Jealousy is a complex emotion that encompasses many different kinds of feelings that range from fear of abandonment to rage to humiliation. Jealousy can strike both men and women when they perceive a third-party threat to a valued relationship, it can be a problem among siblings competing for parental attention, or envy for a wealthier more successful friend. Conventional wisdom holds that jealousy is a necessary emotion because it preserves social bonds. But jealously usually does more harm than good to relationships, and can create relationship conflict and violence.
How the mind creates the emotions of jealousy and anger
I’ve outlined the dynamics of jealousy and anger in the explanation below. If you are seeking to overcome jealousy it is likely that you already know the dynamics that I describe. This description may help fill in some gaps of how the mind twists knowledge into self judgment and reinforces low self esteem and insecurity. This intellectual understanding can help develop awareness to see these dynamics in the moment you are doing them. But to really make effective changes you will need a different skill set. Knowing how you create your emotional reactions doesn’t give you enough information about how to change them. Just like knowing you got a flat tire because you ran over a nail doesn’t mean you know how to patch the tire.
Understand the emotion of jealousy.
A combination of fear and anger, jealousy is fed by the fear of losing someone (or a cherished situation/state of affairs) and anger that someone else is “moving in” on the person or situation that is of value to you personally. It’s a destructive and ignoble emotion and nothing good can come of it, so recognition of its occurrence is your number one self-defense.
Deconstruct why you feel jealous in the first place.
From a place of self-compassion, try to figure out why you’re feeling jealous. Often jealousy is about reliving an experience of failure from the past that continues to inform your level of trust (or lack thereof) toward people in the present, even though current conditions may be vastly different. Other motivators for feeling jealous include: a high level of insecurity, anger toward yourself and fear of abandonment or vulnerability. If you’re honest with yourself, you will realize that feeling jealous often rears its head at the same time you feel threatened, afraid of being abandoned or when you feel you just cannot trust the other person, no matter how little basis your lack of trust has. However, this shouldn’t be about finding nothing but fault with yourself––being compassionate about your self-assessment is an essential part of staying objective about the green eyed monster.
Take a good look at the effect your jealous behavior has on other people.
It can be easy to justify your suspicious mind by viewing the defensive responses of others as confirmation of your suspicions. However, defensiveness is a natural response to people who are placed under pressure to justify their actions, whereabouts and thoughts all of the time––being constantly questioned as to what you’re doing, where you’re going and where you’ve been is tiring, disparaging and quickly demoralizing. People feeling squeezed by a jealous line of questioning and assumptions will also feel undermined, badgered and frustrated. Reactions that display impatience, frustration, irritation and anger are not confirmations of guilt––they are signs that the person has reached the end of a tether and is defending his or her genuine, non-suspicious actions.
If you suddenly decide that your friend or lover is incapable of fending off the advances of a new friend or lover, then you have placed that person in a really insidious position of both having to reassure you at the same time as realizing that the lack of trust you have in him or her places a wedge in the relationship that wasn’t there previously. Put yourself into his or her shoes––how would you feel if badgered in this fashion?
Overcoming Jealousy, Anger, and Control in Relationships
Overcoming jealousy is like changing any emotional reaction or behavior. It begins with awareness. Awareness allows you to see that the projected stories in your mind are not true. When you have this clarity you no longer react to the scenarios that your mind imagines. Jealousy and anger are emotional reactions to believing scenarios in your mind that are not true. By changing what you believe you change what your imagination is projecting and you can eliminate these destructive emotional reactions. Even when there is justification for the reaction, jealousy and anger are not beneficial ways to deal with the situation and get what we want.
Trying to change anger or jealousy once you are in the emotion is like trying to control a car skidding on ice. Your ability to handle the situation is greatly improved if you can steer clear of the hazard before we get there. This means addressing the beliefs that trigger jealousy instead of attempting to control your emotions.
To permanently dissolve the emotions such as anger and jealousy in relationships means changing the core beliefs of insecurity and mental projections of what your partner is doing.
The steps to permanently end jealous reactions are:
1) Recovering personal power so that you can get control of your emotions and refrain from the reactive behavior.
2) Shift your point of view so that you can step back from the story in your mind. This will give you a gap of time in which to refrain from a jealous or angry reaction and do something else.
3) Identify the core beliefs that trigger the emotional reaction.
4) Become aware that the beliefs in your mind are not true. This is different than “knowing” intellectually that the stories are not true.
5) Develop control over your attention so you can consciously choose what story plays in your mind and what emotions you feel.
There are a number of elements that create the dynamic of jealousy. As such, effective solutions will have to address multiple elements of beliefs, point of view, emotions, and personal will power. If you miss one or more of these elements you leave the door open for those destructive emotions and behaviors to return.
By practicing a few simple exercises you can step back from the story your mind is projecting and refrain from the emotional reaction. If you really have the desire to change your emotions and behavior you can do it. It just takes the willingness to learn effective skills.
