The Nature of Jealousy

Othello, the Moor of Venice is a tragedy by William Shakespeare. 

 In Othello, the hero Othello succumbs to jealousy when Iago convinces him that Desdemona has been an unfaithful wife. Iago uses jealousy against Othello, yet jealousy is likely the source of Iago’s hatred. In the end, Othello murders his wife and then kills himself.

“Often confused for one another, jealousy and envy are very different. Envy describes a reaction to wanting what someone else has. You might envy someone’s success, good looks, or a new car. Jealousy describes an emotional reaction to feeling that someone might try to take what you feel should be yours.” 

Many wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, and husbands talk about the fact that their husband or boyfriend is insistent that they are having an affair. These women feel overwhelmed and frustrated with their lovers because they try as hard as they can, but they cannot convince them of the errors in their thinking. The more they attempt to convince their lover that there is no cheating, the angrier the lover becomes. 

The brilliant and classic example of a jealous lover is Shakespeare’s towering and tragic play, “Othello.” Here is one quote of Othello expressing his despair about his wife, Desdemona. He is convinced that Desdemona is having an affair.

Othello:

“She’s gone. I am abused, and my relief

Must be to loathe her. O curse of marriage,

That we can call these delicate creatures ours

And not their appetites! I had rather be a toad

And live upon the vapor of a dungeon

Than keep a corner in the thing I love

For others’ uses. Yet ’tis the plague of great ones;

Prerogatived are they less than the base.

‘Tis destiny unshunnable, like death.” (III.iii.267–279)

Othello is convinced that his wife, Desdemona, is unfaithful.

He cursed marriage and women. Ultimately, he strangles her to death and unwittingly falls into the deadly hands of his enemies. He also learns, too late, the error of his thinking and kills himself.

A Modern Example of Delusional Jealousy:

The following is an anonymous E.Mail from a woman who found me via the internet. Her question is a modern-day version of delusional jealousy:

Anonymous E. Mail:

“I ended a relationship with a man who seems to suffer from this morbid/delusional jealousy issue and is also diagnosed Bipolar. After ten days with no contact with him, I have now received a message from him out of the blue saying that I am “sooooo busted,” implying that he has learned something new that somehow proves his belief that I was unfaithful to him. I am not dating now, have been basically only at home working and hiding since the breakup.”

 

“He is a brilliant man and is 50 years old with responsibilities and accomplishments. It is difficult for me to reconcile this crazy behavior with what I know about him. I keep thinking that if I could just reason with him he will finally break through. But after so much reasoning that only led to more insanity and our eventual breakup, I know it gets me nowhere and seems to make him even angrier.”

Discussion:

Jealousy is a complicated human emotion. It is based on love, hate, paranoia, insecurity, and self-hate. In this quote and elsewhere in the play, Othello shows his self-hatred by comparing himself to a toad.

It is essential to point out that jealousy can be a normal human emotion experienced by most people at least once. Jealousy becomes a problem when it refuses to diminish in intensity and when the thinking of the jealous individual is fixed on that one idea.

It might be difficult to believe that jealousy can be based on love. However, the jealous individual wants to possess their lover completely. They believe the loved one is so lovable that others may steal her away, resulting in tragic abandonment and loss. 

Yet, jealousy is also based on hatred. The loved one is viewed as having power, choice, great beauty, and will leave. In this thinking, one must carefully guard the loved one, or the loved one will go astray.

The fixed paranoid, delusional thinking of this type of lover can be symptomatic of a more serious mental illness. In the E. Mail sample above, the former girlfriend reports that her ex-lover was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. In the throes of a manic or deeply depressive phase of the illness, a Bipolar patient can become quite delusional and even experience hallucinations. 

Having Bipolar Disorder does not mean that a person will have a jealous delusion, nor does having a jealous delusion mean that a person has Bipolar Disorder.

The fixed delusional jealous thinking is marked by the constant suspicion that the loved one is guilty of infidelity. This paranoid delusion is accompanied by constantly harassing the loved one with questions and accusations about how they spent the day, where they went, and with whom they spoke. In the worst cases, the jealous spouse attempts to control their partner’s life and intrudes into every aspect of their life, looking for evidence of cheating. As in Othello, the jealous delusion can cause murder.

Some argue that a delusion did not plague Othello because his enemies planted the idea in him that Desdemona was unfaithful. In contrast, a jealous delusion is based on no evidence at all.

A fixed delusion is precisely what the term implies. It is fixed, meaning an individual will not budge from their belief. Because the belief is delusional, protests of incense only provoke more suspicions. It is additionally essential to point out how our E. Mailer complains that her boyfriend became increasingly angry the more she insisted on her innocence.

Jealousy is a complicated human emotion. It is based on love, hate, paranoia, insecurity, self-hate, and low self-esteem. It is essential to point out that it is also a normal human emotion experienced by most people at least once. Jealousy becomes a problem when it refuses to diminish in intensity.

