Jealousy and Envy: The good, the bad and the ugly

Jealousy can make us question our self worth and try to take control

Are people in the City of Vancouver jealous of each other? This was on the minds of Vancouverites as they were glued to the television for the premiere of The Real Housewives of Vancouver last week. The show focused on the glamorous lives of five well-to-do women in their luxurious homes that would probably take most of us four lifetimes of working to own.

The show took us through flashes of the ladies tennis courts, mansions, botox, ladies lunching, shopping, expensive cars and, oh of course, the catfights. Cast member Ronnie Seterdahl is a self proclaimed domestic goddess/professional shopper/ mother of five/wife and jetsetter. Seterdahl heated things up on the show by claiming that women are catty and jealous often wishing they had her beautiful home and family. She seemed willing to accept and equate this to the nature of the beast.

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So what is it about jealousy and envy that makes it so ugly and makes us feel less than enough? The difference between envy and jealousy is that envy occurs when you want something someone else has. A comparison of the self in relation to the other occurs putting you in a position that is inferior in comparison to the other and can be quite diminishing. Jealousy, on the other hand, occurs when youre trying to prevent someone from taking something you currently have. The reason we are so attracted to reality TV shows that feature wealth, power and success is because we often want an element of something that they have. The closer the similarities to the other person we have, the closer we move from envy to jealousy.

The women of The Real Housewives of Vancouver were quick to show themselves off as living large in the city and none of them are willing to share their title of being on the top. Jealousy ensues as a result, making the drama juicy for those around to watch. Similarity also breeds liking and as long as producers can draw an element of similarity between the women and the wider public we will continue to watch.

So can or will women be able to get along and not feel jealous if we are all racing towards the top of the hierarchy? The answer is yes. A successful society is based on cooperation based on our evolutionary tendencies. Only when we widen the scope to include others at the top we can move away from a self-focused perspective that breed jealousy and selfishness.

I also had readers writing in and wondering about my thoughts on jealousy in relationships. Similar to anger, I think jealousy is a normal emotion that serves to inform and attune you to things. It is how you attempt to resolve it that can be a problem. The peering eye at another girl while youre having dinner out or a semi flirtatious text from a man friend can soar our insecurities about where we stand in our partners eyes into high gear. We want to protect what is ours and our fear of losing it can drive us to take charge of the wheel to gain control.

Social media such as Facebook has made it complicated for couples mainly because it allows an avenue for flirtatious exchanges or emotional cheating. Partners downplay the effects of it by putting the accountability onto an extremely insecure partner who simply needs to get over it. It is hurtful and selfish to engage in flirtatious exchanges to reaffirm your worthiness at the expense of your partner. Through time, it becomes a chronically diminishing factor for the quality of your relationship and your partners sense of self worth. This is the reason that many couples will go on for years in relationships that tolerate and walk this fine line of emotional abuse before they are able to leave. The new standard for reaffirming the self worth of the wounded in their eyes is from the partner they hope would eventually see them as the only one.

Jealousy gives us an important cue that our emotional safety is being jeopardized and couples should explore what makes each person feel safe and enact it in a way that will allow for a secure bond. Past experiences of hurt and betrayal may also make partners hyper vigilant to situations that threatens their self worth and identity.

Although jealousy brings forth great drama pushing those involved to the extremes, it is better left to those who do it best on reality TV shows. It may not be the reality we would like to live in but as Jody Claman from The Housewives of Vancouver says: Let the games begin.

Amy Yew is a researcher and therapist. Tell us what you think and submit any questions you have to amyvancouvercourier@gmail.com. You can also tweet your thoughts on Twitter @AmyYew.

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