Jealousy, Take Two

Oh, goodness, I haven’t written anything here in quite a while.

Since July, to be exact. I could give you the spiel of how I’ve been so terribly busy with work and…well, more work, but that’s probably not of much interest to you. But, for completion’s sake, I will say, I’ve started going into work much earlier than I had been used to, and I get home feeling like a zombie half of the time, so even when I say to myself, “Ooh, I’m gonna get home and write!”, any thought of that tends to exit my mind as soon as I see my beautiful, comfortable, incredibly inviting bed.

However, as I’ve been on this early morning schedule for some time now, my internal clock has (mostly) adjusted, and I hope to get back into the swing of updating this, at the very least, weekly. And so, as I’m here dog-sitting two adorable German Shepherds, I thought there’s no time like the present to get back into the swing of things. And so it is…

So, jealousy. I’ve done an entire post dedicated to this subject in the past, but being that it can be such a prevalent feeling in our lives (it certainly is for me), and given that I’ve felt jealously creeping into my own mind over the past few weeks, I thought it might be an interesting venture to revisit the subject.

Jealousy seems to be such a tragic facet of our first-world culture: They have something, I don’t have that something, I want that something and I’m bitter towards them for having it, bam, jealousy. For me, the feeling of jealously isn’t what’s inherently bad, it’s more so how it leads my mind to come to conclusions. When we’re intent on getting something someone else has, be it a material item or achievement, there’s often a thin line between what many call determination, and jealousy. The jealousy creeps in when we feel resentment towards others for having what we do not.

It seems that human society puts value on a great many things that, in the end, really don’t at all matter. Material possessions, achievements, titles. For some who get jealous over these things, it may be less of an arduous task to step back and say to themselves, “In the grand scheme of things, these possessions don’t matter. But what of things for which “want” could be argued? Marriage, children, a sturdy financial situation…some may argue jealousy is a healthy type of determination for these things, as love and a comfortable living situation are things all should strive for. If feeling jealous towards an individual or family that has these near “essentials” is the kick in the butt needed to get you working towards those things, can’t you argue for that bitterness? Doesn’t it help you more than harm you?

My own intuition says no. When jealousy is used as a motivator, it more often than not turns into a competition with another. I have the “healthiest marriage,” or the “best-behaved and loving children,” or “highest-paying job.” God knows we have an entirely too-competitive society already, so when we start to incorporate that competitiveness into our life goals, it turns our lives into finding contentment by simply being happy, versus finding contentment by trumping others. At the risk of sounding like I’m channeling the Dalai Lama, happiness should come from peace and contentment in ourselves, not from knowing we have the “best” anything of anybody.

Not to mention that if we fail in our jealousy-initiated competition, it only leads to more bitterness towards our “competitor.” “I wasn’t able to beat them out in having [insert possession/relationship/status here], so I’m going to be even more resentful towards them from now on.” I’m sure you’ve never consciously said this to yourselves, even in your mind, but the devil on your shoulder may plant that bug of revenge in your minds. Not that I support revenge in any sense of the word anyway, but this type of, “I-didn’t-get-what-you-have-now-I’m-bitter-and-resentful-towards-you type of revenge isn’t logical. If revenge is supposed to come from a place of somebody else actively working against you, how does revenge against someone who is just going about their life make any sense?

Like most negative emotions, jealousy also has a physical effect on you – racing heart, tensed muscles, even something more active such as staring the potential “competitor” down. Gone too far, a relationship built mostly on jealousy of another can spiral out of control, resorting to spying on them or their communications, or even going through their personal belongings. It goes without saying that these are destructive (and intrusive) habits.

My own jealousy becomes apparent when I notice my abdomen tensing up or my breathing quicken. I subconsciously flex my fingers in and out, not necessarily into fists, but as if all of my negative feelings are trying to escape through my hands. In my interactions with others I become snappy and rude, and when I interact with the one I’m jealous of, my passive-aggressiveness shines like a crude beacon to all.

So, even if jealousy can push us to strive for our goals, the collateral damage of ruined relationships, physical symptoms, and invasion of privacy is by no means worth it. If it gets to the point (which it often does) where others are starting to take notice of your lack of contentment, it’s time to take a step back and deal with the situation from neutral, level-headed ground.

So how do you deal with, or better yet, avoid jealousy altogether? I don’t claim to know what helps everyone, or even most people. I can only give you what helps me, and the most powerful tool in my personal arsenal is mindfulness. I talk up mindfulness like Billy Mays talked up OxiClean, but I do so because it works (the mindfulness, not the OxiClean. I dunno, I’ve never used OxiClean). In a nutshell, mindfulness is looking at situations not from a place of passionate, sometimes corrupting emotion, but instead with a clear head, only going back to revisit the situation in your mind once you’ve been able to interpret it from a level-headed perspective. By doing this, any overwhelming emotions that you felt during the moment in which the situation is happening have had time to die down, and as such, should no longer cloud your judgement or allow you to jump to conclusions based purely on the ferocity of your emotions. Instead of being the jury or executioner, being mindful is being the judge; looking at all sides of the situation and then coming to a conclusion, not the other way around. Keep in mind that being the judge and being judgmental are not the same thing.

