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Health and Sanity

Rashmi Vasudeva
Features writer on health, lifestyle and the Arts, digital marketing blogger, mother
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piqer: Rashmi Vasudeva
Thursday, 07 March 2019

The Case For And Against Jealousy

It does make serendipitous sense to explore the many facets of jealousy on the eve of the International Women's Day, since jealousy has been historically (and arguably, unfairly) deeply associated with a woman's rather than a man's emotions.

But really, as philosopher and University of Birmingham Professor Luke Brunning says, who has been spared from being churned by this complicated, messed-up emotion?

In this short podcast (there is also an accompanying essay), Brunning takes the listener on a sort of anthropological journey of jealousy, and it is fascinating because his words make you examine your own feelings, a little more unflinchingly. Yes, jealousy is horrible but it is also inevitable, he argues. Then, he ups the ante and presents a case for jealousy – that it can be valuable when viewed objectively; it is integral to relationships; it is an instrument of care; it nudges you to reflect upon yourself, and it can even be an erotic catalyst.

But of course, he makes it clear that its so-called positive aspects do not mean one should consciously cultivate jealousy as a character trait. In fact, there is considerable evidence that links jealousy with the more dangerous traits of aggression, manipulation and other harmful behaviors. Instead, he makes a case for a ‘new’ emotion, ‘compersion’, a neologism, which in essence, is feeling good when the people we care about, especially our partners, flourish with other people. Compersion has been defined as the joy in seeing one’s partner happily in love with others as well as a vicarious enjoyment of a lover's joy. But it is more than that; compersion, he argues, is learning to be sensitive to how others fare and eventually feeling positive about their happiness. Not a bad antidote to jealousy, one must admit.

Several questions can well be raised about his approach; however, his views do make for an interesting starting point to examine this universal emotion. 

The Case For And Against Jealousy
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