Jealousy and passive-aggressiveness often go hand in hand. From a psychological perspective, these emotions are complex and potentially lethal to a relationship. Other factors such as separation anxiety, humiliation and of course anger also play a role in these situations.
Jealousy, as you know, affects people of all ages, cultures and genders, and can lead to dangerous and destructive situations.
What always stands out in Shakespeare’s plays is the author’s ability to portray the whole kaleidoscope of human emotions. One of his most famous plays to this day is Othello, an in-depth investigation of jealousy. In this classic tale we have one of the most unique and also Machiavellian villains of all time: Iago.
Othello’s capable and evil servant plots to drive Othello mad by making him believe that his wife Desdemona was unfaithful to him. Iago symbolizes the obsessive and dangerous inner voice that fuels the fire of compulsive jealousy.
He perfectly represents the obsessive and distrustful mind. He supports and reinforces Othello’s jealousy, which eventually leads to his death.
Iago must have been one of Shakespeare’s most important characters, when you consider that he gave the villain nearly 1,100 lines in the play. That is almost as much as Hamlet or Richard III, for example. As Michel de Montaigne said, jealousy is a disease of the mind and our worst enemy.
Jealousy and passive aggressiveness
Jealousy and passive-aggressive behavior often go together for a very concrete reason. Envious people do not express their jealousy directly and openly.
In other words, people usually don’t go up to their partner and say that they feel offended when they talk to other people or that they are angry and humiliated when their partner smiles at and spends time with other people.
Instead, jealous partners usually display passive-aggressive behavior. Instead of expressing themselves clearly, they scold, manipulate, threaten and humiliate their important partners. Indirect punishments and the silent treatment are very common.
Aggressive behavior like this starts out passively, but can lead to more active and harmful behavior in certain situations. Let’s take a closer look at it.
Jealousy and alter ego
Iago and Othello perfectly portray an interesting aspect of jealousy, which is that it manifests itself as an alter ego. It’s like there’s an outside voice that convinces you of something and then kidnaps you. The things you do under the influence of jealousy are the things the “normal” you would never do.
This jealous, outside voice feeds your fear of abandonment and betrayal. It makes you suspicious and often makes you see dangers that aren’t there. Through a lens of jealousy, crazy ideas suddenly seem reasonable.
A study (English link) by Dr. David DeSteno of the University of California shows that this voice is a symbol of the “threatened self.” That’s the part of you that feels violated and can provoke passive-aggressive behavior.
Are jealousy and passive-aggressiveness part of your genetic makeup?
Some theories speak of a genetic basis for this type of behavior. Jealousy and passive-aggressiveness are a kind of dark logic that some psychologists and anthropologists believe is in our genes. This approach argues that humans are the result of evolution based on survival and mating.
Social competition, along with the fear of being betrayed and ending up alone, triggers a whole host of emotions and thoughts. The mind becomes hyper-vigilant and obsessive. Anger takes over. From there, you see aggressiveness and the obvious risk that comes with it.
Is it possible to control your jealousy?
In summary, the key to dealing with jealousy lies in understanding a clear fact: there is no such thing as absolute and lasting fidelity. To love someone means to trust him. It’s not about possession. Healthy love sets aside anger, control, and watchfulness.
Sometimes, however, an individual’s jealous behavior is actually pathological, and their distress is related to psychological delusions. In the case of pathological jealousy, psychological therapy is key. So the answer to the question about dealing with jealousy is that every person is unique and the solution/treatment will therefore also be different.
Therapists may focus on reducing controlling behaviors (such as looking at your partner’s phone) or deactivating obsessive thoughts. Increasing one’s self-esteem and reducing anxiety and separation anxiety can also be important.
What every patient has in common, however, is that he or she must be willing to change. They should be aware that their jealousy is preventing them from having a healthy relationship. While this point may seem obvious, it’s important to keep it in mind.