It is painful. It is dilapidating. And it can spur someone into irrational behaviour and rage.
It is referred to as “the green-eyed monster” and it incubates fear, loneliness, anger, hate and anxiety as feelings of jealousy cause actions of jealousy.
Jealousy is, most times, considered to be synonymous with envy and then defined as “a sorrow which one entertains at another’s well-being because of a view that one’s own excellence is in consequence lessened.” Its distinctive malice, they say, comes from the opposition it implies to the supreme virtue of charity.” Yet, says New Advent, a Catholic Magazine, the law of love constrains us to rejoice rather than to be distressed at the good fortune of our neighbour.
“Jealousy is the largest factor in breaking up marriages,” says controversial author Ron Hubbard in Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. “Jealousy comes about because of the insecurity of the jealous person and the jealousy may or may not have foundation. This person is afraid of hidden communication lines and will do anything to try to uncover them.”
Hubbard goes on to say that when you are jealous, a line of communication is going on with your spouse or lover that is hidden from you. The mystery causes the pain. If you witnessed your spouse’s communication line, so it was not hidden from you, you would not feel jealous.
Hidden communication lines or mysteries, he says, make you think of questions. “Will she find someone she likes better than me?” “Is he having an affair?” “Is she going to leave me?” “Does he think I’m unattractive?”
According to clinical psychologist Ayala Malach Pines, “Jealousy is a complex reaction to a perceived threat to a valued relationship or to its quality.”
Unlike envy, jealousy always involves a fear of loss and three people.
“Jealousy is a “complex reaction” because it involves such a wide range of emotions, thoughts and behaviours,” says Pines and lists them as:
Emotions (pain, anger, rage, sadness, envy, fear, grief, humiliation)
Thoughts (resentment, blame, comparison with the rival, worry about image, self-pity)
Behaviours (feeling faint, trembling and sweating, constant questioning and seeking reassurance, aggressive actions, even violence).
Pines goes on to say that jealousy protects love and reminds couples not to take each other for granted and encourages couples to appreciate each other.
“Jealousy heightens emotions, making love feel stronger and sex more passionate,” she says. “In small, manageable doses, jealousy can be a positive force in a relationship. But when it’s intense or irrational, the story is very different.”
Jealousy has been observed in infants as young as 5-6 months old and in adults over 65 years, says Wikipedia.
“The word stems from the French jalousie, formed from jaloux (jealous), and further from Low Latin zelosus (full of zeal), and from the Greek word for “ardour, zeal” (with a root connoting “to boil, ferment”; or “yeast”). Jealousy is a familiar experience in human relationships. It has been reported in every culture and in many forms where researchers have looked.”
In all cultures, jealousy has caused problems between couples, families, business associates and the community. There seems to be an inability to accept or appreciate other people’s “successes” whether it is in business or romance.
But there is a clear distinction between jealousy and envy. There is a very distinct element of anger in jealousy while envy is basically a wishful thought. And jealousy is quite destructive while envy hardly is. However, if not controlled, envy can easily graduate into jealousy.
Jealousy is an emotion all of us experience at some point in our lives, says National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC)’s Dr. Gail Saltz, a psychiatrist and resident contributor on the ‘Today Show’. “Who hasn’t felt the desire to have your loved one to yourself? Or been hurt when he or she appears to be devoting their time and attention to someone else? This is completely normal. But some of us seem to be able to control their green monsters better than others.”
She goes on to say that people who feel secure and who like themselves tend to be less jealous of others and less possessive of their partners, while those who have experienced abandonment or betrayal in their lives can become overwhelmed with jealousy. “As children, they may have felt abandoned when their parents divorced, or they may have had parents who were emotionally unavailable. Or when they were growing up, they saw infidelity, so they may fear that their partners will always cheat, even if they have no cause to feel this way.”
Saltz says jealousy is a way to exert control in a relationship. For example, many women will try to prevent their husbands from seeing or talking to certain people. This is not only impossible, but it can also be smothering.
Wikipedia says there are different types of jealousy and names them as delusional jealousy, morbid jealousy, and the Othello syndrome, a psychiatric disorder in which a person holds a delusional belief that their spouse or sexual partner is being unfaithful.
The name Othello syndrome comes from the character in Shakespeare’s play Othello, who murders his wife based on his false belief that she has been disloyal.
“An affected person typically makes repeated accusations of infidelity based on insignificant or minimal evidence, often citing seemingly normal or everyday events or material to back up their claim,” says Wikipedia. “They may also take great pains to test their partner’s fidelity and can go to considerable lengths to monitor their behavior and movements. This may be taken to extremes, such as waiting outside of the partner’s workplace during their working day, following them into the bathroom in case their partner has an illicit meeting or even hearing the voice of the perceived lover.”
It goes on to say that delusional jealousy is more often found in males than females, and can occur regardless of an individual’s sexual orientation.
“Unlike other delusional disorders, delusional jealousy has a strong association with violence and, in some cases, stalking behavior. At the very least, affected individuals tend to be irritable and confrontational.”
There are two different views about the origins of jealousy and the different ways men and women experience jealousy. One school of thought is that jealousy is an adaptive evolutionary mechanism. Researchers in this camp have found that men tend to be more jealous about sexual infidelity, whereas women are more disturbed by emotional infidelity. Their reasoning is that men needed to know that their efforts to feed and protect their mates actually propagated their genes and not some other man’s. Women, on the other hand, needed to hold onto a man’s emotional love in order to be fed, protected, and sheltered.
Another group of researchers found that culture had more of an influence on jealous behavior than evolutionary needs. They concluded that men and women tend to become most jealous over sexual infidelity, but they think that both of their jealousies are far more influenced by societal and family experience than by survival of the species.
Christine Godwin and others, writing in an on-line ”how-to-manual” on how to handle jealousy say that everyone feels jealous from time to time and advise that jealousy is easy to deal with, once you understand what it’s teaching you.
Here are a few of the pointers they offer on working through your emotions and feelings of jealousy.
Understand the emotion. Jealousy is usually a combination of fear and anger; a fear of losing something, and anger that someone is “moving in on” something that you feel belongs only to you.
If envy, do not envy. You have control over envy, so stop looking at what is not yours.
If jealousy, allow yourself to actually ‘feel’ the emotion in a healthy way. When you start feeling jealous, ask yourself: is it more fear based, or more anger based? Recognize which part of your body is being affected. If you feel a dropping or clutching sensation in your stomach, it’s probably fear. If you feel a burning, tight sensation in your shoulders and jaw, then you’re likely feeling anger. You might also feel a combination of those sensations.
Communicate your feelings. Sharing your true feelings with someone without blaming them can create a deep sense of connection between the two of you and open up a dialogue about the path of your relationship.
Identify what your jealousy is teaching you. Jealousy can alert you to what you want, and what is important to you. If you’re jealous of someone talking to a friend of yours, personal relationships may be important to you. If you’re jealous about money, you may have an underlying need for security or freedom.
OTHER SOURCES: BBC News On-line, Wikihow, Tips For Success, Internet, ‘How To Manual’.