Envy, Rivalry and Jealousy

Author: Dr. Ali Khwaja

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Envy, Rivalry and Jealousy

At the outset let us differentiate between these three emotions, since many of us tend to confuse between them. Let us separate them out and be clear what they indicate and how they are different from each other:

ENVY: When I see that someone else has something that I desire or need, I feel envious of that person. I feel a sense of injustice and inequality by the fact that he is getting a better deal than I am. Often I do not even weigh how deserving I am, but just the fact that HE has what I would have liked to have, can evoke envy in me. This envy is regardless of how well I know the person, how deserving he is, and how significant is his progress compared to mine. It often transcends the fact that I may be far better off than this person in other spheres, but his singular achievement or acquisition is enough to set off pangs of envy that I cannot get out of.

RIVALRY: is comparatively a healthier situation wherein I try to compete with the other person, and make active efforts to get a better deal than him. This may also be in areas where I do not need that particular achievement, but the sense of rivalry spurs me on to action. I develop a strong desire to overcome the other, and his progress becomes my benchmark to determine how much I want. One can even see rivalry in very minute issues such as one person trying to overtake the other in a crowded road, going on to major issues like building a massive bungalow only to show off that mine is bigger and better than that of the neighbours. When rivalry crosses the bounds of rules and norms, or even values, then it can become dangerous and turn into enmity and vengeance.

One of the most common is Sibling Rivalry. What starts off as a healthy competition or fight between siblings can at times degenerate into anger, hatred, revengefulness -- and these feelings, if not checked, can carry on long after the siblings have become independent and separate. Sibling rivalry is fuelled by perceived partiality of the parent. If parents keeps away from sibling rivalry issues, they often get resolved by themselves.

JEALOUSY: on the other hand, is a state of anxiety due to insecurity in affections of a loved one. It is directed towards the rival who seems to be receiving the affection. While in envy, there need not be a loved one, merely a desire for things possessed by the rival. Rivalry is when I am still competing and trying to overcome the other, but jealousy is when I feel I have lost the battle. It is a very distressing situation and can be very harmful to the person who feels jealousy, the person who receives it, and to the person in between who is caught in the cross-fire.

Jealousy can be due to perceived threats also. A man may feel strongly jealous of his wife’s office male colleague just because she spends time with him, and seems to enjoy his company. Neither his wife nor the colleague may have any desire for a deeper relationship than the convenience of office friendship, but the husband may suffer from fierce jealousy – and when he expresses it, it can be distressing to the wife and to the male colleague.

On the other hand, jealousy can also be a state of helplessness wherein the person is trying to win the attention or affection of a person, but is not able to do so. A girl may have a crush on a boy in her college, but she does not have the courage to build a relationship with him. When she sees him enjoying and communicating freely with another girl, she may suffer immensely with jealousy, and may at times even get tempted to harm the other girl by spreading malicious gossip about her, or clandestinely taking away her things. These acts of desperation will probably make the first girl even more miserable, but she is so obsessed with trying to win over the boy, that she does not realize its self-destructive nature.

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