Overcoming jealousy can be challenging, but if it is not dealt with properly, it
can actually control you to the point where it takes over your life and becomes
detrimental to your health and well-being.
Most people, if they are honest, will admit that they have experienced
jealousy at some point in their lives. But, recognizing this emotion
and understanding why you are experiencing it is the key to learning
how to deal with jealousy.
Some people may even argue that
there is a 'healthy' jealousy. For example, a husband may feel
uncomfortable with his wife having lunch with an old flame, or a
woman may not like the fact that her boyfriend is spending a lot of
time with a female colleague. Oh, she says that they are just "catching
up" and he promises that they are only working and everything is
strictly professional, but you can't help being a little worried.
Some counsellors say that this is perfectly normal – good
actually – because it shows the other person that you care and that
the relationship is important to you. They would argue that jealousy
only becomes a problem when it reaches the point of being obsessive.
I would disagree with this belief. First, the term 'obsessive'
is relative. Who decides when you have crossed the line from healthy
jealousy to unreasonable suspicion? Second, if something is 'healthy'
shouldn't it have positive benefits? In fact, according to Webster's
dictionary, the word 'healthy' means to contribute to or reveal the
"health and vigor of body, mind, spirit."
Does jealousy – at
any level – do that? Well, let's take a look at the definition and
let the meaning of the word speak for itself.
According to the Oxford dictionary, "jealousy" is
defined as "feeling or showing a resentful suspicion that one's
partner is attracted to or involved with someone else."
Mirriam-Webster defines the word as, "covetousness, enviousness,
green-eyed monster, resentment, disposed to suspect rivalry or
unfaithfulness, hostile toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an
The Free Dictionary by Farlex describes jealousy
as, "fearful or wary of being supplanted; apprehensive of losing
affection or position; inclined to suspect rivalry."
other sources agree that 'jealousy' is a reaction to a perceived
threat to the relationship which involves negative reactions that
are used either as a defense mechanism or a form of protection and
control. Basically, it is the idea that another person is giving
something you want to a third party (or you perceive or imagine this
to be true) causing aversive reactions.
Alright, let's look
at the words that are used in the definitions above: resentful,
suspicion, hostile, envious, fearful, wary, apprehensive, threat....well,
you get the picture. These are not words that would be used to
define something healthy.
Jealousy can be painful. It can
destroy trust, which is the foundation of any relationship. So, even
if you think it is cute that your partner calls you six times a day
to "check in", you may want to raise a red flag because it could be
a sign that more obsessive behavior is coming. Constant questioning
may be flattering at first, but it can eventually create mistrust
and cause a rift in the relationship. And, if you believe that your
'healthy jealousy' is an expression of your love and affection, then
it may be time to re-evaluate your actions.
jealousy is based on the way you perceive yourself. It is actually a
psychological defense mechanism used to protect your self-esteem and
sense of self-worth. It is NOT about another person's actions, but
is completely and entirely centered on your core values and beliefs
as well as your perception of SELF.
Understanding is the
first step to overcoming jealousy, so let's take a closer look at
some jealousy theories.
Theories of Jealousy:
studies have shown that jealousy can be displayed early in life,
sometimes even in infancy. This can give some strength to the idea
that this emotion or defense mechanism is something that we must
learn to control and overcome in order to develop into healthy,
whole adults. In other words, our childhood can affect our adult
relationships, particularly in the area of jealousy.
Freud observed that children as young as three displayed jealousy
toward the same sex parent. He believed that this resulted because
the child felt that he/she was in competition for the attention of
the opposite sex parent and became jealous when this parent's focus
was on another family member.
Jean Piaget also discovered
that children became jealous when they did not receive the undivided
attention of a particular person (usually the primary caregiver).
Young children believe that the world revolves around them and may
experience confusing emotions, ranging from anger to fear, if the
center of their world, or the source of their love and affirmation,
is no longer focused primarily on them.
