Therapy Can Work

Katherine Rabinowitz, LP, M.A., NCPsyA

Licensed Psychotherapist & Psychoanalyst
Union Square, Greenwich Village, New York, NY

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Therapy Can Work

Katherine Rabinowitz, LP, M.A., NCPsyA

Licensed Psychotherapist & Psychoanalyst
Union Square, Greenwich Village, New York, NY

Jealousy and Envy Can Eat You Up: How to Cope With These Emotions

Jealousy and Envy Can Eat You Up
How to Cope With These Emotions

“O, beware….of jealousy;
It is the green-ey’d monster, which doth mock
The meat it feeds on.”

~ Shakespeare (Othello)

Most people experience the emotions of envy and jealousy from time to time, and there’s no harm in that. But heeding Shakespeare’s warning, if it’s out of control, it can eat you up. They are not easy emotions to deal with.

First, let’s differentiate between the two, as they have somewhat different meanings, even though people tend to use them interchangeably.

Envy is about coveting something someone else has and you don’t. You’ve always wanted that designer bag and suddenly your best friend shows up with one. You’re envious. And your immediate reaction is “why can’t I have that?!” That’s envy. And over time, when you see your friend with that bag again, what can begin to build is resentment.

Jealousy, on the other hand, has to do with the fear of losing something/someone you already do have, to someone else. You have a new significant other. You go to a party and see him or her flirting with someone else. Or maybe not even – someone else is coming on to your beloved. Two emotions are likely to come up: rage and fear. Rage at the flirt with or from what belongs to you and fear of losing the person you had felt safe with up until that moment. That’s jealousy.

Envy is a two-person dynamic, jealousy involves three. Both come from a diminished level of self-esteem. How you feel about yourself and your relationship, how secure you are in your sense of yourself as a worthy person, whether or not you own that designer bag (sneakers, fancy watch, the latest smartphone, a vacation in Bali).

If you have a secure sense of self, you’ll greet your friend with a compliment, then maybe begin to wonder a) do I really want to spend the money to have that thing and/or b) how can I make it possible to get one for myself. The successful author, investor, entrepreneur, motivational speaker Tim Fargo puts it succinctly:

Don’t envy what people have, emulate what they did to have it.

When jealousy comes into play, it’s about feeling inadequate in some way. If you didn’t, it wouldn’t bother you to believe (correctly or not) that someone is trying to interfere with your relationship. In fact, you might even feel proud – possibly superior! You’re the one who is with this great person someone else wants (you think) to steal from you. But you know that’s not going to happen, because you’re confident in the qualities that attracted your lover to you in the first place.

But if you find the green-eyed monster nibbling away, or you keep thinking about that incredible item someone else has, what can you do to keep those nasty feelings at bay? Here are some suggestions:

     • Do a reality check. All those fabulous pictures on Facebook may or may not reflect what’s really        going on in that relationship. You never know what goes on behind closed doors. And that bag        would possibly be too big on you. Or not big enough to hold what you need to carry around.

     • Stop comparing yourself to others. It’s a waste of energy, and doesn’t serve you well. Someone        else’s success (in whatever arena) doesn’t take away from yours.

     • Reflect on your own good qualities. Instead of wondering when it’s going to be your turn to be        promoted, take steps to make it happen. Observe the projects and hard work your colleague did        that got the promotion. And then recognize that you, too, have what it takes to make it happen.        And do it.

     • Recognize your great relationship for what it is. If it can dissolve so easily, maybe it wasn’t so great        in the first place.

     • Most importantly, it’s critical that you take responsibility for where your life is at this moment.        Blaming another person or situation is not going to change anything. Change will have to come        from you.

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