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May 2017
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Jealousy has always been a favoured subject in art and literature. Many people have tried to describe it, define it and, above all, determine which people are more inclined to it, what induces it and what behaviour causes it. In this article you will find a definition of this complex state of emotions and certain aspects of two types of jealousy will be described: romantic jealousy and social competition jealousy.

What is jealousy?

Defining jealousy is difficult, especially since we do not know if it is an emotion, a mood or a feeling. It could be considered an emotion in so much as it appears very abruptly and it is accompanied by typical psycho-physical changes. However, it is also a feeling when it appears, it is evoked by external events or thoughts and it occupies a large part of a person’s emotional and cognitive experiences. The fact that various types of jealousy can be distinguished, depending on whom the jealousy is aimed at, further complicates the problem. In fact, being jealous of an object and being jealous of a person are different: in the first case, we experience a feeling of exclusivity towards our belongings and we do not want to lend them to others (material jealousy); in the latter case, the fear of losing affection dominates and, more often than not, it is the exclusive affection of a person (romantic jealousy). 
Lastly, there is also social comparison jealousy which arises from the desire to obtain a good that you do not have - the love of a person, a job or a prize - and the fear that someone else might get it instead of you.

Romantic jealousy

In general, research into jealousy has mainly been carried out in the psychological field and in literature in a broad sense. Romantic jealousy provokes the onset of a series of feelings and emotions about the loved person, the rival and oneself. These emotions can be summed up as ambivalence towards the loved person which translates into an increase in interest and desire towards him/her which is associated with anger, hostility and fear of losing him/her. At the same time, the jealous person feels hate towards the rival and a desire to remove him/her from the equation, which gets stronger the more intelligent, cultured and prettier the rival is. Another interesting fact, in this case, is that the jealous person considers the rival to be more dangerous if he/she possesses positive characteristics which the jealous person would like to have him/herself, rather than considering the rival as more appropriate for the loved one.

Are there any strategies to help cope with romantic jealousy? D’Urso and Trentin claim that there are three strategies:

  1. improving self-confidence: this allows for the reduction of anxiety and aggression related to jealousy itself;
  2. sharpening your skills: by doing this you improve your self-image and reduce depression and anger connected to the idea of possibly losing the loved person;
  3. ignoring everything that has to do with the loved one and the rival or that is psychologically associated to places, occasions or causes of jealousy.

Jealousy from social competition

According to Salovey and Rodin, the specific characteristic of social competition jealousy is the object of desire, which is never a person but is always a thing, such as a type of success or a good social position. However, in reality, it is possible to feel this type of jealousy towards a person and compete in social environments for his/her favour, attention or love. The onset and intensity of this type of jealousy varies according to the importance the individual gives to the desired person/thing, identity and the emotional worthiness of other competitors. On the basis of a series of experiments, Mikulincer, Bizman and Aizemberg found that social competition jealousy increases when:

  1. one thinks oneself is responsible for an unfavourable comparison or a failure;
  2. one thinks the failure could have been partially controllable;
  3. it is believed that the unfavourable comparison depends on conditions, which are relatively stable over time, and especially conditions related to one’s personality.

Who are jealous people?

In general, jealous people are described as insecure, anxious, possessive, envious, suspicious, irrational and with low self-esteem.

It appears that there is no difference between males and females as far as the intensity of jealousy goes, even if there are striking differences as far as the behaviour associated with jealousy is concerned: men are more inclined to openly act on their feelings in cases of betrayal, for example, discussing the problem, confronting the rival or attacking the partner; women, on the other hand, appear to keep their jealousy and behaviour related to such feelings inside, however, the feelings are more intense and negative, thus they may experience desperation, depression and psychosomatic illnesses. Furthermore, there do not appear to be differences between the sexes with regards to implemented, cognitive aspects. Pines and Aronson actually found that the most common reaction of men and women is to painfully mull over the event and the frequency, duration and intensity of this is the same for both sexes.

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