It might be difficult to believe that jealousy can be based on love. However, the jealous individual wants to possess their lover completely. They believe the loved one is so loveable that others may capture them, resulting in tragic loss. It’s a great compliment to be with someone jealous because of the value they place on their partner.

Not so fast, though, because jealousy is also based on hatred. The loved one is viewed as having power, choice, and the ability to abandon and leave the partner. The loved one must carefully guard the loved one, or they will stray.

But why would the jealous person fear their partner will stray? The answer is that, from the point of view of the jealous individual, any competitor is more masculine/feminine, handsome/beautiful, sexy, and appealing than they are. The jealous person believes that any other choice of lover is better than they are. Of course, there is a lot of self-hatred, insecurity, and low self-esteem in how the jealous person thinks.

Sometimes there is a paranoid and obsessive component to jealousy. For people who suffer from paranoia, there is a constant suspicion that others mean them no suitable. This type of paranoid jealousy is marked by constantly harassing the loved one with questions and accusations about how they spent the day, where they went, and with whom they spoke. The paranoid lover will check the cell phone messages of their lover and their E. Mail messages and postal envelopes and letters. This person is obsessed with their partner and is tortured with fear that nothing good is happening. In the worst cases, they attempt to control their partner’s life, preventing them from going anywhere or doing anything. For example, a husband who experiences paranoid jealousy may prohibit his wife from getting a job and going to work. In effect, he stifles his wife in every way.

For those suffering from jealousy, it’s essential to enter psychotherapy and work on why you are jealous and how it interferes with your thirty-year marriage. If your paranoid beliefs are genuinely delusional, medication might help relieve some of this thinking. In addition to individual psychotherapy, with or without medication, I would suggest marriage therapy so that the two of you can begin to resolve your differences, suspicions, and conflicts. Also, understand that you and your wife each deserve the opportunity to see other friends and engage in activities apart from one another. A successful marriage is based on mutual trust.

The Optimist, Pessimist, Realist

Being realistic is the best way to go.

The Optimist vs. The Pessimist vs. The Realist

“A pessimist sees a dark tunnel.

An optimist sees the light at the end of the tunnel.

A realist sees a freight train.

A train driver sees three idiots standing on the tracks.”

Everyone knows the proverbial question: Is the glass of water half-full or half-empty? The optimist would state that it’s half full and probably predict it will soon be full of water again. The pessimist would state that it’s half-empty and is in danger of soon becoming empty. It’s all a matter of perspective, mood and personality.

Pessimism:

“When the sun finally shines through after the rain, and someone comments on how nice it is, the pessimist will complain about how everyone will crowd the streets to soak in the sun.”

Pessimism is an explanatory style in which individuals expect a negative outcome when facing events of unknown emotional impact.

A mother and father have a three-year-old little girl. When she gets a sore throat, the father becomes alarmed and worries that she has strep throat. He fears it could turn into scarlet fever, resulting in damage to her heart. The mother is sure she has a bad cold and is fine. However, to relieve her husband’s anxiety, the mother takes the girl to the pediatrician, who reports that this is a cold virus and there is no need to worry. When she lets her husband know about this, he feels better but continues to worry. Was he right to worry?

Optimism:

“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different good weather.”

Optimists have a different way of looking at life than pessimists. The optimist believes problems are temporary and will get better. The pessimist is sure that the problem is here to say and can only get worse. In the cases above, both optimists and pessimists believe that their view of the glass is correct. The pessimist would predict that there will be no water available to replace the glass once the glass is empty.

The father worries himself unnecessarily in the second case, even after the doctor examines the little girl. His personality is such that he sees only clouds and rarely notices sunny days.

Some psychologists state that optimists and pessimists have opposite ways of thinking. As a result, pessimists are prone to depression. In addition, they experience more health problems and do not live as long as the optimists.

There is a place for both optimists and pessimists. Unchecked optimism can be unrealistic and result in lots of trouble. An overly optimistic person may make unrealistic plans that they do not have time for and cannot afford. The pessimist helps bring reality to the situation by reminding everyone of the limited possibilities of specific plans that may not be practical or even dangerous. Too much pessimism leads to depression.

Realism:

“While an optimist might call the rain the sweet nectar that bathes the earth, the realist will call the precipitation a liquid.”

A realist will see things the way they are and not by the negative or the positive scheme. He will take each day as it comes, learning to cope with anything negative and enjoying the positive. Even the thinking is that the optimists are the most optimally adjusted individuals. In reality, the realists are more so. While optimists may look at and concentrate on only the positive things in life, they often view the world with rose-tinted glasses, refusing to see the bad at all. Which often leads to extreme disappointments. To put it simply, a realist hopes for the best and is prepared for the worst.

A realist only forms an opinion after analyzing all the data and information that is available to him. He does not let expectations decide the way he feels. Thus, his opinions, decisions, and outlook are usually unbiased.

Contact Dr. Schwartz at dransphd@aol.com

Do You Wish Your Life Away?

Do You Wish Your Life Away?

“To live in the present moment is a miracle. The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green Earth in the present moment, to appreciate the peace and beauty that are available now.”

