Over the past year or two I have been paying attention to the experience of jealousy. For years, I lived my jealousy with a certain degree of shame and embarrassment. I had learned that this was an emotion I was not supposed to feel. It was “unbecoming.” I believed that if I acknowledged my feelings of jealousy, people would not want to be around me. I thought it made me unlikable. So I pushed it into some corner at the edge of my awareness and tried not to think about feeling jealous. I pretended it wasn't part of me.
Overtime, my beliefs changed. I was learning how to bring acceptance and compassion to the full range of my emotions and feelings. I still felt shame around being jealous, but I was also curious. I took a chance and acknowledged out loud within the safety of a therapeutic group that I felt jealous. I didn't know what to do with this uncomfortable experience inside of me and I wanted help. I knew my jealousy was quietly (and sometimes loudly) running the show even as I tried to ignore it.
I clearly remember being met with care as I disclosed this "shameful" part of my being. The therapist running the group looked at me with such kindness and helped me understand there was nothing wrong with feeling jealous.
If you are reading this and have feelings of shame in relation to jealousy or any other experience, I want to offer you the same care and understanding that I received. Whatever your experience is, you have not done something wrong. When we believe we shouldn't feel something, we reinforce a sense of "wrongness" or shame about it. Can you imagine, even for a moment, that you deserve being met with love, compassion and respect? Even if you feel jealously or hatred or any number of "unacceptable" emotions?
Since that day, something has shifted in me and I have been getting to know my jealousy. This has been really important. To begin with, I had to practice not shutting down my jealously when it came up. I still practice this. When I notice I feel jealous, I pause and take a breath. I remind myself it is okay to feel this way. This is step one. The simple act of allowing for what we feel is healing. You can practice this with any emotion or experience you have. Notice what that feels like and if any subtle changes happen.
The next step is a little more complicated. When I feel jealous, it can seem like someone else is doing something to “make me feel that way.” My impulse may be to act out. Perhaps my mind jumps to how unfair it is that someone else has something I desire. Perhaps self-loathing kicks in and the spiral of “why can’t I ever get what I want?” opens up. There can be an undertone of either making them bad and wrong or making me bad and wrong. It can be tempting to make it about the other person and ignore what’s happening within me.
Again, none of this is a problem. The difficulty comes if we act this out on others (or internally on ourselves) without awareness. In my experience, that doesn’t turn out too well.
So, what do I do now? I have acknowledged I feel jealous and understand that there are ways I can live jealousy that don’t serve me. The important question to ask next is “What is my jealousy trying to tell me?” What am I jealous of? What does someone else have that I want? What do they have that you want? A family? Connection? Security? A vacation? Underneath the jealousy is a need. Even if it’s not realistic to, say, fly off to a tropical destination for a week, can you let yourself know that some part of you wants that? Spend some time exploring what that’s about. Do you need a rest? Time in the sun? Connection with family and friends without distractions? A break from your daily routine? Find ways to honor that. There may be a small way to give yourself that right now, either in a tangible way or through an imagery practice. Simply imagining we have the thing we want can open something up within us.
Making room for the feelings of want, desire and need is key. Even if it seems like there is nothing you can do today or tomorrow to get what you want, there is beauty and information in your wants. They give you direction. When we support and honor the experience of wanting, it can feel incredibly sweet, pure and life giving.
Jealousy is part of that. It’s a natural part of the human experience and contains clues about what’s missing in our lives. Hello, jealousy. You are welcome here.
Katherine Grigg, MPC, RSMT has a Master of Pastoral Counseling degree and is a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist. She sees clients in Berkshire County, Massachusetts and teaches occasional classes and workshops. Her offerings are appropriate for anyone seeking a deeper sense of connection to themselves, their spirituality and/or the world around them. LGBTQ+ Friendly. Contact her to learn more or connect with her on facebook.