Don’t feed the green-eyed monster - A reflection on jealousy

If you feed the green-eyed monster, it will gobble you up.


It’s a problem that not many of us feel comfortable admitting to having, jealousy. There I have said the word. That one simple word often referred to as the 'green-eyed monster.' It's not a quality we tend to see as generally attractive in others or ourselves. It makes us feel uncomfortable. Some of us hide our feelings, while others openly admit we are ‘the jealous type’.

I would like to explore what jealousy is, what usefulness it might have and if we need to hang on to it. This will lead to the question, if we don’t want to keep feeling jealous, what can we do to overcome it?

What is jealousy?

The Cambridge Dictionary defines jealousy as “a feeling of unhappiness and anger because someone has something or someone that you want.”

If we can explore that idea, we might be able to see that a feeling of unhappiness is not something we generally consider a goal. Do we want to feel angry and unhappy? Society is quite divided over the usefulness of anger, but many counsellors think it is often a reaction to insecurity and low self-esteem; an expression of fear, just like jealousy.

Can jealousy ever be useful?

Is it possible that we can act on jealousy by getting whatever it is that we crave to have? I don’t think so. I believe that jealousy makes us irrational and can make us hate those who have what we want or perhaps what we believe they have or believe we want.

It’s not based on fact, but on presumptions. Jealousy comes out as anger, hate and bitterness. It isn’t a call to action, it doesn’t seem to help us make positive choices. My advice is don’t feed it.

What is envy?

Envy is like a slightly more acceptable relative of jealousy. We can perhaps envy someone without feeling anger or hatred. Envy may actually call us to action if the envy is of something we can realistically get or achieve.

The problem with both envy and jealousy is, generally, that the relationship or possession that seems to be causing the unhappiness is not really the problem. It is what lies behind it that is the problem.

If you are happy with yourself and your life, you don’t feel jealous. If you are secure in your relationships, you don’t feel jealous. If the green-eyed monster is turning up on a regular basis, this is likely to cause unhappiness and could affect your relationships with others. If that is the case, what can you do?

How to overcome jealousy

First of all, acknowledge the feeling. Then, instead of an overthinking marathon, for example, about how much you deserve something and that she doesn’t or why are they having a good time and you're not etc, etc, just pause.

Stop. Stay with the feelings just for a moment. Try to remember the last time you felt jealousy. Was it a similar feeling? It probably was. This is because the feelings are about your unhappiness and your insecurity and not about other people at all.

Try to bring the feeling down to envy, then move on. Or remind yourself of your good points and that what they have is their life and not yours, and get on with your real life, don’t waste your precious time on an imaginary life.

If jealousy is causing you a problem and you can’t seem to let go of it, consider having counselling. Instead of seeing jealousy as an embarrassing habit, see it as an indicator that you are not happy in some way. The jealousy may be a result of real suffering you had in the past, especially in relationships. The counsellor won’t judge you but will help you work through the jealousy and help you move on.

By seeing jealousy as a symptom that something is not quite right, you can stop feeding it.

Sometimes people see jealousy as a sign that their partner really loves them, as in “He is so jealous he doesn’t like me going out with my sister” or “She is so jealous, she always picks me up after I have a night out with my friends.” This is not a sign of love but evidence of either insecurity or a desire to control, or both.

Don’t encourage this reaction, it is not useful or helpful to either of you. Try to be supportive of your partner's insecurities, because that’s what it’s about, not love. You can suggest a counsellor might help, but don’t insist. And, of course, make sure that you are not intentionally seeking a jealous reaction in your partner because of your own securities.

Jealousy can be a fleeting feeling, unpleasant but it passes. Frequent jealousy or a ‘jealous rage’ is bad news for the person experiencing it and can cause breakdowns in relationships. Accepting how you feel, in the short term, can be helpful - acknowledge the feeling and know it is your feeling about yourself.

How can counselling help?

If you continue to struggle with jealousy, consider seeing a counsellor. The counsellor will be able to explore where your jealousy stems from or help you to move away from jealousy, or both.

Being jealousy-free can be really liberating and can lead to feeling real joy for other people’s luck or talent. A sure sign that you have stopped feeding the green-eyed monster is when you are happy, not only to see others happy but knowing that you are a person who will also have good relationships and experiences. The energy drained by jealousy can be turned into the challenge of deciding what you really and realistically want from life and how you can get it. Feed the positives.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Saltburn-by-the-Sea, North Yorkshire, TS12
Written by Dahlian Kirby
Saltburn-by-the-Sea, North Yorkshire, TS12

I am a counsellor and writer currently working through Zoom e-mails and by phone. I run therapeutic writing groups and also work with individuals on therapeutic journal writing by e-mail and post. I have a PhD in applied ethics.

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