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Jealousy : is ever rational or proper?

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(also available here: www.ifat-glassman.blogspot.com )

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Jealousy and Envy (quick dictionary definition): painful desire of another's advantages.

This feeling comes in 2 forms:

Jealousy is about losing a value to someone else (the context for jealousy is always social). It is a painful feeling regarding a value one has and is afraid of losing - or something a person has difficulty having, but see another enjoying.

Example: Seeing the object of your romantic interest showing affection to someone else.

Envy is about something one does not have, does not believe he can have,and yet see another person having and enjoying.

Example: A chronically fat woman envying a good looking woman for being thinner. (You know the saying, "don't hate me 'cause I'm beautiful").

Jealousy, like other emotions, serves human survival. It is a negative emotion alerting a person in a painful way that his values are slipping away or that he is missing something crucial to him.

To illustrate: a child who feels unloved when his parents take away attention from him onto a new little brother, becomes jealous and upset. This shows in his behavior and alerts his parents that he needs more attention. Jealousy here serves to show that some value is in danger (in this case, it's the parent's affection).

While this is the normal function of jealousy (to protect life), it can arise as a result of some psychological problem or wrong standard of judging oneself.

By itself, jealousy is not related to self esteem. In other words the mere emotion of jealousy is not an indication of lack of self esteem. It depends what the subject of the jealousy is.

In some cases jealousy (or envy) is directed at another person's being, when the desired value in danger is one's own worth. Examples: Being jealous of someone because you consider them a better person morally, professionally, aesthetically, more popular, etc'.

To illustrate: suppose the person you're romantically interested in dates someone else - there are two types of jealousy possible here: One is being jealous for the woman - wanting the woman and being jealous that someone else has her. The other option is being jealous of the personality of the man who has her and seeing it as reproach for your personality not being good enough. The last type is much more severe and threatening.

The second type of jealousy in this example revolves around a self-doubt - a crack in one's self esteem.

In this case, a psychological problem (like a wrong premise) is involved and the actual threat indicated by jealousy is one's self-esteem.

How does this come to be? What makes some people satisfied with what they have, while others are jealous of someone's success?

It all starts with how a person learns to judge himself. Each person has some idea of his own worth in his eyes. Each person has a standard, or a set of ideas with which he judges himself.

Jealousy of the type associated to other people's success always involves an irrational standard for judging one's worth, and this can largely be based on how he was educated as a child - how his achievements and failures were treated by people the child looks up to for approval.

Consider the parents who make clear to their child, that to be loved and appreciated, he needs to get the best grades in the class, regardless of his actual ability. This places all the weight of his self worth on the actual concrete - the good grade - and not on his performance. If he did his best, and got an average grade - he is not worthy of a prize, but worthy of contempt or indifference. This kind of education makes self-esteem impossible. And worse, it places one's self esteem on a value that does not naturally arise from one's desires and interests. This child is taught that repression, self-beating and hard, joyless work are his main tools to become a worthy person. The feeling is of having something bigger than oneself, something from above, like a severe judge, that the person has to live up to to be worthy. "One day I will be happy, when I am thin". "One day, I'll be happy, when I am rich". And guess what? When they finally do get thin or rich, they are not happy. Because it has no personal value to them, it is a value gained only to "please the judge".

To give more examples of irrational standards: A standard for success is that one ought to succeed right away, purely from natural talent. Consider what it does to someone passionate about painting: He does not do as well as Michelangelo in his first attempt and then concludes he's no good and drops the whole thing. Or another example: Someone taking the action of productivity, divorced from his own desires and abilities, as part of his standard for judging people's worth (and his own worth). He immediately finds himself facing his own demand to start producing stuff in order to gain self-esteem. He becomes a slave to his own bad idea. A slave, because he makes himself work overtime without pay. "One day, when I am productive, I'll be happy".

A rational standard of judging oneself is based on evaluation of one's performance in relation to one's actual abilities. The last part is crucial. It sets the basis for rational self-esteem, which means, evaluation of one's worth rationally, by what is possible in reality, and not by a dream-goal which is unachievable to the individual.

