I believe there are very few adults out there that have not experienced jealousy at one time or another. And we have so many expressions for it: “The green eyed monster”, “like a cancer in the bones”, “jealousy is a disease”, “a jealous woman is a faithful woman”, etc. The list goes on. And it’s all just trying to express something that we have not really words for. Mostly because we don’t actually look at what it is that we are talking about.
If you look up the google definition, you can read that jealousy “is the state or feeling of being jealous.” Wow, if that doesn’t clear things up… Other sources state that jealousy is “the feeling of being threatened by a rival in a romantic relationship or losing something of value to another person which happens to be yours already” or “Jealousy is comparison” or “jealousy is a healthy thing, because it means that you care”. Just… wow…
Let’s take the word apart first and then we deal with the emotions. In the end you might even have shifted your perspective or have some ideas on how to deal with it.
Jealous as an adjective has been used in the English language since the 14th century meaning “possessive or suspicious” in the context of sexuality and romance. It stems from the the Old French word “jalos” (meaning keen, zealous; avaricious) goes back to Latin “zelosus”, from the word “zelus” (meaning zeal) and goes even further back to the Greek word “zelos” (meaning emulation, rivalry, zeal) and was most often used in a positive sense.
Interestingly enough, jealousy and envy are used in modern english somewhat interchangeably but the etymology for envy reads completely different: from the Latin word “invidia” from “invidus” from “invidere”, meaning having hatred or ill-will, to look at (with malice), to cast an evil eye upon. I personally love the distinction “with malice” in that one.
There are so many myths surrounding jealousy. The biggest and most detrimental one, in my book, is that jealousy in itself is an emotion. In my experience as a coach, as well as a person who experiences jealousy every now and then, jealousy is nothing but an umbrella term to lump a whole bunch of emotions together. It is like we jump a couple of steps higher on the ladder of abstraction. And as mentioned in this post, it is useful to do that if you want to find a one word expression for your emotions. But it is completely useless if you want to deal with it.
Jealousy is such a complex thing and to deal with it, we have to take it apart. Let’s look at all the underlying feelings that create it. There is probably fear of loss or fear of abandonment, there is probably anger, maybe rage, paranoia, helplessness, powerlessness and there is often a feeling of humiliation. And often enough go these feelings together with guilt or shame that is then projected, thus increasing all the other emotions.
Now let’s look at 2 other things for a moment (and I will probably explore them more deeply in separate posts in the future). the first one is that our thoughts are what creates our feelings. Not true? Okay, lets take an example: You hear that a German Shepherd dog in Munich, Germany attacked his owner. What do you feel right now? Now you hear that your neighbor was attacked by a dog. What do you feel now? Now imagine it was your dog attacking the neighbor. Feel anything different? What were the thoughts running through your head? We call what happens in the world circumstance. Without a thought it is just that – something that happened. But as soon as you think about the circumstance you are creating feeling around it.
The other piece I want to look at is victim mentality. When we are in victim mode, we believe that something is done to us. Either by another person, a circumstance or even by ourselves. We become the victim and we make something or someone our perpetrator. In that we feel powerless and helpless because something so much stronger does something to us.
Okay, let’s bring it back to jealousy. When we go into jealousy mode, we experience a range of emotions and most of them feel really uncomfortable. So we might do things to lighten or discomfort, our dis-ease. We project, we react to our feelings or we numb them. And then we might feel guilty or shameful and, bam, we are stuck on the shame wheel.
Instead, I suggest a change of pace. When you experience jealousy, start listening in. Yes, it will be uncomfortable but you might learn a ton about yourself. Jealousy is something that has tremendous teaching power because there is so much going on. You might also develop a toolset for future experiences. Here is my very own step by step list:
- Listen in and figure out what you are actually feeling. What feelings is the current jealousy makeup?
- Take every one of these feelings and examine your thoughts. Don’t try to change them but look at them. Like sitting on a stream of water and your thoughts are the leaves drifting by. Look at them, maybe write them down but ultimately, let them drift by.
- Look at the beliefs that you have underneath these thoughts. Often enough is a “not enough” or “abandonment” belief. Sometimes they are even combined.
- Start feeling compassion for yourself. There is nothing wrong with having beliefs, thoughts or feelings that seem counter to who you perceive yourself to be or to who you want to be. It’s a learning process.
- Check in with yourself if you are projecting these beliefs or thoughts onto someone. It could be yourself or another person. If you are, can you let go of the projection?
- Ask yourself: is this thought or belief true? Is it really true? (The answer to this is either yes or no, if you justify your yes then it is 99% a no.)
- Ask yourself what you know the truth to be. Think about the truth. Go back to the circumstance and let go of the thoughts.
- Rinse and repeat as long and as often as you need to.
- Have a conversation where you share these experiences, thoughts, beliefs and feelings after the jealousy has subsided.
Yep, that it’s that simple. But it definitely won’t be easy! Just allowing yourself to sit in your feelings and feel them, look at each thought that drifts by and having compassion for yourself in that require tremendous courage. Because it feels bad. Because we judge ourselves constantly. Because we “should” or “should not”…
This is just a glance at and tiny dip below the surface. If you have any questions, feel free to get in contact with us.