Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

The Green Eyed Monster

Two of the most disruptive and distracting emotions for us in life are envy and jealousy. If you’ve ever experienced either of them, chances are you’d be interested in learning more about what’s really going on when they arise, and how you can shift out of it to feel more peace. They are called the Green-Eyed Monster by Shakespeare who compared the emotions to a cat playing with a mouse.

Envy and jealousy are related because they are based on the interrelation between fear and desire.  Envy is the feeling that our mind produces when we see someone else with something that we believe that we want. It could be a person, an object, a lifestyle or an image. Jealousy arises in our mind when we have something that we perceive may be lost to another person. Many people associate jealousy with people – a person we desire or want to possess, and mainly it does, but it can also of course apply to an object, situation  or lifestyle. Oftentimes these words are used interchangeably.

Both of these emotions are classified as “negative emotions” because they tend to be unhealthy and cause suffering. At the worst and most destructive, these emotions can lead to violence,  high levels of stress and anxiety when experiencing these emotions and it certainly can cause strife and disharmony in our relationships.

The root cause of both of these emotions is the belief we are inadequate and we need something outside of ourselves for happiness or to feel safe. Both are based on the unhealthy belief that if we possess something we will be happy. We focus on what we don’t have (envy) because we wonder why someone else has something we ascribe value to and/or we don’t feel we deserve it. With jealousy, we focus on losing something to someone else (jealousy) because we want to keep it and/or feel for some reason that we are not worthy or good enough. Both emotions are symptoms of a deeper issue of the illusion of ownership. We do not own anything.

The common experience of jealousy for many people may involve:

  • Fear of loss
  • Suspicion of or anger about a perceived betrayal
  • Low self-esteem and sadness over perceived loss
  • Uncertainty and loneliness
  • Distrust

The experience of envy involves:

  • Feelings of inferiority
  • Longing
  • Resentment of circumstances
  • Ill will towards envied person often accompanied by guilt about these feelings
  • Disapproval of feelings

The best way to deal with either envy or jealousy is to discover what the feeling is trying to tell you. All emotions have a message, especially envy and jealousy. So you have to look at yourself and ask “what is this feeling trying to tell me about myself?” The next time you experience it, sit with a notebook and write down the answers that come.  It will be a worthwhile journey of self-discovery and healing. Jealousy is always about the person feeling it, not the person you are jealous of.

Most of us have some unresolved conflicts we carry from our childhood. We experience these conflicts as vulnerabilities, insecurities, or fears. When we fall in love and our love is reciprocated, these vulnerabilities, fears, and insecurities seem to vanish. We feel loved despite our imperfections. We feel whole; we feel safe. But when this love is threatened, the fears and insecurities that we thought had gone forever come back in full force. If this person whom we love and adore–the person we thought loved us despite our flaws–is going to leave us for another, then there is no hope for us, ever! We no longer feel secure even in those things we previously loved in ourselves. As glowing as the love was, so dark is the shadow of its possible loss. As we move with awareness into the core of our jealousy, we discover ungrounded expectations, projections, envy, loss of self-esteem, infantile fears and insecurities.

Envy is the emotion that you sometimes feel when you want something that someone else has. At its core, as with jealousy, is the mistaken belief that possessing something will make us happy. This is probably the most common cause of suffering humans experience. Otherwise known as “grasping,” envy can reach malicious or spiteful proportions. Envy usually is evidenced by the use of the words “if only”. “If only” I had that job/woman/man/bank account/car/house/ metabolism/boobs/ clothes  (you can fill in the blank).

Many times if we simply look in the mirror every morning when we get up and say to ourselves “I am enough. I am happy. I am going to have a great day”, that will be enough to get us out of the negativity of our situation. Keep saying that to yourself over and over.