[A side note: It is also important to choose the goals according to one's personal interests based on how a person feels about various things. A value should never be "something from above"].

From this it follows that a person should learn what are his abilities in those fields he wants to pursue (like sports, programming, painting, etc'). He does this by trying the best he can and observing the results and speed of progression in improving his skills in that field.

Once he has some idea what he can expect from himself, he judges himself by how well he did compared to his ability. This way, so long as the person does his best, he gains self esteem, even if others can do better than him.

In contrast, a person who judges himself only based on achievement of something or failing to achieve it, will always be on the lookout to see what others achieved. If they achieve better, he feels like they "steal" his self-esteem and feels hostility. This is because he places all the emphasis on the concrete. Admitting that he does not have what it takes to achieve that concrete is like death to his self-esteem. He must be all-powerful without limitations. So if someone else achieved it, but he did not, it shows that the concrete can be achieved, and therefore automatically it is a reminder of his personal failure, and a cause of jealousy. In fact, there may be no failure involved. It could be that this person did the best he could.

On the other side of the rope, telling a child that no matter what he does he is accepted and appreciated is bad too, since it encourages no effort from the child. The correct combination is judging one's success in achieving things but in relation to his abilities and limitations.

This creates an environment of self-acceptance and ambition combined (and I believe this is a rare combination nowadays).

This is a good place to remind that by itself, jealousy is not related to self esteem. The mere emotion of jealousy is not an indication of lack of self esteem.

It is only an irrational standard of judging one's worth that leads to the jealous type whose self-worth is threatened by other people's success. If one wishes to eliminate the jealousy - one needs to replace his incorrect standard.

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Note: Feel free to discuss it, but this time I'm not going to discuss it here (reply to questions). Just giving this note ahead of time so you won't waste your time with questions directed at me personally. But please feel free to discuss it, and I hope you will find it beneficiary.

Edited by ifatart
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Being jealous of someone because you consider them a better person morally, professionally, aesthetically, more popular, etc'.

That's an example of envy, not jealousy, which the writer would have known if he had understood the definition he provided.

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Once he has some idea what he can expect from himself, he judges himself by how well he did compared to his ability. This way, so long as the person does his best, he gains self esteem, even if others can do better than him.

This depends. It would destroy your self-esteem to know that you had failed at certain tasks in spite of *knowing* that you had tried your hardest. You would not be able to say "Oh, I can work harder next time. I am really competent, it was just that I was not trying my hardest." The only possible conclusion would be: "I am helpless in this arena of life." (This is why, when a person thinks he will do poorly at something, he will often deliberately not try his hardest at it so that he will be able to preserve his self-esteem by saying that he didn't try his hardest.)

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It would destroy your self-esteem to know that you had failed at certain tasks in spite of *knowing* that you had tried your hardest.

This is an example of not setting proper goals for yourself. I've never known anyone who set a realistic goal for themselves, worked hard at it, and failed because they just didn't have it in them. That's why realistic goals aren't things like "I'm going to be a star player in the NBA", but "I'm going to be the best basketball player that I can possibly be". Maybe that best will be NBA quality, maybe it won't, but you won't be a *failure* unless you don't put in the work or, in unusual circumstances, something completely outside of your control happens.

I've been jealous of people when they've gotten things that I wanted, but it's just a passing thing that makes me more determined to go out and make my own opportunities. It's hardly a bad emotion because, for me, it's always mixed with pleasure that people got what they worked for--I like to see people succeeding. It means that I can do it, too.

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This depends. It would destroy your self-esteem to know that you had failed at certain tasks in spite of *knowing* that you had tried your hardest.
In addition to what Jenni said, keep in mind that it's not about failing at certain tasks, but at a wide array of tasks -- particularly at tasks that you consider to be important.

