I think we must first start by understanding what jealousy is. For the sake of this discussion let’s limit jealousy to that found in relationships, and not the types of jealousy that come from other origins, such as materialistic envy.
I think that jealousy is, at its root, a crisis of identity. I believe that jealousy is a type of anxiety or worry. Jealousy comes as a result of putting too much of one’s self-identity into another person; i.e. becoming reliant on an external source for one’s definition of oneself. For example, people who feel they are falling in love, often put huge amounts of their self-worth into the arms of the other person. They rely on that person for compliments, for praises, and for criticism. In short, they cease to judge themselves, and rely on the other person’s judgement in order to determine who they are, and what their value is.
What then happens, is that when a person has given a significant amount of control over to another person, then all is well when they are together. Because these people are together, they’re able to easily judge and see how the other person feels towards them, and then they will mirror those feelings at themself. If your partner is happy with you, then you are happy with yourself. If your partner becomes angry with you, then you start to feel significantly less good about yourself. While most people don’t give up 100% control of their emotions and self-worth to their partner, they often invest significantly more than they necessarily think they do.
When people are apart and are this heavily invested, then they start to feel worry and anxiety, because they’re not sure how to feel about themself. Because they’re so reliant upon their partner, in their partner’s absence, they worry “is he/she thinking about me?” “how does he/she feel about me right now?” “is he/she thinking good things about me?” “does he/she like me?”. In this sort of absence, worry and anxiety start to take over. A person is looking for something, any sort of sign to know how to feel towards him/herself. This is why, a simple “hello” text message in the middle of the day can incredibly change a person’s mood.
And then we come to jealousy. That ugly green devil. Jealousy is a direct result of the identity crisis caused by putting too much stock into another person’s opinion of yourself. When your partner is with another guy/girl, and you’re already starting from a state of mind where you are dependent upon the other person to know how to feel towards yourself, then the uncertainty becomes even larger. The fear of your partner deciding that they like someone else better than they like you is the key fear here. This is because, if all of your self-worth is stored in someone else’s opinion of you, then if that other person likes someone else more than you, then it means that that someone else, by default, is more valuable than you are. Suddenly your self-image, self-worth, and self-value will plummet.
But I think that jealousy is mainly an anxiety towards the possibility of this happening.
So, now that we understand jealousy, how do we avoid it? Well, the simple answer is, don’t let your self-worth depend on the opinion of others, even if it’s the opinions of your close friends, loved ones, and boyfriend/girlfriend. By avoiding this from the beginning, you can avoid this pitfall of jealousy. Unfortunately, if you’re already feeling jealousy, it’s a dangerous sign that you’re already too reliant on another person for your own happiness. So you need to ween yourself off of that dependency.