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Jealousy: If Only It Were As Cute As a Green-Eyed Monster

Teressa Thurwanger, S-MFT

I got jealous today.  Real jealous.  It happened like that *finger snap* and took me by surprise.  People joke about the “green-eyed monster” but I think that’s too cutesy wootsy for how it feels, and got me thinking more about its role in my life.

It felt fast.  It felt deep.  It felt hot.  It felt really, really gross.  I not only don’t like feeling jealous or possessive because it’s an unpleasant emotion, it’s also something more than that and I spent some time afterwards trying to get to the why.  It’s kind of like that person you have a personality clash with or just don’t like but sometimes if you can get to know them, to hear and find out their story, they become more human and known to you.  You start to see them in enough of a different way that some small bit of compassion is born and the next time you’re around them they don’t grate on you quite so badly.  That’s kind of how I started to think about this.  I decided to get to know it.

Jealousy seems to be one step away from resentment-and we all know how resentment feels.  It starts to grow even faster when you try to ignore it and shove it away out of sight and into a dark corner.  Its roots begin to creep down and through and before you know it, this thing has morphed into something tendrilly and YUCK.  So let’s backtrack from that and see how it starts out.  Jealousy says, “I want what you have and not what I have”, “There isn’t enough to go around”, or, “I’m not enough”.  But that’s not true.  I call bullshit on that.  I am enough.  Someone else’s shining does not diminish my light.  Those who are meant for you will be in your space and choose you fully, and those that aren’t, won’t.  You will be in the space you are meant to be in whether you’re resting or working hard to achieve a goal or somewhere in between.

I think jealousy is a cousin to insecurity and a great-aunt to resentment and shame.  I don’t want those things in my life or in my heart.  Do you?  How do we get rid of them?  I’m going to guess you don’t try to.  It reminds me of something I read once by Elizabeth Gilbert about the subject of fear and its sometimes paralyzing force in her life.  She tried and tried to get rid of it and be brave and “be not afraid”, until one day she realized that being brave didn’t have anything to do with not being afraid.  It had everything to do with feeling afraid but making a different choice.  Thanking it for its role in her life (because fear is a natural response to a real or perceived threat), she would say to it when she felt its presence, “Thank you for trying to protect me but I don’t need you to speak for me right now.  You’re welcome to come along but you are absolutely not welcome under any circumstances to drive the bus.”

What do you think about trying that with jealousy?  I wonder what it’s trying to do.  Maybe it’s trying to keep me awake, caring, in the game –  but really all it does is the opposite.  “So thanks, Jealousy, for trying, but you don’t get to make my feet turn and run and my insides feel hot and my soul go somewhere very quiet and feel like less than…”  Because it’s not.  And neither is yours.

Remember in those times when you are still and quiet and alone and feel jealousy rising up – uninvited and unwelcome – that in life, in work, in friendship, in relationship, in love, in play, and in stillness – you are enough.  All the way enough.

Anger is Easier than Sadness

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Michael Shahan, S-MFT

As I was driving alone late one night, my mind was ruminating over some of the difficult circumstances in my life. It was time where I felt a genuine, all-encompassing sadness. There was a physical churning in my stomach. I could feel a heaviness and a stillness in my body, demanding that I make no quick movements.  I just wanted to sit, driving in the darkness, staring straight down that lonely highway, letting my mind wander. You might know that kind of sadness – It hurts.

After a while, the car in front of me began to drift slowly into another lane without bothering to use his blinker (like a decent human being).  Apparently, the driver decided it would be a good idea to just sit in the middle of two different lanes.  He was in no hurry to make a decision, nor was he too excited about following traffic laws. I immediately felt a bubbling of anger begin to rise in me.

And you know what the crazy thing was? As soon as I began to feel anger, my sadness stopped hurting!  I could feel it dissipate very quickly in that moment.  The emotional and even the physical pain that came along with the sadness just melted away.  I would even go so far as to say the anger felt good.  How interesting is that! That’s when I realized how much easier anger is than sadness.

Sadness hurts. Anger feels good.

Sadness feels powerless.  Anger gives you power.

Sadness takes away your energy. Anger gives you energy.

But it’s not just sadness that anger can cover over.  Anger covers of a multitude of emotions that are uncomfortable to feel. It’s so easy to slip from our hurt, our impatience, our fear, or whatever else that we don’t want to feel into anger.  Often times, I think we make this shift to anger without even realizing what the negative emotion is that is being covered up.  And we do ourselves and those around us a disservice when we use anger to cover up our discomfort. 

So, how do we take a step back from our anger and recognize what is underneath?

  1. Name it:

When you name an emotion, it takes the power away.  Dr. Dan Siegel, a psychiatrist who studies the brain, coined the term, “Name it to tame it.”  He has found that if we stop and say the name of the emotion we are feeling, it moves the brain power to the logical, thinking side of our brain and away from the feeling side.  So, wherever you are, stop what you are doing and describe out loud the anger that you are feeling.  Say, “I feel angry” or, “I feel furious.”  Whatever describes what you are feeling most accurately.

 

  1. Get curious:

Now that the power of the anger has been taken away, ask yourself, “What is this anger covering up?”  What do you not want to feel right now? What do you not want to face at the moment? Are you hurting? Has your interaction with a certain person left you feeling inferior or less than?

 

  1. Respond (Be kind to yourself):

What comes up in these moments may hurt, and it will probably be uncomfortable. Try as hard as you can to be kind to yourself and give yourself grace. Pretend that a really good friend of yours is feeling the same emotions that you are feeling.  How would you respond to them? What would you say to them? How would you comfort them?  Often times, we are much kinder to the ones we love than we are to ourselves.  Speak life to yourself in the ways you would to the ones you love.

 

Now, this isn’t a cure all that I’m presenting.  This isn’t some three-step solution to solving all the emotional difficulties in your life.  What it is, though, is a way to challenge yourself and begin to learn more about your own emotions.  It is a way to begin pushing past the automatic responses that you have developed over your life and work toward the best version of yourself possible.