The negative emotions that accompany failure are "natural" (and like many negative emotions, they serve a purpose). The trick is: how to stop particular failures from reflecting on your whole. How to accept "I failed at X", or even "I am a failure at X" without going to "I am a failure". Abstractly, how does one stop from drawing a hasty generalization? Stopping oneself from making that generalization is not automatic. For the majority of human beings, making inductions is the normal way their minds work: and, as such, it is a good thing. What one needs to do is to bring that process under conscious control.

Conscious control might allow one to examine whether one is setting goals that are unreasonable. Conscious control might also let you say something like: "I don't think that goal is too high, but I need some successes, so I am going to set some lower goals anyway, and once I achieve those for a while, I'll move up again."

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This is an example of not setting proper goals for yourself. I've never known anyone who set a realistic goal for themselves, worked hard at it, and failed because they just didn't have it in them. That's why realistic goals aren't things like "I'm going to be a star player in the NBA", but "I'm going to be the best basketball player that I can possibly be". Maybe that best will be NBA quality, maybe it won't, but you won't be a *failure* unless you don't put in the work or, in unusual circumstances, something completely outside of your control happens.

I agree. I am saying that if you set a goal that appears realistic, then discover that it is not realistic, it has a strong negative impact on your self-esteem. This strong negative impact occurs regardless of whether you have put your best effort into reaching the goal, contra the OP.

To illustrate my point, I'm going to take your basketball example and run with it. Suppose my goal is to be able to sink ten foul shots in a row. I was able to do this a few years ago, so it seems like a realistic goal. Suppose that on my very first attempt, I sink three in a row before I miss. Then I try again, and I get three in a row again. This keeps up for a long time: sometimes I get four in a row, sometimes two, but I generally get around three in a row.

After six months of that, don't you think my self-esteem would begin to decay a bit? What about a few years? Of course it would. Of course it would hurt my self-esteem to discover that I had an inexplicable barrier to improving my ability in this area. That's my point.

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In addition to what Jenni said, keep in mind that it's not about failing at certain tasks, but at a wide array of tasks -- particularly at tasks that you consider to be important.

It's about what the failure implies. If you try your hardest at some task, then fail, then that failure shows pretty unanswerably that you are impotent in the pertinent area of life. You are correct that no individual failure will lead to a *complete* collapse of self-esteem, because no failure can show that a person is impotent in every area of life. Nevertheless, it is obvious that certain individual failures can do a real hatchet job.

The negative emotions that accompany failure are "natural" (and like many negative emotions, they serve a purpose). The trick is: how to stop particular failures from reflecting on your whole. How to accept "I failed at X", or even "I am a failure at X" without going to "I am a failure". Abstractly, how does one stop from drawing a hasty generalization? Stopping oneself from making that generalization is not automatic. For the majority of human beings, making inductions is the normal way their minds work: and, as such, it is a good thing. What one needs to do is to bring that process under conscious control.

Conscious control might allow one to examine whether one is setting goals that are unreasonable. Conscious control might also let you say something like: "I don't think that goal is too high, but I need some successes, so I am going to set some lower goals anyway, and once I achieve those for a while, I'll move up again."

I agree with this. You're prescribing a course of action here. I've just been describing how the mind works.

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It's about what the failure implies. If you try your hardest at some task, then fail, then that failure shows pretty unanswerably that you are impotent in the pertinent area of life.

Not at all--for example, I consider it important to do my job well, but if I screw up and give someone incorrect change it doesn't have any impact on my self-esteem because I know that self-esteem is based on a broad survey of MANY instances, not a single one. Every single thing I do isn't a test of my self-esteem, where one failure means that I'm an unrecoverable screwup. It just means that accidents happen.

That's not to say that there aren't hysterical people over there who obsess over every single time they screw up and every bad thing that happens until they become neurotic and can no longer bring themselves to attempt *anything* (I used to do this, so I know about it!) but that's not the proper way to derive your self-esteem, as SNerd has indicated. Just as you judge other people on all the evidence, so must you judge yourself in the same way. While there are some individual unforgivable acts, short of a major crime I don't see why any rational person would conclude, on the basis of a single failure, "I am a failure".

