Monday, August 24, 2015

MUST READ: Jealousy, a potentially toxic emotion

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Jealousy is a complex emotion that encompasses many different kinds of feelings that range from fear of abandonment to rage to humiliation. Both men and women can be equally affected if they perceive a third party threat to a valued relationship. It can affect siblings competing for parental affection or it could be envy towards a wealthier successful friend. While some psychologists believe that jealousy is a necessary emotion because it preserves social bonds, in reality unmanaged jealousy tends to do more harm than good in any relationship and can create severe conflict, even violence.
Sadly we live in times when people’s egos are running rampant, when everyone is hugely judged on how they look, how much they have materially. One might get jealous if someone flirts with one’s significant other, one might get jealous when someone achieves something that one has always wanted to achieve but didn’t manage yet, and one might get jealous when someone succeeds or when someone manages to get something which one thinks they don’t deserve it. There are so many ways one can feel envy and jealousy.

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No matter what the object of one’s jealousy is there are some classic root causes of jealousy. A lack of self esteem is a key cause, one’s doubt about one’s abilities and skills, lack of self confidence. Another root cause of jealousy is a poor self image; if one perceives oneself as unattractive then its natural anytime one sees anyone one imagines is better looking than one, jealousy may ensue. Fear tends to be huge root of jealousy. It could be fear of abandonment, fear of being alone, and fear of being rejected. Jealousy makes one feel bad; it ruins good relationships and fills one’s spirit with toxicity. A case in point is the experience described below.
Joshua, 40, has been in a long term relationship with his girlfriend who he had plans to wed at the beginning of the year. Unfortunately the wedding was postponed and the relationship is in jeopardy.

From the moment Joshua met his girlfriend almost five years ago, he had trouble controlling his jealousy. Joshua says he grew up feeling very insecure because he witnessed his mother in bed with his uncle when he was 9 and his mother had told him if he said anything to his dad, his dad would send him to live somewhere else because his dad would not love him anymore. As a result Joshua said he grew up being afraid his dad was going to find out the secret and he would be abandoned. He also said he witnessed his mother in other compromising situations with several men which left him feeling very anxious and fearful all the time.
Joshua said he had very unsatisfactory relationships with girlfriends as he did not trust them and had multiple relationships. He always felt they would leave him so he made sure he left them first by finding fault in everything they did. He said he was not bothered by it because he felt he was having a good time and he made sure the women looked after him so he always walked out of his relationships feeling on top and winning.
Then Joshua met his recent girlfriend and he said everything changed. He said she was the first woman that he did not feel afraid of and he did not feel she was trying to harm him as he had felt about all the other women in his past. When he was with her, he did not want to be with any other woman which was a new and strange feeling for him but a feeling that brought him some peace. After two years together, he felt this was a woman he might be able to trust and settle down with. He had confided in her about his upbringing, something he had not done with any other woman and she helped him get over the trauma of his childhood gradually.
Joshua said he noticed his jealousy always coming up when he was out with his girlfriend very early on in the relationship but he was able to control it because he did not want it to affect the relationship. His girlfriend mentioned to him many times that he shouldn’t let his jealousy poison their relationship. He said anytime he saw his girlfriend talking to any man he actually felt physical heat in his body and could visually see his girlfriend naked with the man.
Joshua thought it might help if his girlfriend moved into his house with him. He thought this would help them move closer to getting married. His girlfriend had been ready for marriage but he had been putting it off, so he felt if they lived together all his anxieties and jealousy would go away. They lived together for two years and his jealousy just got worse. He said almost every day he would have an argument with her about what time she got home from work, who she went to lunch with, and if they went to office parties he said he always accused her of having an affair with her colleagues. Joshua said he was aware that some of his behaviour was unreasonable and unjustified because he said his girlfriend had never given him any reason to be suspicious. They even started making plans to get married.
Joshua brought things to a head recently when he had gone on a business trip and came home to find his nephew staying at their home. His wife had told Joshua while he was away that his nephew had some problems and needed somewhere to stay. Joshua said he had told his wife he did not want him at the house if he was not there. Joshua said his wife said he should trust her and there was good reason why they should help the nephew.
Joshua said when he came home and saw the nephew he just went crazy and attacked his wife accusing her of sleeping with the nephew. Joshua says he beat his wife quite badly and she left their house and has decided she is not proceeding with the wedding. Joshua says his jealousy has cost him the love of a good woman. 

-  Gloria Ogunbadejo/Punch

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