Jealousy can be extremely uncomfortable. Not only do we often fear losing something/someone we hold dear, but we feel disquietingly threatened. We may envy the status, power, wealth, youth and/or accomplishments of others, and, in addition to being scared, we feel embarrassed, guilty, and even ashamed of having these fears, insecurities, and hidden desires. Jealousy is often looked down upon as a sign of weakness, causing many of us to make excuses, rationalize, justify, or deny that it even exists.
Because of the differential value men and women, older and younger people, and diverse cultures place on wealth, worth, status, age and success, the things we become envious, jealous, desirous, or resentful of can be very different.
On the other hand, jealousy can have some positive benefits. When our internal radar (i.e. emotions) sense a threat, we can investigate to see if it’s real. If it is, we can take steps to rightfully protect our marriage, business, home, or the other assets we hold precious. If not, we can calm down and reassure ourselves that everything is alright. Doing a jealousy self-assessment can help us make sure we’re doing everything in our power to protect what we value and make adjustments when necessary.
If we see someone who’s displaying a behavior we want, it’s possible to harness that jealous feeling and use it constructively to motivate us to be and do our best. For example, jealous husbands and wives who’ve been taking their spouses for granted may be motivated to be more attentive. In such cases, expressing love, affection, and appreciation is an “upside.”
Resilience is the capacity to turn potentially destructive, corrosive emotions such as fear, anxiety, sorrow, emptiness, or confusion into something positive. Jealous parents become better fathers and mothers. Jealous co-workers become better colleagues. Jealous athletes become better teammates. Jealous friends become more approachable and trustworthy versions of themselves. Jealous gym buddies become healthier, more fit companions. Jealous siblings become more patient, humble and loving brothers and sisters. And jealous older persons become more accepting and caring of the young.
THE ROOT OF JEALOUSY
Fear of loss is at the root of jealousy. It may be the loss of status, opportunity, love, and/or security. If allowed to run its course, fear and insecurity can destroy our lives, families, businesses, communities, nations and world. Pathological jealousy can, and have, led to disdain, hatred, resentment, violence, injustice, war and even genocide.
IS IT NORMAL TO FEEL JEALOUS?
Yes, it is human and normal to be jealous. We all experience this emotion at some time in our lives whether we’re consciously aware of it or not. Fear, sorrow, threat of loss, and desire originate within us. They can render us needy and desperate or, they can help us make good decisions and be more effective. Learning to manage our emotions is a major part of growing/evolving as human beings. Rather than overreacting and become slaves to our feelings, or underreacting and become indifferent to what we feel, we effectively process our emotions.
HOW CAN SOMEONE OVERCOME FEELINGS OF JEALOUSY?
Self-love, awareness, compassion, respect, and acceptance are the keys to neutralizing and transforming jealousy. It is within our power to awaken to and harness the power of our unproductive emotions, overcome our shame and embarrassment, practice kindness, and transform the “dark side” of ourselves into something light and positive. Family members who take the time to free themselves of deeply held jealousies can turn long-standing sibling rivalries, grudges and conflicts into opportunities for reconciliation, forgiveness, healing, understanding, peace, and, yes . . . love.
FOUR WAYS TO DEAL WITH JEALOUSY
- Own it! Catch yourself in a moment of jealousy. Tell yourself, “I’m only human!” Now that you have a better understanding of what jealousy is, acknowledge these feelings, exhale and release the shame associated with them.
- Tell those you love and trust that you’re feeling jealous. Ask them to tell you about a time they felt jealous and what they did to help themselves. Listen and learn.
- Consider the possibility that someone (a sibling, cousin, friend, co-worker, neighbor or close friend) may be jealous of you. Summon all the empathy and compassion you have in your heart. Do your best to understand and forgive him/her, regardless of the emotions being directed toward you.
- Do everything in your power to defuse the destructive and limiting elements of jealousy and rivalries in your life, which limit the love, affection, and peace in your family, your community, and your world.
Some jealous feelings are so deeply entrenched that it would take professional help to neutralize and/or overcome them. We can’t always conquer jealousy in ourselves—or in those we love. Some of us are defenseless against these powerful emotions and almost become an obsession. However, surrendering, and letting go of the idea that we can change everything, as is expressed in the Serenity Prayer, can provide a certain measure of relief.