There's a particularly good quote from AS about this issue, which I re-read whenever I'm feeling particularly down about myself and obsessing over past mistakes (It's on page 788 of my copy, when Hank is telling Dagny what he's learned after she declared their relationship over the radio):

I am happy that I have seen the truth--even if my power of sight is all that's left to me now. Were I to surrender to pain and give up in futile regret that my own error has wrecked my past--that would be the act of final treason, the ultimate failure toward the truth I regret having fialed. But if my love of truth is left as my only possession, then the greater the loss behind me, the greater the pride I may take in th eprice I have paid for that love. Then the wreckage will not become a funereal mount above me, but will serve as a height I have climbed to attain a wider field of vision. My pride and my power of vision were all that I owned when I started--and whatever I achieved, was achieved by means of them. Both are greater now. Now I have the knowledge of the superlative value I had missed: my right to be proud of my vision. The rest is mine to reach.

Whatever your mistakes, if you do not subvert and destroy your rationality, you have the means of correcting them, of changing your goal and pursuing life.

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The problem in my mind with setting realistic goals that you know you can achieve is it seems to limit one's self. What about setting unrealistic, nearly impossible goals, recognizing them as nearly impossible, and going for them relentlessly anyway?

I think a good start is in recognizing when your goal falls into a certain category, like:

1. This is something I'll be able to do without a problem. (learn time management, get promoted, save for a vacation)

2. This is something that I haven't done before, or is difficult, but I have evidence that I'll probably be able to do it. (overcome a fear, overcome an addiction)

3. This is something it is highly unlikely that I will ever do, but I would like to/I dream of doing it anyway. (become famous, be in a movie, become professional at a sport)

The last one, I think, is very important in -feeding- the self esteem. We need to have goals and dreams that are unhindered by their practical necessities. The key is to recognize that failing or not achieving, or even not working toward these dreams is not a reflection of self worth. For some people these goals remain a personal fantasy, for some they don't want to actively pursue it, but if the opportunity to do it arose, they would take it. Still others will chase the dream, actively work toward achieving it. The thing for the latter people to keep in mind is A) obviously, continue to do the normal everyday things, do well at whatever job you have to pay the bills and eat, and also :lol: not to allow failure to become an obstacle in and of itself, and to remember the reality that if you don't get to become an olympic swimmer or conquer a small African country, at least you tried, and if it was really your dream or passion in life, you had some fun trying.

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For some people these goals remain a personal fantasy, for some they don't want to actively pursue it, but if the opportunity to do it arose, they would take it. Still others will chase the dream, actively work toward achieving it.

Then it's not actually a *goal*, it's a wish or desire. Having a *goal* means actively going after it. I want some things that it'd be utterly ridiculous to choose as goals because they are *physically impossible* (being a superhero--this is what reading too much fantasy does to you). It's a bad idea to choose goals that are out of your control because they're based either on random events or other people's actions (winning the lottery, becoming famous, being six foot five).

A realistic goal can be fantastically difficult or open-ended (be the best I can!) if you like, in fact these are the best sorts of goals to construct your life around. But you still have to maintain a reality orientation and develop a good idea of how much "best" is possible to you. I used to have ridiculously high standards for myself that resulted in a lot of problems because I'd get angry and frustrated whenever I was, say, too tired to get done the stuff that I thought I ought to be able to get done--I'd wind up giving up and not doing *anything* instead of doing what I could. It's not a good road to go down.

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  • 1 year later...

*** Mod's note: Merged with an earlier thread. - sN ***

Could jealousy possibly be a rational response in certain circumstances? (Just so it's clear, I have a good understanding that emotions are automatic evaluations. Emotions themselves are neither rational or irrational, but the ideas that originated the emotion may be rational or irrational. Sorry for any vagueness in my phrasing)

Supposing jealousy is defined as “seeing another person as someone who may take away a value of yours,” I do not think there are any circumstances where feeling jealousy would be rational. I am not suggesting that emotions can be wrong, but if this particular emotion could be a result of a rational evaluation of a situation. Note that I'm distinguishing from envy, which would be desiring some type of value another person has. One obvious example of jealousy would be seeing another person as someone who can take away recognition of a position, say the teacher of an up and coming painter who may be overtaken by their student in ability and achievement. A historical example of jealousy involving achievement is Baroque-style architects Borromini and Bernini, who had a sort of rivalry like that seen in The Fountainhead, though with neither of the two being as rational as Roark (spoiler alert: Borromini commits suicide). I do not think in those two examples many would argue that jealousy would be the result of a rational evaluation of the context. A teacher's job is to provide their students with knowledge, so the student bettering the teacher is only a sign of just how great the teacher is.

