Monday, May 2, 2016

Giving Jealousy a Little Love

The following is an excerpt from an email one of my partners sent me a couple of days ago, after he realized that a group sex experience had precipitated what he jokingly referred to as a morning-after “Mini Mental Meltdown”:

I think, for me, the up-side of jealousy (thank goodness there IS an up-side!) is that it helps to maintain the balance between my individual self ("Cam"), and my (more complex and exuberant) collective self ("Cam & Viny"). This may not feel like a good thing when jealousy causes an acute shift back towards individuality because this shift is invariably accompanied by feelings – to various degrees – of loss, loneliness, and alienation, but it is nevertheless beneficial, and necessary for maintenance of a confident and comfortable sense of ME. I have no doubt you can relate to this.

What I take from
[my reaction to] this [recent experience], at this point, is that I need to cultivate a life *outside* of our life together a little bit more actively than I have been. For a time, any opportunity that I have for such things will probably be taken up by my current projects of life transition, but in the near future, I need to get out and involved in some personal growth, ya know? Perhaps get back into music, surgery, and lost wax casting?? I’ve got to have at least one foot planted in places where you do not always stand, just in case I need to temporarily unwrap my leg from yours in order to protect my heart and head from angina and migraines.

I asked Cam if I could use his reflections as a starting point for a more general discussion of the “up-sides” of jealousy, partly because it would give me an excuse to brag about him (isn't he amazing?), but more importantly because his letter reminded me of something I often forget: jealousy is fundamentally a regulating mechanism. It performs a valuable function by calling our attention to the fact that something is out of whack. Our job is to listen carefully, so that we can figure out what is out of whack, and fix it.

Unfortunately, whenever jealousy starts talking to me, all I want is for it to shut up.

“You're basing your sense of self-worth on a fucking mirage, lady. Who cares if you're smart and funny? There are lots of people out there who are smarter and funnier than you. Oh, so you think you have nice breasts? Well, I've got something for you: GRAVITY. Boom. Wake up and smell the bitter beans, 'cuz there's not a single thing you have to offer that can't be eclipsed by someone else or lost entirely, through age or accident. And what's gonna make you lovable then? Huh?”

(Good question, right? Really important stuff to consider. But boy howdy, does that voice ever grate on my nerves!)

Yes, jealousy is horribly unpleasant. But the truth is that it can be a great teacher. So I wonder: What would happen if we were to approach jealousy with curiosity, instead of dread and resentment? How might our future experiences of jealousy improve if we cultivated a sense of gratitude for what we've learned from jealousy in the past?

Maybe I owe jealousy an apology for hating on it so much. Huh. Now that's a strange thought.

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