Let’s talk about envy and jealousy…
One definition of the difference is that envy happens when you wish you had something that someone else has, while jealousy is fear that something you have is being taken away by someone else. They can often occur together though, or be one big indistinguishable emotional soup. And, for this writer at least, they’re not particularly enjoyable.
Your partner spends time in contact with her ex, or your partner flirts with people he’s attracted to. Someone you used to think of as a peer has advanced in his or her career and seems to have flown out way ahead of where you are. Your grade-school-age child sees what other kids have or do and wishes he were like them.
What happens if we welcome the envy and jealousy as just messengers from our emotional system? Messengers trying to bring something important to our attention.
For example… My partner spends time in contact with her ex. I feel jealous.
I can welcome all the thoughts, feelings – even the feelings we’re told are not real feelings: “I feel abandoned,” “I feel like she…,” “I feel as if…” No problem with whatever comes to mind. Welcoming means saying hello to the thought or feeling, being curious, asking it what it’s all about. A powerful question is: “How does that feel inside me?” or “How does that feel in my body?”
“I feel like she values him more than me.” How does that feel inside? Stop and actually feel, then see what words come to mind.
“It’s painful. I feel abandoned.”
And how does “abandoned” feel inside?
“Painful, unpleasant, churned up. Like when I was a child and my parents came home much later than they said they would and I lay awake worried that they’d been in a car crash.”
And how does that feel inside? Always you can ask the same question, and feel, and see what answer comes. You’re just telling yourself the truth.
Then, another powerful question you might start answering naturally as you get in touch with how it feels: “What do I want?”
Collect your answers: “I want her to stop talking to her ex. I want her to value me more than all her exes. I want to feel like she’s as committed to this relationship as I am. I want to stop caring about this and relax. I want to stop being so paranoid.”
Welcome these answers too. Every one contains information; every one is a message from you to you. You can respond to every answer with another powerful question “And if I get that what will that give me that I value?”
“I want her to stop talking to her ex.”
If I get that, what will that give me that I value?
“I’ll be able to relax. I won’t have to be jealous.”
For each of these, if I get them, what will that give me that I value?
“If I’m able to relax that gives me, well, relaxation, peace of mind, a more healthy body.”
“If I ‘don’t have to be jealous’ that gives me….the same thing really. A more settled state of mind.”
And if I have a more settled state of mind, what does that give me that I value? You can keep asking the question. And you can start with any other thought about what you want and ask the question there too. You’re getting to the bottom of envy or jealousy – how you feel inside, what you want. You will uncover more of the truth of this situation for yourself – it might include a desire for security, self-esteem, peace of mind, relaxation – and many other possibilities.
Let’s imagine asking the same questions in relation to the former peer who now seems so successful, so “far out in front.” You might be surprised at what you discover… Perhaps security again, self-esteem, self-trust, creativity, ease, rest, adventure – things that are connected with what you perceive him as having that you don’t have, and things related to your internal attitudes to him and to yourself. It’s just the truth of how your experiencing the reality you perceive. The truth of how you feel and what you are longing for.
To recap – we used four questions to get deeper understanding:
1) How do I feel?
2) How does that feel on the inside?
3) What do I want?
4) What would that give me that I value?
So… now what?
Well, if you want to talk to someone about your envy and/or jealousy, you now have more clarity on it. You don’t have to share everything you discovered, but you have insights from which you can choose to share anything you want to.
Meanwhile, what are you doing to meet any of your fundamental needs connected with the envy or jealousy? Is there something you can do today that would contribute to relaxation? (Get a massage? Go swimming?) To self-esteem? (Call your uncle who always leaves you feeling great about yourself) To creativity? (Go dancing. Sing in the kitchen. Pull out the watercolors or the drums. Write a blog post!).
It’s a day-to-day process. Like an animal that every day wants to eat, run, sniff, get touched, smell the air, and lounge around, the human organism wants what it wants. Jealousy and envy are just two of the ways it tries to get your attention, and it’s persistent. Ignore the message and it gets turned up (stronger jealousy and envy, perhaps). Pay attention and take action on what you discover, and you might find the message gets turned down, or disappears completely.