What I'm wondering about here is if there are any contexts where jealousy is the result of a rational evaluation. The reason I do not think that jealousy is ever an appropriate response is because no one can “take” a value of yours away without violating your rights. Other people are not a threat to any of your values. As soon as other people come into the picture, you would not be operating in a rationally self-interested way because keeping values would then become a matter of making sure others stay away from your values. I'm sure many will think of romantic relationships and to a lesser extent friendships when it comes to jealousy. In those cases, I think jealousy would demonstrate particularly strong underlying misunderstanding about values and self-esteem. A friend of yours that make new friends would more than likely have their happiness enhanced, so if you have a proper understanding of values you should feel happy that a value of yours has been improved. Going off of that sort of reasoning, how could any other person by a threat to your values? Other people are a force for improving what is most important to you. Jealousy could only be the result of an opposite idea: other people are a force for taking away what is most important to you.

Does anyone disagree with my analysis? If so, can you provide some concrete examples of when jealousy is a proper response?

If you agree with my analysis, why do you think people develop feelings of jealousy at all? In other words, what would lead to a misunderstanding of how values are improved?

Edited by softwareNerd
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Jealousy is tough because it isn't a primary emotion. There is an emotion which is about two parts envy and one part admiration which I feel when I am bested fairly in some kind of competition. Like you said, this is not jealousy. It lacks bitterness and the desire for things to be other than what they are. When you work towards something like a job or a relationship it is easy to equate what could potentially be yours with what actually belongs to you. Say you are competing for a promotion and someone else gets it. The fact that you were striving to earn such a thing implies that you believe in principle that the promotion is a reward for merit/virtue. Jealousy is the desire to apply that principle to yourself and not to others, and to work in a vacuum. It may be rational to regret failing to gain some value, but taking the next step and blaming someone who did succeed is contradictory.

Another application of the term jealousy that doesn't stick is when you catch your spouse in an affair, because exclusivity and honesty are conditions of the relationship. If someone takes the unearned from you dishonestly, it is presumed that you would not have done the same in their place, and you cannot be jealous of their vices. If your spouse leaves you for someone else and is honest about it, you are justified in feeling regret, but jealousy would still contradict the principle that one is free to pursue a relationship in the first place.

In short, to be jealous of the earned is immoral because it is the desire to prevent anyone else from pursuing their values, and to be jealous of the unearned is immoral because it is the desire for non-values or to take others' values by force or fraud.

The only way jealousy could be justified is if there is something in its definition I'm missing.

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From dictionary.com:

jeal·ous·y   /ˈdʒɛləsi/

[jel-uh-see]

–noun, plural -ous·ies for 4.

1. jealous resentment against a rival, a person enjoying success or advantage, etc., or against another's success or advantage itself.

2. mental uneasiness from suspicion or fear of rivalry, unfaithfulness, etc., as in love or aims.

3. vigilance in maintaining or guarding something.

4. a jealous feeling, disposition, state, or mood.

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#3 is a slightly different connotation, but to apply it to the given scenarios one would be "maintaining or gaurding" one's right to pursue values above and beyond what anyone else is allowed to pursue, which is still contradictory. This doesn't apply to guarding one's property, because I would not be jealous of a burglar breaking into my house, I'd just be pissed off.

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Number two is why the wife kicked me out of the house yesterday. Just as well, we don't have the same values any longer.

Off-topic, I'm sorry to hear about the wife situation, Maximus.

