ABC's Of Jealousy - Tips For Controlling Yours and for Dealing With Other People's
Dear April Masini,
I've been told that I have an extremely jealous personality and I really wish I could change this about myself. I can't help it though; if I see my husband looking at another girl, I get this horrible feeling welling up inside of me and I feel like I lose control. My husband says I drive him crazy and I need to stop. I know this must be really annoying and I know I'm driving him to the edge, but I just can't stop. Can you help me?"
Green with Jealousy
April Masini's Advice :
Dear Green with Jealousy,
The ABC's of Jealousy:
Jealousy is a "secondary emotion," which masks more basic human emotions. Usually jealousy masks fear. Many people become jealous because they are afraid of losing something -- whether it's attention, status, or self esteem.
Examples of jealousy and their roots in fear:
- When a woman is jealous of another woman's thin, beautiful body, it is usually because she fears losing attention to this other woman.
- When a man is jealous of another man's high-powered job, it is because he fears losing status and all that comes with it.
- When a teen is jealous of another teen's outfit, it is because she fears that she will lose her social standing in a clique if she does not dress up to the standard set by her peers.
- When a woman who can't have children is jealous of a woman who can have children it is because she fears loss of her identity as a "true woman," in the presence of the woman with children. This leads to a nose-dive in self-esteem.
Men and women don't experience jealousy differently, but they do experience it about whatever is important to them.
How to work with jealousy: Your jealousy:
- When you feel the discomfort that is jealousy starting to manifest itself, check in with yourself, and try to figure out what, exactly, you are feeling. Defining your emotions to yourself is a big step toward understanding yourself.
- Next, figure out what is making you feel that way. This may be easy or difficult, depending on how well you already know yourself. If you're not sure, then start with questions like, do I feel jealous first thing in the morning when I wake up? When I drive to work? When I get to my desk? Try to pin the feelings to a time, a place or a person.
- Continue to do your "digging" to figure out more of what makes you feel jealous.
- When you identify the pieces of your jealousy puzzle, you can then approach each one.
For instance, if you feel jealous at family functions, where your sister and her husband and kids drive up in their BMW convertible, and you're lucky your 20-year-old clunker car didn't run out of gas on the way to the event because money is tight, your career isn't where it should be, and your husband just left you ... you can confront all these things head on, once you identify them. You can tell your sister – "God, you're so lucky to be married to such a great guy. I wish I were." It sounds silly, but the energy we use to keep the parts of what we wish was different, from showing, are immense. Some people park 20 blocks away so no one will see their clunker car, and surmise from the state of the car that they don't have much money, because it is shameful to them to not be "keeping up" with the others. Once you let go of any standards you are using to psychologically imprison yourself, you are free to be appreciative of other people's good fortune without feeling like you're not enough. In other words, you separate yourself from other people and that separation allows you to be different.
The freedom of not being trapped by expectations, and suffering jealousies, is a quick road to happiness. Take it.
Other people’s jealousies:
You can’t do the work for anyone else. But you can be empathetic if you sense that someone close to you is jealous. The way to do this is to not enter into a co-dependent dynamic, where you, too, are hiding yourself from that person in order to protect their feelings. If you have a great pair of shoes on, express your glee and allow your friend who can’t afford them, to share in your happiness. Not everything is equal or fair, but to be dishonest about your own feelings is wrong. You can ask how the job hunt is coming, to the friend who can’t afford the expensive shoes. You can ask how their life is, and express interest in what is important to them. And you can share, honestly, what is important to you.