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Symptoms and Consequences of Jealousy

Author: Dr. Ali Khwaja

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Let us now understand how jealousy rears its ugly head, what symptoms it manifests, and what are the consequences. Then we will go on to management of jealousy.

All humans have desires and aspirations. We would like to achieve, and we would like to improve our quality of life. Aspirations are both material as well as emotional. Material aspirations include wealth, status, qualifications, assets, power etc. Emotional aspirations are primarily centered around the NEED TO BE LOVED. The need to be loved by those who are important to us is strongly in-built into us. A few of us can rise above this need and be happy whether we get love or not, but most of us fail to do so. More than the amount of love we give out, we want to receive love. We would like to have exclusivity in that love also. We would like to be reassured that not only we are getting the maximum love from our significant relationship, but also exclusive love. If the love is shared, we may become so unhappy that we take up an attitude of “all or nothing”, telling the person that either you give me your exclusive and unlimited love, or I don’t want it at all. Actually when we say that we don’t want it at all, it is often a threat or a weapon that we are using to persuade the other to succumb to our wishes. This also leads to a desire to control, to ensure that we hold the power to dictate the emotions of the other person. Sadly, no one can control anyone else’s emotions.

You think only humans can be jealous? Tell me how you analyze the following: I have had a dot-matrix printer for my computer for over a decade. A sturdy workhorse, it gave me wonderful service. But the quality of the output was not very fancy in this age of show business. So I decided that I would get an ink-jet printer for the more formal correspondence. I have a switch to change over from one to another. What is intriguing is that every time I use the new printer even for one sheet printout, and then try to print with the old one, the dot-matrix starts printing gibberish – and ends with putting a “J” in the corner of the paper !!!

When we find that we need to work towards getting love, we put in our best efforts. We may go out of the way, make many sacrifices, and give much more than what we intended to in the first place. I have heard women making statements like “If only he is willing to marry me, I am willing to live as a maid servant in his house.” Obviously this is not what the lady desires – but it is her way of trying to get what she desperately wants, at any cost. Once she (or a he, for that matter) gets what she wants, she will obviously forget her earlier statement.

The situation changes significantly if the same person has to compete with someone else for the love, affection or attention of the person he cares for. Some, particularly those with low self esteem, give up the race the moment they find someone else running. They keep their emotions to themselves, and concede defeat, perhaps even without giving the other person a chance to choose or to understand this person’s feelings. Many others do not give up easily – they decide to compete. There is a sense of initiative, motivation and a strong desire to increase one’s efforts to achieve the goal. There is initial optimism, even bravado. If the victory comes easily, the matter is resolved, if not, then the situation changes to one of RIVALRY. Rivalry tends to bring in bitterness and a desire to put the other person down. Now one is not just competing to achieve, one is also focused on ensuring that the competitor does NOT achieve.

Even rivalry, to some extent, can be healthy and positive. Rivalry is an indicator that there is hope of success, the adrenalin is flowing fast, there is light at the end of the tunnel. If the light seems to be fading out, or one is becoming pessimistic about reaching the light – then JEALOUSY takes over.

Jealousy is self defeating. It takes a person into a vicious cycle that actually prevents or inhibits forward movement. The focus seems to shift from achieving one’s goal – to ensuring that the other person does not achieve his goal. It is what is called in management jargon as a Lose-Lose situation. Making the other person lose even if it is at the cost of my losing. “Whether I get what I want or not, I will ensure that the other does NOT get it,” seems to become the underlying focus. There is no empathy for the other person, no compassion or consideration. Equally strong is the self-destructive element of jealousy that not only stops growth and evolution, but actually make the person degenerate.

Jealousy is to be taken seriously because unlike other negative emotions like anger and rage, it has a tendency to be long lasting. It keeps getting ingrained deeper and deeper into the psyche of the person. It can play havoc not only with that particular relationship, but also with life in general. And yet, surprisingly, many of us who succumb to jealousy do not even know how to get out of it, leave alone making active efforts to do so.

There are some people in whom jealousy has become part of the personality. They find themselves getting jealous about many people, often on trivial issues. If such a pattern has been formed, they need to go in for serious therapy. It can be a personality disorder, and may require professional help. It may have an element of deep-rooted low self esteem that makes the person so insecure that he tends to doubt many of his close relations and people around him.

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