Who'd have thought I'd actually start to enjoy working on Step Four?! In rehab, I heard story after story about people who went back out because they couldn't face this step. After some initial squeamishness and fear, I'm finding that the rewards so outweigh any temporary feelings of regret that I'm turning out to like this step. I remember the one time I took magic mushrooms (psilocybin) way back in grad school, when I was stoned I had the feeling that... ah, suddenly everything made utter sense in the world. The blinders had been removed and life was now a brand new thing altogether. My perception was much sharper now. Yup. I was stoned.
But what I'm experiencing now is not unlike that feeling of suddenly dawning understanding. Except this time my mind is clear.
I was thinking about jealousy this morning and how it used to operate in my life. I always hated feeling jealous. Feeling those feelings made me believe I was, secretly, a small person. So I would tell myself to NOT feel jealous even when I did. Instead of examining the roots of my jealousy, I would just deny to myself and to others that I felt that way at all. And then I would drink that nagging feeling of "something is wrong here" away, so that I never, ever got around to dealing with all those root causes.
I remember the last time I felt viciously jealous. It's when I broke up with my ex Her Awesomeness (who is one of my dearest friends and supporters at the present). I didn't really want to break up with her. But I felt like I had to because our needs in the relationship were different at the time: I wanted exclusivity; she wanted the freedom to see other people. Since those needs clashed, I took my leave: so far, so good. Sometimes things just don't work out the way we'd like. But (you knew there had to be a "but.") Then she started seeing a woman she had some history with and when that woman strayed, Her Awesomeness's response was to immediately commit to an exclusive relationship.
OMG you can imagine how livid I was. Jealousy doesn't begin to describe how I felt. I didn't get it. Her new girlfriend was short, a troll; an idiot who didn't even have a bachelor's degree; a liar who called herself a chef when really she just worked as a baker for a local chain of bakeries; not to mention being a slut who probably had a nasty woman's disease. Not only that, she'd clearly played Her Awesomeness by pulling the stunt she'd pulled. WTF! How unfair! You get the idea.
It took me forever to get past my jealousy and anger because all my efforts were spent on venting, obsessing, and feeling self-righteously frustrated over the whole thing.
What a colossal waste of time. For the fact is, none of that ever did anything to make me feel better.
Had I only been willing to give myself an honest, hard look, I would've seen immediately that OF COURSE I would be jealous. She got the girl! She got the commitment I'd wanted. She'd succeeded where I'd failed. I secretly knew that but wouldn't acknowledge it, so instead of admitting I'd failed, I instead projected onto her all the shortcomings in the world so I could believe life was just unfair instead of facing the whys of that failure.
That's just dumb. And why wouldn't I let my mind go there?
Because I would've had to see that it was me who was insecure, fearful, and lacking in self-confidence. Period. Instead of working on my own lack of self-esteem, I tried to bolster it unsuccessfully by obsessing over this other woman, seething with anger at her (when, really, I barely knew her), and pissing my time away trying to stomach the idea that life is full of these kinds of injustices.
The bottom line is, it's much easier to hate and blame someone else than it is to admit something might be wrong with you. Every time that woman succeeded at something (finishing a triathlon, getting a new job, hell, even getting a damn haircut that people liked), it drove me apeshit. When Her Awesomeness finally broke up with this woman, you would've thought I'd won Mega Millions. Vindication! Life is fair after all!
Uh, no. Her Awesomeness didn't come crawling back to me pleading for forgiveness and newly found enlightenment, extolling my charms, wit, and beauty. She was like, "Joyce Who?"
And even if she had--even if she had, every time this woman or another woman would have looked at her sideways, I still would've fallen right back into being jealous. And since Her Awesomeness happens to be a very attractive, charismatic, and smart person, I would have been constantly unhappy in a relationship with her anyway, at least at that point in my own personal evolution... because I hadn't yet dealt with my own insecurities and my own lack of self-esteem.
The lesson, I guess, is that our minds are our biggest prisons. You will never be happy, you will never feel content, you will never feel serenity, peace of mind, and a sense of well-being as long as you haven't dealt with your own shit. No amount of money, popularity, cosmetic surgery, a Porsche, a best seller, and being the love interest of Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt (or both) can make you happy.
Only you can make you happy.
It's a shame it took me until I was 47 years old to really get that.