Jealousy is typically considered a negative emotion, but psychological astrologer/frequent goop contributor Jennifer Freed, Ph.D. counters that it can be a compelling motivator for self-growth, and reinforce the connections that matter most to you. Here, she explores the deeper meaning of jealousy within platonic friendships, offering a new path to explore when you feel like a friend is being pulled away from you. (For more unexpected perspective on relationship drama, see Freed’s goop piece on what crushes can tell us about ourselves, and why there’s no harm in harboring one even if you’re in a relationship.)
“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”
― Anaïs Nin
Have you ever been in the clutches of friendship jealousy? Not the insane and histrionic kind portrayed on reality shows, but the type of jealousy that makes you feel young, insecure, and ridiculous on the inside.
A little while ago, I was talking to my friend Laurel about how it was so hard for me to share my best friend with another close friend. I told Laurel about how the three of us had been on a long walk and they kept leaving me out of the conversation. Discussing this with Laurel, we were both transported to other times when we had struggled to share friends, and the embarrassing and primitive feelings that it brought up in us. Many women go through this jealousy silently because they don’t feel entitled to have that type of passion and attachment to “just a friend.”
The Fear of Losing a BFF
Jealousy can appear whenever we have a passionate fondness for someone, as common in loving friendships as romantic relationships. When we love anyone from a naked and non-controlling place in ourselves, we open our hearts to the unpredictable, untamable course of love.
Jealousy activates our primal dependency issues and often a sense of infantile defenselessness. It can make us feel crazy, and do crazy things, because it taps into our uttermost vulnerability—our fear of potential abandonment. When we think that someone will steal someone away from us, or that someone else will become more important than us to our beloved friend, we can feel helpless and powerless. We face all the ways we feel inadequate, unattractive, and unlovable.
“Jealousy activates our primal dependency issues and often a sense of infantile defenselessness.”
“What could they possibly see in that person they are so (plug in any disparaging words)?” we ask ourselves. Or we wonder: “What if my person likes them more than me? What will I do?” Or we might rage to ourselves: “Oh no! I can’t compete! I’m not (plug in any adjective you are not).” We might try to take our competitor down a few notches to convince ourselves that we’ll win in the end: “That person is (plug in another disparaging word). Look at how obvious they are in trying to take what’s mine.” Have you ever decided to make your friend more jealous than they are making you, just to teach them a lesson? Did you decide that having your BFF to yourself was too good to be true and that it was just a matter of time before they chose someone else over you? Did you temporarily freeze out a bestie who seemed poised to choose to do something wonderful with someone other than you?
The Upside of Jealousy
How can one of the worst-feeling emotions be helpful?
Jealousy shows us places we have not developed in ourselves—attributes that others have that we may want to work on. It can bring out our competitive side, which can be useful in upping our attention to things we want to improve in ourselves. (At the same time, when you are feeling this way, it’s important to remind yourself that you are already worthy of love, and to not lose sight of everything about yourself that you can already take pride in.)
“It can offer us the opportunity to tell someone about our underbelly and just how much we may need reassurance and tenderness.”
Jealousy can point out places of unhealthy dependency in which we are relating from an immature and self-deprecating place to our friend, and reveal developmental insufficiencies that need healing. It can offer us the opportunity to tell someone about our underbelly and just how much we may need reassurance and tenderness.
Also, jealousy can highlight ways we do need to become more resourceful in terms of widening our circle of support so that we do not tax any one person with our most primitive needs and expectations.
For me, my jealousies have helped me to see my attachments to my friends in a new light—I’ve realized how much I value our connection. In some cases, jealousy has brought to the surface all the ways in which I was taking a relationship for granted.
People who avoid feeling any jealousy at all are also most likely holding back their full passion, not just in their relationships, but for life itself. This is not wrong. But those who risk the vulnerability of jealousy are also those who can expose themselves to the greatest heights of self-love, as jealousy is like a laser, pointing out areas for maximum personal growth.
“Jealousy has brought to the surface all the ways in which I was taking a relationship for granted.”
Jealousy is only destructive if we take it at face value—as opposed to exploring its deeper meaning—that’s when we tend to become unconsciously reactive, acting out in harmful ways. But if we mine this destabilizing force for all it’s worth, we can work our way to a new-found wholeness, develop healthier foundations for our relationships as well as a greater appreciation for our friendships.
Next time you are lucky enough to fall into the clutches of the green-eyed empress (note that green is the color associated with the heart chakra), you can use this disorientation to propel you through the ever-illuminating labyrinth of self-awareness, towards a more perfect union with all your dimensions and potentials. For some, jealousy is indeed the ideally timed invitation for more authentic and intimate communication around your inner self and needs, the sacredness of the attachment, and what could make it even more vital and sustainable.