Jealousy: If Only It Were As Cute As a Green-Eyed Monster

Teressa Thurwanger, S-MFT

I got jealous today.  Real jealous.  It happened like that *finger snap* and took me by surprise.  People joke about the “green-eyed monster” but I think that’s too cutesy wootsy for how it feels, and got me thinking more about its role in my life.

It felt fast.  It felt deep.  It felt hot.  It felt really, really gross.  I not only don’t like feeling jealous or possessive because it’s an unpleasant emotion, it’s also something more than that and I spent some time afterwards trying to get to the why.  It’s kind of like that person you have a personality clash with or just don’t like but sometimes if you can get to know them, to hear and find out their story, they become more human and known to you.  You start to see them in enough of a different way that some small bit of compassion is born and the next time you’re around them they don’t grate on you quite so badly.  That’s kind of how I started to think about this.  I decided to get to know it.

Jealousy seems to be one step away from resentment-and we all know how resentment feels.  It starts to grow even faster when you try to ignore it and shove it away out of sight and into a dark corner.  Its roots begin to creep down and through and before you know it, this thing has morphed into something tendrilly and YUCK.  So let’s backtrack from that and see how it starts out.  Jealousy says, “I want what you have and not what I have”, “There isn’t enough to go around”, or, “I’m not enough”.  But that’s not true.  I call bullshit on that.  I am enough.  Someone else’s shining does not diminish my light.  Those who are meant for you will be in your space and choose you fully, and those that aren’t, won’t.  You will be in the space you are meant to be in whether you’re resting or working hard to achieve a goal or somewhere in between.

I think jealousy is a cousin to insecurity and a great-aunt to resentment and shame.  I don’t want those things in my life or in my heart.  Do you?  How do we get rid of them?  I’m going to guess you don’t try to.  It reminds me of something I read once by Elizabeth Gilbert about the subject of fear and its sometimes paralyzing force in her life.  She tried and tried to get rid of it and be brave and “be not afraid”, until one day she realized that being brave didn’t have anything to do with not being afraid.  It had everything to do with feeling afraid but making a different choice.  Thanking it for its role in her life (because fear is a natural response to a real or perceived threat), she would say to it when she felt its presence, “Thank you for trying to protect me but I don’t need you to speak for me right now.  You’re welcome to come along but you are absolutely not welcome under any circumstances to drive the bus.”

What do you think about trying that with jealousy?  I wonder what it’s trying to do.  Maybe it’s trying to keep me awake, caring, in the game –  but really all it does is the opposite.  “So thanks, Jealousy, for trying, but you don’t get to make my feet turn and run and my insides feel hot and my soul go somewhere very quiet and feel like less than…”  Because it’s not.  And neither is yours.

Remember in those times when you are still and quiet and alone and feel jealousy rising up – uninvited and unwelcome – that in life, in work, in friendship, in relationship, in love, in play, and in stillness – you are enough.  All the way enough.

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