Jealousy, something (often secretly) familiar to many of us. Jealousy and Envy (yes, they are different things, envy occurs when we lack a desired attribute enjoyed by someone else and jealousy when something we already possess is threatened by a third person) can both be very intense feelings that in turn can easily dominate aspects of our lives. Another problem is that they can be as hard to shift as they are to deal with, and often are not talked about or discussed.
Jealousy can destroy love, and it’s rare to find someone who hasn’t been touched by the classic signs of jealousy such as lack of trust, fear of losing someone we love, or anger at attention paid to others. When it comes, that intensity of emotion can render rational thinking impossible and even cause behaviours in the sufferer that drive people away and reinforce the self-fulfilling prophecy.
The emotional content of jealousy is complex, abandonment, loss, fear, sorrow, humiliation, betrayal; the list is long and infamous. Even violence can make an unwelcome appearance where jealousy is concerned, and it can be as irrational as it is damaging, Steven Stosny, a psychologist says, “The formula for jealousy, is an insecure person times an insecure relationship” and goes on to point out that it isn’t just sexual jealousy at play, sometimes children or any kind of friendship that diverts attention from the sufferer can be a problem.
With origins based in our far-distant evolution, perhaps to protect intimate relationships, in our current lives where we may change partners several times in the course of a lifetime, jealousy can become a painful burden. The feeling of inadequacy makes it seem a particularly poignant and difficult burden.
So, what can be done? Well, like many things, communication is often at the root of the solution, jealousy is often something we deny in ourselves so just recognising and acknowledging it are also important steps. It’s often too personal and complex for a list of self-help suggestions as seem to be so common in our culture that demands quick fixes. Jealousy isn’t something we can cast off like an unwanted coat when spring comes, it’s a treatment process, and moving beyond jealousy is a skill that often takes a little time to learn.
Having said that, as is so often the case, people can travel through life with often debilitating levels of jealousy, accepting that as their fate. Surely, if you’re affected, it’s worth taking some steps now to hopefully improve the quality of life and relationships still to come…?