I’ve become more curious recently about the presence and effects of jealousy– especially within intimate adult relationships like partners, siblings and families, and close friends. It’s different, isn’t it, to feel jealous of someone we know well and are deeply connected to, rather than the strangers we see via social media? This brief post is simply a list of some of my own observations collected from the stories and experiences of my clients over the years. I’ve not yet done any proper research into the subject, though I am sure there are many books and articles out there that will help us understand and heal from our own experiences of jealousy.
Qualities of jealousy–
- While jealousy is usually described as an emotion, and indeed is an experience of our emotions, it almost seems more like a state of being. It is a state of being internally stuck in insecurity, fear, and resentment, and often expresses itself as anger and passive aggressive behaviors.
- The “voice” of jealousy speaks a dark narrative, and tries to persuade us to reduce others in order to increase ourselves, and that what others may have is not deserved by them. At the very least, jealousy will compile reasons why we are more deserving.
- The voice of jealousy relies on its belief system that we are being somehow robbed by the person of whom we are jealous. It is not true that our lives are being subtracted, but jealousy will not allow us to see clearly.
- The energy of jealousy is incredibly toxic. I have watched jealousy erode trust, safety, and relationship bonds– even in the context of families and the closest of friends.
- Jealousy has an insatiable appetite, and forces a false identity and roles: You’re the threat/rival, I am the victim.
- I do not believe the jealousy we are talking about here is healthy, but I do believe that it is an attempt at self-protection and supply. Our needs and any sense of a lack of safety absolutely matter, but jealousy will not achieve what we need. It is actually draining and corrosive to the spirit.
- Jealousy feeds off self-pity, not true self-compassion.
To the jealous person–
- It can be difficult or embarrassing to admit to ourselves and others that there is a part of us stuck in a jealous cycle. You do not deserve punishment. You deserve help and freedom from the cycle.
- You can learn to begin telling yourself the truth– about yourself, your experience, and about what your jealousy is really about. The truth will not demolish you. Suppressing it might.
- Your jealousy is not about the other person. It is about you, and your perceived scarcity in some area of yourself or your life. It is good news that you do not have to wait on someone else to be different before you can pursue and experience change.
- The object of your jealousy not only cannot be blamed for your jealousy, they cannot make up for it, either. For example, if you are jealous of a sibling and it is rooted in legitimate wounds from your childhood experience together (such as favoritism by a parent), your sibling cannot atone for any mistakes or limitations of your caregivers that were wounding. It is good news that our histories do not have to be rearranged before we can pursue and experience change.
- Feeling sorry for yourself will only perpetuate the energies and cycles of jealousy. Self-compassion on the other hand, can help free you. How? Because unlike self-pity, true compassion for ourselves helps us take responsibility from a place of kindness and is far more empowering. Self-pity says, “I am small, I am alone, and there’s nothing I can do. It’s all their fault.” Self-compassion says, “I am loved and I can change. Many people struggle with jealousy and many people grow away from it because it has never served anyone well. I can take responsibility for myself and I am not alone in this.”
- The goal isn’t to rid ourselves of a narrative completely, but to heal the narrative we are speaking to ourselves as truth. What is the story you are telling yourself about who you are, how much you are, and what you lack that reinforces the dysfunctional self-protection of jealousy? What would a new story sound like?
- There is enough. You do not have to take what is being supplied to others (whether it’s time, attention, affection, or material things) in order to supply yourself.
- And perhaps most importantly: You are enough. Your value is complete. You have everything you need for both contentment and growth. The idea that others are better than you because of who they are or what they have is a lie, and it is time you left it behind. You deserve to believe the truth that you are enough.
To the one who is the object of jealousy–
- Where can you understand this as a response to a potential childhood wound, and not truly about you? That perspective can often help us hold compassion for the other person, without denying how their jealousy is painful for us to experience.
- In that same spirit, resist taking on a view of yourself as the jealous person’s victim. That sets us up for black and white thinking that oversimplifies the dynamics and only villianizes the person struggling with jealousy.
- You are not responsible for changing the person who is struggling with jealousy about some aspect of you or your life.
- You are responsible for any personal reactions that perpetuate the toxic dynamic between the two of you. Be honest. Is how you are responding helping or hurting?
- When and where necessary, set boundaries. These boundaries are not primarily about resisting the other person. They are about creating space that allows for you to be as healthy as possible in your experience and response to them. Some boundaries are simple, and others may need to be more complicated.
- Take care of how you are impacted– where does it hurt and what is the kindest way to care for that pain? It is confusing to be the object of someone’s jealousy– especially when you also understand that they do indeed love you.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. What else have you learned about jealousy? Do you think jealousy and envy are different from one another? Is there ever a situation where jealousy is helpful? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will continue to think and learn together. Or, if you recognize yourself in some of the descriptions above and are tired of living in the draining trap of jealousy, I would love to talk to you about your experience, your pain, and what healing can look like.