What causes irrational jealousy?
Like so many things in life, the things that cause our irrational behaviors can usually be traced back to a time where it was a very rational behavioral response to a threatening situation. Except when the situation where the rational emotional response ends… those feelings don’t end with it; they stay behind. They hang on. They sit on your shoulder ever at the ready for the next time. Hoping to spot a threat before it becomes too damaging. Trying to protect the greater Self.
From Excel At Life we get this explanation :
“Frequently, an individual who is prone to irrational jealousy may have problems with low self-esteem, feelings of insecurity, fear of vulnerability, or fear of abandonment. A person with low self-esteem may feel so undeserving of being loved, that he can't believe that his spouse could possibly remain faithful to him. Perhaps these feelings stem from some abusive past relationship in which he was unloved and made to believe that he was at fault. For instance, if a teenager is told, "If only you were more like your brother, then maybe you could get a girlfriend" he comes to believe that there is something wrong with him. Many times we are given messages, some subtle and some not-so-subtle, as we are growing up that shape our beliefs about ourselves.
Feelings of insecurity may stem from the low self-esteem or may be related to instances in which we have previously been hurt. The same is true with fear of abandonment. When we have experienced profound loss from which we haven't had an opportunity to recover, we may develop an extreme fear and avoidance reaction to similar circumstances. However, as indicated earlier, this avoidance may bring about the abandonment that we fear.
A fear of vulnerability is the inability to let our guard down, to let another person know us completely. This fear usually derives from a fear of rejection due to the belief that if we let someone else truly know us, we will ultimately be rejected. Again, the fallacy in this belief, is that if we don't allow our spouse to know us, if we don't allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we are preventing the development of emotional intimacy which is essential to any relationship.
Emotional intimacy is the most important type of intimacy in a relationship. It is required for the relationship to fully mature. Without it, all we have is the initial surface attraction to the other person which cannot be maintained indefinitely. However, when we find emotional intimacy with another person, we discover the most intensely fulfilling experience that exists. And that is, the full acceptance of our self by another person.
Finally, the individual needs to determine if there are certain behaviors from herself or from her spouse that may contribute to the development of these fears and beliefs. For instance, perhaps a spouse is reluctant to share personal information because he will then be subject to questioning and accusations. As a result, emotional intimacy in the relationship declines. The person who is jealous will often take this as further evidence of cheating in the relationship, when, in fact, it is a result of the questioning and accusations. Or, for example, a jealous person has repeatedly harmed relationships through his accusations which he takes as evidence that women can never be trusted.
The more you are aware of your behaviors and other's behavior that may maintain the beliefs, then you will be able to make better choices that can allow you to control the jealousy. In fact, the development of awareness can't be emphasized enough. You may need to spend some time at this point to assess your jealousy, the behaviors, and the outcomes based on the behaviors.”
I’ve talked about the Threat of Intimacy before. So often what we crave is true emotional intimacy but because there’s so much fear and vulnerability surrounding that process instead of trying for the real deal we just try to get close enough instead. Close enough to not feel alone, but far enough to remain protected.
It’s so strange that all of these dysfunctional behaviors come from a sense of self-preservation that has taken itself too far. Given the environmental nature of abandonment, neglect, and abuse that often accompanies the inborn chemical sensitivity of BPD it’s no wonder it runs away with itself. When everything is black or white, good or bad, self-protect or self-destruct… figuring out how to find a happy medium feels like foreign territory that our brains aren’t programmed to navigate.
Jealousy isn’t envy. It’s not about wanting something you don’t have. It’s about holding onto what you already do have.
Irrational jealousy is the fear of abandonment Acting Out.