'I still get jealous!'

Kanisa George -
Kanisa George -

Kanisa George

ONE OF the most complicated and confusing features of human existence is our relationship with our emotions. Unlike the relationship we share with others, we cannot easily escape the nagging, incessant, joyous, or sad emotions triggered by the activation of specialised neuronal populations in several parts of the cerebral cortex. In other words, we can't run from our brains.

Even when we try to avoid our emotions, we can cover only so much distance before they catch up with us. And you know as well as I do that they always catch up with us.

To win the war that emotions can sometimes wage against us, we must become keen to understand the intricacies that make them unique and the powerful effect they have on us.

Each emotion has its own set of special rules and responsibilities, and positive emotions like elation and love are far easier to navigate than anger or sadness.

As confusing as negative emotions go, one stands out, wreaking havoc and stirring up feelings of great angst. What makes this powerful emotion all the more complex is that the source isn't always easy to pinpoint and is frequently linked to views on self-image and self-esteem.

Whether you find yourself grappling with it frequently, trying to ignore its existence, or allowing it to take root, the truth is you can never truly escape the pang of jealousy. It's a feeling that resonates with all of us, a part of our shared human experience.

Similar to joy or sadness, jealousy is an intuitive feeling that is part of our default setting. It's a normal part of our human nature, not something to be ashamed of or feel guilty about.

Unlike envy, which focuses on our relationship with things and situations that we want but do not have, jealousy zooms in on those feelings we experience that are tied to the fear of losing something that you have, resentment that someone has achieved something you want, or being protective of possessions. That "something" typically comes in the form of a person, like a romantic partner or a close friend.

From a relationship perspective, those twisted feelings (envy) you experience when your friend lands a high-flying job you once wanted, according to psychologists, are far different from the negative emotions you feel (jealousy) when you find out your best friend confided in another friend instead of you.

Associate director for the Yale Centre for Emotional Intelligence, Robin Stern, cites that "jealousy is the emotion we feel when we feel fearful of losing someone or a relationship that is very important to us."

"Maybe we start to fear our relationship is becoming less sacred in the other person's eyes, or perhaps someone else will take away a connection we share with our partner."

Jealousy, like a skilled weaver, can intricately entangle the threads of our relationships. It's a green-eyed monster that lurks, waiting for the right moment to strike, potentially unravelling the very fabric of our connections.

This distinction makes jealousy far more destructive than envy, in my opinion, for jealousy's intrusive and volatile nature can destabilise our relationships. Ramachandran VS's and Jalal B's review of the evolutionary psychology of both envy and jealousy supports this position.

Their research found that envy may not be as negative an emotion as jealousy. Envy can motivate a person to improve their life since it occurs along the same spectrum of admiration.

Jealousy, however, can trigger several other emotions, including fear, anger, resentment, insecurity and worry. While these emotions don't always undermine a relationship, they can sometimes call it into question, leading to instability and, in some cases, dissolution.

Jealousy isn't always destructive, and experts believe that a mild degree of it can be healthy. From an evolutionary perspective, jealousy has always motivated us to take action to help secure our survival and the survival of our offspring, according to Baland Jalal, a neuroscientist at the Cambridge University School of Clinical Medicine.

Because we depend on our relationships for survival, jealousy is a tool used to reiterate how much you value your relationship against the backdrop that someone else might be putting that relationship at risk.

When jealousy becomes excessive, there is a strong pull towards destructive behaviour, leading to toxic, unsuccessful relationships.

Without restraint, jealousy can spiral out of control and be far more deadly than we intended. Echoing psychologist Daniel Freeman, sometimes feelings of jealousy are a sign that something needs to be worked on in your relationship. To combat out-of-control feelings of jealousy, Robin Stern suggests taking a step back and thinking about what you're telling yourself about the situation. Ask yourself: does it warrant you being jealous that your friend confided in another friend?

Because our emotions are informed by our perspective and what we tell ourselves about same, putting a positive spin on things might change your perspective.

Importantly, consider whether your emotions might be a response to some deep-rooted issue rather than the actual situation. Sometimes insecurities and poor self-worth can cause an avalanche of emotions that have nothing to do with the situation and everything to do with our inability to regulate ourselves.

When we can identify the source of our emotions, we are often better placed to label them and do the work to address them adequately.

When negative emotions overpower us, we shut down and shy away from communicating. Relationships benefit from open and frank dialogue. So, even when you feel vulnerable, openly communicating how you feel might help to smooth things over and control those emotions.

Before broaching the topic, Stern recommends considering what you want from it. "If I'm telling someone I'm jealous, do I want them to fix it? Do I want them to tell me I shouldn't be jealous?"

It is easy for most of us to automatically put jealousy into a box, along with all the other horrendous emotions out there. Even so, it's certainly possible that below the rough exterior, the green-eyed monster might be a friendly giant.

When we peel back the layers of human interactions and relationships, we might find that jealousy, once seen as a negative force, can actually be a catalyst for self-discovery and growth. By giving it a chance, we open ourselves up to a deeper understanding of ourselves and our relationships.

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"‘I still get jealous!’"

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