Deconstructing Suffering – Ending Jealousy Permanently (Part 2)

If you stop using the word “jealousy”, and instead pay close attention to what’s actually happening underneath the label, what do you notice? This is not an easy question to answer. Most of us, most of the time, make great efforts to keep from paying close attention to our experience of suffering. It takes a kind of mad curiosity about your own experience to really notice what’s going on.

This process of deconstructing jealousy can be applied to other flavors of suffering as well. To clear up suffering, you first have to break it down into its component parts, and work with those parts one by one.

When you deconstruct jealousy, there are some surprising discoveries to be made. At least one of them has the potential to forever change the way you experience jealousy.

This video is part 2 in a 6-part series on Ending Jealousy Permanently

Sign up here for the Ending Jealousy Permanently day-long workshop on Saturday, May 27th, 2017 in San Francisco, CA

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Deconstructing Suffering – Ending Jealousy Permanently (Part 2)
Steve Bearman
January 6, 2012

Welcome to part two of our six-part series on Ending Jealousy Permanently. At the end of part one, we talked about how naming is framing, how just using the word jealousy puts a frame around your experience that freezes in place some aspects of it and ignores others. We wanted to find out what would happen if you stopped using the word jealousy entirely and were required to really pay attention to what was happening at the moment that you started using the word, so that’s what we are going to today. And to do that I would like you to think of an experience, a recent experience when you experienced what you called at the time, jealousy. Actually it can be recent or it can be vivid, anything that will allow you to evoke what it was like for you when you were jealous at some moment in the past. I want to make the distinction that we are not talking about envy here, envy is like when your neighbor has a cooler lawnmower than you or a nicer sneakers than you and you wish you had those, we are talking about something that’s interpersonal, that’s about your relationship with somebody and their relationship with somebody else. So think of a moment when you experienced jealousy. Bring yourself back to that moment. Where were you, who is there, what was happening, try to imagine what was going on in the room and try to bring you back into your body the experience of what it was like to be there. What did you actually sense in your body and that’s where we are going to start, we are going to start with sensations. Sensations are important because there was something that was happening in your body, there always is. In fact any time you are feeling a feeling, part of how you know you are feeling that feeling is there are certain sensations that occur in different parts of your body that indicate that you are feeling that feeling. Sensations are how we know what emotion is going on. So pay attention to when emotions were occurring in your body, places of tension or relaxedness, cold or heat or contraction or expansion or feeling of empowerment or feeling of collapse. This is important because there is something that you may need the help of a counselor to do but that’s possible to do with sensations, where you can just notice what you are sensing and follow those sensations and they will take you somewhere unexpected. It's something that bypasses all of your structures of thought and meaning that you apply to your experience. So for instance if you can imagine that you feel like kind of a sinking in your stomach, you may not feel that, you may feel something entirely different but if you can imagine that, if you followed it, you would just allow yourself to feel it even more, and it might lead to a motion like a kind of a collapse, where you find yourself collapsed on the floor in this position of kind of mourning and you might find that there is this wave of sadness that comes upon you and there is some grief. Or maybe what you feel is, is all this energy and this energy in your arms and in your hands and if you pay attention to the hands that hands want to do something like just strangle somebody. And if you try strangling and feel what strangling is like maybe that becomes something like you want to strangle something bigger and bigger until it's actually an embrace and there is some embrace, some connection that actually your energy is trying to create, and you can follow sensations to find out about just what's going on. That can take you somewhere interesting. In addition to sensations you will notice that there are some emotions that you are experiencing, there are some feelings. Now I want to make another important distinction here. Sometimes people say that what they are feeling in a circumstance where they have the experience of jealousy is that they feel betrayed or they feel abandoned or they feel ignored and none of these things are feelings at all. They are things that you think the other person did to you. There is a great example that Marshall Rosenberg gives about feeling ignored, where he says, imagine you are at a party and somebody walks in who you were really hoping not to see and they just kind of ignore you, they don’t even notice that you are there, you will