Is jealousy sometimes a good thing?


Every one of us has experienced jealousy (or the 'green-eyed monster') somewhere or at some point of our lives. Jealousy has to do with possessiveness in relationships and is different from envy, which is targeted at someone else’s achievements or possessions. Jealousy is born out of other emotions like fear, anger, betrayal and powerlessness. Envy is a petty emotion that seethes with rancour against someone else’s happiness.

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Jealousy cannot be completely condemned. Envy in comparison is detestable, as it is an attitude of hating the happiness of others. If you analyze jealousy, it is not anger at anyone’s progress per se but fear that he or she will threaten to take away your territory - your spouse, lover, friend. For instance, it may be anger that he or she may be sharing what was your close secret with someone else. And that some one has now encroached on your territory so that you have to share space with them. In some cases it is a feeling of betrayal that what was exclusively your turf is now shared with a new person. In all, jealousy is closely related to possessiveness.

Thinkers like Sigmund Freud felt that that jealousy is not only normal but also desirable behavior. If you are enjoying a good relationship, you must also have the space to express your insecurities. If you no longer feel secure in this relationship, you must have the space to question why, and the means to fix it. This does not make you an awful person.

Jealousy is also not a single emotion but a bundle of feelings lumped together. It can manifest as anger, fear, hurt, betrayal, anxiety, agitation, sadness, paranoia, depression, loneliness and powerlessness. While trying to solve your problem, it is essential to identify the right mix of emotions that you are feeling. You must first identify the primary emotion, then the rest is easy.

For example, a woman figured that her jealousy was 50% fear, 20% anger, 20% powerlessness, and 10% being betrayed. She asked and received affection and understanding from her partner and by magic, her jealousy was resolved!

It is crucial to understand that jealousy is mostly about fear - fear of losing control, fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear of loss, fear of abandonment. It is a reflection of our own insecurities - our attractiveness, our desirability, our utility.

When you feel jealous you must attack the target feelings like:

What is the real thing that I fear?

What should I do make the situation safe for me

What is the worst thing that could happen?

How likely is that to happen?

Our jealousy may be driven by social beliefs. Some of these beliefs that are entrenched in our mindscapes are:

If my partner loved me completely, he/she wouldn’t love anyone else.

If your partner finds the company of someone else interesting you need not feel insecure and jump to conclusion that you are not interesting any more and so on.

If I was a good partner, he/she would not look elsewhere for companionship.

Suppose your partner starts an affair, stop blaming yourself as the reason and instead of making it a my-problem issue, tackle it as a we-problem issue.

Because each of these fears is primal, it is difficult to deal with and overcome.

The resolution is to have compassion for both partners and to gradually replace these beliefs with more realistic and emotionally healthy beliefs.

Little flashes of jealousy are good from time to time. Firstly, it keeps the romance alive. And the partners do not take each other for granted. Among friends, these flashes of jealousy can motivate each one to achieve more and more. Beyonce Knowles, musical superstar, has openly declared that it is her feelings of jealousy of fellow singers that makes her want to sing more and better songs. Also, watching your friend lose 20 kgs will inspire you to hit the gym and start on that long-postponed diet.

Problems rise when rivalry goes too far. Constantly comparing career, wardrobe, and bank accounts can wear down your self-esteem and friendship. It is easy to become jealous of people in our own realm and station. That is why you don’t have a problem with Jennifer Lopez’s huge engagement ring but cannot bear it when a co-worker shows her pretty diamond. People who are trying to beat others all the time are trying to improve their self-image.

How to prevent jealousy? Before these thoughts flood or invade your mind, open the lines of communication with your partner. Tell them that you love him/her very much but because they are so important to you, you are feeling anxiety and insecurity about the relationship. Chances are that your partner will reciprocate your feelings and reassure you. Finally, you will be convinced that your partner is in this relationship because he/she cares for you and not because he/she is waiting for someone better to come along.

So it is good to remember that jealousy comes from personal insecurities. It is good if taken with a pinch, but in the long run, must be resolved with compassion, empathy and love.