Monthly Archives: June 2016

Jealousy

THE HEALING OF JEALOUSY

Here’s something that may be hard to hear: Jealousy is never about the other person, it’s always about YOU – YOUR feelings of being ignored, unappreciated, unseen and unloved, and underneath all of that, your frustrated desire to control others – what they do, what they want, how they are received, who loves them – and ultimately, your desire to control the universe.

Ouch. This is strong medicine. Jealousy as the attempted insurrection of the separate self against its greatest threat, unconditional love.

Admit it: Someone else is getting all the attention, the love, the rewards, the success, the glory, and you are left out in the cold, isolated, forgotten, a failure – not special at all. Jealousy sees the other as some kind of ‘rival’, an ‘enemy’, a ‘threat’ to your path. It sees life as a giant competition and joy as a scarce commodity. And once you go down that path, there are a million rivals, a million blocks to joy…

Jealousy makes your peace dependent upon someone or something else! It says, “I can’t be at peace as long as they are …” (Fill in the blank). You give the other power over you, and then resent them for taking that power – which they never did! You gave it to them with your attention.

Jealousy can easily strike when you are feeling uncertain, insecure, doubtful about your own path. To avoid facing your own pain, being honest about your own insecurities, you bring focus away from yourself, onto the other, and begin comparing and contrasting and mentally fighting. You want what they seem to have. “Why isn’t THAT happening to ME?” you ask. It’s all about me. Me me me. Me me me me me me. The ego thrives on comparison and power struggles.

Where and when can healing begin? The only place and time there is. Here, Now.

Begin by turning towards your only place of power: the present moment. Acknowledge your experience, deeply. Feel the jealousy burning, aching, throbbing, in your neck, chest, stomach. Feel the power that’s there, the volcanic power of life itself, the power that creates universes. Take away the word/label/concept ‘jealousy’ and feel directly the raw sensations without judgement and without trying to make them ‘better’. Feel the aliveness. Contact your own uncertainty, doubt, feelings of powerlessness. Feel that old familiar friend – the urgent need to control the world from where you are.

Don’t turn away! – when you turn away from your immediate embodied experience, separation, and therefore fear, begins. Slow down. Begin to light up the sore and forgotten places in yourself with awareness. Bring gentleness and kindness to that lost child in yourself, the one who was never seen, the one who always longed for love and understanding, who always felt ‘far away’ from life and fun. The one who would destroy a universe just to get attention. Feel the innocence there…

Perhaps, from a place of deep acceptance of yourself as you are, you will begin to find compassion for the one you previously called your ‘rival’. Perhaps you will even be able to celebrate his or her happiness and achievements. You will become part of his or her abundance rather than the judge and jury of it. You may be able to learn from your ex-enemy, or at least use them as a source of inspiration. Or you may forget about them altogether, let go of trying to know their experience, and simply walk your path! You will see that there is enough room in this universe for everyone to walk their own path, find their own happiness, dance their own dance. Including you.

Joy does not come from trying to walk another’s path, or from preventing another from walking their own path. It certainly does not come from trying to take away someone else’s happiness! Jealousy, when resisted and blindly acted upon, will hurt you and the ones around you, and will create further conflict and division. But once acknowledged, understood, embraced, and even loved, jealousy can serve to open up your heart even more, bringing you to a place of great humility, freed from that awful need to control everything and everyone around you.

Let jealousy serve as yet another ingenious invitation to Presence. Let it break your heart wide open in the here and now. Let it teach you humility and slowness. Let it remind you never to neglect yourself again. Know that you are never a victim, except in your own perception.

– Jeff Foster

I’m afraid to ask for feelings toward me

Community member: “I am still struggling with helping patients articulate feelings toward me. I have reached “gratefulness” twice but have yet to reach anger.” Thanks to one of our community members for sharing this problem!

Jon: Almost every therapist struggles with this problem. It can feel scary to ask patients what their feelings are toward you. People who turn rage upon themselves, like your patient, protect others from anger by turning it on themselves. So they rarely know what they feel toward you. When they say “grateful”, I agree. “It makes sense you have positive feelings here toward me. But if grateful was the only feeling, you would not be feeling anxious and depressed. So I wonder what other feelings might be coming up here toward me that could be underneath the anxiety and depression?” Sometimes we have to persist for twenty minutes or longer until they trust you enough to reveal that they feel “frustrated.” They usually come from homes where they were punished for being angry. So it’s a leap of faith to believe you would not punish them for being angry. But keep persisting. Once she can feel anger toward you, she won’t have to punish herself and get depressed instead.

Community member: “Thank you. That is so helpful. I get especially tripped up when the anger toward me is purely related to childhood experiences and not related to anything that happened between us in reality.”

Jon: Hopefully, it’s not related to anything that happened between you in reality. When you are doing good therapy you get close to her. This triggers her childhood experiences when a loved one tried to get close to her and hurt her. With that understanding, be patient when she struggles to say what she feels. If it was dangerous in the past, it will feel dangerous now with you. You can persist, watching each defense and resistance: the history of her suffering unfolding before your eyes. Every answer she gives is good, telling you how she had to adapt to a relationship where someone hurt her.

Remember: the patient has complex feelings toward you. On the one hand, she is grateful that you try so hard to connect to her. On the other hand, her conditioning makes her angry and fearful that you might hurt her, as others did in the past. She has feelings based on her realistic experience of you and her longings. And she has feelings that are based on her past. And they occur at the same time. That’s why she has these conflictual reactions. She both wants a healing relationship with you today and fears a hurtful relationship from the past.

Now let’s approach this problem from another perspective: the therapist. Many of us therapists did not enter the field purely for intellectual reasons. Our own histories of suffering can make us hesitate to ask what people feel toward us. After all, if you had a parent who was angry or punitive, you did not ask, “Dad, before you spank me, could you tell me how you experience that anger toward me physically in your body?”

When a frightening feeling came from a parent toward us, we did not ask for more of that feeling! So as therapists, we do the opposite of what we would have done as children. And when we do that, we have to work through our own past histories of suffering, overcoming our fears of feelings in relationships. And through our own self-healing, we make ourselves available for the healing of our patients.

This is true of all types of therapy. All therapies, to be deeply healing, require that we healers overcome our fear of the inner life of ourselves and our patients. By doing so, we can enter into the fire to meet the patient so she need no longer be alone. And by entering the fire and holding her hand while we both burn, her transformation can begin. I wish I could say the patient can borrow your emotional courage. But sometimes the patient is so emotionally courageous that we end up borrowing hers so we can entire the fire together.