Similarly, Erikson argued that societal influences determine the
development of jealousy. Young children are unable to meet their own
needs, so they look to their parents or caregivers for the
fulfillment of this task. The adults in their life are their source
of affirmation, reassurance, and guidance. It is during these years
that a sense of self-worth and value is developed so that the child
is prepared for their role in society. Erikson found that children
would exhibit jealousy if they did not get this attention and
reassurance. This shows that insecurity can be projected into
relationships, beginning at a very young age, developing a pattern
More recently, studies conducted by Dr. Sybil Hart, a
professor at Texas Tech University, have been receiving
attention. Through her research, she discovered that infants
as young as six months old can exhibit jealousy. It is argued
that jealousy is innate – or that we are all born with the
propensity to be jealous. This theory presents the argument
that jealousy may actually be a psychological Mechanism that
proponents of the Darwinian theory believe may have served an
adaptive function in the evolutionary process. Based on this
idea, we are all basically 'hard wired' for jealousy, but how
it develops (or if it develops at all) depends on personal
experience and cultural influences.
In some ways, this
theory could explain sibling rivalry since it shows that
cognitive development does not have to be advanced for
jealousy to be displayed; however, as we reach adulthood,
social and cognitive factors are strong indicators of how it
develops, explaining why some people struggle with jealousy
while others do not.
This idea would likely be
disputed by those who believe in the 'blank slate theory" -
that babies are born as a blank slate and social influences
are the primary factors in personality development. They would
argue that the belief of a predisposition to jealousy is a
dangerous assumption. Sybil Hart is one of the proponents of "healthy
jealousy" in that she believes this emotion can come from fear
and anger on one side or love and affection on another. From
this point of view, innate jealousy is not a scary idea since
it has the ability to develop into something positive and
However, if you believe that jealousy is
not healthy and should be overcome, then this thought does not
make sense. If you agree that we are all born wired for
jealousy, then you have to wonder if we are also born wired
for many other negative things. Are we all predisposed to
murder, assault, abuse? Do we refrain from these things simply
because of our parental and societal influences? In this case,
a criminal is not to blame for his actions, but rather his
parents or the environment in which he was raised. And, when
does a person become responsible for their own decisions?
In order to overcome jealousy, we have to believe that we
can control it or remove it from our lives. We have to work
from the premise that it is a negative or detrimental force
that has no place in our ideal, self-actualized, spiritually
whole being. We were not born with a 'jealous gene' but were
conditioned from the time we were infants to believe that a
particular behavior led to a specified result. Who we are -
our true self - does not contain jealousy, but rather it is
one element that was used to create a false perception of who
we THINK we are.
Social-Cognitive Theory argues that
jealousy is based on social influences, particularly those
experienced in childhood. This does not necessarily support
the blank slate theory, because no one can dispute
individuality. We are spiritual beings, therefore, our social
influences will impact each one of us differently depending on
how well we connect with our true sense of self and the
(spiritual) world around us.
Social-Cognitive Theory states that jealousy is a result of
your perceptions: you perceive a rival as a threat to your
relationship. This can occur for a number of reasons:
Fear: fear of abandonment, fear of not being loved, fear of
being embarrassed in front of family and friends, fear of
humiliation, fear of being alone, fear of not having your
• Past experiences: unresolved issues from
previous relationships, including parents, friendships,
co-workers, or romantic connections.
• Low self-esteem: you
feel unworthy, inadequate, find your security and value in the
affirmations of others.
W. Gerrod Parrot, professor of
psychology at Georgetown University, claims that jealousy
comes from our experiences, our thoughts, perceptions, and
memories, but can also be rooted in imaginations, guess, and
Basically, Mr. Parrot sums it up best.
Jealousy comes from insecurity that is rooted in past
experiences and causes us to develop a defense mechanism that
attempts to protect us from future hurt.
If a person's
basic needs are not met in childhood, he/she will develop some
negative, fear based beliefs that are carried into adult
relationships. Issues of self-confidence and self-esteem cause
many people to find their identity in their partners – to draw
their security and value from their relationships – which can
lead to jealousy whenever those relationships are perceived to
Note: notice the use of the word "perceived".
