This is the post I never wanted to write. I can’t tell you how many times I came close to writing this, revealing this fatal flaw in my system that cost me dearly for all too long. Am I free of it? No. We are all hardwired to be jealous. Believe it or not, jealousy does have its benefits, but before we get to that, why did it take me so long to admit that I’ve been jealous?
It all has to do with upbringing. Being the firstborn, I was told time and time again that I’m a jealous person, specifically that I’m intensely jealous of my younger brother. This was told to me by my parents. Dad went a step further and documented evidence of my jealous nature as a series of photos of me pulling my brother’s hair as a wildlife photographer would. So my fate as a jealous older sister was sealed. Add to this the fact that I’m a Scorpio – the jealous sign – and you can see that this label followed me around everywhere I went.
Not being able to escape it, with no internal resources to work with and overcome jealousy, the only thing I could do was to deny it. I denied it outwardly but burned with passionate jealousy on the inside. Especially every time mum called him “sonny boy” when I got no special adoring nicknames and nothing was praised about me but perceived faults pointed out at every opportunity. It never occurred to me that I am a person who sees and points out faults in others, calling it “feedback” and am not forthcoming with praise. Mum was only a mirror image of my reluctance to say anything nice.
How did I become aware of my own jealousy and the need for me to develop a way to acknowledge and process this emotion so that it stopped standing between me and life? And believe me, it was getting in the way of me developing a healthy relationship with my brother, whom I didn’t start talking to on a regular basis until I was about 38! What a shame, and what a waste and you know what? Dad especially, did his best to get me to acknowledge this from an early age. He was not aware that there needed to be a space or a framework for a child to admit and work with emotions. Being told to “work out your jealousy and quit it” is as effective as telling an alcoholic to “just stop drinking”.
My daughters, three and one, brought me the awareness I needed to call out jealousy. It’s the fate of every firstborn to have a rude awakening one day that their relationship with mum and dad will be threatened in their eyes by the arrival of a sibling. Mum went through it, dad went through it and they did not talk about it. If they had, relating to their own emotions, and we had a chat about how it felt, and some techniques to not allow jealousy take us over, I might’ve had a better relationship with my brother growing up.
Why do We Get Jealous?
On the day my you7ngest daughter arrived, my three-year-old came to visit me in the delivery room. We have the exact moment of my toddler meeting her baby sister in my arms. She runs towards me and then seeing this helpless little baby in my arms, is a little freaked out and runs back to grandma. I bet it was a shock to her system. She doesn’t know how to process that there’s a new presence, one that’s helpless and needs lots of mum’s and dad’s attention.
This may have been the point when jealousy first made its appearance in my daughter’s life. The baby became a target of attack because she was a threat to her access to mum and dad’s love in her little eyes. All of us get jealous when our relationships with others are threatened. Couples often get jealous of each other when they sense that the attention and love in the relationship is shifting. Jealousy, when properly addressed and dealt with, tells us so much about our emotional needs and needs to be verbalised properly to improve our relationships. However, very rarely is this the case. Jealousy, instead can lead to violence and even murder. If you’ve read Shakespeare’s classic, Othello , it’s obvious that the plot of this tragedy is driven by jealousy which becomes rage.
When most adults can’t manage jealousy, how can one expect a child too?
If I can’t as their mother, make attempts to explain jealousy and how to identify and work with it, how can my children ever have a chance of learning to live with it and a myriad of other emotions, using them as tools, like a compass in way, to navigate towards what will bring them bliss and peace?
Whenever you feel jealous, it is a sign. Just as your car’s lights come on when it needs petroleum, a battery change or oil, your emotions are signaling you to stop and address them before driving yourself mad. I feel jealousy as a pang in my heart, it is a constricting feeling threatening to cut me off from my enjoyment of life and causes blindness to reality. I felt it most intensely when one time, not even a year ago, mum complained that I’d forgotten to do something for her while praising my brother for his dutifulness and generosity for helping her out in a matter.
I went crazy. I should’ve taken a deep breath and said to myself;
“OK, there you are Jealousy, what’s wrong in this moment? What are you telling me?” and perhaps my own Jealousy, let’s call her Miss Jelly Belly would’ve responded;
“It’s so unfair that you’re housing your mum, looking after her health and wellbeing and get no recognition for any of it and then your brother does this one little thing and all of a sudden mum treats him like royalty. Where’s the justice in that?” I’d think about it for a minute.
“Yes, but did you consider that because I’m the firstborn, always being expected to be dependable that it’s a given? And here he is, stepping up. We should be happy that he is starting to take responsibility and why not let mum appreciate him?”
Silence. Miss Jelly Belly is done and has exited stage left.
If only I knew about this and hadn’t gone berserk. But then again, even having gone berserk taught me that there is a better way. I just had to pause and think. Now, I know better and I have a story to share with Lucy to help her deal with the emotions that arise within her.
Does this mean I get it right all the time?
No. But it’s given me the awareness to practice to connect better with myself, others and life.
Over to you…
Were there any times in your life that jealousy blinded you to reality and cut you off from something you valued? Have you developed some tools, such a soul journaling or talking to your jealous part, to protect you from relationship damages that jealousy can cause?