Are you feeling needless jealousy? Fight it

Jealousy, defined as, “Feeling envious resentment at the success or advantage of another” is not exclusively associated with intimate relationships and is often not borne by facts. It is a very uneasy feeling, prompted by fears that hinder one’s emotional and physical comfort and wellbeing. How can we manage these feelings and avoid their negative toll?

Most people occasionally encounter momentary emotions of jealousy. It is hard to watch those who are more gifted physically, intellectually, financially or relationally and not experience a tinge of jealousy. Yet, many wise individuals have warned us about the personal harm of these emotions. William Penn wrote, “The jealous are troublesome to others, but a torment to themselves.” Oliver Stone warned us, “Never underestimate the power of jealousy and the power of envy to destroy.” John Dryden declared, “Jealousy is the jaundice of the soul.

Researcher Helen Fisher of Rutgers University explained the sources of jealousy. She wrote, “Why do we feel jealousy? Therapists often regard the demon as a scar of childhood trauma or a symptom of a psychological problem. And it’s true that people who feel inadequate, insecure, or overly dependent tend to be more jealous than others.

Many studies do confirm that feelings of jealousy, insecurity and negative self-view are often evoked for some in childhood and continue to plague them throughout their lives. Researcher Jeffrey G. Parker of Pennsylvania State University studied 500 fifth-through ninth-grade students’ self and peer-reported jealousy. He found that both boys and girls with lower self-worth were more likely to experience feelings of jealousy that “appeared to contribute to the adolescents’ experience of loneliness, even when researchers controlled for adolescents’ broader social acceptance by peers.” He also found that “Some adolescents worry so much about their relationships, they don’t get to enjoy them because they are always protecting themselves…and become preoccupied with whether they will last.” They are also prone to “approach their friendships with an inability to trust others’ loyalty and commitment and fear their friend will replace them with others who are more interesting.”

Jealousy and envy are similar but not equal emotions. Professor Richard H. Smith of the University of Kentucky explains, “Envy occurs when we lack a desired attribute enjoyed by another. Jealousy occurs when what we already possess (usually a special relationship), is threatened by another person.”

Through our ongoing negative self-talk we damage our worthiness and reduce our capacity to be openhearted towards others and to make and sustain good relationships. This destructive, self-fulfilling practice must stop and we need to re-write those old messages and reprogram a healthier self-view

Abstain from needless jealousy:

  • Monitor your internal message about your worthiness.
  • Reject recalled negative childhood messages or experiences as valid depictions of your essence.
  • Stop old self-deprecating messages and replace them with healthy assessments of your documented worth and desirability.
  • Act as a person who is worthy of love and attention.
  • If needed, consult a therapist to help you replace old, defeating messages with accurate healthy ones.


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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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