But in response to the OP, of course jealously is a proper response. Values are things which you act to gain or keep. If you think you are about to lose something of high value you should react strongly.

The question is what you do with that jealously or whether it's constructive. If you see your lover's eye wandering, for instance, an appropriate response would be "I need to make sure I am at my best to retain his affections and maybe need to make sure he values what I think he does." "I'm going to make him sleep on the couch and smack her upside the head," while possibly more satisfying in the short run, doesn't get you anywhere and is childish at best.

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When you work towards something like a job or a relationship it is easy to equate what could potentially be yours with what actually belongs to you. Say you are competing for a promotion and someone else gets it.

Well, in your promotion example, that would involve something not already in your exclusive interest or possession. I think that would be an example of an envious type of feeling, and also a feeling which can be perfectly proper, though what you explain is a case where the emotion is applied in an irrational way. Jealousy would be a case where you already have the value in question (recognition or a relationship) and another person is a threat that may take that value away from you. Sometimes jealousy is equated to envy, which I think only confuses things. Also, I'm still curious about thoughts on sort of causes there would be to implicitly having a concrete-bound, short-term view on values. That is, if it is agreed that jealousy could never be proper.

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The question is what you do with that jealously or whether it's constructive. If you see your lover's eye wandering, for instance, an appropriate response would be "I need to make sure I am at my best to retain his affections and maybe need to make sure he values what I think he does." "I'm going to make him sleep on the couch and smack her upside the head," while possibly more satisfying in the short run, doesn't get you anywhere and is childish at best.

You responded while I was typing up the other response.

I am not exactly even sure if a lover's eye wandering would really be a worth a reaction, since there is not necessarily any decrease of valuing on their end. I guess I can't recall a time I have been jealous, so that example is way too abstract for me. I understand what you're saying about the potential of losing a high value, but to me that would only indicate desperation to hold on to something you aren't worthy of such as an inheritance, or desperation to hold onto something that should not matter such as fame. I would even suggest the mentality of both reactions to jealousy you gave are improper. Not that the first reaction is exactly destructive, but it changes the focus from what sort of person you are to what other people evaluate you to be.

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You responded while I was typing up the other response.

I am not exactly even sure if a lover's eye wandering would really be a worth a reaction, since there is not necessarily any decrease of valuing on their end. I guess I can't recall a time I have been jealous, so that example is way too abstract for me. I understand what you're saying about the potential of losing a high value, but to me that would only indicate desperation to hold on to something you aren't worthy of such as an inheritance, or desperation to hold onto something that should not matter such as fame. I would even suggest the mentality of both reactions to jealousy you gave are improper. Not that the first reaction is exactly destructive, but it changes the focus from what sort of person you are to what other people evaluate you to be.

Generally speaking, maintaining your values requires effort. Sometimes depending on what is going on it requires more effort and focus than others. How does wanting to retain a high value indicate desperation? Also, as far as changing the focus, we're not just talking about "other people"...we're talking about someone you've already decided is important to you, presumptively for rational reasons. Clearly it should not matter what "people" think of you, but what about a trusted friend, a teacher, a partner? If you respect their judgment it's one of the things you take into account when you make choices...you don't substitute it for your own, but you still consider it.

Don't get me wrong, not all jealousy is good. It depends on context, as does everything else. But you asked if it is EVER a proper response, and I don't see why not.

Let's take it out of the romantic context. You are the star running back and the coach suddenly starts putting the ball in the hands of some young upstart. Suddenly everyone's talking about him, not you, and he's the one in the position to win the big games. That praise and attention used to be yours, justly, because of your skills and talents. The irrational response would be to cut him down, piss in his cereal or something. Instead, that jealousy ought to drive you to suck it up and do better. You think that's YOUR glory out there? OK, then, prove it, go out and take it. If you felt absolutely nothing when this guy came out of nowhere and stole your scene I'd question how much you really cared about being the star in the first place. He took something from you. But if you want it back, you have to get it the right way.

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Generally speaking, maintaining your values requires effort. Sometimes depending on what is going on it requires more effort and focus than others. How does wanting to retain a high value indicate desperation?

