The Value of Jealousy: A Path to your Heart’s Desire


Blurred image of a subway tunnel. Raleigh Psychotherapy, counseling, Katherine Broadway, jealousy

In 2013, Bloomberg Businessweek began publishing their annual Jealousy List. It is a list of articles published by other media outlets during the year that they wish they had tackled themselves, yet still did not want their readers to miss. As I read through the list for 2016, I realized what a gift they were giving to their readers. The stories were funny, poignant, informative, interesting, unusual, and above all, well-written. Bloomberg calls it a “painful, happy tradition.” This list represents the value of jealousy.

Jealousy is often villainized, and has been for centuries. Shakespeare even gave it a lasting form in our minds and our culture when, in Othello, he referred to jealousy as “the green-eyed monster.” It is called a relationship killer and the enemy of personal growth and happiness. It is true that jealousy can make us unhappy and cause us to behave in destructive ways, but there is another side to the emotion.

Bloomberg’s Jealousy List included a story about Petro, a sleek black cat who lived the life of an ordinary house cat for 10 years until jealousy opened the door to a new way of life for him, his owners and the people of the neighborhood. When he was 10, his owners had a baby.

Petro was jealous. There was not enough attention left for him, so he decided to seek it elsewhere. He began by visiting the upstairs neighbors, then he ventured out the window and onto the sidewalk to demand attention from passers-by. At 13, he is now a celebrity who delights children, greets strangers, visits friends and entertains all who are willing to pay attention.

Jealousy was the catalyst that spurred Petro to new adventures and new friends. It lead him to spread joy and happiness to others.

Lois a university professor and writer. While reading her Facebook page, she noticed that several of her friends and colleagues were involved in travel, teaching and leading workshops in foreign countries. She felt jealous, and her first thought was that she was missing an opportunity and being left out of something fun. Her second thought was “Why not me? Am I not good enough to get a summer appointment at a foreign university?”

Upon reflection, she realized that she had never seriously thought about it. Until that moment, she was not aware of the depth of her desire to teach in a foreign country. It was not that she could not, or even would not, achieve these goals in the future; it was that she had not realized her desire to do so.

Jealousy came to her as a valuable teacher. It showed Lois things that she desired and admired, and gave her the opportunity to learn something new about herself. She discovered something hidden inside of herself. Jealousy gives us the opportunity to stand taller, grow bigger, delve deeper and grow into our power when it creeps into our lives.

There is the jealousy that we feel of that person who represents what we want to be. They appear smarter, happier, more successful, more talented than we are. They have what we want or are what we aspire to be. We have been taught that to admit that we are jealous is to admit to ourselves and to the world that we are small-minded and insecure. Actually, it is not.

Two friends were talking. One said, “I am so jealous that you are so athletic and fit.” The other responded instantly, “I am jealous that you can sing so well.” A moment that could have been divisive became a moment for true intimacy. No longer did they have to pretend to themselves that they did not feel jealous. Rather, it became a moment of mutual admiration.

Look up "jealousy" in Wikipedia and you will find an extensive entry. The initial paragraph uses such negative phrases as "insecurity, fear, concern, and anxiety over an anticipated loss," and says the emotion often includes "anger, resentment, inadequacy, helplessness and disgust." Even if we agree with the definition, it sounds rather gruesome.

When we think of jealousy in such negative terms, we are going to hide our feelings or act them out. It will lead to shame. The Harsh Inner Critic will rejoice in the opportunities it has to criticize you and blame you for feeling so.

Jealousy does not have to be a force of destruction, division and shame. If we learn to make friends and play with it, it can become an avenue for self knowledge, direction and even intimacy. It can teach us about what we love, what we desire, motivate us toward change and help us open new doors for ourselves. It can lead you to your heart’s hidden desire.

Do you feel bad about yourself because you feel jealous? I can help you find the gift in your feelings. Call me at: 919-881-2001.