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Jealousy


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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 regan@wellspringcounselingnc.com 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. 

 

CATEGORIES: Emotions, Relationships

There’s So Much to Feel Right Now


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There is so much to feel right now. There is so much for your heart to carry.

Tell me, what are you carrying?

There is so much to feel about our vulnerability in even ordinary moments.

There is so much to feel about our potential for violence, the need for justice and peace, and our need for one another. 

There is so much to feel when our ears and minds are flooded and we are scrambling to distill the information that serves the truth.

There is so much to feel when it seems our heart is pulled in so many directions.

You need to hear this: You are allowed to know what you know and to feel what you feel. You are allowed to grieve. You are allowed to cultivate and share joy. You are allowed to be confused and at a standstill. You are allowed to run full-speed in the direction that is clear to you.

There is so much for your heart to carry. Own what you hold, as best you can, and ask for help along the way.

 

CATEGORIES: Compassion, Covid-19, Cultural Trends, Working through Grief

Prayer


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This morning I opened my calendar and noticed that today is the National Day of Prayer.

Prayer represents something different for all of us, doesn’t it? I am aware of how my own perspective of prayer has changed– along with all aspects of my life– as I have grown and allowed my curiosities and questions to guide and teach me. When I listen to some people talk about their experience, it seems that prayer is a wild craving; at other times, an expression of peaceful satisfaction. And, for various and good reasons, not everyone has a practice of prayer yet would describe themselves as spiritual. We are wonderfully unique, and what serves some does not serve others. For some of us, the idea or practice of prayer is attached to very painful or traumatic experiences. When this happens, prayer may no longer feel like a safe place, or like something that makes sense anymore. The process of learning how to pray for one’s self can be very healing; the process of letting go of practices like prayer and being spiritually free in a new way is how healing happens for others. Whatever your opinion or relationship to prayer and other spiritual matters may be, I hope it empowers you to be good to yourself and others. I hope you feel validated and confident in your footing, even if your beliefs and practices do not look like everyone else’s. Your uniqueness is something the rest of us need, and I thank you for every way that you offer your unique goodness to the world. 

Though absolutely not required, the process of counseling can easily be integrated with whatever your spiritual perspective or practice may be. It is one way that some people choose to bring their whole self to the therapeutic experience. Counseling can also be a safe place to heal from spiritual injury and grief, and to redirect your path. Whomever you are and no matter your spiritual perspective, you deserve to be met with compassion, respect, and acceptance. I extend this hope to you: May today find you holding some contentment, a robust amount of curiosity, and the knowing that someone out there is sending love and care your way.

Below are a few personal musings about prayer, followed by a poem by the magical Mary Oliver.

Perhaps prayer is…

…an expression of gratitude, or a way of transforming our longing from the state of invisible quietude to something nearly     tangible, almost like a sculpture of thanks and desire.

…a form of connection into a fuller sense of who we are, and to whatever lies beyond us.

…a way of being honest with ourselves– about what we feel, need, or want and do not know how to express in any other way. 

…a way of helping something deep within us set our coordinates and sense of direction.

…a gate to release what has been contained and deserves to be set free.

…a vessel to hold what is precious and maybe even fragile.

 For those who are drawn to prayer…

If the contents of your heart feel unlanguageable, and there are no words that could possibly express what you know and feel inside… Pray your silence.

If you are full of words and stormy emotions that feel confused and directionless… Pray your chaos.

If you do not hear words but feel energy surging and swirling inside you… Pray with your body.

If you feel the instinct to slow, to stop, and this somehow communicates something on your behalf… Pray with your stillness.

 

“I Happened To Be Standing” by Mary Oliver (A Thousand Mornings)

I don’t know where prayers go,

     or what they do.

Do cats pray, while they sleep

     half-asleep in the sun?

Does the opossum pray as it

     crosses the street?

The sunflowers? The old black oak

     growing older every year?

I know I can walk through the world,

     along the shore or under the trees,

with my mind filled with things

     of little importance, in full

self-attendance. A condition I can’t really

     call being alive.

Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,

     or does it matter?

The sunflowers blaze, maybe that’s their way.

Maybe the cats are sound asleep.  Maybe not.

While I was thinking this I happened to be standing

just outside my door, with my notebook open,

which is the way I begin every morning.

Then a wren in the privet began to sing.

He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,

I don’t know why.  And yet, why not.

I wouldn’t persuade you from whatever you believe

or whatever you don’t.  That’s your business.

But I thought, of the wren’s singing, what could this be

     if it isn’t a prayer?

So I just listened, my pen in the air.

 

CATEGORIES: Gratitude, Poetry, Spirituality

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