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In today’s video, I’m going to talk about a post by the Daily Stoic, featuring eight lessons that will help you overcome retroactive jealousy.
So: what can we learn from Stoic philosophy for overcoming jealousy?
Zachary Stockill: We’re going to analyze each of these points one by one and relate them specifically to retroactive jealousy. So the post is called, “8 Ways to Find Peace”.
1. Don’t suffer imagined troubles.
How many of our troubles inspired by retroactive jealousy are actually troubles? How much of this stuff is really, truly important? And how much of this is self-created? This self-imposed prison of intrusive thoughts of nonsense that we’re carrying around with us all day. How easy it can be to lose perspective on these troubles, making these troubles far worse than they actually are. To ascribe significance and meaning to certain events from a partner’s past, certain intrusive thoughts, that are completely inaccurate, illusory, that serve no real purpose.
2. Accept your own mortality.
You are going to die, I am going to die. Your partner is going to die.
One of the reasons I’m so drawn to Stoic philosophy for overcoming jealousy is because I abhor wasted time, wasted opportunities.
I look back on my life as a younger man and I look at all the time that I wasted. Worrying about things that didn’t matter. Stressing about people, who didn’t matter.
Struggling with my then girlfriend’s past, when it was really completely useless. I think about all the nights that I wasted with her when I could have been enjoying her company. And instead, I was wrestling with all these self-created demons that really served no purpose. Because here’s the reality: I’m never going to get my late teens, early 20s back. Those years are gone, that time is gone. I can make all the money in the world if I want to, I can do anything. But the one thing that I can never do, and that you can never do, is reclaim lost time.
I reflect on my own mortality all the time. It’s key component in living a good life.
In the West, we have an interesting relationship with death, with mortality. We don’t like to mention it. We don’t like to think about it. Out of sight out of mind. If you bring up this topic, people accuse you of being “morbid.” “We can’t be morbid…” When in reality, the fact that we are going to die, and our loved ones will die, and eventually this party will come to an end: this is all we know for sure in life.
So I don’t want you to waste time with retroactive jealousy. I regret my own sense of wasted time. And through overcoming retroactive jealousy, I made a pledge to consider my mortality more often, to consider it every day if I can. Accepting my mortality is one of the key components I believe, in keeping retroactive jealousy at bay long term. And just in general, living a happier more peaceful life.
3. Remember whose opinion matters.
I get a lot of emails from retroactive jealousy sufferers, particularly men, getting this particular email saying, “I’m worried what other people will think of my girlfriend. I’m worried about what other guys might think of my wife. I’m worried how my partner’s ex might see my partner.” I can’t stand thinking about this stuff.
Whose opinion matters in this scenario? Does your opinion matter, or some random bozo from years ago? Sometimes people wonder, “how I can deal with being the retroactive jealousy guy, putting my name and face on this issue for so long?” Because I get hate. I get nasty comments, guys calling me names, and nasty emails. And people wonder why doesn’t this stuff bother me anymore?
Hate never comes from above. Some random idiot posting a stupid YouTube comment, number one, I probably won’t read it. But more than that: who is typing this comment? Who’s leaving this nasty comment? And who’s saying these bad things about me? I don’t think that’s a very happy human being. Who is posting this stuff? I’m guessing people who are not so happy with their life
So think about this the next time you’re concerned about the opinion of other people.
Do you really value and respect those people? These people who you want to emulate in certain respects, are they worthy of your respect? Remember whose opinion matters. Maybe select a few other people around you. But beyond that, I’m not so sure it’s so wise to spend a lot of time considering the opinions of other people.
More lessons from Stoic philosophy for overcoming jealousy:
4. Schedule stillness in your life.
How often have I mentioned how incredibly valuable meditation can be in confronting and overcoming something like retroactive jealousy? Scheduling stillness, which is one term for meditation, is a great way to gain the ability to harness your innate ability to disconnect from thoughts that aren’t serving you; to immediately refocus your attention elsewhere. To reframe thoughts that aren’t serving you to get that sense of inner stillness, inner tranquility, and peace of mind.
