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Jealousy

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Excerpts about Jealousy

Inner Impoverishment may Manifest as Intense Envy and Jealousy of Others

A person with an unstable or absent center of the self is likely to feel lost or disoriented, and may have a sense of not knowing what to do. She may feel depressed, for she not only does not deeply know herself, she has no clear or firm sense of who and what she is, and thus does not know what to do. Without a clear sense of her self, her actions will lack a sense of significance . . . . . . .   She might have a shallow emotional life, with limited capacity for empathy. Her capacity to know and feel herself, and therefore others, is limited by the shallowness and incompleteness of her identity. She lacks compassion and real love, not only towards others, but also towards herself. She is unusually sensitive to insult and extremely vulnerable to hurt. She is predisposed to feelings of intense rage and anger as a reaction to perceived hurt and insult, and also to defend against the feebleness of her identity. Her inner impoverishment may manifest as intense envy and jealousy of others who seem to be enjoying a fulfilled life, while hers feels empty and meaningless. She tends to be emotionally isolated, going through life mechanically and without real joy, except on occasions of external acclaim, admiration, and acknowledgment. We observe that disturbances of identity are reflected primarily in narcissistic manifestations. 

Jealousy Can Arise as an Image, as a Thought, as a Feeling or as Certain Physiological Responses in the Body

Usually, people are totally taken over by the experience of jealousy, but it is actually possible for jealousy to arise without it influencing you in a way that hooks you. If you pay attention, you will see that jealousy can arise as an image, as a thought, as a feeling, or as certain physiological responses in the body. So you could recognize jealousy to be simply the arising of a particular state that you are experiencing. It is possible to be aware of whatever manifestations of jealousy are arising and choose to experience them fully, allowing your awareness to make them transparent. If you could be present in the awareness pervading it, jealousy would transform itself, naturally and spontaneously, to reveal its underlying nature. However, we usually end up using these experiences in a way that traps us; we get stuck not because of the feeling itself but because of how we are relating to it. We are not just experiencing jealousy; we are burying ourselves in it. We define ourselves by it: “I am a jealous person and I know that is who I am.” Sometimes we recognize that jealousy is controlling us and determining our feelings and actions, and other times we are taken over so much by it we don’t even know that we are jealous. We just express it in our behavior, words, and actions. We call this identification. 

Sometimes You Project Your Fear or Jealousy so that You Won’t have to Experience Them

Projection is one of the main defenses we use to avoid seeing the truth inside us. Projection is usually seen in terms of negative emotions—hostility, anger, fear, jealousy, things like that. For instance, a paranoid person who appears to be scared of other people is not really scared of other people. He is angry and hostile. But instead of seeing the anger and hostility in himself, he sees it outside in other people. He thinks other people want to kill him, and so he is scared of them. The truth is that he actually has murderous feelings toward them and toward himself. That is projection, displacing what is inside you to the outside. Clearly, if you see something as outside that actually exists within you, you can’t be objective. Our projections determine many of our actions, our feelings, and even our life plans. Paranoia is one of the most well-known forms of projection, but projection is prevalent in other forms. Sometimes you project your fear or jealousy so that you won’t have to experience them or admit that you are feeling these things. Or you say, “Look at all these weaklings around me,” when it is you who are feeling weak. Since it is hard for you to feel that, you pretend you are tough and strong. Or you can project yourself onto your child, hoping that if she fulfills your dreams, you will be fulfilled.  

The Beginning of Issues about Comparison, Jealousy and Competition

That is the dilemma, and it is self-perpetuating because you are constantly trying to make what is inside the boundaries stronger, better, more powerful. You are constantly trying to fill it with things from outside. But when your actions are motivated by fear or wanting, they strengthen the boundaries, because you are acting from the assumption that boundaries exist. The stronger your sense of boundaries becomes, the more you feel isolated and scared and the more you feel that you want things, or that others want things from you. You feel a sense of conflict between yourself and others: “What do the others have that I haven’t got? What have I got that they haven’t got? Is what they have better than what I have? Or maybe what I have is better.” This is the beginning of issues about comparison, jealousy, and competition. What I’m saying now is only from the perspective of social relations. If you think of your life in relation to other people, you will see that the basis of all the things you complain about is the belief that you are a separate individual. How can you be scared of someone unless you believe you are distinct and isolated from them? How can you want anything from anyone without believing you are separate from them? This is how the belief in separateness brings about all the social emotions. 

Traces Left in Us of Our Ancestors in the Animal World

We are familiar with the principles and influences that govern the mind of the ordinary person: fear, desire, greed, insecurity, competition, jealousy, and elementary needs of all kinds. These influences are the traces left in us of our ancestors in the animal world, together with ideas, misunderstandings, and prejudices that we have acquired. These beliefs are appropriate for a certain stage of human life, but not for all stages. They are okay for a child, but an adult is supposed to have grown out of them. A genuine, mature human being is a human being who is not ruled by such influences. 

When You’re Jealous, You’re Burning with Suffering

This is how we are born—completely vulnerable—and that characteristic never goes away. However, we deal with the vulnerability by desensitizing ourselves. We make ourselves thick-skinned, like alligators. And we end up believing that to be able to live on this earth among other humans, we have to be like alligators or turtles, depending on how aggressive or passive we are. And if you observe most people, you will see that they are rather like alligators or turtles, in the sense that they walk around inside thick shells to protect themselves, to hide, to cover up their basic vulnerability. This is because we experienced as children, and we still experience, that we can be completely flooded by feelings. When you’re sad, your sadness can feel miles deep, and when you’re angry, you can feel like a ball of fire, and when you’re hurt, you can feel completely devastated, and when you’re jealous, you’re burning with suffering. Our capacity to feel is tremendous. The basic reaction to it at a deep level is to feel that it’s too much: “I don’t know whether I can handle this. I’m at the mercy of these storms.” So we slowly and diligently build thick shells to protect ourselves and, we believe, to survive. Believing that we need to be thick-skinned to survive is not something we hide from ourselves; it’s completely accepted in our society. We are told that to get ahead, we have to become more thick-skinned and not feel things. And this point of view is actually rationalized with all kinds of philosophies. But something happens when we build a shell and hide inside it, which is the source of most human complaints. When we cover up our vulnerability so that we’re not open to hurt and pain, fear and influenceability, we also become insensitive to joy, love, happiness, pleasure, and aliveness. 

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