Thich Nhat Hanh, Touching Peace: Practicing the Art of Mindful Living

The other day, I went into a local luncheon restaurant and ordered a cup of coffee and a toasted bagel with cream cheese. The young server smiled pleasantly and said, “Ooooh, I get happier as the time gets closer to 1:00 PM.” I was tempted to get into a short conversation with her about this but quickly surmised that she would react as though I was preaching to her, and I did not want that. However, this little interaction gave me pause for some thinking. After all, I asked myself, how often do all of us engage in the same thinking style as the young woman?

Aren’t we all guilty of wishing our lives away without thinking about it? At work, we watch the clock. We count the months and days until vacation. We hurry to wash the dishes so we can see our favorite television program. Once we reach retirement age, we convince ourselves that real life will begin.

Of course, the reverse of this also happens. How often do we engage in feelings and thoughts of self-pity about the past? How often do we make such statements as, “if only I had done this or that,” or, “If only I this event or that event had not happened,” or, “life has never been fair to me.” We “cry over spilled milk.”

The intent is not to be dark and cynical here. Quite to the contrary, my intent is to communicate the concept of embracing and living life to the fullest. That life is fragile because we never really know what may happen. It is essential to be living in the present moment. This way of thinking is a severe problem because none of us can guarantee that tomorrow will come, and we cannot change the past. Yes, each of us has our past lives, and each of us makes plans for tomorrow, next month, and next year. However, we overlook it now.

The great Buddhist teacher and expert on mindfulness and meditation, Thich Nhat Hanh, expressed it best when he stressed the importance of focusing on this moment because we will never have it again once this moment is gone. Another teacher is our American, John Kabbat-Zinn. I highly recommend his many books for their simplicity and great wisdom about living our lives. Just do an Internet search for him.

One of the most self-destructive ways for us to destroy now is to be obsessed with work. This is also referred to as a “Type A Personality” who runs from task to task, never coming up from work to inhale and smell the fresh air. It is a heart attack to awaken these people if they are lucky enough to survive.

Are you mindful of your life and body? Do you take time to smell the roses? Do you live in the moment or dwell on the past while waiting for tomorrow? 

Perhaps it is time for all of us to practice mindful meditation.

 

Catastrophic Thinking, Of Making Mountains out of Molehills

Do you make mountains out of molehills? This is a more severe issue that may appear on the surface. Whenever anyone spilled anything on the tablecloth, even just a glass of water, my grandmother would become furious when I was a boy. She was not unusual for having that reaction. Sometimes, the littlest things make people angry. One way of thinking about this concept is to realize that some of us turn the most minor incidents into catastrophes. Statistics show that altercations over trivial issues sometimes result in homicide.

To a certain extent, the tendency to make mountains out of molehills has to do with worrying and obsessive thinking. Because of the watch or clock not being precisely set on time, people with OCD become exceedingly uncomfortable, worrying about potentially terrible consequences. For those with OCD, everything must be perfect, or there can be catastrophic consequences. These people live in a world of “what if,” meaning what if the clock is set wrong, and my children get up late for school, and a terrible car accident occurs on the way to school.

This way of thinking and living makes life unbearable for those who worry and the loved ones who surround them. Graham C.L. Davey, Ph.D., conducted a piece of research on why we worry? Interviews of chronic worriers were conducted using questions such as “why worry about getting good grades in school?

*Here are some of the catastrophic consequences that chronic worriers came up with:

“I won’t live up to my expectations

I’d be disappointed in myself.                                           

I’d lose my self-confidence.                                                

My loss of self-confidence would spread to other areas of my life.       

I wouldn’t have as much control as I’d like.                     

I’d be afraid of facing the unknown.                                

I’d become very anxious.                                                   

Anxiety would lead to further loss of self-confidence.    

I wouldn’t get my confidence back.                                  

I’d feel like 1 wouldn’t control my life.    

I’d be susceptible to things that wouldn’t bother me.  

I’d become more and more anxious.                                

I’d have no control, and I’d become mentally ill.    

I’d become dependent on drugs and therapy.                

I’d always remain dependent on drugs.                          

They’d deteriorate my body.                                             

I’d be in pain.                                                                      

I’d die.                                                                                  

I’d end up in hell.”

* From Graham C.L. Davey, Ph.D. 

Another theory states that people men make mountains out of molehills when they feel aggressive and competitive. Aggressive reactions have to do with competing for status. Two men compete for the status of one over the other. In this primitive way of thinking, the most aggressive wins the girl. That is why, as stated above, some arguments over trivial things result in homicide.

Whatever way you choose to look at this, making mountains out of molehills results in frustration and misery for all concerned. It’s better the let these things go. What my grandmother should have done was smile and clean up the spill. Perhaps, if this had been her approach to life, she would not have had a heart condition. It was just an accident.

Instead of exploding, take deep breaths, say a mantra by reminding yourself, “it’s not worth it,” and see the humor in the situation.

Contact Dr. Schwartz at dransphd@aol.com