Is There a Way Out of its Doom and Gloom?
From the corner of his eye he saw his wife making her way to the foyer area of the house, where a group of young, handsome guys from his office were chatting. His wife joined the group and soon seemed to be in the "thick" of conversation and jokes. Somehow he had never felt comfortable attending this upscale reception party celebrating his colleague's ten-year marriage anniversary. And seeing his wife "making out" with other guys, he now knew that his pre-party uneasiness was not unfounded. He felt humiliated that that his wife "abandoned" him in such a callous way and was being promiscuous. He was getting more and more angry as he saw her "flirting" with these guys. Finally, he just could not take this any more. He walked up to her and announced that he was ready to leave. Surprised, at the suddenness of his decision to leave, she asked him to stay a bit longer. But he was not willing to stay even one more second and left the house in a huff; she followed him. And as soon as they sat in the car and pulled away from the driveway, he started criticizing her for being irresponsible, inconsiderate, uncaring and just incapable of doing anything right in life. He went on with his tirades, humiliating her repeatedly. Not knowing the reason for his sudden outburst, soon she too got angry and started responding by hurling accusations at him. By the time they got home they simply could not tolerate each other'..A month later divorce became the only recourse to alleviating their miseries. They had clashed on that fateful night, much like two lines that had intersected, that were now diverging never to come together again'..
This type of incident is not uncommon in today's times. In fact, we could very well swap the position of the husband and wife in the above scenario and get a similar result - an angry and jealous wife! Jealousy is clearly a very potent feeling among human beings. And of course its impact is not limited to a romantic/matrimonial setting, but felt in almost all aspects of our professional and personal lives. Jealousy not only saps our energy but makes us unhappy and unfulfilled. Is there a way out of this negativity? Before we answer the question, lets get a deeper understanding of this emotion by considering another example.
Vishwanath and Lakshmi are simple uneducated people who came as immigrants to the United States with their one-year old daughter, Vidya, a couple of decades ago. Today, Vidya has just graduated at the top of her class from Harvard Law School with a JD, and is moving to Seattle to take up an extremely well paying job with Microsoft Corporation. This was the most sought-after job not only because of the money and prestige, but because it would give her an unprecedented opportunity to work with brand-name lawyers on a case that is defining American corporate world. At the commencement ceremony, Vishwa and Lakshmi are in tears of joy when their daughter's name is announced as the recipient of the coveted award for top honors among the graduating class of 2001. It was indeed a dream come true for them. In the audience, the rich Drs. Arti and Vijay Arora are witnessing this ceremony full of jealousy and envy, because their daughter, Aruna, who is also graduating, is not the one getting this award.
The question arises, why is it that Vishwa and Lakshmi don't feel jealous at the success of their daughter even though they themselves never achieved such academic distinction in their own lives? Why is it that the Aroras feel jealous at the success of Vidya? If we analyze carefully, the answer lies in our definition of "us". Vishwa and Laksmi think of their daughter as no different from their own self, while the Aroras identify completely with their daughter, Aruna, and think of Vidya as somebody "else". The root of jealousy, therefore, lies in the limited definition of our "self". I encourage you to examine your own patterns of jealousy and you will recognize that the idea of being different from the "other" is the underlying root cause of jealousy.
Another property of jealousy is that it is multi-dimensional - i.e. its presence can be felt in a variety of life situations. However, it is important to realize that its presence in one dimension of life does not automatically imply its manifestation in other dimensions. For example, one may be jealous in romantic situations but not jealous with profession-related matters or vice versa. This characteristic provides a clue in helping understand jealousy better. If we try to filter dimensions in which we are jealous and the ones where we are not, we will find that indeed these situations of jealousy have much to do with our feeling insecure in those areas of life. In other words, if we are unsure of our ability to be a romantic lover, we will often feel jealous when we are confronted with challenging situations in that arena of our living. Feeling of incompleteness in our life is the breeding ground where jealousy is likely to erupt.
Even though there is a component of jealousy that we are born with, there is also a part that is learnt. If parents react jealously to situations it is likely that that will be passed-on to their children. Similarly, if we are in the constant company of jealous friends/co-workers/partners, there is good chance of it "seeping" into us too. Even if, in the beginning, we may have felt incongruent with the jealous workplace environment, slowly we start focusing our energies on how to avoid or circumvent it. A continued focus on jealousy (even if it is to avoid it) eventually manifests that pattern of thinking in our lives. Therefore, there is a great deal of truth in the statement - "A jealous boss will hire and train a team of jealous workers". Our environment can be a powerful vehicle that carves our behavioral patterns of jealousy.
