The green-ey’d monster

June 7, 2010

The Cumbria massacre has made me think about jealousy. The girlfriend who dumped Derrick Bird via text, the terms of the family will, the fall-out between the brothers might, outwardly, make some sort of piled-up motive for the taxi driver’s actions. But the real fuel for his rage, I suspect, came from a hideous home-brewed cocktail of  resentment, grief, hatred and full-strength, old-school, toxic jealousy. What a corrosive mixture to carry around inside you, as he apparently did, for years. What a tragedy that he couldn’t offload some of those feelings somewhere. But no-one wants to hear about jealousy – it seems truly the most corrupting of emotions.  It belittles the person who feels it and justly horrifies those at the receiving end. Shakespeare’s lines from Iago, though so often quoted they have all but lost their meaning, do truly have it right:

O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-ey’d monster, which doth mock
The meat it feeds on. That cuckold lives in bliss,
Who, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger:
But O, what damnèd minutes tells he o’er
Who dotes, yet doubts, suspects, yet strongly loves!

Of course, the irony is that it is Iago who is saying these lines to his master, warning him of the cruel pangs of jealousy – the very same person who creates, nurtures and carefully ratchets up Othello’s doubts and fears until, past sanity, he kills and loses Desdemona, precisely because he fears losing her so much.

green eyed

If jealousy were not so hateful, I could almost admire it as an emotion. It comes from nowhere, and does not go until nothing is left. Most of us don’t even need an Iago to get things started. A word out of place, a misjudged email, and those of us who are that way inclined have short-circuited all logic and reason and pronounced a sentence of guilty on a loved one. Jealousy really does ‘mock the meat it feeds on,’ making a fool of the person who feels it, and usually successfully accomplishing the destruction of the love and the relationships in doubt.

Of all the deadly sins, I can see the point, or even enjoy, most. Gluttony – well yes, obviously. Lust – nothing wrong with a bit of that now and again. Envy – did I tell you I love your handbag? Sloth – I really don’t feel like writing my novel today. Anger – well, you definitely need a jot of that to drive in London. Pride – actually, I’m quite proud of my novel, and you can buy a copy here: But jealousy? Where does it get us? Nowhere, fast. Unless, of course, that really was lipstick on his collar …..

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  • Crystal Jigsaw June 7, 2010 at 5:21 am

    I try not to be jealous but occasionally it is a human emotion that we humans are unable to control. My sister gets very jealous and it shows which isn’t nice. It’s built a wedge between us over the years.

    As for Derrick Bird, it goes far deeper doesn’t it.

    CJ xx

    • Dulwich Divorcee June 7, 2010 at 6:28 am

      That’s the trouble, I think, it’s such a horrible emotion that people try to hide it ….until it bursts out. Awful for you and your sister. Yes, the Derrick Bird thing is beyond belief. Those poor, poor people caught up in his madness, and his poor mother, losing two sons in a day in such dreadful circumstances

  • The Moiderer June 7, 2010 at 6:00 am

    Oh god I get jealous all the time. It is mostly because I have a huge inferiority complex. I don’t do anything about it other than be aware of this personality trait. I try and avoid competitive situations and I try and stop all reactions that I have at are born out of jealousy, or maybe it’s envy.
    I think any of our emotions can potentially tip us over the edge though. It is built into all of us as we are basically evolved animals. It’s scary when something like Cumbria happens. Same behaviours can be seen when a crowd of people gathers or when a few people are confined in the same space for a while.
    I sometimes despair of human nature

    • Dulwich Divorcee June 7, 2010 at 6:30 am

      You’re so brave to admit it as a problem. Though I’ve written this whole post about jealousy, I really have a problem putting my hands up and saying I suffer from it badly too. It is like a disease. Sounds as though you have really sorted it out though, I envy you!! But not in a bad way 🙂

  • Sarah in deepest, darkest Lomellina June 7, 2010 at 6:32 am

    I sort of see it (when it is in the realms of “normal” as opposed to out of you mind, or so self obsessed that you think the world only revolves around “poor me”) as an early warning system.