It helps you filter out the noise in your head from what is actually true, actually important.
Sorting the wheat from the chaff. Sorting out what is valuable, real, true and what is complete fiction and fantasy. Schedule stillness in your life.
This is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself, for my sanity, for my mental well being and for my relationships. I highly encourage you to do the same.
5. Find the beauty in everyday life.
How often do you practice gratitude for your partner? Hopefully, you do it a lot. Because again, this is one of the best steps we can take having a happier life, toward having a better relationship. And confronting and overcoming retroactive jealousy as well. Frequently, people are hung up on the idea that they wish their partner had certain different experiences in their past, or they hadn’t had certain experiences in their past.
Sometimes people will wish they met their partner earlier in life.
“You know, if I’d met them before they met that idiot, then I wouldn’t have retroactive jealousy.” Or so the narrative goes. Instead, reframe it: “Oh my God, I’m such a lucky person. Look at this extraordinary creature across the dinner table from me. I’m here with them right now. Isn’t this wonderful? Isn’t this magical.” And again, coming back to being grateful for the present moment: “I’ll never get this time back that I have with my partner right now. How beautiful they look. How beautiful this moment is.”
Appreciate the glory of the present moment because it is beautiful, and it will never return. Applying Stoic philosophy for overcoming jealousy really reinforces this ethos.
6. Take the view from above.
Will this stuff matter in five years? Will retroactive jealousy matter to you a year from now? And will this be the stuff that you’ll be thinking about when you’re on your deathbed? Take the 50,000-foot view from above on your current situation. Is this really worth it? Am I prepared to live like this for the next 5,10, 20, 30 years? Or do I want to do something about this now so I can focus on what’s important in life? So I can take on new bigger and better challenges aside from retroactive jealousy.
This is eating up so much of my energy, my attention my day.
Isn’t there more that I could and should be focusing on in life? Isn’t there bigger and better challenges that I should be starting to approach?
Take the view from above to get some perspective on this problem. Get some perspective on whether this problem is as big a problem as maybe you’re making it out to be and whether you’re prepared to waste more days, weeks, months, or years fighting these imagined demons, rather than taking the necessary steps to confront and overcome them.
7. Live by a code.
I often get emails from guys who appear to have a certain code of ethics for their wife or girlfriend. And they’re often frustrated when it seems like their partner doesn’t live up to this code. But how often have they thought deeply and truly considered their own personal code?
My perspective is a lot of these guys don’t have the code that they think they have. Because if they were living by their own self-described code, they would have made different choices. They would have been with different women, and have not ended up writing to me complaining that the world isn’t living up to their code.
Living by a code is extremely important. I do it in my own life.
Stoic philosophy for overcoming jealousy requires you to live be a well thought-out code.
For example, I run a business. I have to fire people sometimes. Is it fun? No. Do I get emotional about it? No. Because if someone’s not living up to my own expectations, that’s totally fine. It just means we’re not a good match. No problem whatsoever. So living by a code is absolutely important.
Get very clear about your values. What is acceptable and what is not. It’s not enough to just say, “I could never be with a woman who has been with 10 guys”. Well, why not? If you don’t have a satisfying answer to that question that is logical, rational, and make sense to you, you might not be living by the code that you think you’re living. Your code might not be as strong as you imagined it to be.
So consider carefully your own code and then live by it.
8. And finally: reflect often.
If you’re in the trenches with retroactive jealousy, it’s a good practice to consistently ask yourself “what’s working and what’s not? How can I do more of what’s working and less of what isn’t?”
“What is making a difference in my journey, in my healing, in my recovery, and what is not. How can I resist and avoid making those mistakes moving forward? Am I getting closer to where I want to be, or am I getting further away?”
Take those moments to check in on what’s working and what’s not. It might be time to re-strategize. Adopt some new perspectives, new techniques, and new exercises.
Reflect often and don’t stop until you get the answers that you need about who you are and where you’re going and where you want to go in the future.