The Alchemy of Jealousy
The science behind why we feel jealous and how to understand what it’s really trying to tell us
I’m ashamed to admit this but I recently had a friend come to me and share some exciting news and my first (internal) reaction was to feel a pang of jealousy. Of course I wanted her to be happy and successful, and yet, I couldn’t help but feel envious, I hid this, of course, and fronted an excited smile instead. The attitude of jealousy is off putting to admit to and I chastised myself for my reaction.
When I asked on my Facebook page if there was a time and place for jealousy the responses were more or less towards the sentiment that jealousy and envy were best left at the door.
The Tao Ching warns of envy and jealousy:
Tao Te Ching 3
Not exalting the gifted prevents quarrelling. Not collecting treasures prevents stealing. Not seeing desirable things prevents confusion of the heart.
The wise therefore rule by emptying hearts and stuffing bellies, by weakening ambitions and strengthening bones.
If men lack knowledge and desire, then clever people will not try to interfere.
If nothing is done, then all will be well.
To believe yourself deserving of what another possesses is unrealistic
I was pretty much of the same opinion about the emotions of jealousy and envy – that both served no purpose other than to let you know you strayed off course internally.
In a previous relationship I felt jealous of my partner. I was so ashamed of feeling this way because in my mind all this showed was my own insecurities so I suppressed everything deep down and shamed myself for the lack in character.
I suppressed any feelings of jealousy I felt of my partner in a previous relationship I was in. Jealousy, in my eyes was a sign of insecurity.
But then I heard Dr Robert Leahy on The Psychologist Today podcast describe a study that showed that “couples who illustrate jealousy are more likely to stay together. And that got me to thinking – it’s relatively easy for us to admit to feelings of anger towards others, even depression, but to hear someone admit of their jealousy or envy is a rare thing in this world. And yet we all experience it, even the little babies at eight months old.
So what gives with jealousy? Is there a purpose for it and if so, how can we better understand it to help us improve our own wellbeing and relationships?
The Difference Between Jealousy and Envy
While both emotions are defined as passionate and intense, they differ in the sense that jealousy is directed at a real or imagined third party – for example, jealousy over a person that has captured your lover’s eye – and envy is towards an aspiration or desired state of being. It is possible to experience both emotions toward friends, peers, romantically, family and the emotions are universal with jealousy being observed in babies as young as eight months old and even animals display the behaviour (dogs are the most jealous followed by horses and then cats, in case you’re curious).
The green eye, as these emotions are sometimes referred to, has been the culprit of many wars and is the leading cause of death in homicides between couples.
I can personally attest to feeling jealous from a very young age of my younger sister. Innately I must have understood on some deep biological level that this little squirming grub of a human was competing for my parent’s attention and affection. As I got older I was envious of her beauty and ease of nature. Obviously, I never openly admitted these emotions to anyone.
Though tried as I might to live the Taoist way and let it sliddddeee, jealousy would nip me in the butt when I would least expect it sometimes.
In my misunderstanding of the emotion I worked shame on myself as the number one defence against it.
Soon, I found myself stuck in a sordid self perpetuating cycle where the more I felt jealous, the more shame I felt, the shittier life was and the more scenarios came into my reality to make me feel even more jealous. My environment was exacerbating the whole scenario and the more that I was allowing this to frustrate me and cause me shame the more and more it happened. At the peak of my mental hiatus I was experiencing jealousy on the daily.
What I would soon come to realise is that the emotion of jealousy is actually a beautifully giving one when we understand what it it really saying to us.
The Benefits of Jealousy
The Biological Perks
While it’s definitely a hard life if you’re name is Jealousy, it’s not all bad, according to a key evolutionary theory coined the ‘Parental Investment Theory’ by Robert Trivers in 1972, jealousy serves a purpose in helping to keep bonded pairs during during the gestation period of their offspring. For the females, they want to ensure that they get the strongest male and that this male is able to provide his attention and protection to herself and her offspring, any competing females of his attention impinges on this goal. Vice versa, jealousy helps to serve the males in ensuring paternity of his offspring.
Evolution is about competition and survival, jealousy – it would appear – helps to protect the gene pool.
Of course, times have changed. We’re no longer cavemen bonking each other over the heads. One for he perks of being a human is we can rise above or biology.
So does jealousy still serve a purpose in the post-modern world?
Jealousy as a Bonding Mechanism
Here’s an interesting question, if your partner told you that you were free to sleep with and date anyone you choose and that this wouldn’t bother them in the least would this excite you or make you feel like your partner no longer cared?
