Gender & SexualityPosts by Topic:PsychologySocial Interaction & Networks


Whenever I think of jeal­ousy, I think of the main lyr­ics of the song of the same name by Death:

You want what is not yours : jeal­ousy
You want what you can­not have : jealousy

Don’t listen if you’re not in the mood for, well, death metal. It’s got riffs aplenty and two kick­ass solos back to back, though, so I dig it.

Now, I would argue that we can dis­tin­guish a few dif­fer­ent shades of jeal­ousy, but that all of them carry a mean­ing of those two lines at their core.

Whatever the shade of jeal­ousy the cause is the same: you are con­fron­ted with the fact that a per­son (or per­sons) you care about in some way is in ‘pos­ses­sion’ of some­thing — a mater­ial thing, a rela­tion­ship, an exper­i­ence — the you would like to have, but don’t.

A tal­ent, a way of car­ry­ing one­self with con­fid­ence, a kiss, intim­acy, time spent with someone.

Jeal­ousy is often looked upon neg­at­ively, and for good reason, but this is so because it often con­jures up neg­at­ive sec­ond­ary emo­tions such as frus­tra­tion, anger, or even hatred, and the actions that fol­low from those. Jeal­ousy itself can be simple and pure: I want that thing that you have and I don’t. Deal­ing with jeal­ousy means deal­ing with the inter­pret­a­tion of those two lyr­ical lines.

When we are neg­at­ively affected by jeal­ousy, we rage in the face of the obvi­ous: we want what is not ours, and what we can­not have, but we are blind as to why this is the case. Why can’t I be like that per­son? Why are you spend­ing more time with her than with me? Why did you break up with me, but not them? The answers to these ques­tions aren’t always ready to see, in the moment of con­front­a­tion, and bey­ond. Our jeal­ousy may turn to envy: I wish you did­n’t have that thing at all. If I can’t have you, no one should have you.

Learn­ing to move away from that neg­at­iv­ity means learn­ing the mean­ing of those two lyr­ical lines. Why do I want what is not mine and what I can­not have is the first ques­tion to tackle, but it is a simple one: we all have needs and wants. There’s noth­ing wrong with *that*. When our needs aren’t met, jeal­ousy is a nat­ural response to see­ing those ana­log­ous needs ful­filled in oth­ers. The second ques­tion is more cru­cial: why is it not mine, and why can’t I have it?

The answers to both are woven together. It, that thing you want, is lit­er­ally not yours and you lit­er­ally can not have it, because every tal­ent, every exper­i­ence, every rela­tion­ship is unique to the per­sons involved. Some things, like tal­ent or con­fid­ence are doled out by fate, oth­ers, like rela­tion­ships, friend­ship, intim­acy, are given by the grace of love and con­sent. None of them belong to us. They are not ours to claim or pos­sess. We can only receive them.

This even goes for con­crete objects. While you may indeed pos­sess an object, leg­ally and/or prac­tic­ally, you can never pos­sess the *rela­tion­ship of pos­ses­sion* that another per­son would have with that same object, which is what actu­ally counts. Its not what we have, it’s what we do with it and what it does to us that matters.

Is it pos­sible to turn jeal­ousy into some­thing pos­it­ive? I think it some­times is, if we open our hearts. When we real­ise why we can­not have what is not ours, we sharply real­ise that what we’re look­ing for is *our own* ver­sion of that thing, and hold on to the hope that this emo­tional need may be ful­filled in the future. This hope is pos­sible *pre­cisely* because we are in the moment of jeal­ousy con­fron­ted with the fact that sim­ilar needs are in fact being ful­filled for oth­ers. Your time will come.

In the mean time, remem­ber that jeal­ousy is nat­ural and unavoid­able. We are only human, after all. It is how you deal with the fact that you want what is not yours and what you can­not have that counts. And yes, we all make mis­takes there too. But I believe there’s always a way to turn jeal­ousy into hope and good­will, rather than envy.