Sex, Cyberspace, Jealousy and Suffering

Jealousy and happiness are sworn enemies” – Stephen L. DeFelice, M.D.

I never was and never want to be jealous for, as I’ve repeatedly emphasized, I really don’t like suffering!  Dostoevsky, the great Russian novelist who understood the inner workings of the human mind more than classic philosophers and psychiatrists,  was convinced that humans love to suffer. If that be true, I’m not human. On the other hand, observing human behavior for a long, long time, the man spoke the truth. Lots of people love to suffer.

A couple of decades ago, I made a judgment that the passion of jealousy had to be dramatically accelerating both in intensity and prevalence because of increased sexual activity as well as increased types of sexual relationships among different partners. Since then, sexual appetites and the quest for their fulfillment have increasingly skyrocketed. Jealousy and suffering must be as rampant and extant as never before particularly among the young. But what is puzzling is that jealousy, as a cause of suffering and unhappiness, is hardly mentioned in our national conversations.

I must confess that once -for a brief moment only- I thought that the mind altering power of technology and the prevalent use of drugs might have suppressed mankind’s natural passion of jealousy. About six months ago, I met a high school student whose girlfriend went off to a university far away. Before she left, he told me, straight –faced, that he gave her condoms and advised her to carry them with her in case anyone of her future sex mates forgot them. In addition, he coached her on the types of men she should hit the sack with. Frankly speaking, I couldn’t believe my ears. What a way to be in love!

A few days later, I had a drink with a good-looking, well-grounded senior male who attends a major university and who also has a winning personality. The ladies like the guy. I asked him about the jealousy scene in the universities. I reasoned that, since there are all kinds of culturally acceptable very brief, sex- relief types of relationships now going on, guys and gals are getting used to it. It’s like eating a hamburger when you’re hungry. One would not expect much jealousy. He said, “It ain’t so. No way. It’s all over the place.” He then made an insightful observation which, for some reason, had eluded me. He points his finger at Facebook as a major cause of jealousy. The steady flow of photos and messages from a partner or others to the co- partner creates lots of jealousy and mental anguish. “Picture a Facebook photo of your honeybun with his or her friends, which is very common, smiling, hugging and doing whatever and how you feel.”   I took his advice and imagined a scenario where I was a young man with a deep crush on my girlfriend who was matriculating at a university on the other side of the National Divide. She’s deeply tanned and at a beach party in her bikini with her drink in hand. She’s obviously on a high as judged by her glazed eyes and broader than normal smile, surrounded by a couple of smiling guys and gals in the photo, also with drinks in hand, with the Facebook message, “I miss you, honey!”

Because of my research instincts, I called about a dozen frequent users of Facebook. All agreed that this and other types of jealousy-provoking messages are common on Facebook and increasingly on Twitter. When asked why men and women do this for they surely must know that such acts provoke jealousy, none had a satisfying answer except that sometimes it is done to actually provoke jealousy as a strategic love move that would make their partners appreciate them more.   But, of course, it frequently leads to mental anguish and the disruption of the relationship. Also, let’s not forget that even small seemingly insignificant messages, photos or videos can mightily trigger the powerful sensitive jealousy brain center of many.

I am not aware of a credible clinical study evaluating both the prevalence and intensity of cyberspace-induced jealousy. In the medical journals that I read the mental impact of jealousy is rarely mentioned. I have a hunch which I can’t prove. Here goes: For some reason people burden with jealousy are reluctant to visit a psychiatrist, psychologist or other types of professionals for help. Who knows why!

The famous Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung, broke off from Freud who stressed sex, in a general sense, is the primary motivator of a broad spectrum of human behavior. Jung believed much behavior is related to being secure and jealousy is a great threat to a man or woman’s security. For this reason, he opened a clinic in Zurich targeted to treat primarily jealous patients. Guess what? Few showed up, and he closed the clinic.

What’s the message? If someone wishes to maintain an amorous relationship with another, pay closer attention to what is said and sent. There’s enough suffering in life to foolishly add another layer to it because of cyberspace carelessness.

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