Don’t let jealousy make you green

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Michael Kimmel, LCSWJealousy feels lousy; most of us do whatever we can not to go there.

Why do we give it so much power to make us miserable? Why do some people use jealousy as an “excuse” to go berserk? Ask yourself: what is jealousy to me?

For many of my clients, it’s an expression of insecurity, fear, rejection, abandonment, feeling inadequate, etc. Unlearning jealousy is a wonderful thing. I help clients with this all the time. It’s a gradual process that takes time and introspection, but the results are always worth it.

Deborah Anapol says in "Love without Limits" — “Let jealousy be your teacher. Jealousy can lead you to the very places where you most need healing. It can be your guide into your own dark side and show you the way to total self-realization. Jealousy can teach you how to live in peace with yourself and with the whole world if you let it.”

To unlearn jealousy, I help clients establish within themselves a strong foundation of internal security that is not dependent on having or possessing people or things. If we think we own someone or something, we’re stuck in jealousy. We don’t own our partners, jobs, kids, looks, or health… we’re really just “renting” them.

We can’t make people stay with us, nor can we hold onto something good forever. It’s in the nature of people and phenomena to be impermanent. Ideally, we’ll enjoy them while they’re here and gracefully let go when it’s time. Sounds good, but its hard to do.

One of the keys to unlearning jealousy is self-validation. Slowly, we can begin the process of looking to ourselves for our own happiness (an internal orientation) and needing less and less from other people, places or things (an external orientation). Start small and begin to develop your own internal compass. For example, when you do something well, don’t call your best friend right away to blurt it out. Instead, give yourself praise and encouragement. People who take loving care of themselves are seldom jealous.

Jealous people need other people to do as they say. Because they don’t have strong internal compasses, they cling to people and situations to feel okay. Jealous people usually feel out of control, so they want to control their partners, friends and everyone in their path. This isn’t because they’re cruel; it’s because they’re scared.

Becoming your own source of strength and comfort decreases your jealousy. When someone does something they don’t like, a jealous person feels personally betrayed. A secure person notices it and may say, “I don’t like that. Please don’t do it again.” Then, a calm, reasonable conversation can follow where a compromise can be reached.

Sound familiar? It’s how people maintain long-term friendships/romantic relationships. It can’t always be about you. For jealous people, it is all about them, because they’re so insecure and unstable they need you to do what they say and not “upset” them.

When I work with clients who feel stuck in their jealousy, I ask them if they are willing to not act out their jealousy (no more screaming, name-calling or throwing things). Instead, we work together so they can sit with their jealous feelings, identify and analyze them; this strips the jealous feelings of their power. I encourage my clients to feel their jealousy rather than act it out. This is initially uncomfortable, and many people tell me things like “it’ll kill me to feel this bad”. But, it won’t. However, habitually acting out from jealousy will kill your friendships, romances, careers and even your own aliveness.

I encourage my clients to own their jealousy: “I feel jealous because my boyfriend was checking that guy out” or “I think my girlfriend is cheating on me because she was at the grocery store longer than usual.”

Intense jealousy reeks of paranoia, and that brings us nothing but misery and craziness. But, if you are willing to sit still and listen to your jealous little self with compassion, you quickly discover that jealousy is survivable. That alone is shocking to lots of people. Unlearning jealousy isn’t easy, but, it sure feels good the more you do it.

I’ll close with a quote from the wonderful book, Ethical Sluts (authors: D. Easton & C. Liszt) — “I notice that jealousy comes and goes, depending on how good I feel about myself. When I’m not taking care of getting what I want, it’s easy to get jealous and think that someone else is getting what I‘m not. I need to remember that it’s my job to get my needs met. I feel the jealousy, but I’m not willing to act on it, so it mostly goes away.”

And that, dear readers, is how it works.