What is jealousy? We know it's an emotion or feeling that
we've felt at some point in our lives; maybe towards a brother or sister as they seemed to get more attention from our parents, towards peers who seemed to have more stuff, friends or fun, and towards apparent rivals, on the romantic scene or on the job.
Jealousy also seems to involve someone wanting to control someone else.
When we're little, we need our parents' attention. We need
love and we need approval. If we don't get enough of what we need, we may direct our hurt feelings towards a sibling if he or she seems to be getting the attention we need.
In the neighborhood, we may feel jealous of and envy the
popular kid who seems to get all the positive attention and has all the friends and all the cool stuff.
Because of the above, as parents, we may come to realize the importance of demonstrating lots of love for our children and teaching the principles of fairness and honesty.
Rivals at Work
As adults, our jealousies can't be attributed to our parent's behavior but they're still related to our sense of fairness, envy, and power and control issues. Usually, they take place in the relationship areas of work and romance.
At work, we may get attention, a raise or promotion that a
coworker thinks they should have gotten. As a child does, the coworker may find him or herself envious of us and direct their wrath towards us, rather than dealing appropriately with the emotion by reviewing their performance and, possibly speaking to their supervisor.
Power and control issues may become involved as the
"neglected" party attempts to make us pay for the favoritism we've been shown. The movie, "Norma Rae" demonstrated the phenomenon as Norma's fellow employees could not accept her after she was promoted to foreman.
But what does one do if the person
demonstrating jealousy and envy is one's supervisor?
Sometimes, supervisors may feel threatened by an employee's
intelligence, skill, creativity, and dynamism, as well as other tangible and intangible factors, such as educational attainment, socioeconomic status, degree of attractiveness or happiness, among others (It's interesting, that when we demonstrate happiness and a positive, upbeat attitude that there are those who think they would feel better if they could deflate our balloon)!
When a supervisor is threatened it can be threatening to our continued job and career progress and may even threaten our job. Take heart, though. While it may seem ominous in such situations, in the long run things work out. Usually, the quicker one exits such a situation, the better; whether by dismissal or resignation.
And, if the supervisor's jealousy and envy feelings have really gotten out of hand, there's a good possibility of collecting unemployment.
Of course, the work situation may also improve for the better if the employee confronts the supervisor in a mature, objective manner. As in any relationship, it helps to clarify and resolve issues, rather than let them fester.
The Romance Scene
Some jealousy in any relationship is normal, as jealousy is a normal feeling and teaches us not to take someone for granted, among other things.
A vague jealous feeling may also signify that our partner may be cheating on us, except in cases, of course, where we're cheating on our partner. In such cases, we may feel jealous because we're expecting our partners to do what we're doing.
We may also feel more than normal jealous feelings if we're
insecure, suffering from low self-esteem and/or were never
demonstrated an unconditional loving relationship by our parents. In such cases, the key is raising one's self-esteem and sense of security.
It's important to recognize that we're not connected to our
partners by an umbilical cord, that we're separate individuals, living separate lives and that we only share a part of our lives.
Prior to the relationship we each lived separate lives and,
as with anyone, were influenced by our biology, early childhood experiences and other aspects of destiny.
Oftentimes, when we first meet someone, we may feel that we
want to know everything about the other person and that we can't get enough of them. They seem perfect! Then, as they tell us "everything" about themselves, including past relationships, we may find ourselves feeling horrified as we feel jealousy, envy, disgust, and other awful feelings about their past.
Here, it's important to act on the feeling appropriately.
It's okay to admit we're uncomfortable and ask them to stop. At this point, it's also good to recognize that we actually don't need to know "everything" about our partner. After all, they don't know "everything" about themselves, either. It's also important to recognize that we don't need to hold our partners responsible for their fate. We can if we want to feel bad but we don't have to.
Five Questions for Clarifying Expectations
One way of acting on feelings of jealousy appropriately is to look at some of the underlying issues that the feelings might be reflecting. The following questions might be illuminating:
1. What do I want in this relationship that I'm not getting?
2. What am I getting from this relationship that I don't want?
3. What am I giving in this relationship that I don't want to
4. What would I like to be able to give in this relationship?
5. What am I getting that I do want in this relationship?
Write down the answers to these questions. Ponder them. What do you think? Consider your underlying beliefs. Are they reasonable? They might require adjustment. Most therapists know how to help you adjust erroneous underlying beliefs. If necessary, seek one out.