Like shame, jealousy is one of those emotions many of us don’t like to admit we feel. We can be sad, angry, insecure, fearful or remorseful, and recognize it. But when someone suggests we’re jealous, it’s often harder for us to see it. We don’t need anyone that much. Or we’re defensive and judgmental. Our best friend’s red Porsche is “just a mid-life crisis thing,” the accomplishment someone shares with us “isn’t that great” or the lovers making out on the park bench are “probably miserable.” It wounds our pride to feel jealous, and can feel like an admission of our own fundamental unworthiness. We think we’re better than jealousy. It’s for other possessive, insecure and tormented people–for the Othello’s of the world. “Jealous?” our partner asks with a wry smile. We respond with a huff, a belittling joke, or a categorical denial: “No! Are you kidding? Of him? Why would I be jealous?”
On the surface, jealousy can masquerade as irritability, disgust, anger, judgement, and hate. It’s a vulnerable emotion that cuts right to the core of our self-worth so we may use other emotions to camouflage it. Until we can open to it and make peace with it, jealousy feels like an affront from within. When we’re jealous, we’re touching a core of existential fear. We can be very badly hurt. We can lose or fail. We’re incomplete, weak, at the mercy of someone or something. Maybe we’ll live our only life without experiencing something we’ve always desperately longed for. Feeling jealous, and admitting we feel it, collapses the ego’s carefully constructed facade. It’s evidence that we’re not all controlling or all powerful. We can be passed over, abandoned, and left behind by people and by life.
But jealousy is also a portal to our potential. It’s a way the world reminds us of something we’ve given up on that is essential to our aliveness. It’s desire’s fraternal twin, pointing toward a part of ourselves we need to reclaim. Because it’s so strong, there’s no way to ignore it. Jealousy says, “I want this.” It says, “I care, I need, I desire, I crave.”
Feeling jealous–and knowing you feel it–can be a sign of a resilient self. Notice where you feel it in your body. Is it in your chest or jaw or the back of your neck? Do your shoulders tense? Does your abdomen feel hot and queasy? When you take the time to feel it, jealousy may have a message for you, a gem hidden at it’s center.
Here are 7 ways to deal with jealousy:
- Notice the jealousy and feel it. Don’t try to ignore or deny it. Tell yourself, “It’s okay to feel this. I’m human!” Connect with the underlying vulnerability.
- Write down the thoughts and beliefs arising in your mind when you feel jealous. “It’s not fair” “I deserve this thing.” “He/she is so wrong/stupid/bad to be doing whatever they’re doing (that’s making me jealous).” “If I were worthy, this wouldn’t be happening.” Question each thought’s validity slowly, one thought at a time.
- Once you’ve felt the jealousy and challenged the thoughts, consider telling the person triggering the jealousy about your feelings without making them responsible for what you feel. It may humanize you and even help them feel closer to you.
- Identify the “message” within the current jealousy-triggering event or situation. If you’re jealous of someone’s creative success, is the jealousy saying, “Nurture your own creativity”? If you’re jealous of a pregnant woman, is the jealousy saying, “Grieve your miscarriage.” If you’re jealous of someone’s wealth, is the jealousy saying, “You’re not taking true care of yourself. You need to feel joy.”
- Write your jealousy a letter letting it know the things you appreciate about it, and the ways it’s opening you up to your own full-spectrum humanity.
- Draw a line across a page and create a “jealousy time-lime” dating back to your childhood. Identify “jealousy events” or periods when you remember feeling jealous. Look for patterns and parallels. What needs didn’t get emotionally met, then? Are the things you’re jealous of now actually stand-ins for deeper emotional needs?
- Take time to consciously identify everything you have in your life right now that you appreciate: extra credit for making a list of 100 things you appreciate! When you complete your list, check in with the feelings of jealousy, and notice what’s changed.
Photo by Victor Freitas at Unsplash.
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