How to Control Jealousy

by Laura Kronen on June 22, 2014

green with envy eyesMany of us have been jealous before, or worse, been the victim of jealousy and it’s not pretty.  Of all the emotions humans exhibit, jealousy is one of the most common and unsettling. It tends to bring out the worst in us, even though most of us know better.

If jealousy impacts humans so negatively, then why do we continue to exhibit it?  Psychologists tend to believe that humans are inherently jealous, simply because our jobs, relationships and possessions mean a lot to us, and we don’t want to lose them. Jealousy is something we feel when we fear an important relationship is in jeopardy. When is the last time you were truly happy for a friend for being successful or looking good?  Many people have deep rooted jealousy, finding it hard to ever feel happy for someone who feels good about themselves or is experiencing good fortune. Is this because we think our friend might move on to bigger and better things and forget about us?

Although we use the terms interchangeably, jealousy is not envy.  In fact, the feeling of envy refers to wanting something that someone else has, such as a loaded Porsche or a house at the beach. Jealousy, however, is more aptly described as the fear of losing something (a lover, promotion, friend, etc.) to someone else. It is love and hate combined together. Jealousy is an anticipatory emotion. It seeks to prevent loss. Jealousy causes us to take precautionary measures, like snooping, gossiping, or trying to control every situation. It can almost be looked at as a neurotic insecurity.

We see jealousy in many places: relationships, amongst families and siblings, in the workplace, and even in between best friends. While normal jealousy is a sign that one person cares about the other and values the relationship, and when it’s kept in the bounds of normal behavior, it can be a good thing. But,  when pushed too far, jealousy can be devastating to most relationships and even turn pathological and psychotic (reference: boiling pet bunnies). The question is, how do you overcome it?

While it may never be possible to completely avoid having jealous feelings, it is possible to control jealous behavior. Start by being honest with yourself and those around you to avoid a build-up of unspoken emotions. Negative feelings tend to ferment over time and present themselves in an unflatteringly jealous way. Keeping and maintaining trust is also a key ingredient to avoiding jealous situations. It is vital to be sensitive  in recognizing the cues that upset and worry other people. Communication is the solution to most of the world’s problems. Lastly minimize your social comparisons.  They are damaging to self esteem and increase feelings of envy and jealousy. Instead, look at jealous feelings as an opportunity for growth.

A little trivia for you – If you were ever wondering where the term, Green with Envy came from, you will never wonder again:


Why are jealousy and envy referred to so often in shades of green? “Othello,” one of William Shakespeare’s most famous plays, is a tale wrought with jealousy. The title character is manipulated with such skill by his best friend that he begins to believe his wife has been unfaithful to him. The manipulator, Iago, continues his treachery by “warning” Othello of the dangers of jealousy: “O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock…” Jealousy is also noted this way by authors such as Ovid and Chaucer and in such uses as “green with envy.” It is thought by some to date back to the ancient Greeks, who believed that jealousy resulted in the overproduction of bile, turning human skin a light shade of green.





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