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Episode 207: Jealousy


Lily O'Farrell on Instagram

And hello to you and welcome to the Richard Nicholls podcast. The personal development podcast series that's here to help inspire, educate and motivate you to be the best you can be. I’m psychotherapist Richard Nicholls and this is episode 207 it’s titled Jealousy and if you're ready we'll start the show.

Happy new month pod fans it's November already. Unless you're a patron of mine on Patreon in which case you got this episode a few days early and it's not even halloween yet. Ooh an early release of a personal development podcast episode non patrons must be so jealous. And I know that's sort of shoe horning today's topic into the intro with all the subtleties of fog horn in a caravan, to which I offer no apology other than to say that's not actually what jealous means,

Not in the psychological sense anyway. Over the last few generations we've tended to use the word jealous when referring to envious haven't we? Because jealousy is the feeling that comes from the worry about someone taking something of yours,

and envy is the feeling of wanting something that someone else has. So being pedantic if you ever say "I love your shoes I'm so jealous" that makes no sense unless they were your shoes in the first place and your friend is literally walking off with them. Although taking that analogy further the feeling that can come from looking at your friends shoes as they walk away from you is envy but the feeling that can come from watching your husband look at them as they walk away from you,

that would be jealousy. And not everyone experiences it, so it's complicated, but one team of researchers who tried to pin down a simple definition of it describe it as, and I quote, "A form of angry, agitated worry whose goal is to anticipate and avoid surprise and betrayal." And I like that because it explains everything in one sentence. And actually that same process is responsible for a lot of anxiety in other situations isn't it?

If anxious thoughts are all about trying to avoid surprises, by making us think about everything that COULD happen as a way of avoiding the surprise we'll be doing nothing but thinking anxious things for 24 hours a day, because the imagination has no limits. But if you couple this with a fear of rejection, which although no-one likes some people have that fear turned up too high, then we have a problem.

Interestingly what we find is that there is what's called a curvilinear association between the investment in a relationship and jealousy. curvilinear because if you plot it on a graph it starts off low at the start of a relationship, where theres less investment in the relationship hits a peak when there's been a quite decent amount of time invested in the relationship and then jealousy goes down again as even more time is invested in it.

Because the pain of being rejected by someone you've only really just started seeing is obviously less than if you'd been together for 12 months. But as relationships go on theres usually more trust built. Its important to know this because one thing that people worry about when they find themselves jealous to the point of spoiling the relationship is that they think that the more serious they get the more jealous they'll be in the future as if the graph of jealousy and time is a straight diagonal line but its not its curved like a bell shape.

But obviously this is under the condition that you feel secure and safe. But if we have attachment injuries then jealousy can really dominate, and if you're unsure what I mean by attachment injuries then I certainly encourage you to look into attachment theory in psychology it's absolutely fascinating and explains so much about why we feel the way we feel sometimes. If you're a Patreon supporter then you can find some extra episodes all about attachment theory

by using the tags feature and filtering for attachment directly on my Patreon page. If we have attachment injuries you see, and find it really easy to become insecure then recognise that thats what it is, because jealousy can masquerade as lots of different emotions, we might call it jealousy but it could be loneliness, anger, frustration, disappointment. It could be a coping strategy that prevents your ego being damaged,

our instincts might think that by Demonising someone, by being super critical and judgmental of them it could prevent them hurting you. Of course its nonsense, but if you have heard me talk about attachment theory before then you'll probably remember those children in the Mary Ainsworth strange situations studies. Some of them after being left in the room by their mum when she came back in the toddler would hit them. "How dare you leave me, how dare you abandon me"

thinking "If I punish you you will never hurt me again." Well it doesn't work when we're 12 months old and it's not going to work at any other time either not really. Because changing the outside world isn't likely to change the way you feel internally. Remember, when we're developing our personalities, if there's an attachment injury we tend to go one of 2 ways when trying to understand it. Either I am good and everyone is bad, or everyone else is good and I am bad.

Whichever way we go, if it leads onto jealousy, then trying to change your surroundings won't heal the injury. Forcing your partner to give up on social interactions so that you always know where they are won't make you feel more loveable and deserving, it might actually lower your self esteem instead and make the injury worse. Not just because you could end up thinking of yourself as a bad partner that's controlling and manipulative, because you might not think that way, because sometimes other people are bad and I am good.

But living in a world where the only way to feel safe is to control other people is a recipe for disaster, if it becomes who you are and what you do it's always there, this fear, this anxiety, this need to control. Because it feels that if you don't then something bad is going to happen. That's not good. Because then when all your partner does is take their phone out of their pocket as they

walk to their car to send a message to a colleague to tell them where they need to go for their meeting at 9 o clock and it becomes a huge issue. You don't need to know everything that goes on in the world in order to be protected, it's impossible. But if the default place is fear then them taking the phone out becomes evidence that they're going to reject you. So it's important to go inside of yourself rather than outside. So as to look at what jealousy is to you. Is it a fear of rejection?

Is it loneliness? Is it that your expectations aren't met and it's frustrating? Once you notice that there's more going on it's easier to understand your anxiety and not get triggered when your partner goes away on a business trip or is late home from work. And this isn't just a sexual thing, people can be jealous that their partner is spending time with friends and know full well that all their doing is sitting around a coffee table, talking nonsense and playing Fifa.

