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The Green-Eyed Monster

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I’d write about the color green. And because I’m all about emotions, today’s topic is the Green-Eyed Monster, also known as jealousy.

First things first: What’s the difference between jealousy and envy?

Quite simply, envy is when we want something someone else has, that rightfully belongs to them. It’s also known in the Bible as “coveting,” which for some reason is considered a sin… Probably because of the age-old confusion between emotions and behavior. A long time ago, before civilization, to have a feeling was to act on it. Acting on envy would lead to theft — a definite no-no.

(By the way, that confusion still exists today. We’re still worried that if we acknowledge a feeling, then either we’ll automatically act on it, or we think we should act on it. In my opinion, this confusion too often leads to unnecessary squelching of perfectly normal feelings.)

Moving right along, jealousy is the fear that someone else will take, or has taken, what we have or deserve to have.

So:

I’m ENVIOUS of someone else’s blog post, business or beauty, but

I’m JEALOUS if that same person starts spending too much time with my best friend.

To me, jealousy feels much worse than envy, because it’s based on fear. I can only be jealous about something I believe I can lose, which means I’m insecure about it. If I’m always jealous of my partner’s other relationships, it’s because I’m afraid he’s not really committed to our relationship and might leave at any moment. And that insecurity is uncomfortable, to put it mildly.

Because chronic jealousy tends to be about one’s own insecurity and not about the other person, no amount of reassurance from the other person will soothe the Green-Eyed Monster.

If you suffer from chronic jealousy, try to get in touch with the fear and insecurity that underlie your jealous thoughts. Realize that your jealousy is not about the other person. Processing your feelings with a counselor or therapist could help you shake loose from this painful pattern.

If you are NOT a jealous person but feel jealous of your partner, your feelings may be an appropriate response to your partner’s behavior.

About Tina Gilbertson

Tina Gilbertson is a psychotherapist, speaker and author based in Denver, Colorado. She specializes in supporting parents of estranged adult children through therapy, consulting and other resources, and offers assertiveness training and executive coaching for organizations. The author of "Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings by Letting Yourself Have Them" and the "Guide for Parents of Estranged Adult Children," Tina is often featured in the media as an expert on communication and relationships. Her blog on PsychologyToday.com is called "Constructive Wallowing."
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