You’ve been misled. You’ve been told that jealousy is an emotion. That it’s something beyond your control. That it happens to you. I’m here to tell you that jealousy is not a feeling. It results from meaning that you assign to an external event.
It’s important to understand this before we go deeper: Jealousy is a choice. And if you change the way you think, jealousy goes away.
In order for jealousy to breathe and thrive, you have to decide that an outside force poses a threat to your relationship (see the diagram below). This is a conclusion. It’s a hypothesis that you formulate. A bottom line at which you arrive. How do I know? Because, although I’ve got a ton of problems, jealousy isn’t one of them.
I’d never hold myself out as the poster child for mental health. But I am a mental health provider, and as someone who’s been in this field for 20 years, I’ve paid attention to the differences between people who are handicapped by jealousy versus people like me who appear to be immune to it. And while I’d love to outline for you a complex analytical explanation for those differences, it all boils down to just one thing: I’m not jealous because I never give myself permission to be jealous.
Some of it’s my personal philosophy: I grew up in a family where mostly everyone cheated. Then I was cheated on. People generally walk away from this type of experience either maniacally trying to control their next partner(s) from cheating, or resigned to the belief that if someone wants to cheat, there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them. My philosophy falls into the latter group.
If you’re in the first group, you don’t have an easy life. You see threats everywhere. Whether real or imagined, your response to those threats probably makes your life miserable, to say nothing of how it impacts your partner(s).
People who are vulnerable to jealousy tend to have a history of complex trauma/abandonment, they struggle with insecurity, have poor emotional management skills, and they tend to battle anxiety, depression, or both. Engulfed in a wave of jealousy, they are incapable of self-soothing or positive self-talk. They literally feel as though their lives are being threatened.
Jealousy feeds on uncertainty, and the thing about relationships is, they’re uncertain by design. There are no guarantees. Sure, we try to create guarantees by making commitments and/or getting married, but the divorce rate shows us just how unpredictable relationship outcomes are. So what’s a jelly Nellie to do?
Get into EMDR therapy and reprocess your first or your worst experience of jealousy, or your latest experience of it. EMDR will allow your body to organize the experience(s) so that your mind no longer takes you on a brutal roller coaster ride of obsession and painful imagination. It will give you the remote control to your thoughts. And it will free you up to be fully present in your current or next relationship. Because at the end of the day, you don’t get a guarantee, except the guarantee that you’re going to experience loss in your life. The key is to have the ability to navigate through it with resilience.