What is “Jealousy”? According to Wikipedia – jealousy is about something one has and is afraid of losing, while envy refers to something one does not have and either wants to acquire or to prevent another from acquiring. Some of the feelings underlying jealousy include possessiveness, low self-esteem, anger, fear of rejection, fear of intimacy and fear of abandonment.
We humans are, by nature, possessive. We collect stuff. As George Carlin put it:
“…that’s all you need in life, is a little place for your stuff, ya know? I can see it on your table, everybody’s got a little place for their stuff. This is my stuff, that’s your stuff, that’ll be his stuff over there. That’s all you need in life, a little place for your stuff. That’s all your house is: a place to keep your stuff. If you didn’t have so much stuff, you wouldn’t need a house. You could just walk around all the time.”
“A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. You can see that when you’re taking off in an airplane. You look down, you see everybody’s got a little pile of stuff. All the little piles of stuff. And when you leave your house, you gotta lock it up. Wouldn’t want somebody to come by and take some of your stuff. They always take the good stuff… All they want is the shiny stuff. That’s what your house is, a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get…more stuff!”
And, like it or not, the “stuff” we collect includes people – my best friend, my family, my girlfriend, my boyfriend, my brother, my sister, my people (my doctor, my lawyer, my accountant, my minister, etc.).
So there I am, at a party, and you, my sweetheart, are across the room, being chatted-up by some guy. I feel possessive. I want to shout “SHE’S MINE!” Maybe I even want to stride across the room, grab you by the hair, and drag you away, caveman style. Guess what? Somewhere deep inside, we are all actually programmed to feel this way.
Evolutionary Psychologists theorize that jealousy is one of several emotional responses that may have evolved as “tools” to safeguard our DNA staying in the gene pool. Simply stated, jealousy in the male fuels behavior that ensures that he, and only he, will have the ability to father a child with his mate. The jealous male will chase away other male suitors and also strongly encourage his mate to avoid those potential suitors. Jealousy will help to ensure that the male does not waste his valuable “male parental investment” (MPI) supporting a child that is not actually carrying the father’s DNA.
Jealousy in the female fuels behavior that ensures that she and only she will have MPI from her mate, particularly during pregnancy and the first few years of the baby’s life. The jealous female will chase away other available females and also strongly encourage her mate to avoid those potential mates.
Meanwhile, back at that party where my sweetheart is being chatted-up by someone. Uh-oh, here comes my low self-esteem. Unbidden, negative thoughts and critical self-talk seem to take over my brain. “He probably makes more money than me, drives a better car, has a bigger penis…” Most of us carry an internal critic around that erodes or self-confidence and sense of self worth. While there are many effective ways to deal with low self-esteem, blaming or trying to control our partner won’t actually help.
Anger is often triggered by a feeling of powerlessness. You’re late for an appointment and you find yourself stuck in traffic – what do you feel? Angry. If you could just snap your fingers and magically make the traffic part for you would you still feel angry? Being in love often requires a person to come face-to-face with our own powerlessness over other people. And that can invite anger. Again, there are many effective ways to deal with anger, but blaming or trying to control our partner won’t actually help.
It’s not surprising that being in relationship will bring up fears of intimacy and rejection. Our internal critic tells us that if our lover could really see inside our hearts, they would see all our flaws and weaknesses. Seeing the mess we really are, our lovers would reject us. A website called the SelfHelpCollective.com used Google keyword research to determine the top ten fears for which people search. Number 5 was fear of intimacy and number 8 was fear of rejection (number 1 was fear of flying, and fear of death came in at number 6).
I believe that every human being experiences fear of abandonment. It is a result of the biological reality of pregnancy and birth. During our nine months in the womb we never experience need or want. In the womb there is no hunger, tiredness, loneliness. From the moment of birth, we have to experience the pain of hunger, and express the pain of hunger in order to let our parents know we need food. Before we are verbal, before our brains are fully formed, we experience needs and wants. And no matter how “good” your parents were, sooner or later a child will feel the fear that, perhaps, this time, the food will not come. In this moment, our fear of abandonment is awakened.
Jealousy is neither good or bad, it’s just a common experience that can also be observed in other mammals. Anyone who has had multiple house pets has observed their dogs, cats or horses behaving in a way that clearly indicates their jealousy. So what shall we do when “the green-eyed monster” has us in it’s clutches? How about:
Take a deep breath. Embrace my discomfort. Accept that I feel what I feel. And…let go.