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Analysis of The Envy Emotion and My Emotional Norms

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Emotion is a sense that displays what we as humans must have truly desired or expected or how we must have been observing our environment. Through emotion, humans bring to light private, most likely hidden viewpoints on matters. Through surface and deep acting, we as humans not only deceive others into thinking we feel a certain way, but deceive ourselves into trying to feel a certain way. According to Hochschild in The Managed Heart, “rules as to the type, intensity, duration, timing, and placing of feelings are society’s guidelines, the promptings of an unseen director.” Throughout this essay I will analyze the emotion “envy” by discussing my own emotion norms and feeling rules regarding this emotion, along with analyzing the origins of these norms that I personally hold. I will then compare my emotion norms and feeling rules to those of my mom, who is of a different generation and therefore may have different views on the subject.

My emotion norms and feeling rules regarding envy are quite interesting because I find myself displaying surface and deep acting when it comes to this emotion, along with heavy feeling rules placed on me by society and therefore I believe that envy was a good choice for this essay. Envy is defined as a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck. I have always considered myself to be very “in control” of my emotions but after reading numerous chapters in The Managed Heart I have come to realize that I am not as in control of my emotions as I think, but rather I am talented when it comes to not only surface acting, but most importantly in my case, deep acting. I believe this is a pretty extreme coping method when it comes to any emotion, and how I personally use deep acting to “control” my envy is summarized as follows. When I am placed in a situation in which I envy another human being for their possessions, qualities, or luck I find myself immediately attempting to find any and all flaws associated with this person, while simultaneously attempting to think of possessions, qualities, or luck that I have that are “better” or more desirable than theirs. For example, if I see a photo of a woman in a magazine with beautiful hair that I would love to have myself, I only allow myself a split second of envy, after which I desperately begin searching for any flaws, for example maybe her eyes are too close together, or her nose is oddly shaped, and I find myself amplifying these flaws while concurrently telling myself “she may have beautiful and desirable hair, but I have better skin”. If I am with friends during this, I may choose to voice my opinion so that they agree with me, and so that I feel better about experiencing this unwanted emotion. Another example would be maybe I hear about a friend’s trip to Europe. In my mind I may envy this, but shortly after I begin comparing his or her trip to Europe with my “way better” Caribbean cruise. “Envious reactions might help to shore up the equal-division norm since the equal-division norm prohibits an action that would naturally generate the pain of envy” (Nichols). After analyzing my reaction to this emotion, I have come to realize that although my family and friends, along with other people around me such as my classmates and coworkers influence the person I am today heavily, I believe that my way of dealing with envy in particular was learned on my own. I find it sad that so many people dwell on other people’s possessions, qualities, and luck when they could just think of all of the things that they have themselves to be thankful for. I thank my parents for always teaching me the importance and knowledge that comes with travel, and for placing emphasis on their belief that spending money on travel and on experiences is way more beneficial than spending money on material things. Through my many opportunities involving travel, I have come to realize that although others around me may have the designer purse I want, or the car that I dream of, or even the body that I envy, these people with these expensive things or great genes may not have the gift of knowledge through travel, or the opportunity to expand their minds within a college institution like mine, or a family that has taught me to be grateful for what I do have and not be envious of others.

For this part of the essay I interviewed my mother. My mother worked multiple jobs to pay her way through college when she was my age, and was able to provide my siblings and I with a paid in full college education with help from my dad, whose family was way better off and had his college paid for by his parents. When I brought up envy and asked my mom her emotional norms and feeling rules regarding this emotion, she explained to me that when she was younger she would envy others, like my dad, whose family was financially fortunate enough to be able to support them. Instead of attempting to override this emotion like I do, my mom said that she used envy to motivate her to do better. My mom was never satisfied with her position in life when she was younger, so she worked extremely hard to overcome this and is very happy with where she stands today. I admire the way my mom uses envy for her benefit, instead of trying to hide from it like I do. I think the generational difference might account for these differences between us because my college is paid for. I don’t have to work my butt off like my mom did when she was my age, just to get an education. Because of this I sometimes find myself above envy, because I feel as though I have many possessions, qualities, and luck that others are envious of, and I mean this in the least selfish way possible because I am extremely grateful for all three of these things. Not only did my mom work very hard to pay her way through college on her own, she began paying off my siblings’ and mine the day we were born. Now, my mother’s work ethic and love for her children is something to be envious of.

