Processing the Feeling of Jealousy

It seems that just about every day on the news there is a report about women and or men being murdered by their partners. The latest in news is discussing the case of Jodi Arias, 32, who is possibly facing the death penalty for brutally killing her boyfriend after he tried to break up with her.  I believe one of her motives for murdering him was pure jealousy at the possibility of him finding someone else and entering into a new relationship.

Merriam-Webster.com defines jealousy as an unhappy or angry feeling caused the belief that someone you love likes or is liked by someone else. Dictionary.com defines jealousy as mental uneasiness from suspicion or fear of rivalry, unfaithfulness, etc., as in love or aims.

How can one gain control over his or her jealousy when they are experiencing feelings of insecurity in their intimate relationship as well as other areas; i.e. friendships. There is a great article by psychologist, Dr. Robert L. Leahy, on Psychology Today website that discusses some cognitive techniques that can be used to assist people with dealing with their jealousy. Dr. Leahy states that he views jealousy as reflecting a person’s higher values of commitment, monogamy, love, honesty, and sincerity. And it is important to validate these values when doing therapy with a client who is jealous.

Dr. Leahy also points out that there is a difference between jealous feelings and jealous behavior. A person’s relationship is more likely to go sour by their jealous behavior, such as continual accusations, reassurance seeking, pouting, and acting out. A person experiencing jealousy should acknowledge the emotion, and realize that they have a choice if they want to act on it or not. It is explained in this article what a person can do when they are experiencing feelings of jealousy:

  1. Accept and observe your jealous thoughts and feelings

The individual should take time out to breath slowly, and observe their thoughts and feelings. The person should remember that jealous thoughts are not the same as reality.

  1. You do not have to obey your jealous feelings and thoughts.

The individual should notice that their feeling of anger and anxiety may increase while they process their thoughts and feelings. It is advised that the person should not try to get rid of feeling, but instead be mindful of how they are feeling at that moment, which can help weaken the feeling. I would refer to this as a moment where the individual would maybe go into a room/area where they can collect their thoughts

  1. Recognize that uncertainty is part of every relationship

Dr. Leahy points out that jealousy seeks out certainty. The individual will never know for sure the relationship will last. However, as mentioned above, having jealous behavior, such as continual accusations, reassurance seeking, pouting, and acting out can create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  1. Examine your assumptions about relationships

Jealousy may be fueled by unrealistic ideas about relationships. These may include beliefs such as, men all cheat; if I gain weight, he won’t be attracted to me anymore; etc… Keep in mind that your assumptions about relationships are affected by what you have experienced in your childhood and past relationships.

 

  1. Use effective relationship skills

Use effective behavior, instead of using jealous behavior to secure your relationships. This can be done by praising your partner the positive things they do. In addition, you should set up pleasurable days for each other, where you do activities that make each other feel happy and important, such as cooking a meal together, going to a do-it-yourself art class, and etc… And try to refrain from criticism, sarcasm, labeling, and contempt.

Over all, I think Dr. Leahy’s therapeutic suggestions are good, and can be affective for a person who is experiencing issues with feelings of jealousy. However, if the individual has underling issues that have not been addressed such as a personality disorder (border line) and or mood disorder (Bipolar II), these suggestions may not be effective.

Tiffany Marshall, LMSW

Reference:

Robert L. Leahy

Jealousy is a Killer: How to break free from Your Jealous Feelings

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/anxiety-files/200805/jealousy-is-killer-how-break-free-your-jealous-feelings

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