I use the word "desperation" because I would think in the cases where there is a very real chance you are going to lose a value by another person, there is probably little reason to call it a value to your life anymore. As I was explaining in my first post, I would say other people will only enhance the values you hold, unless that other person is destructive or irrational (in which case you probably would feel angry or hateful rather than jealous). Your track-star example really points out something important. Why would glory really be a rational value? What should matter is doing the best you can do, not working to be the best. Jealousy seems to only arise out of a situation where there can only be one, Highlander style. Would any rational person feel nothing in your track-star example? Probably not. I think a good response would be to feel happy or excited at the prospects of a great new runner and how his success can benefit you in some way. Of course, that's not jealousy, though. I don't think any value can legitimately be straight out taken (as in, without violating rights) that is not to some degree either an irrational value or a value that you probably should re-evaluate.

Just because I think it's fitting to exactly what I want to express in this post, here's a related quote by Robert Heinlein: "A competent and self-confident person is incapable of jealousy in anything. Jealousy is invariably a symptom of neurotic insecurity."

Edited by Eiuol
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  • 2 years later...

*** Mod's note: Merged with an earlier topic. - sN ***

I was reading a recent thread about the Branden/Rand affair and fallout. I didn't want to take the thread off topic.

As brilliant as Rand is in so many areas, she was not consistent with her philosophy when it came to certain areas, particularly the areas of romantic love, sex and relationships. In short (and I can expand on my belief on this topic more later), jealousy is not a rational emotion. She betrayed her own philosophy of allowing others to pursue their rational self-interest, when she showed jealousy and anger over Branden choosing to spend time with someone beside her. It was as though she believed he had an obligation to her, regardless of his own true emotions. But to demand love from obligation, is not true love, as Rand herself wrote so clearly about numerous other times.

jealousy in a relationship is based on the notion that you somehow have ownership of another person. It is a reluctance to allow a person to choose for themselves whom they love. It is the idea that a person should discard their self-interest in order to maintain a relationship obligation you believe they owe you. It is the failure to understand that you can't hold the heart captive, nor should you want to. It is the failure to understand that love can only really exist when it is freely given.

Some of Rand's statements on sex and love show her inconsistencies on this issue.

I'd be glad to hear your thoughts.

Edited by softwareNerd
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Statements such as?

Some of her statements show her inconsistencies on being able to understand what I said above: "that love can only really exist when it is freely given." In other words, if someone does not love you, then you cannot make them love you if they are to be truly free and have ownership of their own lives. So it is meaningless to be jealous, and meaningless to try to punish someone with vindication, or to demand someone share your views on the virtues (or lack of them) in another person. The entire issue simply is driven by jealousy, that should be clear. And if Rand were consistent on this issue, she would not have said and done some of the jealousy-laden things she has said and done.

I'm speaking mostly of the Branden affair. Her journal entries, as quoted in The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics, show her jealousy.

They show that the jealous way she handled Branden's attraction and relationship with another woman revealed that Rand was unclear how her philosophy should work in the area of love, sexual attraction, and relationships. She should have realized (and some of her writings do seem to show that on a certain level she did) that giving people the freedom to own themselves, instead of placing social moral obligations on them, also means allowing people to choose for themselves whom to associate with, have sex with, or have a relationship with (whatever the level of that relationship is). Instead, Rand didn't seem willing in her personal life and in her personal statements to grant Branden that freedom over his own life. Jealousy controlled her in that moment of her life, and jealousy is always a nasty emotion.

In her journals she wrote of the prospect of ending her relationship with Branden:

I would be able to accept it only by means of dropping my entire estimate or view of him. My estimate would then be: here is a man who for some reason unknown to me, was unable to live up to his own greatness and mine, and ran from it (particularly mine); he preferred me not to exist; he killed me before my time, as far as he was concerned. So I would have to forget him—as one more, and last, and worst, instance of being penalized for my virtues. This hurts dreadfully. (November 27, 1967, p. 244)

Rand assumes that the rational reasons for attraction must be something that she herself can see, and since she can't see the reasons for Branden's attraction to Patrecia, then he must not be operating objectively. Part of Rand's problem in this regard is that she believes the only objective virtues a person can rationally be attracted to are character qualities. And at that, she doesn't allow for the possibility that there are some character qualities someone might have that she is unable to see, or hasn't yet seen.

