There are few things in this world that are as attention-getting as a crying baby.
Babies cry as a form of communication. It’s one of the only ways they have.
And when a baby cries, you don’t always know exactly why. Is it because they’re gravely ill? Are they hungry? Do they need to be changed? Maybe they just have gas or want to be rocked. You just don’t know.
It can be a source of frustration for many new parents. Trying to figure out why the baby is crying.
Dealing with Your Own Jealousy Is a Lot Like Caring for a Crying Baby
I’ve written before how jealousy is a very strong emotional signal — but not a very specific one. And that’s actually true of basically all negative emotional states. We often know that something feels wrong but we have no idea why. And since jealousy isn’t an emotion per se and more a system of emotions (usually some mix of anger, fear, and sadness) and is often other things in disguise (envy, feeling left out, neglected, overshadowed, or even demoted or displaced), it tends to be even more difficult to sort out what’s actually going on.
Jealousy can be a lot like a crying baby. It’s screaming at us, but like a new parent, we can’t figure out what it needs. What we need.
It feels impossible at first to work through and get to the bottom of our negative emotional responses. Learning to do so is one of the hardest tasks in building up our emotional security.
But it’s also one of the most important.
Becoming a Better Emotional Parent
Eventually over time new parents acclimate to their babies. They get rather adept at picking up on subtle clues that hint at the what the baby needs. They might find the cry is a little different depending on what the underlying issue is. Or maybe they’re better at running down their mental checklists about feeding times and when the last diaper change happened.
Sometimes they don’t even know how they get better at it, but they do. They become adept at recognizing what their baby needs in a way that’s completely mysterious to outsiders. They come home and get immediately frustrated with the babysitter who can’t figure out a way to quiet the child because how could they have missed it? It’s so obvious what needed to be done. Forgetting, of course, that they used to be just as bad (or worse) at judging their infant’s cries.
I went through the same process figuring out how to deal with jealousy in a healthier manner. To become a better emotional parent to myself. I was terrible at first and felt like I was making no progress as I tried to sort out the underlying causes. But with practice, I got it.
And while I still experience insecure or jealous responses from time to time, I do find that it’s way less frequent than it was in the past, I key into why it’s happening a lot faster, and I’m much better able to find a productive way to deal with it (whether that’s asking for something from someone else, finding a way to modify my own behavior, or realizing that I’ve made assumptions that have caused my interpretation of events to be flawed or unfair).