There is a definite difference between love/care and obsessive
suspicion. Likewise, there is also a difference between an "imagined
rival" and actual infidelity. Every relationship has certain
expectations and should be mutually giving. Jealousy is not
the same as acknowledging reality or fact.
the flip side, if you have experienced betrayal or hurt in a
past relationship and have difficulty with jealousy as a
result, it is important that you deal with the issue before
beginning another relationship. It is not a good idea to carry
these problems forward since you will likely project these
fears onto your new partner, ultimately causing a rift and
destroying the trust.
Before learning how to deal with
jealousy, let's take a quick look at the typical symptoms so
that you will be able to recognize it in yourself or your
Symptoms of Jealousy:1. Control:
Jealous people will usually try to change or control the
behavior of others. They say things like, "If you wouldn't
talk to other women, I wouldn't react this way", or, "If you
answered your phone when I called, I wouldn't show up at your
office everyday." This is projecting the blame onto the
partner, not taking responsibility for your own feelings and
actions, and demanding certain behavior in exchange for
particular outcomes. The feeling of jealousy elicits defensive
behavior which attempts to control the situation, particularly
the love partner, although it can be seen in every type of
Are you suspicious if you don't know
where your partner is every minute of the day? Do you give him
or her the third degree every time he/she goes somewhere
without you?2. Insecurity:
Jealousy often arises due
to low self-esteem or low self-worth. Basically, the jealous
person has a false and negative image of themselves and
believes they are not good enough. Because their needs were
not met as a child, they project an attitude of rejection,
fear, and unhappiness. A person's core values or deeply rooted
beliefs affect self perception as well as their perception of
Insecurity leads to fear, and fear
will make it impossible to build loving, lasting, mutually
people will often use others to compensate for their feelings
of insecurity and low self-esteem. They believe that they need
a partner to be happy. They will often use phrases such as, "I
need her", "I wouldn't be happy without him", or "He completes
me". These statements show that happiness is perceived to be
dependent on receiving the undivided attention of another.
Unhappiness, despondency, self-doubt, or even suspicion will
result with the perceived threat of losing this attention.
Do you need constant affirmation? Do you feel doubt or
uncertainty about the relationship if you do not receive this
The jealous person is often
angry and will use this anger as a form of control, sometimes
even resorting to threats or violence. Jealousy manifesting in
anger is the cause of many fights and arguments and can result
in driving a wedge into relationships.
Since it is impossible to be with someone every minute of
every day, trust is the foundation of any strong, lasting
relationship. Reasons for mistrust can vary from previous
betrayals, to low self-confidence, or a false self-image; but,
a lack of trust is almost always a symptom of jealousy.
Unfortunately, it also leads to many other symptoms such as
control, fear, or anger, and constant questioning can actually
push the other person away. Most people do not appreciate
having their integrity and level of commitment to the
relationship continually questioned, and often feel like their
jealous partner is just waiting for them to make a mistake. It
is like they are being judged for something they haven't done.
7. Perceived threats:
A jealous person will often feel
threatened and believe that someone or something is a rival
for the attention of their partner. Every situation is a
potential disaster and the actions of others are always
scrutinized. For example, a jealous person may feel threatened
if a friend or partner attends a social event where there will
be several single people or opportunities to interact with the
Jealousy may also be experienced if a
partner compliments or speaks highly of a perceived rival. In
fact, since low self-esteem is often at the root of jealousy,
they may view these actions as an attack on their worth and
value. If a man says to another woman, "You look very nice
tonight", his jealous partner may respond with, "So, I don't
look nice?" How does a compliment directed at one person
become an insult to another?
Now that you know how to
recognize jealousy at work, the next step is learning how to
manage it or overcome it.
There are several factors that contribute to jealousy:
past experience, self-worth and core beliefs, perceptions,
emotions, and personal choice. When learning how to stop being
jealous, all these elements must be addressed.
Remember, no matter how difficult it may seem, if you really
want to change the situation YOU CAN! YOU choose how you react
to circumstances, and by making these choices, YOU create your
own experiences. By recognizing the symptoms, you can take
control of your life, be set free from your past, and allow
yourself to embrace your full potential.
