Stoic Solutions for Jealousy by Einzelgänger.

The Stoic way of solving and overcoming jealousy.

When we have something we cherish like a spouse or a friend or a certain status within a group but we feel threatened of losing it, we experience resentment which we call jealousy. So, how can we deal with this?

Jealousy comes from a fear of losing something to another person and is very common in intimate relationships in which we fear to lose a partner to someone else. Envy is wanting something that someone else has like a car, a house, looks etc. This envy is being resentful of people that are, in our eyes, more fortunate than ourselves.

When jealousy is looked through a Stoic point of view, there are two things: the illusion of permanence and the belief that external things will make us happy.

The Stoics discovered that the nature of the universe is impermanence — that everything outside of faculty is not in our control. When you’re jealous, you don’t want to lose something external that you attach yourself to in this moment. The truth is, however, no matter how infatuated you currently are with your boyfriend or girlfriend, some day you will be separated. Bear in mind that everything is already fraying at the edges, and in transition, subject to fragmentation and to rot.

Everything is subjected to continual change. We could say that change is only constant. When we fear and resist change, we become insecure and insecurity is where jealousy is coming from but we simply don’t know how this change is going to manifest so why worry about it?

The only thing we can do is what’s best in the moment we’re in without the arriving rise from our actions in regards to the future. This is called ‘amor fati’ which means embracing the outcome, whatever it is.

Epictitus has a powerful quote that relieves the pain of jealousy by reminding us that we never own what we are attached to and that the presence of this particular person in our lives is temporary.

“Never say of anything, “I have lost it”; but “I have returned it.” Is your child dead? It is returned. Is your wife dead? She is returned. Is your estate taken away? Well, is not that likewise returned? “But he who has taken it away is a bad man.” What difference is it to you who the giver assigns to take it back? While he gives it to you to possess, take care of it; but don’t view it as your own, just as travelers view a hotel.” – Epictitus

No matter how much effort we put in our relationships, how well our property is secured, how great our reputation is; we can still lose the things we are attached to like our spouse, our house, or our social status in the blink of an eye. This means that the fear we are experiencing when we are jealous is actually quite a rational one that aligns with the nature of the universe.

Yes, your spouse may cheat on you with a co-worker tomorrow. Your supposed best friend may prefer the presence of someone else over your presence. The fact that these possibilities are realistic and common is a reason not to worry about it. Why are you trying to control the external world? That’s not up to you anyway. It’s a waste of time.

“But I need this person to be happy.” You might say. No, you don’t.

Within the Stoic system of ethics — all external things including the people you love are considered so called ‘preferred indifference’. It’s nice to have them and they might support you in living a virtuous life but ‘preferred indiffirence’ are no hard requirement to be happy according to the Stoics happiness found in virtuous actions.

“Virtue is free, inviolable, not to be moved, not to be shaken, and so harderned against misfortunes that she cannot be bent, let alone overcome by them.” – Seneca

From my understanding of Stoicism, my suggestion would be replacing the focus on the external with focus on the internal, thus stop obsessing about losing the things you love because you’ll lose them anyway. And they aren’t as vital for your happiness as you may believe. Instead you might want to focus on living well regardless of what happens around you and paradoxically when you focus on living well instead of anxiously grasping and clinging to the things you don’t want to lose, you might actually attract more preferred indifference into your life. Also, the ones you already have are more likely to stick with you out of free will as opposed to you being jealous which will only drive them away.

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