During one of our heart to heart talks, my first lover told me that I was too possessive. Early in our relationship, he found my jealousy somewhat charming, but later on, my jealousy began to feel stifling.
I listened and intellectually understood his worry and frustration over my behavior towards him. However, intellectual comprehension did not translate into my inner emotions. Despite my bf’s best coping mechanisms and my best efforts to change, the jealousy remained. Within the year, he left.
The mental earthquakes of my jealousy erupted into an emotional volcano of the most painful jealousy I have ever experienced. While I would have done anything to win him back, I knew that there was no way to force him to return. The next few months were the most hellish months of my life.
Even my trusty old ally, the imagination, turned against me. I kept picturing my bf gallivanting around town dating others. Worse, I imagined him falling in love with someone else. The thoughts made me feel like I was physically digesting myself. The trauma was extreme. I knew I was doing it to myself, yet I was powerless to stop the destruction.
Some time later, while mulling over the impossible situation, a thought popped into my mind, “I’m really a drama queen.” The more I repeated that statement out loud, the funnier it seemed. I really was a drama queen in every popular definition of the word except as royalty. The resulting laughter was the turning point in my emotional healing. Although the severe pain remained a while longer, it diminished a little bit each day.
Why did I become jealous? Why do so many other folks suffer from jealousy? We have the misguided notion that jealousy is a sign of true love. This is reinforced by modern films, television, and music. Pop psychology and armchair psychologists claim that jealousy is fed by insecurity, low self-esteem, emotional instability, and possessiveness. These seem to be true, although I personally argue that possessiveness is a symptom of jealousy and not a cause. Whatever the causes of jealousy are, jealousy has nothing whatsoever to do with love.
When I honestly contemplated the problem of my jealousy, I realized that I had believed that my boyfriend “completed” me and that I was nothing but an empty shell without him. However, I finally fully understood that everything I need is already deep inside of me.
I thought about how jealousy’s emotional cousin, envy affected non-romantic aspects of my life. I felt twinges of it when some acquaintances or colleagues were rewarded for their achievements. I compared their work to my own. While a small amount of comparison and envy can trigger us to achieve our own goals in a competitive way, such envy isn’t healthy. Even if we think we have legitimate reasons to be envious or jealous, we can rarely, honestly justify them.
Very often, envy and jealousy cause negative results. It feeds unhappiness and sometimes anger. Somebody else has what we don’t or cannot have. It might be a physical object like a new car, or, as in my case, a romantic partner. When our efforts are thwarted, things can get ugly. Our penitentiaries are populated with people who lost control of their inner green-eyed monster.
Dealing with the green-eyed monster begins with realizing that it is tormenting your well-being. Envy and jealousy can sweep over us and short-circuit our mindfulness for awhile. An antidote for these emotions is mindfulness of ourselves.
My old guru reminded his students about the ages old advice–rejoice in other people’s excellent qualities and attainments. When we consciously cultivate appreciation of others, we become less self-centered and jealous. My teacher said that rejoicing in other people’s virtues is an easy way to experience happiness for ourselves.
This is a conscious, meditative practice. We can pay attention to practicing rejoicing in others by making mental notes of when we feel envious or jealous, then change our attitude by purposely remembering to feel honestly glad that someone else has good qualities, virtues, and good fortune.
We follow through and share honest praise and celebrate their accomplishment or good fortune. This not only enriches our relationship with others, it transforms our relationship with ourselves. The result is not only an improvement in our “spiritual” lives, but an improvement in our practical, day-to-day lives.
When the mind is awash in honest rejoicing about others, there is little or no room for the green-eyed monster to inhabit the mind. This is a time-tested way to cultivate open-mindedness, tolerance, and acceptance towards others.
When we witness someone accomplish a difficult task or find a person to love, we can applaud that person’s happiness. When we learn to do this honestly without the use of flattery, we will then, also share in their joy.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the late aeronautical engineer and science-fiction writer, Robert A. Heinlein. “Jealousy is a disease, love is a healthy condition. The immature mind often mistakes one for the other, or assumes that the greater the love, the greater the jealousy–in fact, they are almost incompatible; one emotion hardly leaves room for the other.”