Jealousy is a normal emotion experienced by all human beings. Yet we all know that some people experience very high levels of jealousy. Jealousy differs from envy. Envy relates to what others possess. This means that you may be envious of other’s talents or possessions. With jealousy three people are involved and the jealous person feels or fears that the other person is more loved or special. Jealousy can be the central theme in some people’s lives. They are constantly aware of the amount of attention, affection and love others receive and tend to feel threatened and fear that someone else is preferred above them. This feeling and fear is often very unrealistic and normal interactions are interpreted incorrectly as meaning that someone else is preferred. For example, when your girlfriend speaks to an old friend, you could feel jealous fearing that she prefers the friend or when your husband smiles at someone you could feel a pang of pain fearing that that person is more special to your husband than you are. From these examples it is clear that jealousy involves three people. When there are only two people involved there is no one to feel jealous of.
We must all at times tolerate situations where we are not the most special person to another person. You might have a good friend, but you are not her best friend. Your partner could really leave you for another. In these cases you must tolerate not being the most special person to a loved other or even being replaced. Some people find it so difficult when they are replaced that they can go as far as murdering the person who betrays them, or the person who replaces them. Some men find it very difficult when their wife has a baby and they have to share their wife with this baby. The father can start feeling hostile towards the baby who is experienced as a rival.
Some people whose central problem is jealousy find another way of dealing with the fear of being replaced. They put themselves in the powerful position of causing jealousy in others. In this way they can make others feel what they fear most. An example of this is a Don Juan who moves from one relationship to the next, seducing one woman after another yet never really committing to anyone. The women involved with a Don Juan has to experience being replaced by the next women and feeling the pain and jealousy involved. In this way the Don Juan causes these women to experience what he fears feeling. The Don Juan is the victor who is always the special one and never feels the pain of being replaced. The Don Juan is unconsciously trying to overcome his own trauma.
Why are certain people’s lives so dominated by jealousy or evoking jealousy in others? The answer is mostly not conscious. Most people cannot explain why they are so sensitive to feeling replaced and so desperate to be the special one. We are all born with the need for high levels of attention and love and infants struggle when these needs are frustrated. Some adults who missed out on experiencing this adequately still desperately longs to have someone who is just theirs. The first experience of being replaced is often at the time of the birth of a next sibling. Before this you (hopefully) had a very special place with your mother. Now another (the new baby) has taken this place. The very place you still long to be in. This can cause severe rage and confusion in the older sibling. Some siblings go as far as being violent towards the new baby or asking the mother to return the baby to the hospital. Many children regress (return to younger behaviour) when a baby is born. The young child who could talk and was potty trained may now revert to the type of speech found in younger children and soil his/her pants. For some children, particularly when the new child is preferred and more loved, the birth of a new sibling is enormously traumatic and sets up a life long pattern of fearing being replaced or (like the Don Juan) forever putting others in the position where they are replaced. We often repeat what is traumatic. This is called repetition compulsion – the compulsion to repeat trauma over and over again. This process is not conscious. The Don Juan is caught in an unconscious repetition compulsion. Unconsciously you are eternally fearing a repetition of that replacement. We all start life longing to be the only and most special person to our mothers. Only if you experienced this adequately at a very early age can you give up the longing to always be the only person to your loved one. There are also other forms of replacement that can be very traumatic to children, e.g. when your parent remarries after an divorce and you feel replaced by your parents new spouse. Extreme jealousy in adults always point back to traumatic loss of feeling special and the experience of being replaced during your childhood.