How can we heal this ancient virus of jealousy?
The whole world is engaged in fighting against the virus, COVID-2019. Do we know that this health virus could be an outcome of the moral virus of jealousy? Of course, it is too early to go into this delicate and complex problem of the root cause of the deadly virus. But the virus of jealousy has constantly accompanied mortals from the very dawn of human civilisation. Imagine the fall of the first parents in the Bible. How the wily Satan felt jealous of two fragile humans living in paradise so happily. So the whole story of temptation, which did not stop there. The first siblings Cain and Abel were so jealous of each other, that one killed the other. Rightly, therefore, the wise man Shakespeare warns all of us thorough his character Iago, in “Othello”: “Oh, beware, my Lord, of jealousy; It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on”.
We all need to be very careful of jealousy because it raises its head most unexpected. There may not be any person born in this little planet who has not tasted its bitterness. There is jealousy among siblings, among couples, among lovers, among colleagues, among business entrepreneurs, among politicians, among religious and even among nuns, priests, sages, monks and gurus!
My friend, just married the other day came to me with the bitter complaint that he is angry, frustrated and depressed. “What went wrong, Sir”? I asked with innocent curiosity. Now I am married, but my newly wedded partner imagines that I have not stopped flirting. She gets so upset when I smile at any girl, greet my colleague, speak or joke with my students. She blasts at me as if I have made all of them my darlings and just ready to betray my marital vow. How can I lead my public and social life when my wife is on fire with jealousy?
Two classmates quite successful in their respective business enterprises in the same town are no more in talking terms as one incurred some loss, and the other made profit and improved his business. Jealousy separated two thick friends!
I can vouch from my personal experience, that jealousy is very rampant in the institutions of higher learning. The parents of a student brought their daughter to me with the strange narration that their daughter overnight started behaving as if possessed – shouting, yelling, crying, beating herself and finally repeating again and again that she wants to die. During counselling, I came to know that her fiancé suddenly deserted her as he found another fiancée. This girl was so jealous of the other girl that she wanted to simply eliminate her.
Jealousy is an emotion that emerges when you feel you are going to lose something, maybe your loved one, your prestige, honour, position, status or social image. You are afraid that if your partner has another friend, you may lose her/him; if your colleague is promoted, you will lose your job; if your friend makes profit you, will lose your business; if my neighbour wins elections, you might be estimated lower than him, so on and so forth.
Jealousy is a tricky feeling, sometimes it lies concealed, but becomes manifest in our actions. All know that you are acting out of jealousy, but you yourself are not aware of it. Other times, it erupts so suddenly that you get angry, feel lost, insecure, empty and frustrated. Truly it is a complex emotion and not easy to handle.
Jealousy is hardly seen among strangers. It is always among those who share life, those who interact with each other, those who collaborate in the thick and thin of life. Hence closer the relationship, stronger the emotion of jealousy. Secondly, it always goes with envy. Both act as if they are siblings. I know a case where the younger brother built a new house, and the elder brother felt so envious to see a new and modern house adjacent to his, that he built just next to that another new house posher and more elegant, that people walking along the lane in front can point out and say that it is the house of the elder brother.
How to tackle the feelings of envy and jealousy? First of all, they are feelings or emotions, neither good nor bad in themselves, but are simply part of our life. It is humanity which has classified emotions as good and bad, positive and negative. All emotions are to be treated as integral to our existence in this world where no one is an island. Our attitude towards all feelings and emotions should be one of acceptance. The more you reject your feelings, the more you strengthen them, the more you react, the more you make them problematic. Just accept them and dissolve them into your body as salt is dissolved into water. Close your eyes and observe feelings descending into your mind, then down into your body one by one and getting dissolved into your blood. This should be our primary medicine for all feelings and emotions, both positive and negative.
Secondly, know that no person, thing or situation can make you really happy. Happiness is something internal, and you have to create it within you. All happiness derived due to external causes is transitory and superficial. If you are not happy within, no external reality, even your life partner, children, etc., can make you really happy. If you are already happy within, then they can enhance it and make you a fulfilled being. No jealousy can disturb you if you are happy within.
Thirdly, build up trust in and through all your relationships with every human person you encounter, beginning from your life partner and then your children and all others. Without trust, no human enterprise is possible. Invest your thoughts and energies to lay a strong foundation of trust in all your undertakings even through your banal daily activities. Jealousy can be uprooted through trust, which functions as a strong defence against jealousy.
Fourthly, anticipate the triggering moment of jealousy and train yourself to maintain distance. Imagine your husband is flirting with another young beauty. Just feel how your jealousy is aroused, and you feel helpless to intervene but experience a deep sense of insecurity, loss, betrayal and anger. Then create a mental distance between you and him, so that you can grant him the freedom to live his life. Do not react but reflect and say again and again: “I am safe; I am safe in myself. I have my worth and my good qualities. He is another person, different from me, with his own independence. He has the freedom to live his life”. Then maintain a short silence and accept yourselves as you are and affirm your existence.
This exercise will help to strengthen your bond. The more you recognise his independence to be himself, the more you receive love, esteem and security. No marriage can remain stable in the contemporary world if this mental distance and independence is not granted to married partners. This also demands a self-understanding of what you are. I am I, and she/he is she/he. We have independent existence with enough freedom to act independently. This kind of mindset will resolve a thousand problems of day to day life. Please know that love is not tangible. There are many manifestations of love, but love in itself is intangible and volatile. What proof do I have that she/he is committed to me? Love is not mathematics, it is chemistry!