In today’s video, I’m going to share one of my favourite ways to think about retroactive jealousy.

So: how to start overcoming intrusive thoughts?

Zachary Stockill: For a long time, I would label retroactive jealousy as the character “fat bastard” in the Austin Powers comedies, from Mike Myers’s comedies from the 90s…

This helped me deal with the intrusive thoughts, obsessive curiosity and the often ridiculous thoughts I’d have that would help me kind of dismiss them, much easier when I called this little demon “fat bastard”.

If you have a different “pet name” for retroactive jealousy, it can help you deal with it much sooner.

Retroactive jealousy refers to intrusive thoughts and often obsessive curiosity about a partner’s past relationships or sexual history.

Many years ago, when I was struggling with retroactive jealousy, I made the mistake of feeding the energy of retroactive jealousy with more energy.

So, retroactive jealousy represents a form of energy. And quite often with any kind of thought or problem in life that we’re struggling with. When we feed that energy with more energy, and when we add fuel to the fire, it does nothing but prolongs our experience of this problem. Prolong our long path to finding a solution and often makes the problem 10 times worse.

It wants your energy and attention. And if you can deny this energy, this is not gonna be a miracle cure overnight, but it will help over time in overcoming intrusive thoughts.

Eventually, this will help dissipate the original thought.

“Bully” is a useful way of perceiving retroactive jealousy in general.

Let’s say there’s a bully on the schoolyard taunting another student. Now, what does that bully want at that moment? He wants energy and attention. He wants to get a rise out of the student that he’s torturing, something out of that exchange.

If the person being bullied has an intense reaction to being bullied, they start screaming, crying, they run to the teacher and start fighting back. Whatever it is, that’s satisfying to the bully because that’s what the bully wants. He wants that kind of drama, attention, and energy.

Alternatively, what happens if the student being bullied doesn’t react or at least changes their reaction and holds back some of their emotions, they kind of start ignoring him and make different choices.

Now, this is crucial, initially, the bully will try even harder. He’ll start poking even harder, he’ll start making more fun and hurtful comments. He will start desperately trying to get a rise out of the kid that he’s bullying. But eventually, if the kid being bullied is disciplined enough, the bully will get bored. He’ll lose interest because it’s not fun anymore. He’s not getting a rise out of this poor student that he’s pulling. He’s not getting anything out of this exchange, not getting any energy, even though he’s giving all of his energy.

I believe this is one of the best ways to think about retroactive jealousy. To treat it as a bully, as someone who’s trying to get a rise out of you. Like a little demon in your head trying to get a rise out of you.

Ignoring this bully is easier said than done. But, if initially, you start withdrawing some of the energy that you’re giving this bully, eventually, the bully will get bored. He’ll start to leave you alone.

There are a lot of ways to withdraw this energy from the bully, I go into them in-depth in my online courses, my guidebooks, and certainly, in one on one coaching, I share all kinds of information along these lines.

But the basic takeaway I would love you to have from this video is to start withdrawing some of the extra energy that you’re giving retroactive jealousy, this will help in overcoming intrusive thoughts.

The thought might still be there on some level, but eventually, it’s going to start to get bored just a little bit over time. If you’re disciplined with yourself, and you start feeding that energy with more energy, you’ll notice that this thought starts to dissipate more and more.

Don’t add fuel to the fire and don’t start adding more energy to the original thought.

The thoughts are still there but I’m getting back to my work and what’s important. I’m not going to feed this energy with any more of my energy.

I want to emphasize this is not gonna solve your problem overnight.

Overcoming retroactive jealousy has a lot of evidence to back this up. It requires a multi-pronged, multifaceted approach. There’s a lot going on with this problem. This is one of those issues in life that is deceptively complicated and requires multiple strategies for healing.

The good news is, the pathway to freedom is pretty much the same for all of us.

As a starting point, stop feeding the retroactive jealousy bully with more energy. Stop getting all worked up when these thoughts come and simply rely on any techniques you might be using to deal with intrusive thoughts. Return to your work and focus.

If you start withdrawing this energy from the retroactive jealousy bully, eventually that bully will start to get bored and leave you alone.

Zachary Stockill
Zachary Stockill

Hi! I'm a Canadian author and educator whose work has been featured in BBC News, BBC Radio 4, The Huffington Post, and many other publications. I'm the founder of, the author of Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy and The Overcoming Jealousy Workbook, and the host of Humans in Love podcast.