Aug. 10th, 2013

dormant_dragon: (Default)
Jealousy is an odd sort of emotion. I think this might be because it's just so useless, especially when compared to other emotions like fear, love, anger, joy and so on. The utility of these more primal feelings is readily apparent, not merely in that they motivate action, but that the actions they inspire can have beneficial effects upon our lives.

It's less clear that jealousy can have any positive utility. It's not simply that it's really more of a meta-emotion with its roots in fear. It's a cunning little bastard as well - it has a most unfortunate tendency to make people act against their best interests, especially when it comes to relationships. If you cling too hard to a partner for fear of losing them, that's often a great way to drive them from you. Possessiveness is not an attractive quality.

My own experiences with jealousy have been somewhat ambivalent. Certainly I have felt it, but I never felt good about feeling it - I always saw it as a flaw, as betraying a lack of confidence, as something I wasn't really entitled to feel, if one can be said to be entitled or not entitled to feel anything. And I was very aware of its unattractive manifestation. As such, I tended to suppress it.

These days I very seldom experience jealousy and on the rare occasions I do, I don't need to suppress it because I can talk myself out of it altogether in very short order. Even before I was able to do this, jealousy had faded into the background for the most part; what I tended to feel instead, in situations that might previously have provoked jealousy (such as a partner flirting with others), was a consciousness that I ought to feel it, or that others might expect me to feel it, rather than any real experience of jealousy itself.

There's been plenty written on the subject of managing jealousy in polyamorous relationships, and it's interesting to me that one of the reactions people often have to the idea of polyamory is that they couldn't do it because they get jealous (to be fair, I used to think I couldn't be polyamorous either, but that had nothing to do with jealousy - I was simply too focused on my one partner at the time to really be interested in anyone else). In stark contrast to my own attitudes, some people seem almost to embrace jealousy, as though you don't love someone enough unless the thought of them with anyone but you is enough to send you into a fit of rage. The culture of monogamy has normalised jealousy, even though it is at best pointless and at worst, terribly destructive.

The real problem with jealousy - and ironically, the key to overcoming it - is that it turns everything it touches into a zero-sum game. One person's gain has to mean loss to another, so if someone else has something, you have to miss out. Enter, jealousy. But in my experience, life doesn't work quite like that. Yes, everything is a trade-off, but it's not so black-and-white that there's no room for grey. For the most part, it's simply not the case that one person's gain is another's loss and that's that. Sharing and co-operation might cost me an effort of will (especially if I have to do these things with people I don't like much) but the benefits, if I stay the course, are generally worth it, and much better than I'd get if I jealously tried to hold on to everything for myself.

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dormant_dragon

October 2013

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