Writing Up Old Ideas VIII: Jealousy

Published in Wellbeing / Personal / Mental Health - 4 mins to read

I am an exceptionally jealous person; in fact it’s one of my least favourite qualities about myself. I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember, and despite having tried hard to change this aspect of my psyche, it persists, as strong as ever. The good news is that now, after however many hours of therapy (maybe hundreds?) I at least have an understanding of why I feel jealousy so strongly, which is a good first step to combatting it.

I’d always assumed my jealousy was a logical byproduct of my low self-esteem; when I know somebody I feel close to is spending time with someone else, in whatever context, my mind immediately goes to “why aren’t they spending that time/effort/energy on me? What does this other person have that I don’t?”. That second thought inevitably bleeds into a very long list of things that I perceive myself as not having or not being enough of, and it’s all predictably downhill from there. I actually think this kind of jealousy is pretty common, even if a lot of the people who experience it might not have the self-awareness to recognise it in those terms - as I wouldn’t have either, without the aid of a professional.

Despite having some idea on where my feelings of jealousy come from for a while, I also felt that I seemed to be especially prone to it, and had a lot of shame about that; it’s something I try my hardest to hide from those around me, and that’s always been the case. It was, surprise surprise, with the help of a therapist that I really got a grip on why I felt it in such an extreme way, in fact during my most recent course of therapy, where we invested a lot of time into mapping out my patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviours. The disordered ones of those were cyclical in nature, and my therapist called them my “reciprocal roles”. The reciprocal role in question was that of “idealised care” - someone catering to my every emotional need, making me feel temporarily secure, giving me a lot of external validation, contrasted with “total rejection”, which boils down to basically anything that isn’t idealised care. A large part of my mental health issues in general can be derived from my inability to see things in anything other than binary, and this was especially clear here; if my chosen idealised carer is not lavishing me with attention whenever I am craving it, then I feel completely rejected by them, I lose any sense of security in the relationship, and without the external validation they give me, my sense of self quickly deteriorates into nothing but self hatred and self pity. Which is, in a nutshell, why I think I’m more jealous than your average fragile, insecure white male.

Knowing all of this, one might think that I would be able to work through those feelings effectively, but it still remains a huge struggle for me. This is one of the most frustrating aspects of my mental health problems over the years; I can recognise a strong feeling that I’m having, identify why I’m feeling it, realise that it’s not helping me and that it’s the result of disordered thinking and try and rationalise through it… but that’s not how feelings work. I’ve never been able to think my way out of what I feel. And even knowing that the thing I feel is not grounded in reality and is causing me a lot of distress, does not make me feel it any less strongly. Which really fucking sucks.

Obviously, I am still trying with the jealousy thing though. Working it out is definitely something that’s going to be a marathon and not a sprint. Working on my own self-esteem is a major part of it, as is understanding that things aren’t black and white, especially when it comes to people. Honesty and setting boundaries are the final pieces of the puzzle that I’m hoping, once completed, will turn me into a beautiful butterfly, possessive of nothing and no one. Like all things, it’s going to be a process.

See other posts in the Writing Up Old Ideas series