It may also help you to avoid jealousy by simply telling yourself, “I’m not them.” Well, duh, you may say, but by admitting to yourself that different things happen to different people at different times at different points in their life, it’s easier to accept that not everything they have is something you should have, and vice versa. You’re different from them, and they you, and that’s how it should be.

As I stated earlier, I’ve been trying (and sometimes failing) to fend off jealousy myself for the past few weeks. For most, it isn’t easy, and even after writing this, I’m still probably going to go to work next week and feel, at the very least, a twang of jealousy. But, like a firefighter goes into a blaze with the correct tools to survive it, I feel that with the correct mental and emotional outlook, jealousy, like fire, can be overcome.

Stay strong.

–  Ryan

My anxiety makes me depressed; my depression makes me anxious

Depression and anxiety are quite often a package deal. Those unlucky enough to have one are arguably more prone to experience the other. As I go through the days, I find that I slip into a routine, one which is the bare bones of many aspects of my daily life. For example, I’ll get out of bed at the latest possible time to ensure I make it to work on time. Sure, I’m where I need to be when I need to be there, but not the best scenario to repeat over and over. Recently I’ve started beating myself up for this, not only because I fear how others will view this, but how I view myself. Individuals who have depression are often viewed by those who don’t understand the illness as being lazy. As one of those individuals with depression, I can assure you that 99 times out of 100 this isn’t the case. Depression can eat away at your mind, causing you to attribute negativity to nearly everything life throws at you. Staying in bed for half of the day is not a sign of laziness, it’s a coping mechanism.

With that in mind, I started thinking about why I fell into this “bare-bones” routine so often, and I’ve found that it’s a vicious cycle. I’ll get up at the last possible minute, and be rushing to make it to work on time, causing my anxiety to peak. If something small isn’t how it’s supposed to be, such as my car not starting or a road detour, my routine doesn’t leave much (or really any) wiggle room. So, I’ll get to work, mind already roiling from the anxiety just leading up to it. Work is generally fine; I enjoy what I do, but it is still a job, which comes with anxieties of its own. I’ll get home later that night (I generally work into the evenings) and that is where my anxiety tends to lessen. I don’t have any more responsibilities for that day – this is my chance to take a load off and relax.

So, I’ll occupy myself for an hour. And another hour. As time passes, my mind will turn to tomorrow, and with it, all the stresses and responsibilities it brings. In response, I’ll ask myself what I can do to combat these anxious thoughts. Predictably, my answer is to occupy my mind enough that I block these thoughts out, so, in short, anything but going to bed. If I were to try lying down, my mind would be so frantic I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep anyway. So, I occupy myself even more, and by the time I do make it to bed, it’s ridiculously late. I’ve figured out that, however illogical it may seem, my answer to the anxieties of tomorrow is to make it so that tomorrow doesn’t come until the last minute. Obviously, I don’t have the power to slow down time, but the longer I stay awake in this situation where I have no responsibilities, the less time I’ll have to worry about the time where I do have responsibilities. Going to bed so late causes me to sleep in later than I probably should, and the cycle begins anew. As days pass with this same routine, I fall prey to my depression, with it telling me that this is happening because I am lazy. I am incompetent. I can look at this from a logical perspective and tell myself this isn’t true, but whenever depression takes control, negativity reigns supreme.

In short, what I’m trying to get across is that depression and anxiety work in tandem with one another. Thoughts of one nature often carve a path for the other. As these habits often fall into a cycle, combatting them seems especially hard. As I’ve just related, I’m currently struggling with these things myself, so I can’t give any surefire methods for dealing with this. I can only give my best suggestion, one that I’m going to start trying, and that’s practicing mindfulness.

For those unaware of the concept, mindfulness is looking at thoughts as just that, thoughts. There are no happy thoughts, sad thoughts, anxious thoughts, etc. There are only thoughts that we should view through an unbiased lens. This is not to say we ignore these thoughts, that would create more problems than it solves. We merely observe them without any emotion attached to them. Mindfulness certainly doesn’t say that emotion is not there (or important, for that matter), but as many with depression know, viewing everything that crosses your mind through an emotional lens only leads to attributing negativity to it all. Observing our thoughts and the actions of others through an unbiased lens allows us to apply logic more readily than if we were worried, or guilty, or whatever emotion we attribute to the thought. By looking at events with more logic than emotion, we take away our tendency to worry about events, past, present, and future.

Mindfulness, much like deep breathing techniques and yoga, is something that improves only with practice. Emotion is such an integral part of our thought processes, so when we have a technique that initially takes that away, it certainly takes some getting used to. Again, this method doesn’t ask you to throw emotion away, it simply requests you put it to the side, only pulling it back if it’s immediately needed to deal with the situation (which many times it isn’t). There are many resources for practicing mindfulness, and it is a growing study among many psychological health professionals.

It’s something that I’ve heard has worked for many people, and for a few months it was something I practiced as well. As happens all too often with me, however, I fell out of practice. With luck, it will help me deal with my bare-bones routine. Looking at the next day logically instead of emotionally in the evenings should allow me to go to sleep earlier, thus allowing me to get up earlier and face the day. Mindfulness was created with the concept of living in the moment, as opposed to worrying about past or future events which we cannot change. We can change our right now, however, and mindfulness tries to help ensure we have the mental and emotional capability to do that.

 

  • Ryan