Overcoming Jealousy

September 6th, 2007 by Steve Pavlina

Overcoming jealousy has been one of my most requested topics for new articles, but in the past I’ve always declined such requests because I don’t have much personal experience in this area.  I’m not prone to jealousy, so I can’t explain from personal experience how to overcome it.  Nevertheless, due to the demand for such an article, I’ll risk sharing my thoughts on it anyway.

In my opinion jealousy is a side-effect of a mindset that’s rooted in scarcity.  Jealousy is the emotion resulting from the notion that another person’s success or happiness somehow diminishes your own.  If you look at the world from the lens of abundance instead of scarcity, it’s very difficult to become jealous.

From my standpoint another person’s success and happiness is a very good thing.  You could even say that’s my purpose in running this site.  When the people around me are happy and fulfilled, they’ll naturally spread those feelings to others.  This is a situation to be desired, not avoided.

I’d rather be surrounded by people who are doing better than me in some fashion than by people who are unhappy.  Seeing people exceed my capabilities doesn’t make me jealous.  It inspires me.

I have friends who are incredibly talented, and it’s hard for me to imagine ever being at their level.  But I can say with total honesty that I never feel jealous of their successes and accomplishments, even when they totally put me to shame with their skill.  And the reason is that I see reality in such a way that other people’s happiness is simply another expression of my own happiness.

Jealousy is a very ego-based notion.  If you want to feel jealous, you must first adopt a scarcity mindset that suggests we’re in competition with each other.  Reality must be reduced to your ego vs. other people.  If someone gets that great job, that wonderful girlfriend, or that new house, it means you can’t have it.  They won.  You lost.

There’s an element of scarcity in jealousy as well as an element of attachment.  If you want to become jealous, just become emotionally attached to something impermanent and then lose it to someone else.

What you may not yet realize is that the mindset of jealousy is in fact creative.  If you cling to a belief in scarcity, you’ll attract plenty of scarcity-based situations that will reflect that mindset back to you:  the promotion that you missed because someone else got it, the girlfriend you lost to your best friend, the parent that expresses more affection for your siblings instead of you.  Due to the creative nature of jealousy, I’ve no doubt whatsoever that if you’re prone to jealousy, you’ll find plenty of reasons to feel jealous.  I’m not saying those reasons aren’t valid or that you should just pretend you didn’t get the short end of the stick.  I’m sure you got shafted big time.  But are you aware of why this keeps happening to you?  Until you can reach that awareness, you’ll continue repeating the pattern of manifesting new reasons to be jealous.

My current view of reality makes it nearly impossible for jealousy to arise because I don’t subscribe to the belief that we’re all separate beings in competition with each other.  Instead I see us as projections of an all-encompassing consciousness.  This may sound a little strange, but I usually prefer not to think of myself as an individual human being.  I consider my ego to be nothing but a perspective — a lens through which consciousness can view and interact with its contents.  But by itself it has no real substance.

This is similar to the mindset you might have when dreaming.  If you became lucid (i.e. consciously aware that you’re dreaming while still in the dream world), you would know that the dream character you’re playing isn’t the real you.  That character is just a figment and doesn’t really exist at all.  In reality you are the dreamer, and the entire dream is contained within your consciousness.  The dream character you temporarily thought was you is just as much you as everything and everyone else in the dream.

Now if you hold this level of awareness that you’re the dreamer and not the character within the dream, would you become jealous of the other dream characters?  Not likely.  You may in fact consider their success and skill to be an enhancement of the dream world, which you’d probably perceive as a good thing.  Wouldn’t it be more fun to have a dream that you’re running around in the X-Men world, surrounded by characters that exceed your abilities vs. being surrounded by incompetent characters who are less skillful than you?  Why not hold this same attitude in your physical life too?  Isn’t it great to live in a world where others are even better off than you are?

Keep in mind that the dream will eventually end.  The whole thing is rooted in illusion.  It isn’t worth getting all worked up over that which you know to be impermanent.  You’ll find no long-term security there.  Instead focus on enjoying the unfolding story and immersing yourself in interesting experiences.  This will be far more fun than becoming overly attached to possessions or positions you may temporarily hold.

Every moment of this life is just so darned fascinating and wonderful.  We’re all sharing in the ongoing exploration of consciousness.  What one person (or character) experiences only enhances the whole.

When I see someone else’s success, I celebrate it as my own.  If I see someone do something that this seemingly limited person named Steve cannot seem to do, that’s of no consequence because I celebrate that the larger consciousness can do it, and that’s the real me anyway.

I’ve never climbed Mt. Everest, but since other people have done it, I feel as if the larger I (the consciousness in which reality unfolds — the true dreamer) has done it, so I allow myself to experience that as if it were a personal accomplishment.  That probably sounds strange if you’re very attached to an objective view of the world, but I find it an empowering perspective.

Interestingly I find that with this mindset, my reality doesn’t seem to give rise to situations that could make me jealous.  It’s not that I’m so great at managing my emotions — I just can’t find anything to be jealous about.  Perhaps it’s because I feel that whatever I want, I can basically have if I commit myself to having it.  But I think the bigger part is that I don’t maintain such a death-grip on what I have that I would be terribly upset to lose it, since I know I’m destined to lose all of it anyway.  I find that I enjoy my possessions and experiences even more by accepting that all of this is temporary.

Although it may seem like my possessions can be taken away and my positions degraded, those things aren’t real and substantive anyway, so they hold no inherent value.  The real value lies in the experience.

I remember Carolyn Myss saying during a lecture that we’re often willing to help people catch up to us, but we won’t help them pass us.  Is this true for you?

In The Joy of Sadness, I explained how even negative emotions can be transformed into positive ones when you can move beyond the ego’s perspective and see reality from the perspective of a higher consciousness.  From this perspective, jealousy would be like having your left hand accuse your right hand of stealing its ring.  That would be silly.  What sense does it make for your hands to fight with each other?  A jealous reaction does make some sense from the perspective of an individual hand, but it makes no sense from the perspective of the larger body.

Consequently, if you’re jealous, it’s because you’re thinking of yourself as a hand, forgetting that you’re really the whole body.  Everything you see and experience IS you.  So in this sense, if anyone has anything, then you have it too.

I know this perspective can be difficult to grasp.  I’m not suggesting it’s something you’ll pick up overnight.  Just play around with it.  Allow yourself to imagine the possibility that all of reality is in fact you.  You’re not just a body with a brain.  You’re actually the whole consciousness that’s experiencing this reality from a first-person perspective.  This is your dream, and you’re the dreamer.  There’s no past and no future.  There’s only this present moment.  From this perspective there can be no jealousy because there’s nothing outside yourself to be jealous of.

So that’s my stab at explaining how to overcome jealousy.  Stop thinking of yourself as such a small, limited piece of reality, and expand your consciousness to encompass all that exists.  That may sound like a wacky solution, but I can attest that it works.  How can you be jealous of a dream character when you know you’re the dreamer?


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