“Most haters are stuck in a poisonous mental prison of jealousy and self-doubt that blinds them to their own potentiality”, are the immortal words of the acclaimed millennial behavioral scientist Steve Maraboli. Jealousy informally referred to as the green eyed monster, is a form of hatred built upon insecurity and a portrayal of emotions like anger, fear, possessiveness, grief, resentment etc. Therefore a jealous individual or a hater, rather than being happy for another person’s success constantly finds flaws in that particular person so as to undermine his/her success. However one must realize that blowing out another person’s candle is not necessarily going to make one’s own candle shine brighter. The root cause of jealousy is both internal as well as external. It is a defense mechanism to conceal low self-esteem arising out of stress due to constant comparisons meted out by one’s surroundings whose detrimental effects the society never quite factors. In due course of time when one cannot achieve any substantial form of success, one gets so consumed by jealousy that it can have pathological effects.
Jealousy can be further divided into three types:
Reactive jealousy occurs when a person becomes aware of an actual threat i.e. it’s a response to a realistic danger e.g. foul mouthing a colleague when there is danger of getting overlooked for a promotion at work due to him/her.
Suspicious jealousy occurs when there’s no concrete situation/threat but one suspects danger in a particular situation or when instigated by a third party who preys upon an individual’s insecurities e.g. when one sees his/her spouse talking someone over the phone in a friendly manner one may suspect that his/her spouse is having an indiscretion. This kind of jealousy is detrimental to interpersonal relationships since constant suspicions lead to loss of interest in working on strengthening the relationship. A study published in women’s health magazine concluded that women in the throes of suspicious jealousy had a lot of trouble spotting obvious objects and aspects in a given situation. Suspicious jealousy has been concluded by many studies as the outcome of low self-esteem and body image issues, especially if one’s significant other is a lot more physically attractive than oneself. This is further fuelled by our body shaming, color shaming society with comments like “just look at them both: I wonder what he sees in her!”
In due course of time jealousy can develop to such an extent wherein a person is preoccupied by jealousy of another person to an abnormal degree. One imagines a personal threat and is often hateful towards a concerned successful person or a person perceived to be receiving more attention than oneself. When confronted, this person denies the jealous behavior unless cornered with proof and also threatens to harm others or oneself if accused of hate crimes e.g. a person saying “I will kill myself if you keep accusing me of trying to harm Mr. X on account of being jealous of his career”. This is known as delusional jealousy and is often accompanied with obsessional cyberstalking, hate posts, sabotage and character assassination of the successful individual or spouse/partner. This form of jealousy impacts various aspects of life and requires intervention and can also lead to criminal activities if left unmonitored and untreated.
A case of suspicious jealousy getting pathological, obsessional or delusional is in the immortal Shakespearean tragedy “Othello” which has inspired a Bollywood movie “Omkara” starring Ajay Devgun and Kareena Kapoor in the lead roles.
The impact of jealousy is social, psychological as well as physical. A jealous individual is often not tolerated well by other individuals of society and is isolated. If one is so consumed by jealousy s/he cannot realize one’s own potential and does not work to improve oneself thereby leading an unsatisfactory life. Jealousy severely impacts the inside of one’s noggin. In the initial phases of jealousy, the mind’s dopamine system regulates neurotransmitters associated with happiness/reward and therefore undermining someone else, or fueling suspicious beliefs enable one to cope with a stressful situation. Long term exposure to the stress hormone cortisol damages cells in the hippocampus which inhibits learning and memory retrieval of stored information. The brain’s left frontal cortex is responsible for the emotions that arise during an episode of jealousy and if one is constantly jealous then it adversely impacts its function in the long run.
Being jealous is a stressful experience. In response to stress our body releases cortisol from the adrenal gland which stimulates gluconeogenesis (glucose formation) thereby increasing blood sugar levels leading to type 2 diabetes in the long run. Cortisol suppresses the immune system thereby increasing susceptibility to infections and delaying wound healing, reduces bone and collagen formation thereby weakening the structural support and connective tissue framework of the body. Gastric acid secretion is increased due to elevated cortisol levels and thereby proper digestion is hindered- jealousy ulcer anyone? It also adversely impacts sleep and mood thereby resulting in mood and anxiety disorders in the long run.
WAY FORWARD: KICK THE GREEN EYE OUT
Now that we know how the green eyes majorly messes with us, here are some measures to keep the green eye away:
- VIPASSANA– Vipassana is a form of mindfulness promoting meditation which teaches one to be aware at all times of one’s thoughts and enhance self-esteem. It works as a kind of long term investment in self-pride to get past constant comparisons and be the best version of oneself by identifying one’s own worth and potential and working upon it to lead a fulfilling life.
- COGNITIVE RESTRUCTURING– This form of therapy gets to the root cause of the jealousy by examining the past to know how it has developed, separating the present from the past experiences, and encourages good use of imagination to overcome jealousy, since jealousy is often a product of imaginary/perceived threat. This helps to keep vigil and keep that green eyed monster away!
- EXPOSURE RESPONSE PREVENTION– This is a good form of therapy in the case of obsessive delusional jealousy. It systematically desensitizes fears causing jealousy. It exposes one to the threatening situation in simulation and one is trained to effectively manage competitive stress inducing situations and cope with them without feeling jealous.
- ENDORPHINS (endogenous morphine) are chemicals that are naturally released by the body which have an opioid effect i.e. inhibit transmission of pain signals and in large amounts produce a feeling of euphoria/happiness thereby negating the effects of cortisol. Their production can be enhanced with a balanced diet, exercise and adequate relaxation. Happy people simply do not get green eyed!
- ART THERAPY– According to renowned art therapist Dr. Cathy Malchiodi, art therapy is helpful to visually express and record experiences, perceptions, feelings and imagination leading to jealousy. Art therapists capitalize on their vast knowledge of art media to enhance the client’s ability to non-verbally communicate through creative expression which may not be possible through verbal means. Art therapy is found to be most helpful in the case of suspicious jealousy.
- SELF-HELP- Self-help for jealousy according to Dr. Guy Winch mainly involves counter-arguing. For example whenever one tends to feel jealous of another’s professional/academic success, it helps to counter-argue as to why one is feeling jealous and what productive outcome would being jealous lead to? It is also important to note that behind someone’s overnight success lies a long period of painstaking effort. Self- help is most suited for reactive jealousy, in which case there is an actual threat.
On a final note, one must strive to be like the flower which doesn’t bother about the flower blooming beside it, it just blooms, sometimes even in murky waters!
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