“Jealousy … is a mental cancer”. B.C. Forbes
“PERSPECTIVES” are excerpts from my forthcoming book of the same name, available from Partridge Publications Q3 2015
Jealousy. The Green-Eyed Monster. The Othello Syndrome.
Some call it the tribute that mediocrity pays to genius.
Jealousy is a mental cancer. A cancer of the soul. Destructive. Humiliating. Dangerous. Even deadly.
But it is not a tribute.
Rooted in the Greek word “zelos” with a connotation to “boil, ferment” it is prevalent in families and friendships, romantic relationships and in the workplace. Driven by feelings of insecurity, fear and an anxiety of the anticipated loss of something that a person (believes to) hold dear, it results in a clutch-full of powerful emotions including anger, and resentment.
We all have to deal with it at some point during life – either as a victim or as the afflicted.
Jealousy is said to be healthy and unhealthy. Healthy inasmuch as that it prompts one to be more alert, engaged and self-improve certain aspect of oneself. Unhealthy when it leads to social and workplace issues.
Classes and Types
Humans like to classify and typify things, and have come up with various classes and types of jealousies, some considered normal and others abnormal – even delusional at that – all of which can be hurtful, violent and destructive in one form or another.
Jealousy can be symptomatic of major mental illness, drug abuse or other afflictions and which can develop into pathological jealousy – depending on the sensitivity of the afflicted person – resulting in a number of possible dangerous behaviors based on lack of trust and low self-esteem.
Normal jealousy on the other hand is a controllable emotion that stems from a real challenge to a valued relationship –complimentary as it sometimes may be, it can still be hurtful, even demeaning to the person on the receiving end.
The classes differ mainly on the biology and personality of the persons involved and the intensity of their (perceived) relationship as felt by one or both parties. Recall John Hinckley’s shooting of Pres. Ronald Regan to impress Jodie Foster.
Jealousy is further typified into (a) time jealousy (b) sibling jealousy (c) professional jealousy (d) and the pinnacle of all jealousies – sexual jealousy – which not infrequently results in violence, and all of which can turn into hate.
- The tragedy is that sexual jealousy which leads to violence is often construed by the jealous person as “love” for the victim.
Time jealousy happens when a person near to you has to compete with someone or something else for your “time” – actually your attention. So I would like to call it “Attention Jealousy” – which can be a catch-all for some other jealousies as well. By the way, when you give someone or something your attention – then like in all things – let it be quality attention.
Sibling jealousy can be more than a bit of rivalry between siblings who may compete for the attention within a family. Though it may also be seen as “Attention Jealousy”, history provides many examples where kingdoms are strewn with fratricide, patricide, and many other “cide’s” in search of personal power.
Sexual jealousy is triggered by a display of someone else’s interest in a partner who is then suspected of real infidelity. Men’s jealousy seems to stem more from suspicions of a partner’s physical infidelity whilst women’s jealousy is apparently more often triggered by real or suspected emotional infidelity and the fear of abandonment. When sexual jealousy gets out of hand, it often leads to tragedy, possibly even to the death of one or both parties.
It also finds echo within the animal kingdom: males generally protect their partners and therefore their bloodline whilst females’ so-called “nesting instinct” apparently lead to fear of abandonment.
Professional jealousy is something that I am sure most – if not all who are reading this – have had to or are still dealing with throughout a career. It is even worse if your manager is the jealous one due to lack of experience, compounded by being a people management ignoramus but with connection to higher places.
You basically have three options: (a) remain and suffer the indignities which will continuously be bestowed upon you (b) try to work on the issue OR (c) leave.
How much jealousy is enough?
Enough – and acceptable – is when you stay alert and engaged within a relationship, and perhaps work on self-improvement.
Too much is when it starts to pre-occupy your time, thoughts, even sleep and affects your normal social and work relationships – leading to things you may later regret such as divorce, loss of health, job-loss or loss of a friendship,.
What can be done about it?
- Give attention where attention is due and with the right quality. Do not short-change your family. Whom else do you work and live for?
- DON’T tell your boss or co-worker you think they are professionally jealous. It will backfire.
- Show your best side – with a smile.
- Be a team player and compliment others – including your boss – when deserved.
- Do some soul-searching. Do you turn up in flashy expensive clothes, brag about fantastic overseas holidays? Tone down.
- Respect your peers and win their respect. I found – in three vivid instances in my last working position – that when I stood up for my staff who were sidelined or attacked by others, I earned their respect and loyalty. Your staff are your diamonds.
- Laugh off the jealousy and concentrate on your work. Action mostly speaks louder than words, and when your manager is in a tight position (resignations, retrenchments, holidays) he or she may find a new respect for your “heads down” approach, realizing that if YOU also leave, he/she will be in strife.
- If things get real nasty, document it, especially if you think someone is trying to destroy you. You may need that in future.
- Catch the eye of your manager’s manager if you can – through hard work.
- If things do not improve it may be time to leave – under graceful circumstances, and with a smile. Remember – their low esteem is not yours.
A word to jealous managers
Jealousy is not good for an organization. It breaks up teams and damages the organizational spirit. Don’t foster, allow or ignore it. There may be a number of reasons for it (organizational change, promotions, compliments, resources – I have seen them all) which the manager and leader must address.
- Don’t show favouritism.
- Encourage and practice open communication.
- Assess your own maturity. If you are immature at managing people, do not accept or apply for a management position. If you do, then work on getting your jealousies under control – or your best staff will leave – which will eventually reflect on you.
- Remember that in probably all cases you cannot reform a jealous partner.
- If it gets out of hand, leave for your own safety. Battered people eventually land up more battered, even dead. A jealous person may go after the kids to hurt the parent. In a recent case a cowardly husband threatened the wife with physically hurting their children if the wife did not succumb to his will! May karma work!
- Treatment is possible for severe cases, and find it if you must.
From a Biblical perspective, Songs of Solomon notes that “Jealousy is cruel as the grave; the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame”.
- Jealousy can be a mental and soul destroying cancer.
- It is prevalent in families, friendships, romantic relationships and the workplace.
- There are various types of jealousies.
- It stems from feelings of insecurity, fear, mistrust, low self-esteem and anxiety of the anticipated loss of something that a person (believes to) hold dear.
- Jealousy can be acceptable or symptomatic of deeper – even pathological – issues.
- Give quality attention where deserved and important for you.
- Be genuinely happy for the success of others.
- Realize when you are jealous and rise above it quickly.
- Get out of jealousy-driven violent relationships as quickly as you can. They normally deteriorate further.
- If your jealousy leads to violence, seek help.
- Remember – others’ low self-esteem is not yours.