Emotions 4: Envy and Jealousy
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Tricia Johnson MBACP (Senior Accredited)
17th January, 20080 Comments
We are now looking at probably the least popular of the emotions – if emotions are ever popular at all!
In my previous articles I have been saying that our emotions are actually very useful tools, enabling us to learn something more about ourselves. Far from running away from them, as many of us do, we gain much more from them if we look them straight in the face and seek to understand what they are saying to us. But can this be true of envy and jealousy? If so, how?
Think of the times when you may feel envious or jealous of someone for some reason. Perhaps a friend seems to have a happier marriage; or your sister has a better paid job; or your cousin has a nicer house. Whatever it is, the envy or jealousy gets in the way of the relationship and spoils it. You can’t relax with them properly, and certainly can’t be real with them about what you’re feeling. The result is you may feel angry, or guilty. So the envy/jealousy spreads and grows. But is there anything else you can do about it?
Yes! When you become aware of that envy/jealousy ask yourself what it is that the other person has that you wish you had. What is that about? What are your expectations? Are they reasonable? Can you do something to change your situation so that you what you feel you are missing becomes an integral part of your life? Or do you need to change your expectations, and learn to become content with what you have, making the most of where you are now.
There is a lovely one-liner that encapsulates this thought. Many of us know the saying ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’. But, if the grass is greener on the other side water it! Water your own grass so that it grows lush and green. After all, if the other person didn’t water their grass, it wouldn’t be greener than yours in the first place!
Emotions come on us whether we like it or not, so in that sense we can’t prevent them from happening. However, by looking at them, and working out what they are showing us we can prevent them from emerging again. By modifying the behaviour or the underlying belief we will be sure the emotion doesn’t return, our relationships will improve and we will have a greater sense of peace and contentment.
So, envy and jealousy can help us in our personal growth by showing us those things that we aren’t happy with in our own lives, but appreciate in others. Thus we learn what is important to us. Understanding this we then have a choice; to change our expectations or change our circumstances. Either way, envy and jealousy will be less likely to rear their heads.
If you feel you need help in working on this issue or something similar or want to know more, then please feel free to contact me (no commitment). I look forward to hearing from you!
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