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
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.