Find out why you are experiencing jealousy or
identify those things that make you jealous. What triggers the
jealousy? How did you become jealous? Is it from past
experience? Have you been cheated on? Or, have you been the
unfaithful one? Do you have a fear of abandonment? Do you
suffer from low self-esteem? Are you afraid that your needs
will not be met? Be honest with yourself. Once you can answer
these questions, you will be able to recognize a pattern, know
the warning signs, and make the choices needed to control your
reactions in these situations.
2. Take responsibility.
Once you identify the cause of jealousy, it is important that
you take responsibility for it. Do not blame your partner or
your perceived rivals. Remember, you control how you respond
to a situation, and you will not get control of your life
until you take responsibility for your actions and choices.
Accepting this responsibility puts you in a position of power
Tell your partner how you
feel, but use "I" instead of "You". Remember, you are taking
responsibility, not blaming. Sometimes your partner may not
understand why you are feeling jealous, and honest, open
communication may help develop trust and put insecurity to
rest. Share your needs and learn theirs so you can build a
mutually giving relationship. Honest conversation is always a
better approach than anger, suspicion, sulking, or accusation.
4. Change your beliefs about yourself.
How do you see
yourself? If you are having a problem with jealousy, it is a
warning sign of how you feel about yourself and how you
identify your worth or value. Write a list of your good
qualities - those things that make you feel proud and
confident - then use this list to help improve your self-worth
and self-esteem. When you realize that you do not need another
person to affirm your identity, and when you become proud of
who you are and begin to develop a more positive image of
yourself, you will be less likely to react in jealousy. If you
feel good about yourself, jealousy cannot control you. Invest
some time in YOU, developing your growth and independence, so
that you become a loving, secure person. It is only when you
truly see yourself correctly – as the person you are meant to
be, living up to your full potential and experiencing
wholeness and unity – that you will be able to have a healthy,
5. Change your perspective.
Remember Parrot stated that jealousy can arise from
imagination, guesses, and assumptions? Often a jealous person
becomes mired in the scenarios they play in their minds,
developing suspicion for actions that have no basis in
reality. To overcome jealousy, you need to deal with the facts
– step back and see the situation for what it IS, not for what
you perceive or imagine it to be. Change your point of view so
you can distinguish fact from fiction. If you have to ask a
third party to help you gain proper perspective, then find
someone you trust. Of course, there are situations where you
cannot deny what you know to be true, but do not let your
imagination rule your actions or reactions.
with your desire for control.
A jealous person is both
obsessive and possessive of another's time, attention,
affection, and love. This leads to constant questioning, a
need to know their partner's whereabouts at all times, and an
attempt to control behavior. The fact is, you do not own a
person. And, it is unreasonable to expect that you are the
only important person in their life. Trusting someone enough
to allow them to be themselves is the best way to build a
rewarding relationship. Controlling yourself rather than your
partner will help you overcome jealousy. And, for those of you
who still believe in a healthy jealousy – remember there is a
difference between possessiveness and genuine love. You
control a possession, but you love a person.
Overcoming jealousy begins with recognizing the signs and
understanding the reasons why it can arise in your life. Most
often it is a result of not having your needs met in childhood,
which leads to a distorted or inaccurate perception of
yourself. You believe that you are not worthy of love, or that
you must earn someone's affection and attention. Because you
believe that you do not measure up, you live with a fear of
abandonment or betrayal. So, as a defense mechanism against
these fears, you become obsessive, controlling, or suspicious
– all actions that try to monopolize your partner's time and
ensure their faithfulness. Basically, you are drawing your
identity from their love and acceptance, and believe that
these things validate you as a person. In essence, if you lose
the relationship, you lose yourself.
As an adult, you
are now capable of meeting your own needs. Incapable parents,
betrayal of a loved one, or a painful experience no longer
have to control you. You can be free. False beliefs about
yourself need to be seen for what they are – lies. It is time
to let go of those misconceptions and recreate an image of
yourself that is based on the truth. True wholeness comes when
you can continue to grow and love regardless of the
circumstances around you or the condition of your
relationships. You are not responsible for anyone else and no
one else can control you unless you let them.
are confident with being YOU then there is no need to be
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