“It shows its presence by gripping my insides and firing heat up to my throat. I clench my fist and start having seriously violent thoughts. I want to get out of the situation, scream or on the really bad days, lash out in a rage of red mist”.
This is a description of how I used to feel when I was in the grips of jealousy. It used to ruin entire days or even weeks. I never knew how to express or communicate about it with others and would just bury the pain deep inside, and wait for time to do its thing.
At the heart of the matter is what I now call my inner animal. Sometimes personified as a mad gorilla with large teeth. This inner beast is a natural part of who I am. Not to get too scientific here but, it helps to explain that this is as a result of the primordial part of the brain know as the limbic system; a portion of the brain that controls mood. It also helps us to fight, and face our fears.
This animal inside of us is activated and “triggered” when we perceive threat. It could be the threat of a larger male wanting our mate. Or the behaviour of our mate attracting unwanted sexual attention. What ever it is that is causing the jealousy to occur, we must realise that we are responding from an ancient autonomic system.
Does that mean we are doomed and are at the whim of this primordial autopilot? Absolutely not. Luckily we developed the cerebrum, the largest and newest part of the brain. It is with this part of the brain that we can sooth and stroke the furry beast into remaining calm and in control.
Okay so that all sounds easy! Well as I’m sure you know, it’s not. The first and most important step we must take is to verbally acknowledge that the gorilla has been stirred. I tend to do this with my partner by saying something like, “just so you are aware, my inner beast is really angry right now”. My partner in turn plays her majestic role, and acknowledges what I have just said. This is the first stroke of the hair!
This first stage of communication must be expressed as soon as the fires of jealousy are felt. And this takes practice. To fully express what one is feeling in any given moment is not common practice in our western culture, it takes practice to be able to put words to feelings. But trust me, the sooner you get practicing the better. Of course this is but one half of the equation, by you communicating your feelings of jealousy, in turn initiates the dance both partners will have to navigate together. If your partner is not able to receive your expression, and instead collapses into a judgmental response, the beast is left unacknowledged and will undoubtedly shake the shackles a little more violently.
Communicating efficiently as a couple is a topic for another blog, but for now I shall focus on the particulars of communicating through jealousy.
Once you have expressed how you are feeling and both have acknowledged the beast, you have now effectively created space. The next step of the communication evolves into a very delicate dance. For now we must continue to communicate from a place of ownership. What I mean by this is each party must take full ownership for their feelings in the moment and their actions that may have led up to the beast being stirred in the first place.
If the pair fails to take this responsible stance, it will quickly escalate and unravel into a battle of projections and accusations.
Let’s unpack that a little. What do I mean by a projection? A projection is when we take an unwanted, uncomfortable or embarrassing trait or thought or feeling that we have inside of us, and throw it out to an external agent, in the hope that it sticks and therefore we no longer have to take ownership of it. What this essentially does is cause you to loose a portion of your power, and thus sets off an arms race of control between the rivalling parties involved. Accusations and tempers fly and both parties loose.
To avoid this takes skill and a special attention to your feelings. In order to guide you through this I have some guiding principles that may help you navigate these stormy seas.
Do Not Take It Personally
Firstly do not take it personally. We must allow the person to express fully, no matter how ugly it comes out. Allow them to do so, receive it, acknowledge them and thank them for expressing. Do not judge the expression.
Make No Assumptions
Secondly do not make assumptions about how the other person is feeling or what they are meaning to say, ask them. This will avoid unnecessary rabbit holes and extra trigger points.
Be Impeccable With Your Word
Thirdly, try your hardest to formulate your words, say what you mean and be as accurate as you can. Vagueness will cause more confusion and unnecessary irritation. Be careful that you are not using loaded words or sentences, and be vigilant that you don’t subtly begin to project onto the other person something that you should take ownership of. If you think the other person is right, take a deep breath, swallow your pride and acknowledge them. And a last one on this, don’t lie! It may be obvious but we often use little white lies in the hope of “winning” an argument.
Always Do Your Best
Lastly, it is important to have in the back of your mind, that you are both doing your best with the knowledge, information and skills available to you in that moment.
It is not going to be pretty in the beginning, it takes practice. Over time however, you will be able to navigate these types of conflicts more gracefully, and quickly.
There is perhaps one elephant in the room that I should point out in all this. If you are someone who suffers from jealousy often, it will serve you greatly to acknowledge there is deep inner healing that may need to happen. For there is some part of you that is feeling fearful and scared, even when “threatened” by an external agent.
These days I rarely feel the pangs of jealousy, and this has given my partner and I a greater sense of space, peace and love in our relationship. My next evolution now is to be able to experience the polar opposite of jealousy which is compersion; the feeling of happiness or joy because of the happiness or joy of another person.
Adam Gornall is an author, Transformational Mens & Relationship Coach and former Royal Marines Commando. He spends his days walking his dog Leo, taking ice baths, working from home surrounded by nature and friends. He plans to build a huge Viking Hall where he will host mens retreats to help them find their Peace, Power and Purpose. If you are interested to find out more about his work download the free guide to his course here.