Jealousy and Envy: Sibling Rivalry

Jealousy has a sibling, close enough in appearance that they’re often mistaken for each other. But like siblings, these two emotions are different and must be handled in different ways.

This sibling is named envy.

One is jealous when you’re afraid what you have will be taken away, but envious when you aren’t able to have what you want. (This isn't the only definition, but it's the one that fits here.)

For example, Sam is jealous when Sue goes out for dinner with an old flame who is passing through town, because he’s worried the old flame will steal the affection and relationship he has with Sue. Sam is envious when he wants to go out to dinner with Sue, but she’s having dinner with the old flame instead.

It’s very possible to be both at the same time, or just one of the two. The example of Sam above illustrates this quite well.

It is important to know the difference between the two in yourself, and how to recognize these emotions, because while they’re similar, they’re not synonymous. The tools and techniques to handle jealousy are going to be of limited use when you’re dealing with envy.

With one major exception.

Both can be reduced and minimized by honest, vulnerable, and clear communication about your emotions, fears, and desires.

And being able to name your emotions accurately is a step toward that goal.


John D. Bell said…
What do you call that emotion when you see someone else with something (or some situation) you want, and you want them to not have it, but you to have it instead?
Steven Saus said…
I think it's both emotions, and if you wish to deal with them constructively, you'll have to separate them out and deal with each of them appropriately.

Unfortunately, it's fairly common that we have multiple emotions that are bundled together, which makes it difficult to work with them cleanly.