J is for Jealousy


Is jealousy an integral part of human nature, or a socialised response that we can ultimately control? How can we manage feelings of jealousy as we explore this wonderful sex positive world?

From Roy Graff / Open Relating

Jealousy is one of the most misunderstood human emotions. In fact, it is not a single emotion but a collection of feelings, insecurities and anxieties that tend to cause a similar range of body sensations. When we expect a certain outcome and something else happens instead, the shock that we experience could trigger a jealous reaction. Finding out exactly where it comes from is very important for healthy processing.

About the author

Roy Graff draws inspiration from training in Psychosynthesis Psychotherapy, Radical Honesty, Non-violent Communication and Wheel of Consent training as well as Burning Man principles.

He offers coaching and mentoring to individuals, couples and polycules. As a coach and educator, Roy works with complex relationship issues, Polyamory and Kink, and advocates honesty and authenticity in relating. He has been practising Polyamory for 12 years, and gives talks and workshops on alternative relationship dynamics. His services are inclusive and affirming of all gender, sexual orientations and relationship dynamics.

Website: https://openrelating.love
Instagram: @openrelating
Twitter: @openrelating
Facebook: openrelationg

Even if you are not prone to it, jealousy can happen at any time to anyone. You might know how it feels to you, and you might have experienced it from a partner or someone close to you. People often describe the expression of jealousy as a sense of dread, impending doom, feeling out of control. The heart rate increases, the body feels hotter, sweaty palms, the chest feels constricted. In extreme cases it can lead to panic attacks, uncontrollable sadness, feeling paralysed, or lashing out in anger.

It is a body trigger response to sensing danger, even when there is no real danger or if there are other ways of mitigating danger that do not require the body to respond in that way. Our evolution from reptiles and then mammals has given us an automated nervous system response that sometimes gets in our way.

Where does jealousy come from?

When asked to trace the source, through counselling or therapy, people often ascribe it to a past experience within an abusive or toxic relationship, being cheated on or lied to, or further back, to childhood trauma. Finding out exactly where it came from can be important for healthy and full processing.

  • Intrusive thoughts – we grow up with predetermination of what our romantic relationships should look like and society teaches us a particular view of morality and values. When our experience is contrary to these expectations, our mind will resist change.
  • Feelings – A new situation can trigger a memory of a past hurtful experience, which floats back up the same emotion we had at the time. The emotion is expressed in the part of us that resists the change, that wants to fight back or perhaps disappear.
  • Body – unprocessed trauma can be stored in the body for many years and be triggered by a current event, even while the mind has no memory of the origin. When strong emotions are awakened, the body attempts to self-regulate through release of adrenalin and other chemicals, increased heart beat and temperature.
Finding out exactly where jelousy comes from is important for healthy processing.
Finding out exactly where jelousy comes from is important for healthy processing.

How to tell if I may be prone to jealousy?

If you know yourself to have insecurity in relationships or trouble trusting a significant other, chances are that jealousy will be triggered at some point in a relationship. It can also happen if you have grown up in a physically or emotionally abusive situation, if your parents displayed expressions of jealousy, or if you have been betrayed in the past. Being prone to feeling anxious, having low self confidence or having exceedingly high expectations of yourself and others can all be clues.

Jealousy is a symptom.

Often, the trigger is less important than the underlying fear or insecurity. It often starts with a miscommunicated or malcommunicated agreement, a dissonance between an expectation and an outcome or socialised norms and peer pressure. Jealousy is a symptom. If you are willing to look at the root cause, there is a good chance that healing will also lessen the jealous emotions. There are different ways to address the actions taken by our jealous part, mitigate and manage them to reduce the overall tension and conflict in a relationship.

Jealousy in Kink, Non-Monogamy and Polyamory

When it comes to sexual exploration and managing multiple romantic relationships, jealousy is often cited as the main reason why people find it difficult. The first step is to re-frame our experience of jealousy as a rich source of information about our psyche, and become inquisitive about what we can learn from it.

Sexual and Romantic alternatives to the mainstream can be scary, and it is the fear that we must first learn to accept as a necessary step in the process of growth and self-development. Talk about your fears with your partner and offer reassurance of love and commitment with this is asked for. Remember that mistakes happen and be generous when your partner makes a mistake.

Join the discussion with other JOYclub-members: How do you deal with Jealousy?

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