An example of a time in which I have felt “misfitting” emotions was when I reluctantly began dating someone who was previously just a friend. He was extremely kind, well mannered, had a wonderful family, and a bright future ahead of him. A big reason why I started dating him was because I felt bad for him; something that I eventually learned was not a good reason to date someone, ever. I found myself hanging onto our friendship throughout the nine months that we were dating, but I knew deep down that he wasn’t the guy for me romantically, regardless of how many fancy dinners he paid for, or how many times he politely opened the door for me. I just was not physically attracted to him, no matter how hard I tired. I found myself “confronting a “should” that I had to reject in order to feel honest”” (Hochschild). This relationship also started at a terrible time in my life, because I had just gotten out of an emotionally abusive relationship with someone else. “A way in which feelings can seem to misfit a situation is their timing” (Hochschild). My parents loved him, but due to many circumstances surrounding my life at that time, we should have just stayed friends. My emotional norms that these feelings violated involve how I usually don’t choose my significant other based off of looks. Personality is the most important thing to me, especially humor, and being able to carry deep, interesting conversations. Although this boy had these qualities, I was unable to get over the fact that I was not physically attracted to him, and that I started dating him because I felt bad for him.

The first thing I attempted to do to manage my misfitting feelings was mentally force myself to find him in any way attractive. This method failed, and I resorted to something new. Due to the fact that we were not officially boyfriend and girlfriend, no matter how many times he begged me to be his girlfriend, I started seeing other people behind his back to deal with my misfitting feelings. I figured that if I was able to find someone better that I would finally gather up enough courage to break this boy’s heart and move on. I felt ashamed that I was not practicing what I preach, and that is “looks don’t matter”. This method was also a failed attempt, because of the fact that I just started feeling guiltier and guiltier, and the fact that I was slowly and painfully ripping the Band-Aid off instead of doing it quickly for the sake of both of us. When I finally got annoyed enough of feeling no attraction towards him, which in turn, amplified his annoying personality traits, ones that I would have been blinded to had I been attracted to him, I decided that it was time to end it and spend some time on my own to regain a sense of self and discover what I truly wanted. This was the final method, and the only one that worked for me in managing my misfitting emotions.

Many people in my life during the time I was dating this person tried to convince me that we were a great couple, even though I voiced my opinions on him and the internal struggle I was experiencing. My previous relationship was emotionally abusive, and my parents knew about this and despised the boy who put me through that, so I felt obligated to continue dating this new boy because I wanted to please them and show them that I was able to find a boy who is caring and kind. My friend urged me to stay with him because he was fun, and so did my siblings, but that is easy for them to say when they’re not the ones who have to be with him every day. I began experiencing “emotional labor, labor that requires one to induce or suppress feeling in order to sustain the outward countenance that produces the proper state of mind in others” (Hochschild). This felt extremely unfair, and only contributed to my dislike towards this boy. The feeling rules and emotion norms that caused me AND others to judge my feelings as inappropriate are problematic because placing pressure on me to continue dating him because they saw his good qualities and were able to ignore his bad qualities, is very wrong, regardless of what my family and friends wanted to get out of this relationship. “Culture can impinge on emotion in ways that affect what we point to when we say emotion” (Hochschild).

Everyone is entitled to make certain choices regardless of whether or not these choices go against their “feeling rules” or emotional norms, and after making the choice I did to become single and take care of myself, I knew that I had made the right choice.

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Analysis of the Envy Emotion and My Emotional Norms. (2019, August 08). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 21, 2023, from
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