. She built her coffee shop and the entire outdoor patio and I go, okay, I can fight another day, right? Like if she can invest in that, then by all means Michelle Holmes is another one. Like she closed her studio and I just, I literally, every single day her daughter was like roller skating through her new office and they're painting the walls and I'm like, yep, that's that's what lights me up. But you get there by dissecting the envy, right? It's it's not that I want that life. I just want to figure out how to do those things.

Yeah, 100%. You have to have the patients and the fortitude to sit in this and being stuck really and being stuck with. I don't like the way this feels, but however, I can use this as a learning opportunity to really dissect what it is because you're absolutely right. It's not, It is rarely, I'll say rarely, because for some people, maybe it is. Maybe you do really want that, I don't know, 1963 Mercedes sl or whatever. I don't know if you really want that vintage car that specific. But rarely is it exactly what that person has that is triggering the feelings of envy. And the more I talk to people on the on the podcast and think about just my own career switches and all the different, weird and wild things that I've done for me. What's at the bottom of all that always are two things ability to be flexible, an ability to ability to reconcile.

And that's those. Those are kind of like my struggles. Like really when we think about chris that long way creating this amazing space, it's like, okay, so that shows a tremendous amount of flexibility, right? Being like, okay, this is a is working. B is not see, you know, who knows what the process was there, but there was enough flexibility to go, okay, well I'm going to bend this way now, this is I've bent to the right, this whole mess is causing me to bend to the left so I can either still try to go right and break marking the flexible, have faith in what I've built already and do that. That's kind of the flexibility piece. And then the reconciliation when you were talking, it really highlighted that for me was this and that sort of the music class thing too is reconciling with being the person that that does not bring joy to write, because there is, there's some work in there, there's a kernel of work in their of being able to look at yourself and feel okay, and still feel like a whole person and still feel like you're not less than or being like, this is not my jam and my kid really likes it, but and I can do it once, but if we're gonna dive into an activity that is fulfilling a I need to like it and it's not music and that takes that kind of looking within to be like I can still be a good parent and a really great person and a fun mom and a great friend and not want to go to a music class with my kids.

Yeah. Honestly, the work that comes up for me is courageous, right? Like I think it's a courageous act to choose again too, to realize that the life that you've built, no matter how comfortable it is, is not the life that you want. And I think that we live in a society that that value certain things and it's hard to to take a different path. And I think that this past year for so many of us to take a different path whether we wanted to or not. And so for me I just kept coming back to envy. Like was envious of the mom that had the flexibility to just drop everything and be home and educate her kids or was I envious of the woman that was figuring out how to save for assault, small business and also parent her kids and do all these other things and like every single time it was the latter for me, right? And that's not going to be the same for everyone. But again, it goes back to just knowing yourself, understanding yourself and then figuring out like what is it, what part of it are you envious self, Right? And and then take that and courageously walk in that direction.

It definitely is courage for me. It's also an idea of faith and I, and I don't mean that in a kind of religious or spiritual way. I have to remind myself on paper, like, like we were talking before the episode start, I'm in the middle of this big website overhaul, new logo, all this stuff for Osama Roads and every time I make a big decision like that, and I budget for, you know, there's cost those kinds of things and all that as you well know, like I get scared, like I get that feeling like, oh my God, I'm gonna throw up like what am I doing? And I have to I call it sort of forced faith because for me, I have to go to the videotape or go to the science of my work, look at my paperwork, look at my, just the basics of how my business runs to try to remind myself that like this is, this is possible. I made good decisions. I can move forward on this. Like my faith isn't just based on I don't know what I'm doing and I haven't made good decisions and I rely on that and that gets me to the point of having faith.

But I don't just, it's very difficult for me to just be like, this is going to work out. Like I have to really, I have two very much bolster that with evidence or what I think to be evidence and once I have that I can push through emotionally. But that that's I have to rely on that a lot. Yeah. And just sit with it, right? I mean, I I think I think so much of life is just sitting and whatever you're feeling and and and then and then letting it guide you. Like sometimes that fear that you're experiencing is is very real. Maybe there is something that you you overlook, but the more you sit with it, the more, the more you understand. Yeah, it definitely we can use all these things to provide clarity and I like what you just said about just sitting with it. I often find that with my own clients through project development, there's this phase of being stuck and that's that's not wasted time, like that's part of the process, right?

Like there's The idea, there's the excitement then there's being stuck, sometimes you're stuck for a day, sometimes you're stuck for like a year or more or I don't know, 14 months exactly, we want to get to the day, but it is, it is definitely part of the process and I try to keep that in mind with my writing project that when I don't feel like I have something to write, I actually do have something to write. It's about how I feel like I don't have anything to write about. And that's the equivalent of just trying and it's hard, it's not easy at all and it can be a pretty awful experience but just trying to find whether you think of it as light or a hint or a whisper or a message or whatever it is in that time of just being, whether it's stuck or uncomfortable or whatever it is. That just remembering, that's part of the whole thing. I think you mentioned this, it might have been when you were talking about the you know, the actual like neuroscience behind everything that you you know, life happens for you not to you.

And I really think that you know chances are your envy is the key to the thing that you wished you had, but when you pause and you actually reflect on that you have the opportunity to turn that envy into a positive. And instead of um again, kind of the way that we wrap envy up as this, this only negative and it allows you to sort of unpack what it is that you think you're missing in your life because it's not the whole thing that you're envious of. Like if you go back to the beach, it's not that you want to be that woman on the beach or maybe you do, but maybe it's just because you like her swimsuit or maybe it's just because you like her flip flops. But I think as a society we don't give ourselves permission to sit with those emotions and and see both sides. I love that Tony Robbins quote, I don't know a lot about Tony Robbins, but that life happens for you not to you. That's come up in a few episodes and I feel like that's one of those things that you can put over whatever you're experiencing as a lens, as a quick little reminder.

Like that could be sort of your little touchstone, okay, for me, not to me God, that was that was my last year in a nutshell, right? Like you just ask yourself every single day, what is this trying to teach me? Why is the world shut down? Why are my kids suddenly home? Why is my business closed? Right? It's like all these different emotions are coming up and you just have to remind yourself there's some positive lesson in all of the struggle, but you have to choose. You have to choose to see the positive. You have to choose to see the other side, that that reflection. I can't think of a better way to end than that Tiffany Madvig thank you for being here. Thank you so much. This was amazing. This has been joyous. Now with me lisa Anderson Shaffer, L m f t, You can find me for hire at least a Anderson schaffer dot com along with patronage support for this podcast and these three things project. You can also follow along with my musings at least a Anderson Shaffer on instagram for more places to find all the brilliance that is Tiffany Madvig head to Altogether co dot com and check the notes for this episode.

See you next time.

JOY IS NOW: LET'S TALK ENVY WITH TIFFANY MADVIG
JOY IS NOW: LET'S TALK ENVY WITH TIFFANY MADVIG
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