But it still makes them feel insecure to be alone. Yet it's a good idea that we have external interests, friends and interests outside of our relationship, it's healthy, it's recommended. I saw a great thing on Twitter last week which was a comic strip that I finally tracked down to a London cartoonist called Lily O'Farrell. Hello Lily if you're listening. It was of a couple watching a romance film or something and one character on their TV says to the other "You're my world"

and in the cartoon this guy says to his girlfriend "is that how you feel about me?" and she says "No. I love you, but it's more complicated than that." And she explains that she doesn't just have one world. That she lives in a galaxy with lots of different worlds. Worlds of hobbies and weird interests, family and ambitions. She says that there's a big planet that represents him and she's so glad that he's there but she has to keep ALL of her planets turning otherwise none of them would work.

And for some people that's a lot to accept, but that's how healthy relationships are. It means that there's more to you than the relationship, if the 2 of you become blurred and enmeshed it can feel very stifling. In a lot of situations what we might call jealousy is probably loneliness because the other person has more than one world and you don't. So, despite what the Spice Girls led us to believe, having two become one is not a good idea after all.

Yeah my wife is massively important to me of course, but I can't put all my happiness expectations on her to provide it. She's external, I know it's not very romantic to say that love has no real value, because it's good to be in love, but what is love anyway? I think I made an episode called that once, can't remember what I said, probably that it doesn't exist and love is just a habit, a familiarity. It might be nice, but it's still external, it's still something that can't be controlled.

It could be taken away, we need to be happy, safe, contented whatever ourselves first and the love we feel and give is the cherry on the top, the icing on the cake, the bonus Blu-ray with special features. But there are plenty of happy single people, you might be one of them. But even if you're not, if someone who was single said to you that they had anxiety and depression and asked for your advice, what would you say? It might be to see a therapist, see their doctor, read about it,

learn about it, find out what works for them and what doesn't. Send them on a journey of self discovery I dunno. But I tell you what it wouldn't be, you wouldn't say "you need a partner to make you happy, you need to get on a dating App" if anything if they asked you if that would help you'd probably say "I'd wait until you're in a better place first, so that you don't make bad decisions for the wrong reasons." And who knows if that's the right advice or not? No-one.

Some people might find that if they have some insecurities and their confidence is low that being in a good, secure relationship can improve their self-esteem but it's not guaranteed is it? So we know that we need to put a little less value on our relationships sometimes. They're great, but they ain't all that. They're not the secret to everlasting happiness. Therefore it's ok to question your jealousy, see it as something different and control it THAT way

rather than controlling the outside world instead. So first thing to do is to prevent jealous behaviours, if you can think differently about the way you feel then you're half way there but to be honest it's normal to feel a little put out, even threatened in some way if your partner goes out for lunch with a friend or a colleague but it's another thing to turn those feelings into texting them every 20 minutes to ask them what they're doing. Recognise that your thoughts are not reality,

your fears are not the truth so that you can help to prevent what's called Emotional Reasoning. Emotional Reasoning is the process of making conclusions based on emotions and feelings rather than facts and truth. Like "I feel fat therefore I am fat, I feel stupid therefore I am stupid, I feel guilty, therefore I must have done something wrong" in the case of jealousy "I feel jealous therefore they must have cheated on me."

like I say it's perfectly normal to feel an emotion but don't use that as evidence in any way. Own it, see if it for what it is, I'd much rather the process was "I feel threatened by this" rather than "they're cheating on me" "I feel threatened by this" you can do something with. "They're cheating on me" you can't do anything with, when they're not. So in the absence of unexpected empty condom packets lying about the place, which did happen to me once actually, in an ex girlfriends glovebox

and still I was too naive to question her, what a silly boy. Anyway in the absence of empty condom packets in your partners glovebox, let's assume that they're not cheating on you and the only thing to control are the thoughts and feelings you have. The only thing that's true is how you feel, "I feel vulnerable" is the truth. "They're going to abandon me" isn't. So the answer to curing jealousy isn't as simple as taking a pill every day or having it surgically removed.

It's deeper than that, it's about self awareness. The cure for jealousy is to be more self aware, more in touch with the real you, not the you you want to be or the you that you project, but the you you are right now and then you can take the steps needed to become the you that you want to be. Anyway, time's up for today thank you for listening. Or watching! I've recently moved house and so have got myself a proper office now rather than recording podcast episodes in the dining room

so I've been able to switch my camera on when I record these episodes and I'll upload them to YouTube for you to have another way of listening. I've been uploading them without video to YouTube for a while now, just a static image with the podcast playing but it's a bit boring without a real human face isn't it. Episodes are on YouTube for a couple of different reasons and hopefully people can find them useful. YouTube provides a transcript of the show you see for the hard of hearing

and even translates them into different languages for you too. It's artificial intelligence so it's probably not perfect but if I get more patrons on Patreon I'll be able to pay someone to do it properly one day. So if you enjoy the show and you'd like to offer some support then please head on over to and look me up. It's about £60 for a year or £6 per month and you get a lot of extra content as a thank you from me for supporting the show.

So go do that if you like and for those of you that already have thank you very much, I think I love you. I'm about to record the patron only Monday episode now and it kind of follows on from this episode a bit as it'll be about Loneliness, something that has been a big problem in our culture for a long time actually, long before Covid made us keep our distance so I'd like to share some stuff about that. As always that will be out first thing on Monday morning

and if you're not a patron yet or an apple subscriber at least then by the time you've heard this episode that one's already out so go and have a listen if you like. If not I'll be back for you in December. Take care of yourself in the meanwhile and I'll speak you next time. Ta ta!