    A warning that there is something “off” in a relationship. A red flag that suggests this is not the playground for you unless some issues are addressed.

    I thought I was a terribly jealous person through and through, until I left my first marriage (cos I just couldn’t live with feeling that bad all the time anymore). With my second husband I have discovered over the last 15 years that I am not inclined to feel jealous at all.

    Evidently unless somebody goes out their way to stimulate the emotion in me I’m just plain, old, boring normal in the green eyed monster stakes.

    In the worst case scenario where I lost husband 2.0, were I to form a new relationship and I did suffer from bouts of jealousy I’d see it as a sign that this was one bloke to be avoided.

    In that sense I think it is useful, and possibly why we developed it in the first place, an instinctive reaction that tells us something is not right, warning of a dynamic that is unhealthy and destructive.

  • Dulwich Divorcee June 7, 2010 at 7:02 am

    That’s a really interesting point of view, I had been struggling to see the point of jealousy at all, but as an early warning system I can see that it does have a useful role. So glad for you that husband 2.0 (love that – seems to suggest the possibility that he could have a few upgrades/tweaks if necessary!!) is not pushing the green button. Definitely food for thought.

  • Insomniac Mummy June 7, 2010 at 9:04 am

    Jealousy and resentment. What a potent cocktail indeed! Each one feeding the other until all other emotions are suffocated.

    I think where families and wills are concerned there is always a huge possibility that someone is going to have their nose left out of joint, but to allow those feelings of jealousy and resentment to bubble over into blind unfathomable rage, well, we saw the consequences last week.

    Anyone who has ever felt pangs of jealousy knows when enough is enough, what I will never understand is how Derrick Bird could let his emotions get so out of control, but I guess when you’re being eaten up inside like that then your whole life becomes about that inner rage.

    Jealousy without the resentment can have murderous consequences too. You only have to look back at so called ‘crimes of passion’ to see that green eyed monster at work once more.

    I also think that a little bit of jealousy can sometimes be a good thing. Being envious of someone else’s success can spur you to achieve more yourself.


    P.S That Othello quote reminded me of A-Level English Literature…..*shudder*

    • Dulwich Divorcee June 11, 2010 at 8:20 am

      Ooops, sorry to bring back bad memories of Eng Lit! Yes, I suppose a dash of jealousy can be a good thing …though I think if you are a jealous type, it’s hard to restrict yourself to just a dash!

  • Geekymummy June 7, 2010 at 10:57 am

    Such a destructive emotion. I hate when I feel it (rarely now,) and feel afraid when it’s directed at me.

    • Dulwich Divorcee June 11, 2010 at 8:21 am

      Yes, it’s very scary when it’s directed at you. And often completely incomprehensible. Horrible stuff

  • Hayley June 7, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    A few of us have written about this, unsuprisingly, myself included. I think there are many many people out there who are so confused by this mans actions, why didnt he get the help he needed and why didnt he seek it out. Is it biological or is it emotional? So many questions. Jealousy is a hideous and dangerous emotion which can go horribly wrong x

    • Dulwich Divorcee June 11, 2010 at 8:21 am

      I shall have to pop over and read your post on the subject, Hayley. thanks for coming over!

  • Chic Mama June 7, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    True…it just eats away at you doesn’t it if you let it. Great thought provoking post. x

    • Dulwich Divorcee June 11, 2010 at 8:22 am

      Thank you Chic, lovely to see you x

  • Jo Beaufoix June 8, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    Brilliant post lovely. You made me think. I don’t think I’m a particularly jealous person, but there have been times I’ve recognized it in myself and felt awful. I love Sarah’s idea of it being a warning system though, but blimey it cab be destructive can’t it.

    • Dulwich Divorcee June 11, 2010 at 8:22 am

      Hi lovely Jo, yes, I really think it shows people at their worst. Can’t believe you are a sufferer though hon x