Friday, June 5, 2009

Jealousy as hunger


Jealousy: It's an emotion that gets a lot of press time in the polyamorous community. It's the emotion that people fear enough to dissuade them from becoming poly, or even understanding why someone might do well with this relationship style. "Well, it sounds good and all, but what happens when you get jealous?" That is really up to each individual.


One of the ways I am looking at jealousy these days is to equate it with hunger. There are times when you are really hungry, but you're not likely to be anything more than uncomfortable with that. In fact, you can spend quite some time being hungry with minimal negative affects on the body. Like hunger, jealousy can be motivational. It can push you to get up and do something to satisfy a need that you are receiving a signal about.


There are times when you just want to eat. You crave a snack. Do you reach for the salad, or the cheetos? When jealousy is felt, you are still the person in control. Figure out what you want to "feed" that with. Do you choose to satisfy it by self-nurturing? Asking for something from a partner? Enjoying some compersion? Or is it just easier to link the jealousy with anger, and blow up at your partner for "making" you feel this way?


It is a common perception in larger society that jealousy is an emotion that can "make" someone do really bad things. How many of us have heard about someone who came home to find their spouse/lover in bed with someone else and killed them because they were jealous? What a ridiculous cop out! They felt jealous and used it as an excuse to act out in a completely wrong fashion.


If I am getting ready to go to the grocery store, I will often have a small snack, even if it isn't a meal time, to give the impulse shopper hunger a fighting chance. Less desirable food choices don't make it into the cart nearly as often as when I go to the store hungry. When you know that something is likely to happen that will trigger a jealous response, it is possible to prepare for it. Put coping mechanisms in place. Have an emotional "snack" at the ready to bolster the emotional responses you want to support.


Ignoring jealousy can be as destructive as denying you're hungry. You can pretend that everything is fine, as the underlying need screaming at you is ignored, right up to the point where it cannot be set aside any longer. It's one thing to skip a meal, it's another to starve yourself for months at a time. It is up to each one of us to discern what steps must be taken to care for ourselves and avoid emotional anorexia, claiming that "everything is fine" when it clearly is not.


Jealousy, like hunger, can lead you to places that are unhealthy and damaging, or your choices can support the highest health for both yourself and your partners by dealing with jealousy constructively, instead of destructively. It can be an indicator of an unmet need or insecurity, but it does no damage unless it is allowed free-rein to push you in the direction of powerlessness and the accompanying loss of self-control.


Choose your own path with jealousy. It can't harm you, even if it hurts at times. You may even grow to welcome jealousy as an indicator of something that needs your attention. Jealousy can empower you to notice something that would be easier to ignore or avoid. Self-knowledge is always preferable to self-deceit. Don't be afraid to be "hungry".
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