DR Mike Neville is a forensic psychiatrist who has spent 40 years – the majority in the Bahamas – working in the hospitals, courts and prisons at close quarters with offenders.
The father of a recently murdered son, he is bringing his experience and expertise to bear in a series in The Tribune designed to inform an evidence-based national debate on how to solve the rising levels of crime here.
Week by week Dr Neville examines the causes, effects and potential remedies of crime, from the cradle to the grave, looking at the reasons behind the increasing catalogue of murders, shootings, armed robberies and sexual assaults.
And we want you to be involved. Every Tuesday, you can comment on his articles in The Tribune and call in to an hour’s live phone-in on KISS FM96.1 from 3pm on 677-0961.
Dr Neville will welcome views – unconventional, challenging and supportive – from everyone. Join the discussions via comments on tribune242.com, email to email@example.com or listen and ring into the radio today.
By Dr MIKE NEVILLE
JEALOUSY and envy – two emotions that could be described as the toxic renewable energy that fuels much of the negative behaviour that is both running and ruining the Bahamas.
The two are similar and often overlap, causing endless problems in their wake. They have been around as long as we have the written history.
Descartes described jealousy as “a kind of fear related to a desire to preserve a possession”. Bertrand Russell said that “envy was one of the most potent causes of unhappiness. Not only is the envious person rendered unhappy by his envy, but they also wish to inflict misfortune on others”.
This is really a total understatement when one considers the pain and anguish that is caused by the actions of a jealous rage or the planned “I cannot have this so nor can anyone else”.
Could this be the destructive force that is affecting the rebuilding of a vibrant community? Is this preventing us from looking out for our community and each other?
There is a German word that seems appropriate for our collective emotional place – schadenfreude. It means taking pleasure in the misfortune of others, a sort of delight in the downfall of our so-called friends and acquaintances.
All the major religions speak against envy and jealousy: Hinduism, Christianity and Islam all speak out against these emotions whilst Buddhism has a term “mudita”, which means to be happy when others do well.
In a recent sermon Pope Francis said “Jealousy leads to murder. Envy leads to murder.” He went on to say that in the heart of a person affected by jealousy and envy, two things are very clear.
The first is bitterness. The envious person, the jealous person, is a bitter person who always looks at what someone else has that he or she does not have. This leads to bitterness. A bitterness that spreads throughout the whole community.
Secondly, rumours brings jealousy and envy. When someone cannot stand to see that someone else has something he wishes for himself, often the solution is to put the other person down so that I am a bit higher up and the tool used to do this is gossip. Behind every rumour, says the Pope, there is jealousy and envy, and gossip divides the community, destroys the community.
In my experience, behind jealousy and envy lies insecurity.
We have already discussed during this series the difficulties of child abuse, violence, toxins, poor education and lack of support in the community, all of which are extremely damaging to self esteem. This breeds insecurity. We also have a weird need to set impossible targets for ourselves and the children of the nation.
“You can be anything that you want to be.”
Is this true? I do not think so.
I have worked very hard within the talents that I have and I still could never have run as fast as Usain Bolt, sung like Pavarotti or painted like Picasso, much as I would have liked. I have been able to admire all of these great people and be thrilled for their success, but that may be because I am happy with what I am.
I wonder how many people this is true for? How many regret that they have not been able to live their lives as they would have liked?
How much energy is expended on what someone’s dress or hat looked like or cost?
How many young men who have no job and few prospects, begin to hate someone who is doing well and is popular?
This jealousy and envy form one of the links to domestic violence that is such a scourge across the globe but especially in the Caribbean. This is further complicated by a commonly-held biblical belief that the women should be in subjugation to their men at all times; this then can be twisted to become a justification for abuse or even murder.
Jealousy and envy are a powerful destructive force in any relationship, the insecurities often hidden in early courtship soon flow to the surface and all sorts of unreasonable demands begin to be made. The strong sense of insecurity leads the man or woman into a form of conduct that demands some sort of submission; some partners try to adjust by staying at home, stopping outside activities and becoming more and more isolated.
A more robust partner may try to resist the pressure, which can lead to violence and even death. Clearly this abuse is not likely to help the relationship: it may in fact eventually cause the thing that jealous individuals fear most – their partner to look elsewhere.
The description used by Descartes of jealousy described the fear of the loss of a possession, and in the Caribbean a spouse or sexual partner is often still seen as a possession. This is a dangerous combination; if you are rejected by your spouse or partner the low self esteem and insecurities kick into overdrive, jealousy begins to intrude into judgment and feelings of envy become channelled into a real or imaginary third person.
This has become a common reason for murder. In an old study, East in England found that in an examination of 200 “sane murderers” 46 had killed because of jealousy.
There are also a number of psychiatric disorders that have severe jealousy as a symptom of the underlying illness; alcoholism and cocaine addiction are both associated with morbid jealousy. The mechanism is probably a mixture of organic brain damage causing sexual difficulties along with the real revulsion of their partner who no longer desires a sexual relationship with them.
This then leads to the jealous idea that they must be having a sexual relationship somewhere else. It can occur in other cerebral disorders, like dementia, and also in many psychoses including schizophrenia, when it is usually accompanied by other paranoid delusions. There is also a strange condition known as “Othello Syndrome” in which the partner has delusions of infidelity. This condition is named after the Shakespearian play, “The Tragedy of Othello.”
The morbid type of jealousy has the affected person continually searching for evidence of infidelity, examining clothes, interpreting all phone calls as evidence and constantly watching. The word “jalousie” as a type of window comes from the person peering out from behind the shutters.
The acceptance that jealousy and envy are a destructive force in the Bahamas and are damaging to community building should help us in determining how to improve some of our programmes and how to create new ones. It is clear that those who suffer with these raw emotions have deep-rooted insecurities and a warped perception as to how to achieve happiness.
It is essential that all the youth programmes work to improve self esteem, not to destroy it. Kids need to learn how to understand true meanings of satisfaction by working with what they have and what is available. Anger management alone will not be helpful unless these underlying perceptions can be exposed to coping strategies that can help change fundamental beliefs.
The materialistic society that revolves around money and possessions leads directly to envy and jealousy and, until we can see worth in other things like family and meaningful relationships, we are doomed to repeat our mistakes.
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Listen and phone in to Dr Mike Neville on KISS FM from 3pm today on 677-0961