Sometimes, we find a way-out of challenging situations by running away from them. But that doesn't last too long. Sooner or later that feeling of "incompleteness" within us does surface in some way. In fact, Nature keeps presenting us with these challenges only to help us transcend our weaknesses. Even spiritual teachers who claim to have transcended jealousy have often just moved away from the challenges of typical relationships, avoiding situations that would expose their limitations. One can often gauge their continuing feelings of jealousy by how zealously they try to out-do other "gurus" and spread their creed. If indeed, outside is us, ourselves, inside out, how can we escape from seeing ourselves? Relationships are therefore a perfect tool for us to see ourselves, offering an unparalleled opportunity to outgrow our limitations such as jealousy.
We are repeatedly taught that jealousy is not healthy. Many of us even realize that to be the case. However, we do continue to feel jealous and even try to coax ourselves out of it by saying - "I should not be feeling this". And such repeated suppression of jealousy either leads to hurt or anger. In the long run continued suppression leads to a volcano-like eruptive release that is far more dangerous and harmful than jealousy itself. On the other hand, as discussed above, expressing jealousy can create a negative* environment making our life turbulent and one that lacks contentment. In accepting and observing the feeling of jealousy lies the key to transcending it.
If you see yourself denouncing jealousy you see in others, it's a sure sign that you yourself are still plagued by it. Its in such moments that you can choose to bring forth the "Bigger I" that is empathetic and helpful to others who are struggling with negative emotions like yourself. By helping others we connect with that part of us that we fallaciously believed wasn't us, furthering us in realizing our completeness metamorphosing jealousy into unconditional love.
Let us now see how we can apply some of these principles in a coherent and systematic fashion into our lives.
1. Unceasing Commitment to Growth
In making this commitment we affirm that realizing our unlimited potential is the only pathway to lasting fulfillment. A growth-oriented outlook goes a long way in making us see that life's challenges are not a Karmic payback that have to be accepted, but an opportunity to outgrow our parochial and limited vision. Invite such opportunities into your life and acknowledge Nature's divine grace when they actually manifest. Redefine success as an undying engagement with this process of growth and not as achieving/reaching some landmark goal. The pleasure and joy of traveling on an uncharted path is a reward in and of itself.
2. Finding a Supportive Relationship
It is helpful to identify a person or a group of people with whom we can have an open and candid relationship. Preferably the persons would have made a covenant with their own self to traverse the path of inward growth. Having access to such a relationship can allow us to freely express our trials and tribulations, without fear of judgment or humiliation. Like-mindedness in outlook to life will also allow for mutual sharing of ideas and experiences, accelerating the growth process. This relationship could be with a spouse, lover, friend, parents, mentor, therapist, counselor, priest, guru, pet, a beloved tree, an image/statute of God, or our own self. A nurturing environment provides the manure for our spiritual growth.
3. Sometimes the Best Thing to Do is to Do Nothing
Situations that "push our buttons" seductively compel us to react. In the above example of the jealous spouse, the husband reacted to the feeling of jealousy by announcing his displeasure to his wife and leaving in a huff. Subsequently, he even hurled verbal abuses at her. Jealousy made him vulnerable and prone to thoughtless actions that, as it turned out, were irreversible. It is important to recognize that holding ourselves back from acting in the heat of the moment is probably a wise course of (in)action. Sometimes it may imply that we have to temporarily move ourselves away from the trigger. Introducing such a conscious time-delay in these situations helps our intelligence to catch up with our emotions. In other words, we are able to be more balanced and emotionally intelligent. This spatial moment of inaction is the womb in which we grow.
4. Accepting One's Weaknesses is a Sign of Strength
The sacred space we introduce by not acting on our impulses provides us an opening to recognize our limitation. Knowing and understanding our limitation is very crucial and a significant part of emancipating ourselves from its control. It is important that you don't chastise or admonish yourself for your feelings. Be kind to yourself and simply accept the feeling as it is without trying to change it. Supportive relationships can be of great value at this step in helping us recognize that such feelings are not unusual and in fact quite pervasive in everybody. This courageous act of acceptance allows us to realize that there exists a part of us that is beyond the constraining limitations. Embracing our weaknesses affirms that we are more universal than our limitations.
5. Between Suppression and Expression Lies Observation
Detach yourself from the feelings and simply see them for what they are. Observe the type of events that generate these constrictive emotions and patterns of thoughts. Understand and experience the insecurity or incompleteness within that is triggering the feeling of jealousy. Recognize that since you are able to see the limitations there must exist a "you" that is invariant and cannot be besieged by these limiting emotions. Know that you don't need anything or anybody to make you feel complete and that the completeness is always there. When we become the Ocean itself, the flood of negativity can never ever drown us again.
Thanks so much for allowing me to share this (not-so) brief diary of my ongoing journey; in sharing I myself learn. And since you are catalyzing my process of self-discovery, all of you "out-there" are my Gurus. My warmest regards to you. Wish you a very Happy Guru Poornima!
The mist of negative emotions sheds when the seer awakens to the radiant sunshine of the singular universal truth.