Do you know the dif­fer­ence be­tween jeal­ousy and envy?

The Chronicle - - Health & Lifestyle -

IWORK with many clients who have dif­fi­culty man­ag­ing their emo­tions. Their emo­tions may be in­tense and con­fus­ing and when they act on them im­pul­sively, it can lead to all sorts of prob­lems. Two emo­tions that of­ten get mixed up are envy and jeal­ousy. Do you know the dif­fer­ence? I still have to think about it for a mo­ment to make sure I get them the right way round.

In a nut­shell, we ex­pe­ri­ence envy when oth­ers have some­thing we want or need but don’t have. We ex­pe­ri­ence jeal­ousy when we have some­thing that we want or need, but some­body else threat­ens to take that away.

A per­son feels envy to­wards some­one who has more money, more friends, a bet­ter job or life­style. Whereas, a per­son feels jeal­ousy to­wards some­one who threat­ens their re­la­tion­ships, life­style or so­cial sta­tus.

As a so­ci­ety we of­ten re­ceive mes­sages that we should be less emo­tional and more ra­tio­nal in or­der to func­tion at our best. It’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that we have emo­tions for a rea­son – we need them to sur­vive – and that in some cir­cum­stances, jeal­ousy and envy can serve us well.

Feel­ing jeal­ousy or envy com­mu­ni­cates im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion to our­selves (through thoughts, bod­ily sen­sa­tions and urges) and oth­ers (through our body lan­guage and be­hav­iour).

One of the key func­tions of any emo­tion is to prompt us into ac­tion and or­gan­ise our be­hav­iour. For ex­am­ple, if I envy some­one who has more money than me, this might prompt me to work hard for a pro­mo­tion. If I feel jeal­ous of some­one who is flirt­ing with my part­ner, this might prompt me to pay more at­ten­tion to my part­ner and make sure they are happy in the re­la­tion­ship.

Part of my job is help­ing my clients to work out when to act on their emo­tions. When our emo­tions are war­ranted, they are in­cred­i­bly use­ful. Prob­lems arise when our emo­tions don’t fit the re­al­ity of the sit­u­a­tion, or when they get in the way of achiev­ing our goals or liv­ing our lives in accordance with our val­ues.

Signs that envy has be­come prob­lem­atic in­clude feel­ing bit­ter and re­sent­ful, whereas un­war­ranted jeal­ousy may lead to be­ing over­pos­ses­sive, de­fen­sive or mis­trust­ful in re­la­tion­ships.

Dr El­lie Milby is a coun­selling psy­chol­o­gist

Envy can make us try harder

Jeal­ousy can make us treat our part­ner with more con­sid­er­a­tion

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