Jealousy: A Definition And How To Deal With It

Jealousy is an emotional response to the possibility of losing something we believe is ours.
Jealousy is an emotional response to the possibility of losing something we believe is ours.

Being a jealous person is not a desirable characteristic for anybody. However, we have experimented jealousy sometime in our life. It is essential to distinguish between pathological jealousy and what can be a natural human reaction, so we know how to control these reactions and how to get over them.

In this article, we will explain the definition of jealousy and which are the personality traits of jealous people. We will also talk about what is pathological jealousy, and we give some advice on how to deal with this uncomfortable feeling. 

Jealousy definition

Biologically, jealousy is a type of emotional response. It happens when the person feels threaten towards something they consider as theirs. 

In a relationship, jealousy is a natural response that we feel to the possibility of losing an emotionally significant interpersonal relationship or something that we consider our own and that is present in most people, to a lesser or greater degree.

These responses imply very complex affective and emotional reactions. In most of the cases, they refer to fundamental emotions such as fear, anger, and sadness, although they are also related to selfishness. 

This causes a negative feeling of insecurity in the jealous person. If these feelings and thoughts are not identified and handled could cause that person to exert a kind of control over the relationship that can become really harmful to the other person.

Related to monogamy

The cognitive psychologist, Albert Ellis (1993), said that jealousy is an emotion usually experimented by people that have monogamic and romantic philosophies in love. We could deduce then, that jealousy indeed presents a cultural characteristic and that it is largely based on cultural ideas and norms.

6 personality traits of jealous people

In the following list, you will find some personality traits that define a jealous person. There are many more, but these could be considered some of the most recurrent ones.

1. Insecurity and lack of self-esteem

They are people who usually have an insecure attachment to interpersonal relationships. They feel less than others and show this insecurity in the other person.

2. Lack of assertiveness

The incapacity of dealing with their emotions and negative thoughts make them unable to act assertively with the other person, and they end up having an aggressive and controlling behaviour with their partner. 

3. Hypervigilance and cognitive distortions

They continuously think that any behaviour that the other person does, they do it with a double intention and they experiment situations socially normal as well as threatening.

4. They show it in a passive way

Jealousy doesn't have to be shown directly, especially at the beginning of the relationship. Sometimes the person can express it with non-verbal behaviours, such as looks, corporal expression or even comments that seem harmless at first but that have a secondary intention.

5. They have aggressive behaviors

They always blame the other person's actions; they control their telephone and their social networks. They can also humiliate the other person in front of other people, or even get to physical and verbal violence. 

6. They are emotionally unstable

This reaction is caused by the combination of emotions they feel at the same time. They think they love their partner and feel love for them, but at the same time, they feel anger or hatred as they believe they are being cheated on.

The lack of assertiveness or feeling insecure are personality traits of jealous people.

Pathological jealousy

Pathological or obsessive jealousy is characterized, according to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as a concern about the unfaithfullness of their partner. It can be considered as an abnormal affective-emotional alteration.

It can derive from recurring behaviors or thoughts that are ultimately caused by this concern. Also, the jealous person presents certain traits such as:

  • Lack of a real trigger (there are no justified reasons)

  • Permanent state of hypervigilance

  • Need for control over the other person

  • Feeling of lack of power by the jealous person

An essential point about jealousy or pathological jealousy is that they really cause a great unease in the person; affecting many areas in their everyday life.

It can even lead a person to do things that the other person does not want them to do. In many cases, it can be related to an underlying psychological disorder such as alcoholism.

In these cases, it is vital to accept the situation and be aware of it to learn how to deal with it. Psychological or psychopharmacological therapy -in cases of delirium- may be the best way to approach it.

The difference with non-pathological jealousy

It is important to distinguish between pathological jealousy and the jealousy considered "normal." In relation to the latter, it is defined as an emotional reaction out of punctual and temporary fear that we can experiment in front of a situation of emotional vulnerability or when we fear the other person can dump us.

The fact that it is punctual and transitory indicates an important difference with the pathological type.  Pathological jealousy is what really causes a great discomfort in the person; affecting several areas of functioning of their daily life.

There are psychological exercises that we can do to learn how to deal with jealousy.

How to deal with jealousy

As has been mentioned before, jealousy is an apparently normal response when they happen sometime and temporarily, and they don't harm the other person in any other way.

When they become excessive, it is important to accept the problem because it is likely to experience underlying emotions and reactions that can only be handled by a qualified professional.

However, if you think that they do not meet these characteristics, some exercises can help you to be less jealous if you perform them consciously and consistently.

1. Identify what you are feeling

Name the thoughts that are causing you discomfort and anguish. Is it something justified or is it just a conjecture? Is it a punctual reaction or something that happens to you frequently?

Knowing what you are facing will help you understand the nature of the problem and analyze what solutions you can put into practice.

2. Think of strategies you can apply

Think about whether you have felt this way before and how you acted. If it worked, it can help you react in the same way and even more if you felt comfortable with it. 

If this is not the case, you can write down on a paper or mentally alternative solutions that could be useful at that moment and apply them when the situation repeats itself again.

3. Work on your thoughts before expressing them

Impulsiveness is a jealousy's enemy, and in most cases, it can play against you. Learn to breathe and think before expressing your irritation. 

If you analyze the situation in a calm way, it is easier to know what you feel and why you feel it so you can tell the other person assertively.

4. Work on empathy

You should be empathic with yourself and with the other person. Blaming yourself won't help to solve the situation but making yourself responsible for them can start changing them.

In the same way, think about how you would feel if you were put in the same situation, collect that emotion and channel it to help you take the step to change all these thoughts and behaviors.

5. If you feel you cannot do it, ask for help

Managing jealousy is not an easy thing to do. It is necessary to recognize when we cannot solve a problem by ourselves and so we must know how to ask for help, not only for the other person but more for our mental and emotional health.

References

American Psychiatric Association (APA). (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), Fifth Edition. Madrid: Panamericana.

Jiménez-Arriero, M. Á., Hernández, B., Mearin Manrique, I., Rodríguez-Jiménez, R., Gimenez, M. J., & Alfaro, G. P. (2007). Alcoholic jealousy: an old and current dilemma. Adicciones, 19(3).

León, N. C. M., Rincón, L. G., Cortés, D. S. B., Alfonso, A., Báez, L. A. P., Duque, B., Ávila, L. & Rojas, N. (2013). Características de los celos en un grupo de estudiantes universitarios de la ciudad de Bogotá. Cuadernos Hispanoamericanos de Psicología, 13(1): 36-44.

Montes-Berges, B. (2008). Conflict solving strategies and romantic jealousy in intimate relationships: Adaptation and analysis of CTS2 and CR scales, Estudios de Psicología, 29(2): 221-234. doi: 10.1174/021093908784485138

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