Treat Jealousy Like Asthma

by Reid on May 27, 2013


Jealousy isn’t something we look at closely, in general. We’re mostly taught that jealousy is bad, painful, shameful, and there is no relief. When it comes for you, you’re sunk, and it’s better to pretend it doesn’t exist and to just suffer through it when it does happen. (Or, blame our partners viciously if jealousy gets triggered.)

We all have moments of jealousy and envy. Because of this, ignoring or pretending it doesn’t exists makes no sense. What does makes sense is to learn to handle the triggers and the emotions around jealousy, rather than always trying to avoid and escape. Rather than being on the run, learning to understand jealousy and its triggers ultimately takes less energy and can add ease and confidence in our relationships!

I grew up in a family where my younger brother was THE football star of New Hampshire and he’s still the person they talk about and compare every other NH football player to. I was the fat fifth-grader who couldn’t play Pop Warner Football with my brother because I was too heavy to make the weight limit cutoff. I was relegated to water boy, and I would have all this envy going on for myself. It took a lot of my energy and focus.

Later on, I learned how to take that envy and redirect it so that I could actually celebrate my brother’s greatness and his achievements. This shift gave me the freedom and energy to go create my own achievements… not in a competitive way, but in a way where it brought my brother and I closer.

I still get side-swipped by jealousy and envy in similar ways even today. Instead of it being my brother the football star I envy, now it’s the careers, workshops, and books of my sex educator peers! When they book some speaking gig, TV appearance… Or come up with some brilliant workshop or book… BANG! — I’m flush with envy and it creates a distance between us. But I can interrupt that jealousy and envy. I can actually praise my peers WHILE learning from them! Instead of stewing in negative thoughts, I congratulate them and ask them “how did you do that thing that you did so that I can create that in my life, too?!”

My Solution: I started treating jealousy like asthma.

Treating Jealousy Like Asthma

GIF of a blonde woman breathing into a paper bag and hold out her hand in a "Wait a moment" gesture

First, you need to recognize you’re having an “attack.”

Many of us were never taught to identify jealousy or envy. By the time you start to notice “something is off,” it’s too late because you’re deep into having a full-blown jealousy attack.

The time to take action is the moment you start noticing yourself feeling bad because someone else has an experience that you haven’t had, or is something you think you’re not deserving of/capable of/good enough to do/etc.

What actions should you take? I’ll discuss that below.

Second… Learn how to preemptively approach your “asthma.”

Just like asthma can be triggered by cat dander, exercise, stress, a fragrance, or some combination of factors… jealousy can be triggered by certain experiences. Think of them like the cat dander of jealousy, the stuff/situations/etc. that get you wheezing and your chest emotionally constricted. Once you recognize YOUR triggers, you can begin to learn how to avoid them. Then, the blackbelt move is to start learning how YOU can inoculate yourself against the fears, beliefs, and emotions underlieing those triggers.

What Are Your Jealousy Triggers?

If cat dander sets off your asthma, you can avoid going to the person’s house who’s got five cats. Or when it’s a new person’s house and you realize they have cats, you know what to do next to help yourself.

Similarly, knowing what triggers a jealousy attack allows you to steer clear of them or recognize them much faster when they arise. And when you start experiencing emotional “tightness,” you can reach for (almost like using your inhaler) the take action steps that help keep your “emotional airways” open.

GIF of an asian man using an asthma inhaler and then, in slow motion, him opening wide his arms, as wind blows his dress shirt open in a sign of free airways

Meet The 8 Triggers of Jealousy

I go into these triggers in much more depth in my jealousy program and give you keys to diffusing them, but a quick rundown… They are:

  • Possessiveness/Control/Feeling Special
  • Insecurity
  • Loss
  • Rejection
  • Loneliness
  • Fairness and Equity
  • Self-Concept or Feelings of Inferiority
  • Longing and Scarcity

Once you understand your triggers, you can start defusing them. And that’s when life gets really fun!

Love and Ease

Needs And Jealousy

When you get really savvy with it, you can start looking at the needs underneath those triggers. Then you can start figuring out how to get those needs met in your life, so that jealousy doesn’t really happen.

Instead of a green-eyed-beast out to ruin your life and your relationships, jealousy can be looked at as a signal that there are needs in your life that you’re not getting met. Once you learn how to source those needs, when things are going really well and you feel top of the world, it’s hard to feel jealous.

Getting your needs met allows you to walk through the world with a strong sense of confidence. Knowing these triggers and tools may also allow you to support others because you get to help them figure out what they’re needs are and how those get met.

Some of you might be thinking this is impossible! You may be thinking, “I’ve been racked with jealousy my entire life. My parents, everyone in my family is jealous!” If you feel powerless about this, relax. That’s just what you’ve been taught… Just like early* contemporaries of Galileo thought the Earth was at the center of the universe, you were given what they thought was the best information. But it was wrong! Our culture teaches us to avoid jealousy at all costs. We are taught that jealousy destroys. Once you reframe this and look at jealousy like a warning signal, everything looks different and you get a lot more power.

Jealousy = Check Your Engine (Needs)

Check engine light image

[Hat tip to Kamala Devi McClure whom I first heard compare jealousy to a “Check Engine” light.]

It’s as if generations of people had been taught to ignore, hide and be ashamed of the check engine light in their car…and wondered why their cars (relationships) were breaking down left and right. Now we can see the light go on and say, “Hmmm, I wonder what the car needs right now? Some oil? A tune-up?” and have their cars (relationships) run smoother, longer, and easier.

Most of the people around you have grown up with their jealousy muscles completely atrophied. As you practice, you start to learn these skill sets and start to get your sea legs and realize, “Oh my goodness. I actually can make a difference around these complex swirls of emotion!” That’s an amazing moment for a lot of people.

Lots of people are ashamed to talk about jealousy or even admit they’re jealous, so I’d love to offer you a challenge. Until you can talk about it, until you admit you have a problem, you’re not going to make any changes. Where is the check engine light on in your relationships? Where are you jealous and what would it be like if you were less jealous? Leave a comment in the comments section below.

And if you’d like to master your envy and jealousy, and make your relationships run like a well-maintained car, purchase my Battling the 8-Armed Octopus of Jealousy program today!


P.S. Ready to learn the difference between Jealousy vs Envy? Click here to find out.

P.P.S. Not quite ready to take the dive into the full Jealousy workshop? No worries. You can get familiar with the 8 Arms of Jealousy with the FREE Jealousy Map! Get your free Jealousy Map here:

*I put in “early” because a large portion of Galileo’s peers accepted that the earth couldn’t be at the center of the universe after Galileo’s publications, though they did not accept the Copernican** model of heliocentrism, which is what Galileo was trying to find evidence for (and was thought of as a blasphemous).1

**It would be more accurate to say this about Nicolaus Copernicus who came out with his model about 50 years earlier, but he is not as popularly known as Galileo.2 [End of nerding-out.]

[End of nerding-out.]



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