Tackle your feelings now.
Learn to question your jealousy every time that it emerges. For example, say to yourself: “Is this jealousy because I feel afraid or angry? Why am I feeling fear or anger here?” When you begin to question what makes you jealous in the moment, you can begin to take positive steps to manage the feelings constructively, without the cloud of negative emotion that typically accompanies jealousy. Some questions to ask yourself include:
“Why am I jealous over this?”
“What is making me jealous?”
” What am I trying to keep?”
“Why do I feel threatened?”
Change any false beliefs that might be fueling your jealousy. There are often false, baseless beliefs that underlie reactions of jealousy. If you examine the belief, you can often eliminate the jealousy. Some common underlying beliefs without basis include “Everyone is out to get my mondy” or “If this person leaves me, I won’t have any friends.” In both cases, these are generalizations that could never be applied to every person you know or meet. In fact, these are pre-emptive defenses against the potential of something bad happening to you. Beliefs are changeable by choice. If you change your belief, you change the way you feel. Choose to tell yourself a belief that is nurturing and supportive, and you’ll feel better. If you think it’s better to think negatively, ask yourself what possible benefit that brings you over thinking more healthily––thoughts create emotions and you have the choice to make the thoughts negative or positive. When you begin taking steps to creating a happy and fulfilling life for yourself, you will find the anger and the fear easier to manage, removing the fuel for the jealous feelings.
Be aware that your thoughts can happen so quickly that you don’t even realize consciously that you’ve had a negative thought. Developing greater awareness of your thoughts and what triggers them is a large part of tackling the problem.
Take notice of which part of your body is affected. Fear is often felt as a dropping or clutching sensation in your stomach, while anger often manifests itself as a burning, tight sensation in your shoulders and jaw. As well, it’s not unusual to feel both fear and anger at the same time, bringing forth all of the bodily impacts mentioned. Noticing bodily sensations can be a telltale signal for you to start changing how you’re thinking and to question the jealous feelings.
Apologize. Before doing anything else, make the other person feel better if you’ve gone far enough to expose your jealous emotions around him or her. Realize that by not apologizing, you are in actual effect seeking to punish the other person for yourfeelings. The act of apologizing in itself shouldn’t be lengthy or complicated––the fact that you do apologize will help begin to break the cycle. Simply make a conscious decision to stop indulging in suspicions and say to the other person something like: “I’m sorry for asking those questions of you. I’ve had some silly jealous thoughts that have caused me to imagine what isn’t there.” This will often be sufficient to give both of you the space to discuss what has just taken place––recognition of your poor behavior and the need to be more open together about what you’re going through.
Communicate your feelings and dialog about your jealousy problem together. Sharing your true feelings with the affected person and talking it through can be a very cathartic and constructive way to start mending the damage done. It can also be a way of creating an ally, someone who will feel able to point out when you make unreasonable jealous demands on him or her without expecting comeback. When talking through what you’ve been feeling, take heed of the following:
Avoid passing on blame to the other person. His or her behavior is not the cause of your feelings––you are responsible for your feelings.
Stick to “I” statements rather than saying anything that smacks of “you make me feel…”. Instead of saying, “You shouldn’t have done that,” say, “I felt terrible when that incident happened.”
Be aware that how you perceive situations may be completely at odds with how the other person saw them. Stay as open-minded as possible, even though this will probably mean that you sometimes feel extremely defensive. Do your best to keep quiet and listen rather than constantly butting in with justifications.
Above all, be compassionate, both for yourself and for the person you’ve been offloading your jealousy onto. Recognize the harm you’ve caused, the harm you’ve suffered and work with it to find better ways forward. Be passionate about your desire to improve your feelings and try to outgrow jealousy.
In most cases, this won’t be a one-off conversation. You’ll need to agree to keep coming back to talking any time the green eyed monster gets out of hand again.
Bear in mind at all times that feelings of jealousy are about you, not about the other person. Any sense that things are out of control means that you need to transfer the intensity of what you’re feeling into something constructive rather than continuing to over-analyze the relationship (or situation). For example, get involved in a sport, some exercise, a hobby or participating in volunteer work. Do something that takes you out of yourself and causes you to focus beyond the relationship or situation and gives you an outlet for your emotions that is healthier than ruminating and raising suspicions.All this doesn’t mean escaping from putting two and two together.
