My jealousy was definitely not your typical, I'm-insecure-over-your-ex-girlfriend, kind of jealousy. It was the I'm-going-to-disintegrate-If-I-think-about-her kind.
At my lowest point, I ransacked my boyfriend's apartment, desperate for clues that he was still in love with his ex. I picked fights with him, expecting him to leave me so that he could prove my point —— that he didn't really love me. At the same time, I feared him walking away more than anything in the entire world.
When I think about how I used to be, it's like thinking of an entirely different person. One day, at my lowest point, I sat in a quiet place for perhaps 20 minutes, meditating on my situation. I envisioned myself lying in a bathtub with the word "love" written all over me. I read studies by Dr. Masaru Emoto on the physiological importance of positive thinking: specifically, if you change the way you think about yourself, you can change the composition in your body because our bodies are made up of about 60% water.
And then I began to ponder worst-case scenarios: What if he left me for her? What if his ex really was as pretty as I imagined her to be? And suddenly, I somehow stopped myself in the spiral of anxiety. By staring my deepest fears in the face, a weight lifted off me. It dawned on me that I was so focused on hanging onto fear that I confused my jealousy with a sense of control. Hitting rock bottom showed me my power, and invited me to let go for good.
I remember that the day after I had this mini-awakening, my boyfriend (who eventually became my husband) noticed a stark change in me immediately. When I had this internal shift, he actually started giving me the things that I was secretly hoping he would: more affection, words of love, praise and adoration.
Yet, the most significant shift occurred afterward, within myself. Here are three ways that jealousy was productive, and transformed my life:
1. I stopped believing that love between two people can ever be clearly defined.
For me, love is a unique journey that each couple chooses to travel together. Most of the time, the road begins in the romantic light of sunset — all whimsical and perfect — but may become rougher over time. My husband and I encountered tumultuous terrains quite quickly, but we sensed that it was worth the effort to find our way through it. For us, that was OK, even productive.
The bottom line is that no two people will experience the same type of love, so try as be as present as you can within your current relationship. Just because something might look different than the love you imagined at another time in your life doesn't mean your commitment is flawed or inauthentic. Define your understanding of love in terms of your relationship, and no one else's.
2. I learned the power of visualization.
In my case, getting over something tough takes a lot of meditation and visualization. I play out worst-case scenarios in my mind (like I did when I was jealous), imagining the possible outcomes and then coming to terms with the likely aftermaths.
Usually, when I really, really think about the outcomes of my fears, they actually aren't so bad. Visualization merely takes a few minutes every day. I close my eyes and force myself to confront my biggest anxieties. Sometimes, I'll even lock up my fears in an imaginary box and throw away the key, realizing how irrational they are. Sometimes I'll drown them. There is no right way to visualize, but this technique is how I have conquered my fears.
3. I am way more confident.
When we overcome negative emotions, we inevitably become stronger individuals. There's no disagreeing with that. My perspective on the world and empathy toward others has been greatly enhanced since I've worked through my own toxic stuff. Not only do I recognize my own strength, but I can appreciate it in others.
Fear is at the root of most destructive emotions, really. So after combating jealousy, I realized that overcoming and growing from negativity almost always starts with looking fear in the face.
So what are you afraid of? Start thinking about it.