Irish writer Elizabeth Bowen once wrote, "Jealousy is no more than feeling alone against smiling enemies." This statement sets a scene in our minds of what jealousy feels like. Others are happy, joyful or mocking, while we are left alone to look like a fool.
I recently counselled a client who had experienced uncontrollable jealousy. He said that no amount of rational thinking or calming states could rid him of his jealousy toward his partner, currently living in another country. Snapchat, which I have never used, was his enemy. Everything his partner posted he could see including her chats with other males, this intense jealousy made him seek counselling.
Jealousy took on a wicked presence where he could not sleep and constantly pictured his partner with other males. The ease and accessibility of technology now breeds even more distrust between couples. Email, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and text messaging can be a great platform for forging new connections. However, as communication channels open, the green wave of jealousy is also being fed.
Jealousy to some extent is a natural, instinctive emotion that everyone experiences at one point or another. Like anger it needs to be controlled rather than letting it control you.
Did you realize that Jealousy:
Like anger, often masks other feelings and attitudes that are even more hurtful to us.
Reveals deep-seated feelings of possessiveness, insecurity or shame.
Heart isn't the threat itself, but a drive we have within us to torment ourselves and berate ourselves with self-critical thoughts.
Often ends in Domestic Violence.
Is often a Cultural norms of possession which may feed into this intense state of jealousy- the need to possess your partner as if they were an object.
The thoughts we have when we feel jealous or the criticisms toward a perceived third-party threat, are often critical thoughts toward ourselves. Thoughts like, "What does she see in him?" may become “He is so much more handsome/thinner/ smarter/more successful than me". My clients often say that when their worst fears materialize and they find their partner has had an affair, they often react by directing the anger toward themselves for being foolish, too trusting and/or unlovable. Moving forward our level of trust is heightened and we become less accepting and more paranoid in future relationships.
This internal voice may have formed from negative experiences we had as children. Witnessing destructive interpersonal relationship, being made to feel bad about ourselves by a significant parental figure, or witnessing Domestic Violence, we internalized these experiences by identifying with the destructive attitudes that were being expressed. If we felt insignificant and unlovable, it is very likely we have carried this insecurity with us into adulthood and need constant reassurance that we “are good enough”.
Exploring where these feeling of insecurity started puts the focus back onto us, not our partners. We cannot change others, although we may wish to, we can only change ourselves. Our perceptions of our own value will determine how we react to some partners apparent infidelity and will allow rational thinking like “if they would be happier with someone else maybe that is better for them” or “if someone is not committed to me do I want them in my life”?
Jealousy maybe a normal reaction but it can be mastered just as anger can be.
My client over the period of a few sessions learned to control his jealous reactions as soon as they arose by;
Re-framing the information
Rational thinking about the source of his information
Dealing with his own insecurities and realizing where they had been learned probably as a child witnessing Domestic Violence
Learning that he “was good enough” and if one woman did not appreciate this then another woman would.