A Phenomenology of Jealousy

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Transcript  PsychiatryAustralian and New Zealand Journal of online version of this article can be found at: DOI: 10.3109/00048679009062882 1990 24: 17 Aust N Z J Psychiatry  Paul E. Mullen A Phenomenology of Jealousy  Published by: On behalf of:  The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists  can be found at: Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry  Additional services and information for Email Alerts: Subscriptions: Reprints: Permissions: Citations: What is This? - Mar 1, 1990Version of Record >>  by Alonso Pelayo on October 21, 2014anp.sagepub.comDownloaded from by Alonso Pelayo on October 21, 2014anp.sagepub.comDownloaded from   A PHENOMENOLOGY OF JEALOUSY Paul E. Mullen Phenomenology is the study of conscious mental events [l]. That it is con- scious events requires emphasis particularly at this moment in the historical development of psychiatry when we are still emerging from the thrall of psychodynamic causalities said to lie in unconscious and unknowable realms and are in danger of descending into another mythology of extra conscious mechanisms compounded rom neurobiological speculations. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 1990; 24:17-28 A phenomenology of jealousy involves an explora- tion of the experiences and activities involved in being jealous. For such an exegesis the position from which the reading is to be attempted and the nature of the texts which are to be interpreted need to be clarified. Jealousy will be approached from the viewpoint of a clinical psychiatrist, but one concerned, in this essay, with the jealousy which forms part of the potential, if not the experience, of most of us, rather than with morbid processes which afflict a disordered minority. The material, the text, is derived by the methods of phenomenology from written self descriptions, the explorations of novelists and philosophers, the ac- counts and behaviour of patients, and finally the results of direct questioning, both systematic and un- structured [2]. The status of what will follow is that of a tentative descriptive analysis concerned with meaningful rather than causal connections; it is about plausible under- standing rather than empirically based explanations in terms of causal mechanisms. The data on which the analysis is based is culture bound and can only lead at best to a narrative knowledge, which lays no claim to being a science and cannot lead to any closed system of certainty [3]. A descriptive analysis such as this can, however, give rise to hypotheses which are then open to empirical refutation. The systematic study of Department of Psychological Medicine University of Otago Medical School PO Box 913 Dunedin New Zealand Paul E. Mullen FXCPsych FRANZCP jealousy is still in its infancy, but where relevant, such material will be drawn upon. A final caveat: this essay concerns ealousy, not envy, and then only the ealousy which arises in romantic and erotic relationships. Jealousy only exists as the experience of a particular individual, it is not a thing, but a lived relationship. Lagache [4] in his monograph on jealousy wrote “Un &at de jalousie n’est pas seulement une manibre de vivre la relation amoureuse, mais une manikre d’exister”. (Jealousy is not only a way in which love is experienced but a mode of being). Behind jealousy is the ealous individual whose own jealousy is unique. In our attempt to grasp the manifestations of jealousy which are measurable and reproduceable, it is all too easy to lose the central aspects of what is a meaningful lived experience. Even within the individual, ealousy is a constantly changing complex. Proust [5] wrote in Remembrance of Things Past that “Jealousy is never a single continuous and indivisible passion. It is com- posed of an infinity of successive .... of different jealousies each of which is ephemeral, although by their uninterrupted multiplicity they give us the im- pression of continuity, the illusion of unity”. In abstracting the common elements from the multitude of unique jealousies there is a danger of reifying jealousy into a thing with an independent existence. Emotions form a heterogenous group which vary from reactions such as disgust and anger, which owe much to physiology and something to culture and individual experience, to complex states like nostalgia and gratitude, which owe much to culture and ex- by Alonso Pelayo on October 21, 2014anp.sagepub.comDownloaded from   18 A PHENOMENOLOGY OF JEALOUSY Figure 1 The elements o ealousy perience and something to physiology. In approaching the phenomenology of jealousy it is aspects of con- scious experience which are of concern. The bodily symptoms and physiological changes, so often em- phasised in the studies of emotion, are not the topic of this enquiry, still less the genesis of emotion from supposed drives and instincts. In describing the ex- perience of an emotion there is utility in treating separately the aspects of judgement, desire, imagina- tion, feelings and predispositions to behave. Emotions, like all intentional states, are about something and in the case of jealousy they are about the beloved and to a lesser extent, the rival. Jealousy occurs in the context of relationships. The cultural and social background determines, in large part, the expectations of the relationship and the context in which jealousy is evoked. These elements which will be employed to describe jealousy are schematically represented in Figure 1. The figure illustrates some of the elements which contribute to the experience of jealousy (see text). The Loved One is the object and central concern of jealousy. Judgements, desires, feelings, fantasies and predispositions to behave may all be directed at the loved one and secondarily at the actual or supposed rival. Jealousy is experienced n the immediate context of a relationship. The social and cultural realities determine the construction of the norms and assump- tions which constitute the relationship for the jealous partner and the loved one. The drama of jealousy is played out within the experience and constraints of time and space. To divide