Tom watches his neighbor Stan pull in next door with a shiny new car.
The first thing he feels as his heart starts racing is not happiness for his neighbor’s good fortune, but rather a surge of uncontrollable jealousy. Tom glares resentfully at his own pathetic heap of tin sitting in the driveway like an eyesore, and begins rubbing his temples feeling a headache coming on.
Jealousy quickly morphs into overwhelming regret and self-pity as he miserably turns away from the window muttering under his breath. No other emotion, with the exception of anger, is as destructive as the “Green-eyed monster” of jealousy.
There is an area located in the prefrontal lobe of the brain where jealousy is generated. It also happens to be the same area associated with physical pain which explains why in the grips of jealousy, Tom experienced real physical symptoms.
So, the million dollar question is whether jealousy is an emotion that nature equipped us with for a specific purpose or if it is a man-made emotion.
Much debate has gone on amongst psychologists since the 1990s that jealousy is an emotion which dates back to early man’s need to reproduce. Whilst finding the fittest mate to carry on the species appeared to create competition in both sexes, its affects were primarily noted in the male species (You Jane, me Tarzan..grunt, grunt.)
Based on this theory, it may be reasonable to argue that today’s modern man may still have that primal trigger hard-wired somewhere in the brain’s circuitry.
Jealousy appears to show itself in varying shades of green. Resting on the opposite side of jealousy is envy which is not as destructive as its counterpart jealousy. Envy may actually be more intrinsically positive then jealousy-motivating us to set higher goals for ourselves and then pushing us to achieve them.
For example, one primitive man might have looked longingly at a potential mate sought after by another suitor and envy motivated him to woo her harder. Whilst another man might be overtaken by a fit of jealousy, beat the competition into a coma and then victoriously drag his prize into his cave.
Interestingly enough, while anger is an emotion that society accepts (and arguably nurtures) more in men than women, there doesn’t appear to be any gender discrimination when it comes to jealousy. It is an emotion that seems shared equally between both sexes.
Even more interesting is how jealousy permeates our society today like a cancer because of how materialistic our western culture has become. Forget keeping up with the Jones, with reality television and social networking, now have we have the Kardashians to keep up with (ahem…think its best I take the fifth on this one).
Here’s the bottom line folks, like any emotion, we have the power to control jealousy. The key is learning to stop it in its tracks before it threatens to take us to the point of no return.
Repeatedly comparing ourselves or our situation with that of others is a kind of sickness of the mind. It creates more unhappiness than any other human condition.
There is an old Tibetan proverb that says: “To know how to be satisfied is to hold a treasure in the palm of your hand.” Because we know that envy can quickly descent into jealousy pretty darn quickly and that guy hangs out with self-pity and regret, it’s just best to stay away from the whole motley crew.
When you feel envy sneaking its way into your noggin, stomp it out before it has the chance to build into an inferno.
We are given all these emotions to navigate as human beings, but we are also equipped with ample amounts of self-will and control. If we choose to allow our emotions to take charge of our life then we have no one to blame but ourself if we end up allowing our emotions to imprison us.
Mental discipline is exactly what Tom needed when he saw Stan proudly rolling into his driveway with his new toy. Jealousy should have immediately been escorted to the closest exit by envy who then quipped: Hey man, Stan got a new ride, we need to figure out a way to get one too.
The voice of reason then immediately following up with yep, as Tom smiled and waved at Stan.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Dana Gornall/Editor: Renée Picard
Photo Credit: Sea Turtle/Flickr