Tag Archives: jealousy

On Jealousy

Burlington, Vermont, Summer 2018

Even despite its universality, jealousy – like so many other emotions labeled as “negative” – has long had a bad rep. From being listed as one of the seven deadly sins to pop culture references such as “Green Eyed Monster,” jealousy has long been been viewed as “bad” and mythology and history have overflowed with examples of evil queens and murderous rivals who did awful things, thanks to the roots of jealousy.

No wonder so many of us experience shame and humiliation when we admit to ourselves we’re jealous of what we see others having. Let’s face it: jealousy doesn’t always feel good to feel but that doesn’t mean it’s a “bad” emotion.

Jealousy, like so many emotions, can be a good teacher. Here are three ways and ideas about how and what jealousy can teach you if you tune into this clue:
– A clue towards your inner or true desires.
Instead of shaming or blaming yourself for feeling jealousy, I invite you to consider that jealousy is actually trying to get your attention and make you aware of what you truly want, what your deep desires are, and possibly take action on those desires. If you’re not getting what you want, and you’re feeling jealous, this is important information.

– An opportunity to notice what’s going well.
As counterintuitive as it may seem, I actually think that jealousy can give you a chance to notice what’s actually working well in your life. Jealousy can actually provide a chance for us to practice gratitude if we’re willing to untwist our thinking and change our perception about the situation. It shows you your capacity for love, loyalty, and honor.

– A chance to practice being with what is.
Finally, I think that acknowledging and accepting our feelings of jealousy can give us the proverbially ultimate personal growth opportunity: a chance to practice being with what is.
This is the work – the real work we’re always aiming for in psychotherapy: expanding our emotional containers so that we can feel all the multitude of feelings life contains. This personal growth work isn’t about eliminating or numbing out certain emotions; it’s about practicing feeling all of them so we can live our most enlivened life.

At the end of the day, jealousy is a great opportunity for us to practice being with what is and expanding our capacity to tolerate uncomfortable feelings.

It’s absolutely OK to have desires. To want. Without judgment.

When your friends are successful

Best friends – we share life through thick and thin. But what happens when your friend has a major success? Do you feel proud, happy for them… jealous? Even when we love our friends, insidious feelings of unfairness or envy can start creeping in. There are steps you can take so that situational jealousy does not grow into resentment or bitterness.

* Acknowledge your envy
Trying to suppress unwanted thoughts rarely works. In fact, thought suppression can actually increase the frequency of undesired or negative thoughts (Siddique, H.I., Individual Differences in Thought Suppression, 2004). Instead, let yourself feel the feelings.

*Jealousy is a normal emotion.
Feeling jealous does not mean that you’re a terrible friend, it means you are human.

Jealousy can also be a stress response. Make sure that you’re not exhausted, overwhelmed, or anxious. The self-care foundations of nutrition, sleep, and exercise are more important than ever when you have strong feelings. Negative feelings can be significantly exacerbated when you are not in a good place, physically or emotionally.

*It’s not binary
Success is not a limited resource. Just because your friend has a major success, does not mean you will not. In fact, social psychology research shows that when we have friends who have achieved a major success through their efforts, it can be motivating and inspiring for those around them to work on their own endeavors.

*Remember the backstory
No one is on the same timeline.As a friend, you, more than others, know the struggles and challenges they had to overcome to achieve success. What you can learn from them can be valuable in your own endeavors.

*Recognize and honor your vulnerability
Acknowledge that you fear you will be left behind. Many friendships do blossom under times of travail, but that does not mean that they will not continue to grow in good times. Also read What Is Abandonment Anxiety.

*A win for all
What does your friend’s success mean for your community, friend group, the greater good? Chances are, if you are close friends you share similar values and goals. Instead of feeling competitive, realize that you are on the same side. Their achievement moves everyone forward.

*Embrace change
Change involves not just letting go of how things used to be, but looking for new things to build upon together. Your friend may not have the same schedule to just hang out, but you can seek out new ways to remain close. What are some ways that fit for both of you?

*Communicate your needs
If you miss them, let them know. If you are lasting friends, genuineness is already part of the relationship. Not having a dialogue while you have jealous feelings simmering will eventually get in the way of closeness.

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