One of my friends has a husband who adores her, and he’s loyal to his core. But she feels jealous and tries to control him. So he behaves cautiously. He avoids being alone with women and avoids talking to them in her presence. But because she believes every negative thing she tells herself, his actions can’t help.
She’s in a relationship with fear, which is bigger than her relationship with him. It causes her to believe the worst, and she says things like, “Everyone’s competing with me. I can’t trust anyone.”
She doesn’t feel safe, so she tries to possess him by manipulating him emotionally. “I want to have you all to myself. Otherwise, I’ll feel threatened.” And since she lives in fear of not having him, she can’t experience the joy of being with him.
WHAT’S THE ANSWER?
Hashing out the reasons behind feeling jealous keeps the focus on the problem. And focusing negatively on problems doesn’t solve them, because thinking at the level of the problem makes the solution impossible to see.
What will help more is to become conscious of our true motivations by noticing what happens, identifying the cause that made it happen, and acknowledging that we set that cause in motion. The goal is to manage our issues without being motivated by fear, by staying focused on what we want and why we want it.
NAMING THE NAME
We can’t stop doing what we don’t know we’re doing. And we can’t find release from what we’re not willing to admit. So the first step is to acknowledge what we’re doing.
Emotions are goal-oriented activities that we do on purpose to achieve something we want. So acting happy or angry or jealous is not the result of circumstances or people. It’s the result of what we think and believe.
It can help to name our emotions precisely, based on why we’ve chosen to express them. Instead of saying, “You make me angry when you do that!” say, “I believe that you should do what I want you to do, and I can’t stand it when you don’t, so I’m choosing anger to try to manipulate you.”
Emotions are either effective or ineffective at achieving desired results. And by naming our emotions based on our intention, it can be easier to determine whether we’re getting what we want. Instead of saying, “You hurt me when you look at other women,” say, “I’m desperately trying to hold onto you so that I can feel safe and loved, but I’m afraid that I’m losing you. So I’m choosing to express jealousy and anger, to manipulate you into staying with me.”
WHY NAMING THE NAME WORKS
Acknowledging our emotions and our behavior patterns that aren’t working for us – simply noticing what we’re doing without denying, justifying, feeling guilty, or judging it as right or wrong – can create dramatic positive change, as it causes those patterns to lose power over us.
When we can acknowledge precisely what we’re doing (the emotion we’ve chosen), and accurately identify our motivation for choosing it and what the result is, we’ll know whether our emotions are effective or ineffective at getting the results we want. And if not, it’s time to take a look at what we really want and how we can achieve it.
The goal is to take responsibility for our emotions and the results we’re causing in our interactions. Then my friend can say to her partner, “I want you to enjoy the moments you’re with me, and also the moments you’re not with me. And I want us to enjoy being together, because we want it, not because we’re obligated.”
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Pic by Mike Ricioppo