Hans Meijer BACP Accredited Counsellor / Psychotherapist Oxfordshire OX11

Envy and Jealousy

It seems to happen on walks. My companion said she was jealous, paused, and then asked, as if asking herself: ‘Or is it envy?’.

And so the subject of our conversation changed. What’s the difference? We agreed both envy and jealousy can provoke angry feelings. It can also make us feel sad. Somehow jealousy felt more painful.

Back home I took out the dictionary. It gives 6 definitions of jealous. What they seem to have in common is the loss of something one conceives of possessing; the care of the parent lost to the sibling, the lover lost to someone else. Envy contrariwise is about the desire to have something someone else possesses.

Both words relate to a situation in which there is an inequality: to have or have not. In such a situation one can feel angry, sad or both.

If I’m thinking I’m loosing my partner to someone else I could feel anger towards the person I fear loosing my partner to or towards my partner who is abandoning me. But I can also imagine feeling sad about the possible loss. In the first scenario I seem to focus on the other person not being okay and my anger urges me to do or say something that might change the situation. In the second scenario I feel sad. The sadness paralyzes, stops me, and I may wonder what’s wrong with me that makes me lose out.

Envy is about not having. Why do I not have what someone else has? And again, I can either feel sad or angry about this. The corona crisis makes some of us feel angry for the freedom that has been taken away from us by the government, others feel sad for the loss of intimici.

Envy can also provoker a feeling of sadness when for example a friend is getting married and we are still single. We may ask ourselves: ‘What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I find a partner?’

Jealousy is about perceived inequality in a three person relationship. The angry response seems to say: ‘You’re not okay’ and the sad feelings are about wondering: ‘What’s wrong with me?’

Envy is about perceived inequality between two people. Again one may feel anger towards the one who has and judge the inequality as the result of the other person being bad and sadness about self doubt.

I began by saying that during our walk we felt jealousy was more painful. But now I wonder what the difference is between the sadness felt when fearing loosing one’s partner and the sadness felt when thinking: ‘Why can’t I have a partner’. Is loosing hope as painful as an actual loss?


A little poem

Stories
I am
I am telling
Telling a story
Telling stories
I am


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