Jealousy Is An Addiction
And a huge distraction from taking care of oneself.
Every so often, I have a bout of jealousy, and yesterday was one of those days. I don’t have it very often, maybe once or twice a year, but when it comes, it’s intense. I can feel it all over my body. And as an older, middle-aged man, I’ve learned to let the feeling pass and to talk with someone about it. And I did.
I had received one of those emails telling me who got recognized at work. I don’t know why, but I’m never one of those people at work who gets recognized like that. I go to work, day after day, do my work without complaint, and sometimes stay late to get the work done that needs to be done. I can feel a tear rolling down my face right now. I’m not weeping, but there it is. A tear, disconnected from any feelings.
Anyway, three of my peers on my team at work were recognized by my manager. As I read their names in the headlines of that email, I felt a shot of jealousy course through my body. It was a very strong feeling. I tried to settle down, and let it go. I wanted to comment, and I did. So glad for you. Congratulations. So nice to see that you were recognized…you were recognized…you were recognized…
They had been recognized for their leadership. They had been recognized for their extra effort. They had been recognized for things I thought I had been doing. Maybe I just needed to accept that those guys were better than me. I don’t know. I don’t know what they did that I didn’t do. Maybe I should have volunteered to cover during the Christmas break. Am I really being so selfish to think that I should have 12 long days of uninterrupted peace and relaxation for the end of the year?
I’ve been writing and publishing articles at work. I’ve been helping members of my team. I take the time to respond to requests for help even when I’m already busy. I say yes whenever someone asks me to take on work and help a customer. I’ve been doing all this stuff and someone else got recognized. I wondered if I was doing the right stuff. I wondered if I needed to be more social. I wondered if I wasn’t good enough. I flirted with the idea of firing myself. I didn’t.
Sometime later, I started to settle down. I stopped doubting myself. I stopped obsessing over the idea that they were recognized in writing, and I was not. I reminded myself that whatever my manager does is completely beyond my power. I reminded myself of everything that I have right now, and that whatever I have right now, it’s enough. I was happy before I read those words, I will be happy even after I read those words of acclaim for any of my peers. I really will.
And to think how awkward it could be to see them in the office after the Christmas break. Gosh, so nice to see you again. Did you get over your jealousy? Can we still have a conversation? Can I still ask you for help?
One of my peers was recognized for mentoring other members on the team. I had been doing that for a short time, and then the people I was mentoring stopped asking me for help. I don’t understand why they stopped. I never got any feedback and I just kept working. Well, I guess they didn’t need my help. But they were seeing someone else for help. “I’d ask you for help, but you’re always so busy,” is what I hear back when I ask why I didn’t hear from them again. I don’t know what I do that puts them off. I really don’t.
Maybe it’s nothing. But I was juiced from reading those words, with my imagination running away from me like Daffy Duck, cartwheels over the hills and into the sunset. Without me.
And I think back to my childhood. There must be something there. My dad hardly ever complimented me on my work. But if I made some mistake, there was hell to pay. My mom? Well, I was a boy and compliments from my didn’t count. I could get that from her any day, but dad? How can I get through to that guy? He’s so busy…
That is the addiction of jealousy. Jealousy is wanting what other people have so bad, so bad? So bad that you forget what you already have. You forget to take good care of yourself. You forget that there are people in the world, in your family who love you. You forget that you have friends you can talk to. You forget that you were happy before you were jealous. Were you really that happy?
Obsession is just a pretty word for addiction. Jealousy is often described as an obsession, but it can be much more. For some people, jealousy stews for hours, days, weeks and months. Then it turns to rage and that rage turns into headlines in the local news. Crimes of passion are committed in a jealous rage. How dare you not to love me. How dare you to love someone else. How dare you to recognize someone other than me. That’s jealousy.
Jealousy has nothing to do with the other person. Jealousy is about an unmet need. Jealousy believes that what other people have will satisfy my needs. Jealousy is about unrelenting grief over an unmet childhood need. And until that griefwork is done, jealousy can still claim months and years of one’s life. Sometimes, jealousy can claim a life.
I am familiar with jealousy. I have seen it before and am quick to recognize it when it comes. I know what jealous rage looks like because I felt it when I broke up with my first girlfriend in my 20s. She didn’t want to break up, I did. I said those words. And then she found someone first. And for months, I was in a jealous rage.
I knew that I had to let the rage out safely. So I went to a sporting goods store and bought a baseball bat. I waited until the dark of night, and I went to a secluded area of a local park so that I could pound sand. Sand can handle me. I knew that I could pound the sand, screaming at the top of my lungs until I was exhausted, without hurting anyone. Not even plants. No one heard me scream. The sand absorbed my rage. It was just me and the sand, and I was expelling my rage so that it would not kill me or anyone else.
I have told some of my friends that story about my early life and how I dealt with jealousy. They said that I probably saved a few years of my life by giving a safe expression to my rage.
So when I feel jealousy today, I am aware enough to let the feelings pass before acting on them. I am clear about the power of jealousy, the power to hurt, the power to harm, the power to embarrass myself. Really, sometimes when I tell other people what I’m jealous of, they can’t believe me. They don’t understand why I’d be jealous when they see that I already have so many gifts.
I’m alive. I have enough for today. I have family and friends. I have a pretty cool job. I like writing better, but I have a cool job. Whatever the cost of jealousy, it’s not worth the time and space in my head. So I have enough experience to see my jealousy, derail it, and redirect my energy to something better.
I can write, I can talk with someone, I can call someone, I can get some exercise, I can play with my kids, and there are so many other things that I can do to be free of jealousy. Jealousy is not a life sentence, but it can be. Jealousy is not forever and forever is magical childlike thinking. We’re adults now. We can choose not to be jealous. We can choose to be happy.