Learn from your jealousy. The ignoble, negative emotions have a role in our lives, one of teaching each of us how to be a better person for struggling and overcoming them. They have a place, just not one that controls you and excuses poor behavior. Some of the things jealousy might be teaching you include:
You are frightened when a relationship is new and still has some way to go before it feels secure. This is a commonplace feeling in young relationships for many people, and both possessiveness as well as sense of vulnerability at getting close to someone, can drive feelings of jealousy.( …and we’re so fond of seducing people; testing our power can become a very harming pass time )
You’re afraid someone else will take your job, salary, role, position, and so forth. In this case, it’s probable that you’re afraid of financial insecurity (survival instinct) or you feel that you’re an impostor in your role, the latter an all-too-commonly held false belief in many high-achieving people in the workforce. Remember that you wouldn’t have been given the role or position unless other people felt you had earned it.( don’t be your worst and closest enemy) Try living up to that trust in you rather than seeing demons hovering in every corner.
You feel your lover has a roving eye. In romantic relationships, both men and women continue to check out other men and women. It’s biologically driven and it’s natural. However, in the majority of cases, it does not mean that the person wants to leave the relationship he or she is in with you. It is, for most people, about appreciating the human form and not about a roaming eye. This misunderstanding has long created unnecessary jealousy as long as relationships have existed; it can help to accept that it’s okay for a person in a committed relationship to look, provided there’s no touch!
You listen to people who say mean or exaggerated things and let this direct your emotions. Take a stand ! Be true to yourself and those you love ! All too common, many people are easily convinced by the village gossip because it sounds so compelling and seems like it must be right. The reality is that it rarely is right and it’s always far better to not listen to people who chatter away making things up as they go. Let these people go get jobs as celebrity gossip journalists while you get on with facing the facts instead.
You dislike looking within yourself and working through difficult emotions. It’s typical to externalize painful emotions, to try and make them someone else’s problem than to do the hard work of facing them and dealing with them internally. Jealousy is painful but by facing it, you can repair much internal damage that ultimately makes your relationships stronger and more enduring.
Trust yourself. Trust begins at home, with yourself. If you learn to trust yourself, you can radiate this trust onto others. Begin by making a list of all your good points. Stick this list up somewhere that you can see it regularly, to remind yourself that you’re fully equipped with great talent, skills and features already. Moreover, only compare yourself to yourself, always seeking to outdo your last achievement without worrying what other people are doing. Remind yourself daily through a journal, affirmations or other effective way that you have what it takes, like the song goes, to be fulfilled in life. Practicing healthy thinking must be a daily, recurring action––that’s why it involves constant practice. In time, the healthier thinking processes will take over the destructive ones and help you to become a whole person, resilient, capable and not prone to jealous thoughts.
Work on relevant aspects of your self esteem if you feel it’s lacking. When you have more confidence in yourself, you’ll be less likely to feel jealous.
Read some self-help books on jealousy, you’ll feel you’re getting your grips on that mean, insidious emotion.
A few Tips For Jealousy
Be alert to the possibility that it is your own viewpoint that is distorting reality. Trade your anger for curiosity, try to get the bigger picture before making rash judgments.
If you slip up and get jealous again, while trying to recover from your jealousy, don’t just give up. Keep trying. You won’t just instantly become perfect. It takes time.
Jealousy is not the same thing as love. Sometimes, people think that by feeling jealous about someone, they are loving him or her by being possessive or wanting ownership over the person. Jealousy is not love; it’s the fear and anger of losing out or being abandoned.
Try to talk about your problems with someone other than the person you’re projecting the jealousy onto. Perhaps you feel that these jealous tendencies are a private matter; then, you might like to anonymously ask an advice column or similar advice source about your problem.
Fake it. Portray a non-jealous facade while you work on overcoming jealousy. Eventually, working your way through your feelings, the facade will become real, but in the meantime you will protect yourself from appearing jealous to others.
Jealousy is not envy; unfortunately, the two words are easily mixed up and this leads to confusion. Jealousy is about infringement on a relationship or personally valuable situation by a rival who threatens to remove something that is rightfully yours or to which you have a rightful claim. Envy involves looking at others, comparing yourself and your own situation, and finding things in your life wanting. In this latter case, you want what someone else has (a trait, an achievement, an object, a role, etc.) and you’re left feeling resentful, under-accomplished, inferior or discontented.
Some situations in life set you up for instant jealousy, such as being part of a polygamous marriage or working or living with another person who has been singled out for favoritism. These are quite distinctive situations that carry a lot of unhealthy emotional baggage that needs to be addressed with great care and empathy. You might be best seeking counseling if you continue to live within such situations.
Jealousy is good in life, don’t think everything’s over.
So what can you do if jealousy is making you miserable? First, figure out whether he’s actually cheating. If he is, you have a different problem: what to do about your relationship. But if you find yourself snooping through your lover’s pockets, or reading his e-mails on the sly, stop. This is demeaning to you. Explain that you are working to control your suspicion but would like him to help you by not provoking it. And if you can’t stop spying or obsessing (and many of us can’t), it’s time to consult a mental health professional. Ultimately, though, you may never feel emotionally secure with a flirtatious mate—in which case you might consider some wisdom from Zen philosophy: The way out is through the door.
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