Lesson 4 of 7 - optimize your relationships

Manage Excessive
Jealousy in Yourself
or Others

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council

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The Web address of this article is http://sfhelp.org/relate/jealousy.htm

Updated  September 25, 2014

      Clicking underlined links below will open a new window. Other links will open  an informational popup, so please turn off your browser's popup blocker or allow popups from this nonprofit Web site. If your playback device doesn't support Javascript, the popups may not display. Follow underlined links after finishing this article to avoid getting defocused and lost..

      This article offers (a) perspective on jealousy and envy; and options for (b) reducing significant jealousy in yourself, and (c) responding to significant envy or jealousy in someone else. The article assumes you're familiar with:

  • the intro to this ad-free Web site and the premises underlying it

  • self-improvement Lessons 1 thru 4 ,

  • Q&A items on relationships, and...

  • frameworks for analyzing and resolving typical relationship problems.
     

  Perspective

      Try saying your definitions of jealousy and envy out loud, as through to a pre-teen. Do you recall what they each feel like? Have you met anyone who seemed "too jealous" or "too envious"? If so, how do you feel about such people? How do you react? Would people who know you describe you as jealous or envious?

      Let's say that envy is the normal human emotion of longing (passively) to have something of value held by someone else. The something can be...

  • material, like a vehicle, appliance, home, or jewelry,

  • abstract, like wealth, fame, power, prestige, priority, friendship, love, opportunity, experience, or health;

  • a personal gift or trait, like humor, self confidence, faith, intelligence, rhythm, or serenity; or...

  • a physical trait like attractiveness, clear skin, striking eyes, beautiful hair, a slender waist, washboard abs, a golden tan, a gorgeous smile, etc.; or...

  • a wonderful mate and marriage, a gifted child, and/or high-nurturance family.

      Let's further say that jealousy is like envy, with some mix of these:

entitlement - "I deserve to have what you have";

frustration at not getting what you want, need, or deserve;

blaming someone, God, and/or "fate";

hurt, resentment, and anger about this; and maybe...

guilt and/or shame that you feel these things and have related "bad" thoughts.

The Surface Problem

      Jealousy and envy range from mild and occasional to chronic and consuming. They can focus on one or two things or a wide range of items. They can stress persons, relationships, families, and whole countries. We'll focus here on options for (a) reducing personal jealousy, and (b) reacting to someone else's jealousy. In each case, excessive jealous thoughts and feelings are symptoms of several primary problems.

The Primary Problems

      To understand significant jealousy, try out the idea that normal personalities are composed of interactive ''subselves,'' like talented players in an orchestra or sports team. One universal subself excels at effective leadership, and can be called your true Self. S/He makes consistently wise short and long-term decisions if allowed to by other subselves.

      Many survivors of traumatic childhoods develop a group of short-sighted subselves who distrust the resident true Self and disable it in stressful situations. One such subself specializes in causing thoughts and feelings of jealousy and/or envy. Another may focus on feelings of entitlement. A third may promote whining, and another, feelings of being a victim and/or martyr. These common subselves are usually trying to protect powerful shamed and scared Inner Children. When active, subselves like these can be called a false self.

      Implication - from this view, one real problem causing excessive jealousy and envy is one or more well-meaning subselves distrusting and disabling the true Self. Notice your reaction to this idea. Does it seem credible? If not, read this letter to you, and try this safe, interesting experience

      The larger problem is having inherited up to six psychological wounds from early-childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse. Lesson 1 in this nonprofit Website focuses on how to assess for and reduce these wounds. A related problem may be that the "jealous" (wounded) person lives and perhaps works in low-nurturance settings which promote these wounds and hinder effective healing. The person is usually unaware of these problems or protectively denies them.  

       Bottom line - excessive or obsessive jealousy and envy are stressful symptoms of psychological wounds and unawareness. Does this make sense to you? Is your true Self (capital "S") answering this question?

      Let's look at your choices if (a) you are "too jealous" (in your opinion) or (b) you aren't sure how to react well to a significantly jealous person.

If You Are Excessively Jealous

      Reducing excessive jealousy or envy to acceptable is do-able, with steps like these:

  • take full responsibility for the quality of your life, and make personal healing and growth a high priority;

  • assess yourself honestly for psychological wounds - specially excessive shame. See Lesson 1.

  • learn what ''parts work'' (inner-family harmonizing) is and how to use it to reduce psychological wounds;

  • empower your true Self to lead your other subselves (personality) over time. Put special emphasis on...

    • bringing your Shamed, Scared, and Guilty Inner kids into the present, and giving care of them to your loving Nurturer (Good parent) subself and your Higher Power;

    • patiently building several dedicated Guardian subselves' trust in your Self's leadership ability - e.g. your Jealous One, your Victim-Martyr, your Entitled One, your Idealist; and your Magician; and...

    • deciding who's making your important decisions at random times - your Self (capital "S"), or ''someone else'' (a false self); and...

  • evaluate and negotiate new inner-family responsibilities (roles) for each of these talented subselves as appropriate.

  • honestly evaluate the nurturance level of your family, workplace or school, church, and community. If any of these are "too toxic" (wound-promoting), evolve a plan to change that - and act on it!

  • stay clear on your main goal - freeing your Self and reducing your psychological wounds. Reducing major jealousy and/or envy is an important sub-goal.

      To motivate yourself to patiently take these steps, review these benefits of freeing your true Self to guide you in all situations after you finish reading this.

Options for Reacting to Others' Jealousy

      How would you describe your normal reaction to significantly-jealous people? Annoyance? Repressing your feelings? Pretending? Hinting? Lecturing? Confronting? Threatening? Joking? Pitying? Turning off? Avoiding? Something else?

      How do you feel abut your response - pleased? Uneasy? Unconcerned? Anxious? Superior? Nothing? Your reaction probably depends on who guides your personality + the person + your relationship + the situation.

       Suggestions:

  • Notice how you feel about the other person's envy or jealousy. Your emotions point to what you need. React to the jealous behavior, not the person! 

  • Avoid trying to reassure, correct, moralize, or discount the person ("You shouldn't feel jealous of ____, because...."). This inherently implies "I know better than you", which is disrespectful - even if well-meant.

  • If you feel critical or scornful of the person, suspect that you're controlled by a false self. Your true Self will probably feel compassion for their wounds and unawareness.

  • Option - use a respectful ''I-message'' to inform the other person how their attitude and behavior affects you. That might sound like:

"(Name), when you frequently describe envying/feeling jealous of _______, I tune you out / lose respect for you / feel impatient / wish you'd acknowledge your gifts / _______."

  • Use empathic listening to acknowledge the person's feelings. This doesn't mean you agree with them!

      This brief YouTube video illustrates what you just read:

  • See this for more communication options,

Recap

      This Lesson-4 article is one of a series offering solutions to common relationship stressors. It proposes that when jealousy or envy cause someone a problem, the real stressors are underlying psychological wounds + unawareness in one or both people. The article offers practical options for managing your own envy or jealousy, and for reacting well to someone else's.

      Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get what you needed? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your true Self, or ''someone else''?

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