Step 2. Challenge Irrational Thoughts.
Challenge the irrational thinking styles frequently.
Underlying the jealous emotions and behavior are the
irrational thoughts. Before you can change the emotions
you need to identify, challenge, and change these
thoughts. One of the most common types of thought
distortions that plays a role in irrational jealousy is
the fixed desire. A fixed desire is any kind of belief
that demands a certain outcome for the person to be
happy. For example, "I must get a promotion at work or
I'll be a failure." In this case, the individual's
contentment with him or herself is based on obtaining a
Fixed desires are typically externally based which means
that a person is giving control of his/her happiness to
something or someone else over which he/she may not have
control. Take the above example. What if this person has
an unreasonable boss who won't give the desired
promotion? But the individual continues to believe that
he/she is a failure without it. In this case, nothing
he/she can do will change this feeling because it is out
of his/her control.
A fixed desire is different from a desire or a goal. In
the above example, an individual can desire a promotion
but does not have to base his/her self-concept and
happiness upon obtaining the goal. Therefore, it is not
a demand and he/she can feel okay whether or not the
promotion is obtained. "I prefer to get a promotion.
However, even without it I know I'm a competent
How does this work with irrational jealousy? A jealous
person may have a belief such as "This person must love
me or I can't be happy." This type of belief is a demand
that potentially leads to thoughts such as "I must make
this person love me" or "I must make sure he/she doesn't
leave me." These thoughts then will lead to attempts to
control the other person or to other jealous behaviors
such as suspiciousness and questioning.
If you tend to have fixed desires, you may believe that
this thinking is perfectly reasonable. You might be
thinking, "Why wouldn't I want to make sure this person
loves me?" Again, there is a difference between a desire
and a fixed desire (demand). The more you demand love
the less likely you are to obtain it especially since
the concept of true love is that it is freely given.
However, if you are acting on a desire you are more
likely to focus on your behavior rather than the other
person's behavior. For example, you are less likely to
be questioning the whereabouts of your loved one and
more likely to be demonstrating your love through caring
behaviors. Such behavior is much more effective in
obtaining and securing love than jealous behaviors are.
The bottom line, anyway, when it comes to whether
someone loves you, is that it is outside of your
control. Someone else's love is their choice, not yours.
If someone you love does not love you, it does not mean
that there is something wrong with you or that you are
unlovable. It just means it was not a good fit.
A good way to identify irrational thinking is to write
down your thoughts when you are feeling jealous. Try to
be specific and try to identify the deepest thoughts
possible. For instance, if you think:
"I want him/her to love me."
Ask yourself "What if he/she doesn't?"
"I don't want him/her to leave me?"
Then ask yourself "What if she/he does?"
"I'll be all alone"
"So what if you're all alone?"
"I'll be sad."
"So what if you're sad?"
"I won't be able to stand it."
"And what if you can't stand it?"
"What's the point in living then."
By having this type of conversation with yourself you
can identify the thinking at the deeper levels that
contribute to the irrational jealousy. In this case, the
person is identifying fear of abandonment, inability to
tolerate negative emotions, and catastrophic
predictions. Once you identify the source of the
thinking you can then begin to challenge the accuracy of
For instance, a catastrophic prediction is the belief
that the worst case scenario will occur. What is the
likelihood that the worst case scenario will occur? You
might believe that since other people have left you it
is likely that your current spouse will leave you. Is
that accurate? Is this person the same as previous
people you've with whom you've had relationships? Is
this person likely to cheat on you? If your answer is
truly "yes" then there may be a problem with how you are
choosing partners. Otherwise, it is important to
recognize that aside from your jealous behaviors causing
the person to leave, the catastrophic prediction is not
likely to be accurate.
The inability to tolerate negative emotions, especially
sadness and loneliness, is common with irrational
jealousy. Often people believe that these emotions will
never end and they don't want to feel sad or lonely
forever. However, the grief process is time-limited if
we allow ourselves to fully feel the grief. When we work
through the emotions by experiencing them rather than
avoiding them we are able to resolve the grief.
Frequently, though, due to fear of experiencing the
unpleasant emotions, individuals will become stuck in
the grief especially the anger stage of grief. Anger is
a self-protective emotion that is often easier for
people than the overwhelming sadness. However, some
people may be uncomfortable with anger and they may
become stuck in the bargaining stage such as believing
they can still work it out.
These are just a couple of the ways that inaccurate
thinking can occur. However, once you have identified
the inaccuracies in your thinking, the next step is to
remind yourself frequently of how your thinking is
inaccurate. Sometimes it is useful to even write down
the more accurate thinking and carry it with you so you
can read it frequently. The more often you engage in the
accurate thinking, the more quickly your thinking will
change. Try an experiment: before you start to change
your thinking, spend a day counting each time you have a
jealous thought--not each episode of jealousy, but each
specific thought. For many people, this will add up into
the hundreds. When you have obtained this baseline, you
will have an idea of how many times you need to repeat
the accurate thoughts to yourself each day because it
needs to approximate this number. Another way to obtain
the necessary repetition is to record the accurate
thoughts and then listen to them over and over. As you
achieve enough repetition, you will notice that your
automatic thoughts will start to change.
This is not a simple process. However, it is like any
new skill you want to learn. You can't expect to drive a
car without learning how and then practicing. the same
is true of changing thinking: we need to learn the
method and then practice.
Copyright © 2009
by Excel At Life, LLC
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