Behaviourally, jealousy seems to serve the purpose of screening for ambivalence. When a partner expresses jealousy,
jealousy as a bonding mechanism between couples
Democracy & Jealousy
Jealousy as a Compass
I struggled with the cycle of negative emotions that came with feeling shame around my feelings of jealousy until I came across some teachings from a law of attraction guru Abraham Hicks. I’ve been following Abraham for a couple of years now and her work has truly transformed my life. She talks of emotions as a compass to our own relationship with source. And that – while the point is never to not feel any of the negative or “bad” emotions ever agains as this would mean no more expansion or growth (and the end of life), but rather that these emotions don’t rule our lives. It’s about understanding that you have a sophisticated compass within you and then interpreting what it’s trying to tell you to make meaningful changes towards the expansion you seek. To to point of jealousy, she explains that there are really two conversations to be had:
- what is wanted, and
- the lack of what is wanted
It struck a chord. I began to understand that the jealousy was signalling to me what I actually desired (whatever it was I was feeling jealous over), and that instead of self shaming myself for wanting these things I needed to acknowledge the desire.
Then there’s the lack of what is wanted, this is what hurts, this is where the suffering pit in the stomach feeling of jealousy sits. The focus of the gap between what is desired and what is reality.
For example, if you have been trying to conceive a baby and then suddenly hear news that your friend is pregnant, it’s natural to feel a sense of envy. This further reinforces the desire that you hold. There is nothing wrong in the desire itself, but where we go wrong is how we stack up our entire happiness on the outcomes.
So basically, jealousy is pointing out to you a desired outcomes/thing/experience/feeling that perhaps you may not have even been aware of before. The suffering part of the jealousy is when focus is kept on the current state you are in vs desired and the gap between the two. Somewhere in that gap is a narrative that will sound a little like “it will never happen to me,” “I won’t ever be so lucky.” etc.
And herein why jealousy and envy feel so bad when they hit.
How to Reframe Narratives of Jealousy or Envy
One of the bigger issues about jealousy is the shame and blame we throw around when the emotion is expressed by ourselves or others.
In romantic relationships, we become defensive and offended when our partners express jealousy, in dealing with moments of envy, we torment ourselves for feeling the way we feel instead of actually giving ourselves compassion in the moment we need it most.
If focus shapes behaviours and decisions then whatever is focused on can only ever amplify according to observer-based laws of quantum physics. Once you place your focus on the lack of something you are making the love to yourself conditional on some outcome or experience to occur in order to feel some type of way. The reality is it won’t even matter what that thing is or how menial or special it may be, the material world will never satiate a spiritual thirst. If you don’t figure out how to make that love conditional, you’re going to feel pretty insecure and that’s going lead to experiencing lots more jealousy. Round and round it goes, until one day you drive yourself so deep into the ground you have no choice but to face the music.
But this is where the magic of Jealousy comes in – it’s here to prevent you from having to chase your tail and to address the bugged lines of code before you hit the wall.
The Alchemy of Jealousy – Using Sexual Gnosis for Manifestation
“Just add it to the wank bank!” Those are the words that came out of my mouth on a video I posted to Instagram back in 2018. What I was referring to was objects of desire, not necessarily of the sexual sorts but rather the vision board sorts. It makes me cringe to hear my shrill younger voice say those words but the concept has served me well through the years, it’s a bit weird though so bear with me.
A “wank bank”, for those of you that are wondering, is basically an imaginary reference file used to arrange visual cues that you will use to either achieve or during states of sexual arousal.
The reality is that there is a time and place for jealousy and if you can have fun with your new desire of expansion then jealousy can be used as a powerful motivator to get you aligned with the desire.
The reason wank banks are so effective as a subconscious reprogramming tool is because when you are in a deep state of arousal or orgasm your brain is being flushed by dopamine and activations in the pre-frontal cortex allow you to more easily access altered-states of consciousness. The wank bank is used as a fun way to store those visual cues of desire and during a state of orgasm those cues are thought about. It helps if you can visually see it, even if just printed, during the state of gnosis so for this reason masturbation often makes this more convenient.
(It may help to watch the video below to understand the concept better).
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Jealousy is a giving and beautiful emotion when we understand that it’s really telling us to give ourselves a bit more of our own love. When we experience it, consider it an opportunity to re-examine whatever conversation is happening in your mind at that time that may need re-framing. Don’t beat yourself up for it. Take a deep breath and allow yourself to practice the act of changing the way you feel about the situation.
Chastising ourselves or our partners for feeling jealous will only further the insecurities. We suppress it and then feel shame. We feel bad about feeling bad and round it round it goes.
When a partner expresses jealousy towards us our natural reaction is to admonish and shame the feeling of jealousy, well of course all this does is fuel the insecurities even more and flames the jealousy.
Instead what we need, says Robert Leahy, is more compassion and normalisation of the emotion fo jealousy and envy.
“Have compassion towards yourself when you express it.”
If all fails, add it to the wank bank.