But sometimes what we are attracted to sexually are not "character" qualities alone.Rand would have benefited in understanding more about evolutionary psychology, which has shown us that our sexual attraction often has "objectively" to do with procreation: Hip to waist ratio, reproductive potential, capability, genetic resistance to disease, social approval, etc. Because Rand is unaware of those kinds of evolutionary sexual attraction switches, she writes things like this:

Sex is one of the most important aspects of man’s life and, therefore, must never be approached lightly or casually. A sexual relationship is proper only on the ground of the highest values one can find in a human being. Sex must not be anything other than a response to values. And that is why I consider promiscuity immoral. Not because sex is evil, but because sex is too good and too important

So part of Rand's problem is she is holding to a view that if sex is for the sake of pleasure itself, then is not rational; it is nothing more than some kind of whim worship. But all she's really doing is being limited on what is rational, or perhaps said a better way, her judgment on what constitutes rational virtues is incomplete. Would Rand say that having tea and conversation with some friends, for enjoyment purely, is irrational? My guess is that she would not. I bet she would say this:

The form in which man experiences the reality of his values is pleasure . . . . A chronic lack of pleasure, of any enjoyable, rewarding or stimulating experiences, produces a slow, gradual, day-by-day erosion of man’s emotional vitality, which he may ignore or repress, but which is recorded by the relentless computer of his subconscious mechanism that registers an ebbing flow, then a trickle, then a few last drops of fuel—until the day when his inner motor stops and he wonders desperately why he has no desire to go on, unable to find any definable cause of his hopeless, chronic sense of exhaustion.

So I bet an evening of tea and conversation with friends, for pleasure, would be considered a "reality of a man's values," to Rand. Why would Rand feel differently about sex for pleasure's sake? Well, it's because she views it as "too important" for "promiscuity." Here Rand is not being rational. She is a woman of her time, with that statement. Sometimes enjoying time with people, whether it be for tea and conversation, or whether it be for sex ... and conversation, is completely rational, and a celebration of the reality of one's values. But why would Rand (and others in general) be sensitive and wary of casual sex? Not because of rationality, but because of social convention, and traditional relationship constructs. That was what fed Rand's jealousy regarding Branden, and that's what caused her to cling to traditional conventions regarding "casual sex" and "promiscuity," and it isn't rational.

Edited by secondhander
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Can you narrow your question down? Do you want to talk about casual sex, or the emotion of jealousy? I agree though that jealousy is very bad for various reasons, but I wouldn't call it rational or irrational. Of course, resulting behavior may be irrational. Jealousy may suggest insecurity with one's values.

By the way, Rand never really argued for self-ownership, and I think that concept is not a valid one.

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I agree with Euiol that this thread does not seem to be about jealousy as an emotion. That emotion has its place and can be productive if you treat it rationally.

Are you saying that Rand's sexual ethics and subsequent behavior are rooted in jealousy? I have observed this sort of behavior in others and myself before, although I have not read the specifics of Rand's life so it is up to you whether or not you can apply this following description to her.

I used to be this way. I would react strongly to promiscuity. When it came to certain female friends, I would be upset that those girls would casually have sex with other men, and not me. I never explicitly thought it, but I felt that I was owed a relationship that they had given out "for free" .I would get angry, and justify my angry by condemning that behavior as immoral. I realized though that my emotional reactions were disproportionate to the situation. I deconstructed my emotional reactions and realized that I was envious of my more hedonistic peers, and that deep down I wanted what they had, but I was alienated and had not earned that right.

I had a lot of paradigm shifts when it came to relationships after I got over that. That kind of envy can really cripple friendships and relationships, I hope Ayn Rand didn't have anything like that.

Edited by Hairnet
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