Emotional Layer Cake with Jealous Filling and Righteous Coating

I don’t consider myself a jealous person. In my relationship history, I can only think of one person whom I felt was a potential threat to my relationship and whom I was jealous of. 

Outside of relationships, I will feel the occasional pang and will blurt “OMG, I’m so jealous!” when I hear of my friends successes. But at the same time, I’m eager for them to achieve what they set out to do, the same way I want myself to achieve my goals. 

That was my view on the extent of my jealousy as I settled into a coaching session in which I wanted to be coached on how to approach people who I felt were doing something wrong. They weren’t breaking the law or anything like that, but I felt that they were approaching things the wrong way and I’d like them to do it differently - the way that I believed to be right. Only, I had no idea how to bring up the topic with them nor how to have a productive conversation.

My coach started by exploring my values: Was it important to me that these people played by the rules, by my rules? 

In general, I’m not particular fond of rules for their own sake. But in this instance I seemed to cling to them. 

Which of my values had those people violated? 

I wasn’t sure. I could think of other instances where people had acted similar to those ‘rule breakers’ and it had not become a big thing for me.

How would I have expressed my frustration with their behaviour in the very moment it happened? 

I had no difficulty explaining to my coach - who was playing the ‘rule breaker’ - that I felt that my expectations weren’t met and how I wanted things to be handled differently. Even when my coach as the ‘rule breaker’ pushed back, I was able to calmly get my point across. 

So why was I struggling with the actual people? Why was it so difficult for me to just say what I felt to be true?

Then it dawned on me: There was the fear of embarrassing myself; the fear that my frustration with those people was based on petty feelings. I didn’t trust that my frustration with them was really justified. And for that reason, I so longed for other people to agree with me on the wrong-doing of those ‘rule breakers’. Having other people point out their short-comings would validate my feeling of righteousness: 

Gotcha! I was right and you were wrong!!!

At this point in the coaching session, I had already figured out a way how to resolve the issues with the ‘rule breakers’ who had triggered me initially. But I was intrigued by why they had triggered me. I realised that my urge to prove them wrong was founded on some sort of jealousy. And because I did consider giving in to jealous feelings as a character flaw, as an expression of pettiness I had covered up the jealousy by a thick and garishly decorated coating of righteousness. But even righteousness was not that of an attractive feature and therefore I was hoping that others would express my righteousness for me. 

This was fascinating! Unfortunately, the coaching session was drawing to a close. But I made myself a note to explore this layering of jealousy and righteousness at the next opportunity. I was pretty sure, that the jealousy was covering up something else. Maybe some insecurity, probably some fears that would prove quite unfounded once examined closely. 

Despite having just exposed and become painfully aware that I was capable of jealousy (the nasty type) and righteousness (not much better), I felt elated. I knew that those two feelings presented major stumbling blocks in my relationship with a handful of people who were good people. People that I’d be interested to have in my life. People who had a lot to offer. But for some reason, they triggered something in me, something that was feeling threatened and weak, something that was sneakily sending out jealousy and righteousness to fight a proxy war in its place and to cover up its own existence.