and make distinctions between aspects of a lived experience involves rending apart what is a continuous process. To describe in a manner which can be generalised involves making distinctions, but those divisions are creatures of convention rather than the reflections of reality. The caveat should be kept in view during the over-simplifications which follow. Judgements Emotions have come to be regarded as perturbations and agitations which occur within us in particular circumstances; responses to special classes of stimuli. They are viewed as being at the other pole to reason and judgement. Solomon [6 7] has rejected this view- point, arguing that emotions are intentional states which involve udgements and choices. He goes as far as to claim “emotions are defined primarily by their constitutive judgements, given structure by judge- by Alonso Pelayo on October 21, 2014anp.sagepub.comDownloaded from   PAUL. E MULLEN 19 ments, distinguished as particular emotions (anger, love, envy, etc.) by judgements” [7]. Emotions are not, as so often assumed, the antithesis of reason, but the expression of judgements. Though they can produce an irrational outcome, in the sense of failing to advance the subject’s needs and purposes, they nevertheless embody decisions. The jealous individual is often unaware that passion is dependent on prior judgments. The language and accents of the jealous, however, reveal their judge- ments. They speak with indignation, they speak of betrayal, of desertion and of disloyalty. Betrayal is only possible when fealty is judged to be due and indignation can only arise when you consider yourself to have a moral right. Love is often equated with ownership and jealousy with a resentment at the loss of a possession. What is put in question, what is judged to be at risk, is an aspect of property rights. Davis [8] expressed this by stating “In every case jealousy is a fear or rage reaction to a threatened appropriation of one’s own, or what is desired as one’s own property”. Such formulations are at best insufficient as love usually involves a relation- ship between human beings the unique feature of which is that the lover returns affection. Sartre [9] states “The lover does not desire to possess the beloved as one possess a thing; they demand a special type of appropriation. They want to possess a freedom as freedom ... to be freely chosen as beloved”. Love cannot be vouchsafed by an oath of loyalty nor guaran- teed by fear. The presence of the beloved is of little value if it depends only on the desire not to go back on a pledge or on fear of the consequences of leaving. The need for love to be freely given puts the truth of love continually in question. I can watch what she does, listen to what she says, interpret her every move and mumble, but I can never know what lies behind the observable. The other escapes me even when by my side. Having a mind of her own is necessary for her to truly love, to freely chose to love me, but the mind of another is always opaque, always in doubt. Is it love or the performance of love? The appearance, but not the substance? Is it true love? Once the ques- tion is raised then it remains forever open. Once love is put in doubt, ealousy is possible. Perhaps this is why Nietzsche [ 101 in one of his aphorisms notes, “About two persons I have never reflected very thoroughly, that is the testimony of my love for them”. The first judgement in jealousy is usually that love was freely given, the second that it is now in ques- tion.What is put in question when love is subjected to doubt will depend on what is believed to constitute love. Anthony Trollope’s novel, He Knew He Was Right, first published in 1869 [ll], deals with the theme of jealousy within the context of the mores of the European bourgeoisie in the mid nineteenth cen- tury. The book chronicles the descent from jealousy to insanity and death of Trevelyan, an English gentleman. The jealousy is initiated by Trevelyan’s suspicions that his young wife has encouraged too great a social intimacy with a Colonel Osborne, an ageing bachelor. There is no question at the outset of sexual impropriety, merely an error of social etiquette. Trevelyan raises with his wife the advisability of receiving visits from Osborne in the expectation that she will take his view as her own. Emily, while reject- ing his view of the situation, agrees to accept, out of wifely obedience, any order he shall give with respect to the Colonel. Trevelyan is trapped in a cleft stick, for to give an order not to admit Osborne will indicate that his wife does not freely give her agreement, but to fail to provide an instruction leaves her free to act against his wishes. Poor Trevelyan vacillates by giving her orders, then withdrawing them. He voices the demand that she “must know his real wishes”, irrespective of what he actually says and demands she reassures him that “their wishes are the same”. It is the central dilemma for the lover that forced compliance s useless for it is a free and willed agreement that constitutes love. Trevelyan bemoans the fact the Emily is no longer content with him as her “one god on earth, but makes to herself other gods”. Make me your idol and do it freely without being asked and without question, this is all Trevelyan, like so many, needs to keep jealousy in check. Trevelyan’s jealousy involves the judgement that his wife no longer freely complies with, and shares his views and this perforce puts her love in question. He accepts that she will obey if ordered, but this is not enough. Fidelity in action alone is never enough, it has to be in thought as well. The Christian tradition sup- ports this need to define faithfulness in thought as well as action. Matthew, Chapter V, verse 28, puts it suc- cinctly: “But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart”. Love voluntarily given and fidelity even in the innermost thoughts and fan- tasies; these are the demands, if not of the lover, then of the jealous. Such refined sensibilities may seem far removed from contemporary sexual jealousy. In our by Alonso Pelayo on October 21, 2014anp.sagepub.comDownloaded from 


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