Jealousy is the tie that binds, and binds, and binds. Helen Rowland
Without question, one of the most difficult emotions to resolve is jealousy, both for the person possessed and their fraught relationships. Most people experience jealousy to some degree at one time or another. For some though, it can be a chronic, terrifying, and intense feeling often displaced upon others in toxic, demanding, and destructive ways.
Most people are hesitant, if not sorely afraid, to confess jealous feelings given the shame associated with it.
Let’s sort it all out.
First. Let’s distinguish between jealousy and envy – two close, but different first cousins.
We experience envy when we realize we do not have some special attribute or thing enjoyed by another person.
We experience jealousy when something we already enjoy, like a cherished relationship, is perceived as threatened.
Envy is a two-person dilemma.
Jealousy is a three-person dilemma.
Envy is a reaction to lacking something.
Jealousy is a reaction to the threat of losing something, or someone.
Second. Jealousy is mental uneasiness from suspicion and fear of rivalry. Painful hypervigilance is maintained to defend against being hurt, abandoned, or betrayed. In other words, it is an exhausting and heavy burden to bear, by the holder of the feeling and those it is displaced upon.
Third. When discussing jealous feelings of clients, I suggest giving it a voice.
When jealousy speaks, it may say several things.
I lack confidence in me: I feel threatened someone better may take you away. I lack confidence in us: Our relationship has grown strained or too distant. I lack confidence in you: You have betrayed or deceived me before.
If jealousy is coming from within you due to lack of confidence, self-loathing, or poor self-image, it is important you figure out where, why, and when these activate. Trying to eliminate potential abandonment by displacing such fear upon others to fix only makes it worse. Your fears may even become a self-fulfilling prophecy driving your loved one away. Partners resent having to do someone else’s emotional work for them. Instead, define your self-worth inside-out, based on who you are, not upon others to whom you compare yourself. Effective strategies to resolve jealousy can be learned, but it takes courage, guidance, and time.
If jealousy is anxiety about estrangement or disaffection within your relationships, explore those issues directly, not symbolically represented as threat from others. Finding mutually satisfying intimacy is a journey filled with fits and starts, restarts and do-overs.
If jealousy is about not having forgiven or healed prior betrayals, get help finding ways to heal those wounds without ripping them open time and time and time again. Learn to find comfort from and promote signals of trustworthiness rather than hypervigilance about potential betrayals. We truly do “find what we look for.”
I have always contended that the opposite of love is not hatred or indifference, but fear.
I hope you can find healing from fear – even jealous fears – so your intimacy may flourish and fulfill and mature and delight and secure your love for the future.
© 2015 Dr. Daniel L. Baney