How to Let Go of Jealousy

Jealousy comes from wanting something you think someone else has and you don’t.

Jealousy Is a Stressful Experience

Jealousy is the opposite of contentment. And it is very personal. Not only do I want what the other person has, but the fact that I don’t have it means that I’m a lesser person. Jealousy is really a kind of self-attack. 

And it is also blind to what I do have. It’s obsessive. Only what the other person has will do. Only when I get it will I be happy.

This Happens a lot in Relationships

If I want my partner’s love and attention, and he gives it to someone else, I may feel jealous. I don’t want the other person to have it. I want it all for myself. This is very stressful because, even though I know I shouldn’t feel jealous, I still do. It comes up like an obsession and takes over.

The same is true of jealousy of position, name and fame, money, status in society, etc. It’s easy to understand that jealousy is a destructive emotion, but like a drug addiction, it’s not always easy to quit.

In Fact, I Would Argue that you Can’t Let Go of Jealousy

Just like you can’t just “be peaceful.”

The mind doesn’t work that way. The mind is jealous because on a gut level I’m confused (even if I understand how destructive jealousy is). Until that confusion is first of all heard and listened to, and then patiently examined objectively, it will continue in the face of any attempt to stop it.

Letting go of jealousy is not something you do. It is something that happens when you hold your jealousy tenderly in your arms and listen to it with understanding and compassion. You must converse with your jealousy, listen to its arguments, and invite it to consider different points of view. 

I like to treat my jealousy with respect, and support it to find a way to see through its own stories. Only jealousy can undo jealousy. All I can do is invite it to look again. If jealousy sees the light itself, then it lets go of me. I can never use force in this process.

The Work of Byron Katie Can Help

The Work of Byron Katie (The Work) is a simple form of inquiry that is a perfect match for jealousy. It consists of allowing the jealous mind to write down the jealous thoughts and let them be heard without judgment. This is such an important step: to allow the stuck mind to just be heard and understood.

And then The Work presents some simple, experiential questions to the jealous mind. The Work is a way for the stuck mind to question what it thinks. So if the mind is full of jealousy, The Work provides a way for the mind to question its jealous thoughts, one by one. 

As the story unravels through inquiry, the jealous mind itself starts to see things differently. And jealousy loosens and often falls away. With this work, you never know how long it will take. It’s never up to me. It’s up to jealousy.

If my jealousy truly sees a more peaceful way to be, it will usually choose it on its own. But it cannot be forced. My only job is to keep listening, keep questioning, and keep testing what I’m finding as I do this work. In time, it is the truth becomes clearer deep inside. And that is what sets me free.

How to do The Work on Jealousy

Here’s how I use the four questions and turnarounds of The Work on jealousy.

I find with jealousy there is always something I’m wanting. The other person has it, and I don’t. So I write down what it is they have and question that.

For example, Let’s say you’re jealous of your boyfriend’s ex love. What what does this past lover have that you don’t have? To your mind, she still has his love (and you don’t—even though he’s with you now). So you can question the thought, “She has his love,” like this, “She has his love, is it true?”

Then, to take it further, I also question if I really want what I think they have. This is a second, separate inquiry. For example, “I want his love, is it true?” This has a different flavor to it, and the inquiry is quite different.

These two pieces of inquiry, “She has his love, is it true?” and “I want his love, is it true?” are a powerful place to begin, in my experience. Of course, I encourage you to use all four questions and find turnarounds and examples as you do this work.

And You Can Take It Further

Here are some additional concepts you could question (using the four questions, turnarounds, and turnaround examples for each one):

I need to know how they interacted.
I need to know what they talked about.
I need to know how things were between the sheets.
She has what he had always wanted in a woman (blond, tiny, lovely figure).
He is thinking of her when he is with me (including in bed).
He wishes he was still with her.
I am just a Band-Aid to his pain of being broken up with.

I recommend questioning every one of these kind of ruminating thoughts that show up. I suggest doing The Work, one statement at a time without keeping score about how far you’re getting. I encourage you to do this work as a daily practice, meeting the jealous thoughts each day as they come up. Even just questioning one of these thoughts a day is a powerful practice.

People Say “Just Let it Go”

But the mind cannot do that until it sees things differently.

A new way of seeing things comes slowly through inquiry for me. That’s why I make it a practice to do my work every day. I don’t have to solve all my problems today, I just do my work and then do my best during the day.

Then I come back and do some more work. It is a process that has slowly transformed the way I see many situations that used to be stressful for me.

Get Support with this Practice

I also suggest that you join us for my weekly Open Sessions (or get the recordings). In these sessions, I am available to facilitate you and others who show up each week. Doing this work is like learning a new language. The more exposure you get, the more it makes sense.

You might also consider The Work 101, my online course, if you really want to learn this language of inquiry. If I can be of any other support, let me know. I also offer private sessions.

My invitation to you is to meet your jealousy with understanding and inquiry. I find that jealousy responds well to this kind of respectful questioning.

Have a great week,

“I began to seriously question my thoughts—to ask “Is it true?”—when our fights about jealousy became so extreme. First I investigated what happened when I saw him smile at a beautiful woman or talk with her. I thought I knew what it meant. With inquiry, my first surprise was that I couldn’t be sure that my thoughts were true.” Byron Katie, I Need Your Love, Is It True?