Sunday, June 24, 2007
Green Eyed Monster - Revisited
I've been giving some thought over the last few days about jealousy - asking myself a series of questions:
1) What is jealousy?
2) What situations are most likely to trigger me feeling jealous?
3) Do I ever knowingly say or do things to deliberately create jealousy from others?
4) Are there ever situations in which I would consider jealousy to be positive?
5) What am I willing to do, or willing to no longer do, in order to eliminate jealousy from my emotional roadmap?
There are a variety of definitions for jealousy.
When I think of jealousy, I classify it into two basic categories: First is ENVY - Envy is when I feel any degree of bitterness or resentment toward another person or to life in general in response to recognizing someone else has a trait, possession or opportunity that I do not. I'm generally not upset that THEY have whatever it is...I just hate that I don't have it too.
Now, this is the half of jealousy that MAY be a positive thing, at times. When women did not have the right to vote but men did, I think it was appropriate for women to resent the inequity of that arrangement. I think it was a healthy recognition of lopsided power that pushed early suffragettes to march in protest rather than just accept things as they were. To a large extent the whole civil rights movement was pushed forward by the recognition that it was unfair for one group to hold the keys of power and opportunity to the exclusion of another group. It made the left out group feel angry and resentful, enough so that they were willing to take action to change the status quo.
In most cases, however, when I notice myself reacting with conflict, hurt, anger, resentment when I become aware that someone else has something or is able to do something I can't, it has more to do with selfishness than social justice.
It's one thing to admire someone else for their achievement or characteristics and as a result of that admiration to want to emulate them. I think looking to others to get ideas for what I might want to acquire or become in my own life is just fine - so long as I keep it in the category of role modeling. I think it is normal and healthy to rely on our experience with other people to see the range of what might be possible and then to want to do or be or have some of what we see in the lives of those we know.
Where that gets us into trouble, I think, is when we start feeling a general sense of entitlement... that we are owed all the same opportunities, talents, material goods or qualities of some other individual, group or class. The other area of danger is when I feel compelled to "keep up with the Joneses"... defining my worth or level of success with how I measure up next to the guy next door.
While I do believe in fighting for social justice, and believe there should be broad opportunities for all, I have no illusion that equal opportunity will translate to equal outcome. Some people really are smarter or more talented, stronger or more attractive than others. That's just the way it is. So while I am abitious enough to want to strive for various things, I'm also a firm believer in blooming where I am planted, recognizing that my flower box may not get the same sunshine or fertilizer as the next guys. Granted, sometimes it feels unfair when I don't get the same breaks as someone else. But I'd rather spend my energy making the very best I can of MY situation rather than burning up with steam about not having been dealt a different set of cards.
The other half of jealousy is unbridled possessiveness. I feel this form of jealousy any time I take the position that "This is MINE and you cannot have it!" I experience this jealousy any time I feel at all threatened if I perceive that you get too close to something I've named to be exclusively for me. Top of this list for many people is sexual jealousy. But we may also become jealous about other things... such as the pride we take in being considered the "best" at something or jealous of our property or our time, or any number of things.
This form of jealosy is built of both selfishness and insecurity.
(I'm still working on this post...will be revising as I have time.)