Where Jealousy comes from...

One of the things i love to do most in the world is to dance (please no Billy Elliot jokes or references to the ‘Aviva’ advert:-))

It’s a recent passion of mine but one that has really grabbed me, almost to the point of obsession, over the past 2 years...

A couple of months ago I was in a Latin bar in Edinburgh unwinding after a busy week and i started watching one of the local Cuban dance teachers dancing next to the bar. I don’t know if you've ever seen a professional Cuban dancer dance but it’s pretty incredible. The way they isolate certain parts of the body (with hardly any body tension) and the immense style and ‘coolness’ they ooze from every pour can be truly mesmerizing...It’s a thing of beauty at times.

I turned round to an older guy who was standing next to me and said “Wow, he’s great, i love watching him dance!” He looked at me and said “Yeh you’re right but personally I’d like to break his legs!”

He was half joking and a little bit serious at the same time...
Jealousy is such a common emotion. It’s one we all, as humans, experience at some point in our lives in varying degrees.

From the twinge in our stomach when someone gets that promotion we deep down wanted to the uncontrollable, incredible hulk like, fist pounding monster that can rear its head when we think someone is trying to steal our partner...

It’s there...and there’s not many of us (if any) that can say they've never experienced it in some form. The question is: What actually causes it and is it something we can eliminate, control, influence or only manage?

When we talk about jealousy we often shine the spotlight on relationships. The resentful suspicion people feel when they think their partner is attracted to or involved with someone else.
This often gets the front seat when it comes to jealousy but there’s more...

There’s workplace jealousy, social jealousy and jealousy in business. You may have different labels for these (eg envy) but, in my opinion, they are all examples of jealousy (albeit containing different emotional intensities)

At the extreme jealousy can be horribly ugly. From bullying and spreading false rumours in the playground to bitching behind peoples back at work and believing in delusional imagined scenarios of cheating wives and husbands.

Jealousy is, of course, not a real thing...We can’t go down to the shops and buy a lump of jealousy nor can we go to the doctors and get a pill that removes all the jealousy. Jealousy is a nominalisation...A process that we've turned into a thing (or a verb we've turned into a noun).
It’s also an abstract concept that will vary from person to person in both definition and intensity and people will often have their own labels and distinctions.

It’s a bit of a simplified version but, for me, there are two main types of jealousy:

  1. Where you are ‘feeling’ or showing an envious resentment of someone or their achievements, possessions, or perceived advantages.
  2. Where you think someone is trying to steal your partner or where you think that your partner is involved with someone else. (Whether it’s true or not)


Now I know on the surface level these two appear different. However, when you look a bit closer, they’re a lot more similar than what you first think. That, deep down, they are very much from the same family...

It might not seem like it at first glance but both these experiences are fuelled by a common driving force.

The driving force of ‘sexual selection’...
‘Sexual selection’ is a special type of Charles Darwin’s ‘Natural selection’. It’s an organism's ability to obtain (often by any means necessary!) or successfully copulate with a mate.

It’s not the complete picture obviously but ‘sexual selection’ is at the heart of jealousy.

Think about it...If you’re a woman would you be more inclined to be jealous of a man who is successful (and likes to flaunt it) or a woman who demonstrates the same? Would you be more likely to be jealous of a man who walks into a room and appears to ‘have it all’ and gets all the attention or of a woman?

I’ll pose the same question to the men...If the above scenario was true for you who would you be more inclined to be jealous of?

Most of the time (although not always) in the first scenario the woman will be attracted to the successful man and more inclined to be jealous of the woman.

In the second, the man would usually be more inclined to find a way to ‘bring the man down to earth’ than they would the woman. ‘Who does he think he is showing off like that anyway!’ is an often common response.

The man may feel attracted to the woman but will often feel a bit threatened by her power and strength. (Depending, of course, on the strength and confidence of the man)

Sexual selection rewards those who stand out as ‘special’ within their gender. The prettiest, the most handsome, the strongest, the most skilled, the most intelligent. the funniest, those with the highest level of social status generally have the most opportunities when it comes to spreading their genes.
It works kind of like a scale. The people we perceive to be higher up the scale of value will usually be the ones we become attracted to.

So it actually makes perfect sense, at an evolutionary level, for us to feel a jealous twinge when someone else is doing well…Especially if it’s within our social, work or professional circles and even more especially if they are flaunting it! At a primitive level they are essentially ‘out Pea cocking’ you.
When someone is hogging the limelight, at a primal level, they are an indirect threat to our potential for sexual selection.

This more often than not comes from someone who is the same sex as us but it doesn't have to. A competitor who is doing really well in the same line of work as you (and is of the opposite sex) can still be perceived as an indirect threat to your chances of sexual selection and trigger a jealous response.

By being successful they are standing out more and, as a result, you may jump to the conclusion that it means you stand out less.

There’s also the type of jealousy we experience when we think our mate is attracted to or involved with someone else. This is usually a lot more intense than the first type and is normally the one we think of first when we mention the word jealousy.

This can be dramatic! It’s often where the bubbling, jealous rage inside of us explodes in the form of shouting, fist pounding and sometimes violence.

A lot of people think that, because this is a more intense experience than feeling envious of someone, then it’s a completely different thing. I don’t think it is. The main difference for me is that in one there is a direct threat to our sexual selection and in the other there is an indirect threat.

This is the reason for the difference in intensity...At a deep, evolutionary level however, it’s still triggered by the same basic primal instinct.

And this, for me, is why I believe that jealousy will always be part of your life in some shape or form whether you like it or not.

Of, course how we interpret this jealousy is the fascinating part. That’s the part we can actually change.

We could perhaps decide that, because someone is perceived as higher value than us, that means we have to up our game...and that we now have a wonderful example of how it can be done. Or maybe we've misinterpreted the situation or being too critical of our own qualities.

We could maybe even see it as a subtle sign that there is something on the inside that needs addressed or changed or just use it to highlight that something is important to us.

With the more direct threats to our sexual selection...maybe you've caught yourself imagining false scenarios of your partner cheating on you or leaving you and decide to stop doing it or figure out what’s causing you to do it in the first place.

There are lots of ways to look at any situation and there’s a strong element of everything in life that is malleable and can be changed.

That’s one of the great things about NLP. Even though we often feel the effects of evolution we’re no longer animals in the forest. We can change our interpretation of things, experiences and events. Just don’t feel you have to eliminate it completely from your life. This is a utopian vision that some people will try and sell you which will undoubtedly appeal to the control freak within but it’s one that has no basis what so ever in truth.

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