probably feel relieved. There is no particular feeling that goes with ignored, you can feel upset or you can feel relieved or any other number of things. What we want to know are what those feelings are underneath what you imagine the other person did to you and those feelings will tend to be things like sadness or anger or fear or shame, and sometimes a combination of all those kinds of feelings. So notice in this experience that you are having what you were feeling when whatever happened, happened. And as you do that, notice that there area a number of these aversive emotions, these negative feelings that you would rather not feel, but there might also be something else going on that I would like to direct your attention to: is there anything positive about the experience? This is counter-intuitive to people at first, but pay attention here this is important. If you feel jealous, it probably means that there is somebody who you feel some positive feelings toward. In that moment you probably feel something like, love for somebody. It may be kind of obscured in the background behind those negative emotions, but there is a feeling of love there somewhere, something like love caring for somebody, a desire for somebody, something that has a love-like quality about it if not just plain old love. And if you can start to pay attention to this, this for some people is their second “permanently” moment. It's the second moment when you really get this it changes forever your experience of the thing you have been calling jealousy because bringing that love from the background into the foreground means that you just noticed that you are loving somebody while you feel scared, it's like when you miss somebody, it's just you notice you feel sad at the same time as you notice that they are not around. Jealousy could be that you just notice you feel scared or you feel some shame at the same time as you are loving somebody but the love is what really matters that’s really what you are after. If you start to bring your attention to the love it changes the entire experience and it can do that forever. In addition to your sensations and your emotions there are no doubts some thoughts that you are having during the experience. And let's put some attention on what those thoughts were at the moment. Thoughts could be things like “what about me” or “nobody wants me” or “I can’t live without you,” those are all thoughts. And these thoughts point to core assumptions, core beliefs that create the kind of meaning that organizes our experience of jealousy. And we want to pay attention to those thoughts to find out what the underlying beliefs are because working with those beliefs is what allows us to start to dismantle the meaning structures that create the suffering that jealousy is. There are four basic categories, well three or four that peoples’ beliefs tend to fall into as I have asked them about their experiences of jealousy. The first is, beliefs that are things like, “I am not good enough” or “I am not desirable, there is something wrong with me,” these are beliefs that fall into the category of insecurity that have to do with our self-assessment and judgment and competition with others. A second set of beliefs are beliefs about scarcity. They have thoughts that go with them like “there is not going to be enough love for me,” there is this sense of scarcity, that is not enough. The third category has to do with what we call codependency, the thoughts or things like “I need you” or “I can’t live without you” and there is a sense of threat of loss of the person that you think that you can’t live without. And then there is this fourth category which I’ll only mention briefly here which is that “this should not be happening.” Beliefs and thoughts that are about how this should be occurring and those tend to fall into the category of feeling like a victim, like something is happening to you. These kinds of beliefs totally organize our experience not just of jealousy but often of many other things in our lives. And so starting to understand how automatically these beliefs just get activated and come online and structure our experience allows us then to start to dismantle them to allow ourselves to have a new kind of experience. So for the next four parts in this six-part series we will be looking at each of these categories of beliefs one by one. So the first is going to be insecurity, and we are going to spend some time looking at what are the kinds of beliefs that produce the experience of insecurity and how can you dismantle them to replace them with something better and the something better is something we are going to be calling, the Loving Yourself Project. There is a project and a set of practices that go with each of these beliefs that allows you to reconstruct it and replace it with something more desirable.

About the Author

Steve Bearman, Ph.D., earned his doctorate in Psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He founded Interchange Counseling Institute in 2002 and is the lead teacher of Interchange's San Francisco-based year-long counseling and coaching training. When he's not counseling people, leading workshops, and advocating for social justice, Steve climbs mountains, adventures in the urban wilderness, explores the edges and limits of what's possible, deconstructs everything, and finds new ways to put it all back together.