Philippa Perry is a psychotherapist, Red’s agony aunt and the author of bestselling parenting book, The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read. Here she advises a reader who feels jealous that other's people's lives appear to be going back to normal after the pandemic.
I've had to move back in with my mum, as I'm at a high risk of serious complications from Coronavirus. I've only seen a handful of friends since the pandemic began. My friends’ lives are beginning to go back to something much more near normal: working and meeting up.
I am frustrated with the situation and feel annoyed with them, which I know isn’t fair, but I’m jealous that they can live far more normally than me and don’t seem to appreciate it. How should I deal with this? I feel very unseen by them. I wrote a blog about how limited my life feels and got great feedback from strangers, but nothing from them.
Philippa says: What can you do about your jealousy? Make friends with it. I, too, would be jealous in your situation. Not being able to go out, not being able to have the lives that your friends have – it's enough to eat anyone up, so it's natural to feel jealous. But part of you notices that you feel jealous, so there is one part, that observer part that isn't jealous but just observing. And the observer part of you can tell the nurturing, kind part of you to give the jealous part a hug.
I want to give you permission to be jealous, to be fed up, because if you stop seeing these normal feelings as a problem, it is one less thing to get you down. It's a normal response to an abnormal situation.
Another thing the virus does is put a magnifying glass on an existing problem, thus giving what we psychotherapists call ‘another f**cking opportunity for growth’. And it seems that along with the jealousy comes you wanting to blame your friends for your less-than-comfortable feelings. You are ‘annoyed’ with them for not appreciating that they have to shield less than you do.
Logically, you know that isn’t their fault, but it doesn’t stop you having those feelings. You call it annoyance, but a part of you is hating them for being freer than you and not appreciating it. You seem to be needing someone to blame for your frustrating situation.
The virus is a bit faceless and not as easy to blame as humans, but perhaps if we need to lay blame, it should be on the virus rather than each other.
I’m wondering whether you are having difficulty talking to them about your jealousy because you feel you shouldn’t have it. I’m also wondering whether your blog is a way for you to indirectly communicate with your friends. If they feel told off, it could be why they haven’t got back to you.
There are two types of jealousy. One where you want what others have, and, two, when you don’t want them to have what they have because you haven’t got it. Type one, although unpleasant, is at least pointing out to us what our needs might be, but the second type can be vindictive. It is understandable that you might feel the second type and try to steer it towards the first. If I’m barking up the wrong tree and no one could interpret your blog as an indirect telling off, then you’ll just have to ask them to read it because you feel lonely if they don’t.
We’ve all responded differently to the pandemic and the unique situations it has put us in. Some people feel that there is a right way to respond and a wrong one, but I feel we mustn’t be too quick to judge those who approach it differently to us, because we can never know what it’s like to be someone else and what their burdens are.
When we feel bad, it is a common fault that many of us want to blame other people, rather than taking more responsibility for how we make ourselves feel.
Do you have a question that Philippa can answer? It could be about your relationships at work or home, your ambitions or career, your partner or child, motherhood, siblings, parents or friends. Email her in confidence at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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