Is jealousy damaging your mental health?
Where does it come from, and how can you overcome it?
Many individuals seeking therapy report bitter jealousy regarding others. Sadly it prevents them from enjoying life and creates interpersonal conflict, and in some, it even causes great misery. They are left wondering, “Is jealousy damaging to your mental health?” How do you overcome this powerful force?
This article will help to illuminate one of envy’s very common causes.
Very often, a jealous individual had certain childhood stressors,
which coupled with his or her inborn sensitive temperament, resulted in chronic low self-esteem and a pervasive sense of shame regarding his very self. It is very painful for such a person to feel that way, therefore he or she often unconsciously develops a psychological plan to escape from such feelings. He thinks, “I know what I can do to feel better. I will become great. I will become so great, amazing and accomplished that of course then I will feel so great about myself that I will no longer suffer from such low self-esteem!” This drive can sometimes result in perfectionism. But is can also result in jealousy! No matter how accomplished he becomes, he still feels terrible because achievement cannot cure low self-esteem, only therapy can. Therefore the person is constantly in fear of not reaching his goal. He is literally terrified of dying of shame, low self-worth and misery. Now if he sees someone else that has what he wants, he may burn with jealousy. Not because he is greedy or hateful towards others, but because he is so desperately afraid for his own survival, he feels if he doesn’t achieve what his fellow has soon, he will be doomed to a life of misery or even death by suicide! His fellows’ success is a painful reminder of what deep trouble he is in! Now anger goes hand-in-hand with jealousy, and he is likely to feel anger and hatred towards that successful person as well. Even if he himself is moderately successful, he never feels relief and is constantly driven towards more, which creates even more jealousy and anger.
Now envy and anger has been linked to all sorts of mental health problems such as anxiety, depression etc., therefore jealousy is damaging to your mental health!
It has also been linked to physical health problems such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, auto-immune disease and chronic pain conditions. Not to mention living a life of jealousy, rage, low self-esteem, and drive to be perfect is an extremely unhappy way to live! How do you overcome this in psychotherapy?
The answer is we use two techniques, one is dynamic, and one is cognitive.
First, we work dynamically to go into your childhood and find out the root causes of your low self-esteem, shame and drive for achievement and jealousy. Most envious people had loving, dedicated, well-intentioned parents who simply made honest mistakes in raising their children. Then usually what happens is you were born with a sensitive temperament, which combined with those mistakes generated shame and low self-esteem. Maybe your parents tended to criticize you often, maybe they yelled, scolded and reprimanded you. Maybe they themselves were anxious and gave you the idea that everything had to be perfect. Maybe your parents had conflict between them or a separation, and you may have thought things like, “It’s my fault they separated, because I’m not good enough… I will become so great that they will get back together!” I have known many children who think this way.
Then we understand the whole chain of events of how those childhood difficulties led to shame, perfectionism and jealousy,
we need to get really clear exactly where the problem is coming from. That in itself provides tremendous relief, as you will think, “I see I’m not crazy after all! My symptoms are just a normal reaction to childhood difficulties… There is nothing essentially wrong with me, I just need to recover from my challenging history!”
Then you would need to gain a conscious awareness of all your emotions throughout your childhood until now, as many of them have probably been repressed. How did you feel when you were scolded and criticized as a child? How did you feel when your parents fought or after the divorce? How do you feel nowadays on a daily basis? Feelings are a person’s lifeblood. Not being aware of them is like having money in the bank that you’re not even aware you have! You must learn to pay careful attention to, respect and honor all your feelings, past and present.
Then the most important step is to mourn and grieve the mistakes of your parents and the misfortune in your childhood,
similar to how you would mourn a lost loved one! Only you must remember, the loss of a happy childhood is the greatest tragedy a person can ever experience! It needs to be mourned deeply under the guidance of a warm, empathetic therapist.
Then you need to gain awareness of your anger. Anger is an automatic reaction any time someone harms you, even if by accident. If your parents made any mistakes with you, we know you must be angry at them! If you don’t process that anger, it will come out on those innocent others like for example those who are the object of your jealousy! Therefore you need to really understand how people harmed you and how much you feel angered. You need to rage and cry into your pillow for a short period each day, during several months in therapy. You need to discuss your anger with your therapist.
Then you will need to do cognitive work.
That means instead of focusing on the past, you need to change your thoughts, beliefs and values in the present. First you will need to understand that no amount of achievement and success can cure shame and low self-esteem, only good treatment through psychotherapy can do that. Therefore instead of striving towards such unattainable goals, you need to learn to appreciate the beauty of being average! After all 95 percent of people live their entire lives being average, it is a great liberation and a happiness to just be content being a regular person, and not driven towards grandiose achievement. You need to learn the bliss of the mundane, the joy of the ordinary. This involves adopting the thought, “Less than perfect is also good.” And “I’m just fine the way I am, I don’t have to achieve great things to be Ok.” And, “I don’t have to earn my right to exist.” One would have to learn to no longer shoot for perfect performance, but for only decent performance instead.
In addition you should keep a journal of 2 good things that you did each day in kindness and personal growth, and then at the end of the month you will have 60 good deeds, and you will review them in therapy. In this way gradually your self-esteem will start to bubble back up. You need to think things like, “Wasn’t I born a decent person like everyone else? Don’t I deserve to feel good about myself? Do I really deserve such harsh criticism?”
After a few months of the above work, your self-esteem will start to be restored and your fear of mediocrity and the resulting anger and jealousy will start to subside!
Never doubt this wonderful work it has healed many people!
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