Monday, November 10, 2008



By Brian Lynch, M.D.

What is this feeling? Does everyone feel it?
 I am not sure. I don’t think so. First of all it is my feeling that most all emotional words, and this is something I will often say, are composite words. That is they are made up of more basic emotional words and therefore may not signify the same feelings for each of us.

That is when you feel “jealous” you might feel “angry” while if I say I feel “jealous” I might “translate” that to saying I have a feeling of “disgust” or a feeling of “disgust” and “fear.”  I might say I am “hurt” but I think being jealous usually denotes a more active or aggressive stance while saying you are “hurt” might seem more “passive.” That said I think all jealousy comes first from a feeling of being “hurt” and evolves into a more aggressive posture.

It is a simple dynamic. I am interested in this or that and I feel a threat that I am not going to ever get this or that or I am going to lose what I already have. The operative theme is that it is about me. This is true even in a relationship. It is still about me, not about the relationship. It is about me losing the relationship.

Jealousy is negative input. It is essentially saying “I do not trust you.” It is also saying that you do not trust yourself.

In some sense it has to do with your thoughts of you’re not being smart enough, good looking enough, rich enough, caring enough to stay attractive to the other person.  Fear and distress build and anger follows and we blame others for what we perceive to be our inadequacies.

On the other hand if we say that we do not trust our mate is it not the same thing? It is our own insecurity.

Now it is different if there has been a history of betrayal with others past or present. It is hard to trust again. But they can and often are very different types of circumstances and feelings. Can we believe that the good times can continue?

Jealousy is often a way of sabotaging a relationship. We have deep in our mind that no relationship can survive so negative thoughts always creep in and eventually destroy the “good scenes.” The good times that could have been. We accuse, blame and presume and limit a person’s actions and associations without the least knowledge or basis.

It is also, is it not, that psychological disaster of tempting the person to do exactly what you do not want them to do? Don’t eat the candy! So they do?

Now what if someone is unfaithful? Well, do we own someone? Can we really control anyone? I think not.
In such situations something is wrong with the relationship! Either we look at ourselves first and then 1) see if we  a) want to continue the relationship and b) if the other party wants to and if we both can repair it together or 2) we move on.

We might think it is “natural” to “attack” the other party. I say nothing is “natural”, there are just as many people who blame themselves for their partners infidelity.

We need to start to see the complexity of these situations and one way to do it is to start to stop using “simple” words like “jealousy” and start thinking about how we actually feel and why we feel that way. (Summary of Principles used in these posts.)
Tomkins, Silvan S.: Affect Imagery Consciousness NY: SPringer Publishing Company, 1963.
Shame and Pride : Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self by Donald L. Nathanson Paperback (March 1994)

W.W. Norton & Company; ISBN: 0393311090