I believe we all get jealous at some stage of our lives. I used to quite a lot. It used to be so bad at times I could feel it eating away at me and I would develop a strong dislike for someone, but not understanding why. Since starting my medication and neurofeedback therapy, I’ve felt it less often and intense. I still get envious though. I find what triggers it is someone getting more attention or affection than me eg someone I perceive as being more liked/popular than me. It’s a hard thing to admit and I hate feeling this way but the green eyed monster can be powerful.
When I was attached to someone, this could be my mum or a friend, I would feel very possessive of them. If they had other people around who could fill my shoes, I would fear them leaving me as I tend to see myself as “second best” or the “backup plan”. I truly believed that a friend or family member would leave me as soon as they found someone better. It took me years to accept my mum’s best friend. Before then I saw her as the enemy, the one taking my mum’s love and attention away from me, the one who my mum would leave me for. As crazy as this appears, this type of thinking makes sense when given my family history.
I never really did anything about it though. When the green eyed monster came, I would feel ashamed for not just being happy for the people I loved and I would suppress the feeling. However this envy/jealousy would grow into resentment and bitterness because I didn’t properly address the emotions at the first stage. Thus leading to tension in my relationships with others and paranoid thinking which can morph into serious trust issues and destroy relationships.
I’m more socially isolated at the moment so I don’t experience jealousy as such but more envy. Social media is a big trigger for this envy. When I think someone is doing better than me with content, followers or praise I find that pit of irrational hatred for the person I see as doing better than me. Like I said, I would see them as competition and I would feel bitterness for myself and life. Why can’t I be as well liked as they are? Why does their site look better than mine? Why isn’t my writing as good as theirs? etc. Then shame would kick in. Why can’t I just be happy for them? Why do I have to be so negative? Why can’t I just be grateful? I have decided to try and understand jealousy/envy instead of pushing it away like I usually do…
The difference between envy and jealousy:
Envy vs. Jealousy. The main difference between envy and jealousy is that envy is the emotion of coveting what someone else has, while jealousy is the emotion related to fear that something you have will be taken away by someone else.
so, to summarize, Jealousy relates to personal relationships (romantic, familial and friendly) whereas envy relates to more materialistic things and can be felt towards a complete stranger.
Why do we get jealous or envious?
In DBT emotional regulation, one of the first things we learn is that each emotion has a function, even the ones we deem bad. Each one is there to motivate us to do something either negative or positive. Its not the emotion that’s necessarily bad its the actions we choose to take because of them. For example, Jealousy can motivate us to do better than our third party competition in order to keep the one we cherish and impress them. A negative action to take with Jealousy is to become possessive of a loved one, controlling or clingy to make sure the one you love can’t leave.
Envy can motivate us to push ourselves a bit more so we can do just as well as the person we’re envious of and achieve that success we crave. However this feeling can lead to things like bullying, where you try to tear down the person you deem more successful and happy to make them feel as bad as you. So you see, if we take these emotions and not judge them we can use them to become better friends, partners or family members and achieve more than we thought possible.
Jealousy and Envy in BPD
Jealousy and envy seem to be more of a problem in those of us with BPD. The jealousy probably stems from our insecurity and fear of abandonment. A blogger (linked below) said that envy in BPD could be due to our chronic sense of emptiness, causing the desire to have what others have that make them happy so that we may know happiness. It could also boil down to the fact that we can feel more intensely than others, which can lead to problematic behaviors when those feelings (i.e jealousy or envy) are not managed properly.
How to combat jealousy and envy (in a healthy way)
Another thing we learn in DBT emotional regulation is Opposite Action where we can choose to calm ourselves by acting the opposite way to how we’re feeling. You observe the emotion, what its motivating you to do and, if the action is deemed ineffective, we can use Opposite Action to neutralize the emotions.
For (a real life) example I was talking to someone via text and they stopped replying. I assumed I said something wrong or that they didn’t like me so I felt anxious and afraid. Because of this I was tempted to keep texting them until they answered, apologize or get angry to grab their attention. I knew that would be wrong so instead I cried while eating cake until I felt sick.
Now, in hindsight, once I checked that my actions would be ineffective or make things worse I could have practiced opposite action which would have been to show self compassion by challenging my assumptions of the worst “they hate me” and practicing self care instead of making myself ill.
Here are some OPPOSITE ACTION ideas for envy/jealousy:
- Count your blessings “name them one by one, count your blessings don’t you spoil the fun” (sorry, just whenever I came across that phase the song I was taught in school comes to mind lol)
- Challenge thoughts instead of acting on them. For example (on social media) think something like “is their life really that perfect? They could just be showing me what they want me to see and not the “ugly” parts of their life”
- Appreciate/ be kind to yourself. If you feel envious/ jealous it may be because you’re insecure and have low self esteem. So, take some time to appreciate that you’re doing your best and make a list (or ask a loved one to) of all your achievements and positive qualities.
- ACKNOWLEDGE, COMMUNICATE, RESOLVE– demonstrated in the “dealing with jealousy” video linked below. These three steps are more personal for myself as, like I mentioned before, I deal with jealousy by suppressing, withdrawing and leaving the situation unresolved because of the shame I have around the emotion. So this would be a very good Opposite Action for me.
- Think about the other person– People with BPD can be so empathetic, I find it hard not to cry when I see someone else cry or be sick when someone else has been. I’m very good at feeling others’ pain even when I don’t want to, I imagine this is the same for a lot of us, being so emotionally sensitive. If we find it easy to feel the pain of others, then we can learn to feel people’s pleasure too by putting ourselves in the shoes of the person we envy. I believe an article linked below mentions MUDITA which is sympathetic joy. I personally would much rather be able to experience people’s joy more than their pain, so I’d like to give this a practice 🙂
Thanks so much for reading and feel free to let me know your experiences with envy/jealousy. Have you been the jealous/envious one before? Have you ever been on the receiving end of jealousy/envy? How do you handle these feelings when they arise?
Take care ❤